When we talk about your “heart” in modern culture, we normally mean emotions, affections, and feeling. In the Bible, your “heart” means that, but it’s broader than that: it includes all of your deepest moral and spiritual convictions, especially as they pertain to your relationship to God. So it’s really talking about what’s really deep inside of you—what makes you you. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Pastor Mark: All right, Mars Hill. This is really exciting. Coming to preach for me is Dr. Wayne Grudem. He’s a good friend of mine, somebody I’ve learned from for many years. His systematic theology is really what we’ve built all of our convictions on, of course on top of the Bible at Mars Hill Church. He has been a professor for us at various events, coming in to lecture. If you enjoy the ESV Study Bible that I teach out of, he was the general editor of that. He has his PhD from Cambridge, and when he was willing to come preach for me, I was absolutely thrilled.
But let me tell you a little bit more about his family. His wife, Margaret, is amazing. She is super sweet. They’re really cute together. The first time I met them, they were holding hands, sitting together in an event, and she was snuggled up with him, and they were as cute as can be. They’ve been over to dinner at our house on a number of occasions. They always bring gifts for my kids, and my kids really love them. They’re just a warm, loving, gracious, ministry-minded couple. Dr. Grudem is the man who, I think, is the most influential living reformed teacher, theologian, and writer on the earth today, and we’re glad to have him at Mars Hill Church.
Wayne Grudem: Thank you, Mark. Good to be here. Good to be here with you. Thank you, Bellevue. Margaret and I have been maybe two or three times to Seattle, and it seems like every time we come, the sky is blue. Is this the way the weather is all the time? No, once we came and it was snowing. I remember that.
Well, it’s good to be here with you. We’re going to talk today about what the Bible calls your heart, from this verse, Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Different translations, instead of “keep,” have “watch over” or “guard,” but it’s the idea of protecting, guarding, caring for your heart. And so that’s what I want to talk about, mainly from this verse this morning.
So, if you would, pray with me. Our Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that it contains your words and the words of the Bible speak to us from you, Lord, in a way that no other book on earth does. And so, we ask this morning that you would empower your words, that you would teach us from them and help us to understand.
Lord, I ask that, for my own heart and for everybody else’s heart here, you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, would make these words come alive to our hearts and do the work that you wish to do in each of our hearts this morning. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When we talk about your heart in English modern culture today, we normally mean mostly your emotions, affections, and feelings. And in the Bible, your heart includes that, but it’s broader than that. It really includes all of your deepest moral and spiritual convictions, along with your feelings and emotions, especially your deepest moral and spiritual convictions in relationship to God. So, your heart is talking about what’s really deep inside of you, what makes you you and who you are.
This verse says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance,” and verse 1 of this chapter, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction.” What this is is a father saying to his son, “This is how life works. After living a lot of years, I just want to tell you something. What’s really important in life is keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
So now, I look back. I’ve taught in a seminary—one seminary or another— for 32 years, and I’ve taught thousands of students, but I’ve followed the lives of maybe hundreds of students whom I’ve gotten to know somewhat better. And I have seen this verse prove remarkably true, because some students go on to lives of blessing, ministry, faithfulness, and God’s favor on their lives, their families, their churches, and their ministries.
But others have gone on, sadly, to destroyed lives, destroyed marriages, destroyed families, and destroyed churches, I think, because they didn’t pay attention to what God is saying in this verse. God is saying basically that the inward spiritual and moral life that you have will determine the course of your life and ministry, whether it will be a life that knows God’s favor and blessing or not.
So, I want to talk about three things this morning. I want to talk about what it is to keep your heart, why you should keep your heart, and how you keep your heart.
What does it mean to keep your heart with all vigilance? So, I wanted to look at this phrase first: “with all vigilance.” Literally, the Hebrew text says, “more than all vigilance,” or “more than all guarding,” “more than all protecting,” keep your heart.
So, what do you guard? What do you protect? I suppose you locked your car because you didn’t want anybody to steal it. More than you protect your car, this is saying keep your heart. I imagine you locked your apartment or your house when you left this morning. More than that, protect your heart. If you’re married and you’ve got kids, you want to protect your marriage and safeguard it, you want to protect your children and look after them—or now we have grandchildren. When we’re caring for them, we really want to care for them and protect them. They’re so important.
But this verse says, “More than all vigilance, more than all guarding, more than all protecting, keep your heart—more than your job, your health, everything. Make this most important.
So, it’s a challenge to us right off the bat. Have we been doing that? Have we been making the condition of our hearts more important than any other concern? And I think in practical terms, what that means is that from time to time, you might have to give less attention to some other good things, like family, job, exercise, church meetings, car repair, or house repair. You might have to give some less time to those other good things, but you can’t neglect taking care of your heart and keeping your heart. With all vigilance, more than all vigilance, keep it and guard it.
Now, there’s something else to this word, “keep it”—“keep it,” or “guard it,” or “watch over it.” If you are to keep something, it implies that there’s a goodness to it, that there’s a goodness that is to be protected and guarded. But as soon as I say that, some of you who know the Bible pretty well are probably saying, “But wait a minute. I think I read back in the Old Testament, I think it was some place in Jeremiah, the heart is deceitful above all things.”
You’re right, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” When I read the context of Jeremiah, and then I see later in Jeremiah he predicts a new covenant that’s coming when God will write his laws on our hearts, I just don’t think that that description in Jeremiah 17:9 is the whole truth about our hearts in the New Testament.
Another reason I think that’s not the whole truth is because the New Testament speaks in a much more positive way—not entirely positive, but a much more positive way—about the heart of someone who has trusted in Jesus as Savior, someone who has been born again.
Here are some verses that talk in a positive way about the heart of a New Testament Christian:
Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 6:17, “You have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you are committed.”
Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near [to God] with a true heart and full assurance of faith.”
First John 3:21, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”
Several verses in the New Testament speak in a quite positive way about the condition of our hearts. If we’ve been born again and trusted in Jesus as our Savior, there’s a goodness to them that has to be protected.
However, that’s not the whole New Testament story, because we go over to James, and James warns Christians about some things that can go wrong in their hearts.
For instance, James 3:14, “If you have bitter jealousy “and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”
Or James 4:8, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
So, even though the New Testament talks about our hearts as having been cleansed when we’re born again, James says you can have bitter jealousy in your heart as a Christian, and you can have selfish ambition, and you can be double-minded. And so, while our hearts aren’t perfect, there is a goodness in them still by Jesus’ work within us that needs to be protected and guarded. Keep your heart with all vigilance because it can go astray.
Now, in England, in the 1600s, there was a Puritan writer named John Flavel, and he wrote about this verse. In fact, he wrote over 100 pages about this verse, because that’s just what Puritans did. But in it—I didn’t read all 100 pages, but I kind of went through it—and in that writing on Proverbs 4:23, he said our hearts are like a musical instrument: You tune it, and you’ve got it just right, and then you hang it on the wall for a few days and it goes out of tune. Or you tune it, and then something bumps it and it’s out of tune again. And he said our hearts are like that: they can be right with God and then something disrupts them, or we neglect them and they begin to stray.
I saw this happen in my own heart one time. It was while I was part of a twelve-member committee working on the translation of the ESV Bible. So, from 1998 to 2001, we worked to produce this translation, and most of the time, we worked in Cambridge, England, at a research library. And we worked from nine to five, and you say, “Well, that sounds like a normal workday,” and it was, except it was the most intellectually, emotionally, maybe even spiritually draining time that any of us had ever had.
Even though it was amazingly rewarding and exciting professionally, it was just really hard work, because here’s what was happening: We had an agenda. We would go through the Bible book after book, and we had certain suggestions that had to be voted on for how a verse should be translated, or leave it how it was in the text that we began with, or change it. And let’s say you had something you wanted to suggest as a change in someplace in Matthew 15, and you say, “You know, if we change this word, it would make it a little more accurate to the Greek text.” But if you go out of the room just for a rest stop or take a phone call or something, and you come back in, they already voted on Matthew 15. It’s done, it’s in the Bible, you lost.
So, I mean, yeah, there was a procedure for getting reconsideration of something that was decided. It required two-thirds vote of the committee to reconsider. It was hard, but it could be done. But basically, once it was over, it was over. So, you couldn’t ever snooze or fail to just be concentrating all the time to try to make the right argument and vote right on the words that are supposed to be there.
Day after day, we were just tired. So that was fine. We could have managed that, but this very nice hotel we stayed at had sold the publisher, Crossway Books, a package where breakfast and supper was included with the hotel—which we thought was a great deal because, you know, that would all be taken care of. But we’d walk a half an hour from the library back to the hotel, and we’d get there, and we’d be ready to eat, but they could not figure out how to get supper finished in less than two-and-a-half hours. Could not, don’t ask me why—you know, the soup had to have the right spoon, and then the salad had to have the right fork, and they had the lettuce sit between each course. And it was beautiful, but we were just tired.
I wanted to spend some time with Margaret, I wanted to catch up on some e-mails, and so we’d go back to our room, and we’d spend some time together, and I’d get all this personal stuff done, and get to bed. The nights were getting shorter and shorter and I was getting more and more tired.
So, I decided, what difference does it make? I set my alarm a half hour later, and I said, you know, I’m spending so much time reading the Bible already with these other guys eight hours a day, why do I need to get up early and spend time alone with God, reading the Bible and praying and asking God to apply the word to my own heart?
So, I let it go three days, four days, and then Margaret said, “Wayne, something’s just not right with you. What’s going on?” And then I realized I’d neglected my time with God and my heart was straying, so I made a note that I carry around just to remind myself: “Results of missing personal Bible-reading and prayer time: pride, talking about myself a lot, often inwardly hoping people will praise me, lack of love for friends, irritability, relationships with friends just stall or put on hold, general inward feeling of unease, unsettledness, hard to concentrate on Scripture and prayer, self-reliance, no peace.”
I had to say, “Margaret, I’m sorry. Here’s what’s happened: I just—I wasn’t spending time with the Lord.” And then I had to go to God privately and say, “God, I’m sorry I didn’t put you first.” And the next morning when the committee met, I asked if I could have a couple of minutes just to say what had happened. I said, “Look, I’m sorry if you’ve noticed something wrong in my attitude the last several days. This is the reason. I’m sorry. Forgive me.”
Our hearts can so easily stray. And eight hours a day of looking at the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible and trying to translate verse after verse into English correctly, there’s no substitute for time alone with God and private prayer.
So, what does it mean to keep your heart? To guard it above all things. It’s paying attention to what’s going on in the deepest core of what is inside of you.
Now, why should you keep your heart? The first reason is what is said in this verse: “For from it flow the springs of life.” The Hebrew phrase is not the easiest thing to make into understandable English: “From it are the outflowings or outgoings of life.” And so to make that understandable in English, most translations, maybe all now, say “For from it are the springs of life” or “the water springs of life.”
The picture is that your heart is like a stream of water that’s continually flowing out to touch and impact people around you that you come in contact with. And so when we’ve got a picture that your life is continually flowing out from your heart to impact other people.
When we have that picture, then I think it makes sense to expect that probably Jesus had this verse in mind when he talked about our hearts. He said in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Someone cuts you off in traffic and you open your mouth to bless or to curse, your life is flowing out of your mouth to impact others. I think Jesus also had this idea in mind when he said in Mark 7:21, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within.”
So, it gives us an indication of why people do evil things. And sometimes even Christian leaders neglect their hearts and then they do evil things. I read, not too long ago, a news headline, the pastor of a megachurch in some city in Indiana—it was discovered that he was in an adulterous relationship with a woman that he wasn’t married to. It brought great destructiveness to his marriage, to his family, his pastorate was basically over, people couldn’t trust him, and great damage to the church, and great damage to the reputation of the gospel and the reputation of Christ.
Let me tell you, that wrongful relationship did not occur just in a moment or two. That occurred over a course of time—I don’t know anything about it, but I just am telling you in general. That kind of thing doesn’t happen instantly. It happens over the course of weeks and months where, in a relationship with a woman that he wasn’t married to, there were feelings in his heart, attractions in his heart that were of a nature that only belonged to the marriage relationship and should have only been directed towards his wife. And when he was aware of those feelings, rather than prolonging the relationship, he should have distanced himself from it immediately, because he should have kept his heart with all vigilance, but he didn’t and it went on and resulted in actual physical, adulterous relationship. He didn’t keep his heart with all vigilance.
So, it makes sense, doesn’t it, why the Bible tells us to keep our hearts more than all vigilance, above all guarding, above everything else? Every time you encounter a new situation, out of your heart come the outgoings of your life, and what is in your heart is constantly flowing like a spring to affect other people. The quality of your inward moral and spiritual life is impacting others around you, for from it flow the springs of life.
Last week, just a week ago tonight, Margaret and I were with some friends in Illinois, long time friends, and we love to be with them because their hearts are full of love for Jesus and faith in Jesus, and when we’re with them, our faith and our love for the Lord is just built up. From their heart is flowing just an infectious love for the Lord.
Many of you here have responsibilities. You have, perhaps, teaching responsibilities in the children’s program. Maybe you have responsibilities to welcome people on Sunday morning. Maybe you’re leading a neighborhood group, a home fellowship group, a Bible study, or something else.
In all of those responsibilities, if your heart is full of self and pride, then your interpretation of the Bible may be perfect, your doctrine may be sound, but self and pride will also be what you communicate. Like a virus, it’ll flow out and touch other people. If your heart is full of anger and bitterness, it will flow out and infect others around you. If your heart is full of fear, it’ll flow out of you and others will have that fear. They will be touched by that fear. If your heart is full of love for Jesus and faith in him, then love for Jesus and faith in him will also be what you communicate to others. It’ll flow from your heart and refresh everybody who hears.
I think this verse also gives insight into why people, churches, seminaries, and denominations sometimes stray away from faithfulness to the Bible and faithfulness to its teachings. I think it starts when their hearts grow cold toward God.
Let me give you an example of a story that talks about this: Charles Hodge was a professor at Princeton Seminary from 1820 to 1878. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything negative about Charles Hodge. I’m going to say what happened when he found out something about another situation. But he taught at Princeton from 1820 to 1878. Do the math; that’s 58 years. I’ve been teaching 32 years. I’ve got 26 to go, and then I won’t be able to walk up these steps anymore. But he was faithful for that whole time. Well, anyway, he was well known. He had a great impact on the world.
During that time, Princeton Seminary was very conservative in terms of its view of Scripture and actually Reformed theology, so it was just his—you could have had him come and teach here. He was doctrinally sound in that way. But after Charles Hodge had been a professor at Princeton for six years, in 1826 he decided, Why is all this unbelief flowing out of German universities? All these people are denying that you can believe the Bible, denying the miracles in the Bible, denying the virgin birth, and denying many other parts of Scripture. Why is it all coming from Germany, which was the birthplace of the Reformation? After all, in 1517, it was Martin Luther in Germany who began the Reformation. Why had Germany strayed?
So, Hodge decided that he would go to Germany, and he went to Germany for two years, 1826 to 1828, and studied in Germany universities to sit under these professors and find out what was going on. Then, when he came back in 1828, he gave a talk to the students in Princeton Seminary, and he used this verse in the King James Version. And he said this: in deciding what he thought about why Christianity had ceased to be even the nominal religion in Germany, he said it was the decline of vital religion.
So, even today, as it has been throughout history, God allows different attractive wrong teachings to arise in the culture from time to time, and it’s different teachings in different centuries. But I think God allows some error to prosper in the world and eventually in some parts of the church in order to test our hearts and see if we’ll be true to him and to his word.
Mark, you weren’t here for the first two times I did this message this morning, but what I said then I’ll say again: I’m so thankful for you. I’m thankful for your courage to speak the truth of the word of God even when it is contrary to what is commonly believed in the culture today and it’s not popular, but it’s the word of God and we have to be faithful.
So, the first reason we are to keep our hearts is for from it flow the springs of life.
But now, I want to take a detour for a minute, and I want to take a quick overview of the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation and say, in the whole Bible, God puts a high importance on the condition of people’s hearts. You start way back in Genesis 1 and 2. Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. God put them there to test their hearts. Would they be faithful to him or not, or would they eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God had forbidden to them?
They failed; their hearts weren’t true to him. And then the Bible goes on to say, chapter after chapter, that evil multiplies on the earth. So, we find by the time of Genesis 6, in Genesis 6:5, the Lord saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. Heart—the thoughts of man—was only evil continually, and God brought the flood on the earth in judgment. God started again with Noah and his family. And then God raised up the nation of Israel to follow him and be his own people.
God chose Saul, raised up Saul as king over Israel, and Saul had promise, but then he failed and he wasn’t true to God. So then, Samuel the prophet came to him and said, “Saul, it’s all over. God’s going to take your kingdom away from you.” He said in 1 Samuel 13:14, “Now, your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
So, God raised up David as a king, and David was, for many years, faithful to God. He was a man after God’s own heart. And then everything was going well, but then David fell into sin, horrible sin with Bathsheba, committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband murdered. So, David failed.
Then Solomon came after him, and Solomon was a good and wise king for many years, but then 1 Kings 11:4, “When Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God.”
So, you begin to think, “Well, wait a minute. Everybody is falling away. Is there ever going to be anybody whose heart is wholly true to the Lord?” And through the Old Testament, the answer is no, but there was a Messiah coming. And so, we get to the New Testament, and we find that Jesus comes, and Jesus is truly a man after God’s own heart. He is purer than King David. He is wiser than King Solomon. He is the one in whom the Father continually delighted.
Then, for those of us who have trusted in Christ, the New Testament says the Holy Spirit has cleansed our hearts. Our hearts aren’t completely pure, but they’re cleansed because they’re joined to Christ. The New Testament looks forward to a time in the future when Jesus is going to return. And when he appears, we shall be like him, and one day, our hearts will be perfectly pure and we will know the favor of God resting on us forever.
But now, in this time between Jesus’ resurrection and his Second Coming, we’re in what is called the New Testament, or New Covenant, age, and in this time, God still tests our hearts. Why do I say that? I say that because the Apostle Paul was living in this same period of time in history, in terms of God’s overall work, and Paul said that even for himself, as he went from city to city, God was testing his heart.
So, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Paul would go to city, after city, after city. He’d be persecuted. He’d be beaten with rods. He’d be thrown in jail. He’d be stoned. He’d be whipped. Why? Because he was speaking God’s word and it was unpopular.
But at the end of the day, I think every day, he was saying, “God, was my heart true to you? Was I faithful? I’m speaking to please God who tests our hearts.” And so, I think that’s true today of us as well. I think God is testing our hearts.
There’s a verse from the Old Testament in 2 Chronicles, spoken by a prophet named Asa, and I think it’s still true: Second Chronicles 16:9, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” I think that’s true this morning. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout Bellevue, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.
So, the second reason that keeping our hearts is important is, throughout the whole Bible, the condition of our heart before God is very important to him. God will let different heart tests come into our life. Margaret and I were traveling a month ago and we had a plane delayed, and then delayed, and delayed again, and in it all, we were saying, “Now, are our hearts right before God or are we becoming grumbling and resentful?”
Just last night, we went to a restaurant to eat and we were with our son, Alexander, who’d driven down from Vancouver, BC. And I had in mind, you know, how the dinner would go and everything, and we got into a restaurant and the seating was not very good for conversation. And I was just trying to guard my heart. Am I going to grumble about this or say, “No, Lord, this is how you ordered it. There’s nothing we can do about it. Be at peace.” So, God lets tests come into our heart from time to time.
A pastor I know said to me, “I used to go to this same restaurant several times a month and I have breakfast there, meet people. It just was a nice place to work.” And he said, “One day, I was walking out of the restaurant, and I was putting the change back in my wallet, and I noticed I had five dollars too much. And I went back in and gave the five dollars to the manager, who was there at the cash register. And she just smiled and said, ‘Just testing you, Pastor.’”
But I think God does that from time to time. He allows things that we don’t want to happen to come into our lives to see if our heart is going to be faithful to him.
I have a former student who went through three years of seminary. He did well. He went on and got a PhD in New Testament studies. And there was only one job that opened up, so he interviewed for the job, and they got in touch with him.
They said, “We wanted to give you this job. There’s only one condition. We’d like you to change your view on this one thing that the Bible teaches.” They didn’t say, “The Bible teaches,” but this one doctrine which he firmly believed the Bible taught. And he said, “I’m sorry, that’s what the Bible teaches. I can’t change my mind. I can’t change my conviction on that.” And they said, “OK, I’m sorry, we can’t hire you.”
So he lost the job and went back to the drawing board. He was just finishing his PhD. It had cost him a lot of money, and he didn’t have a job—and he didn’t have a job prospect. I remember standing in the street outside the research library in England where he’d done his PhD, and I said to him when he told that story, “You know, God sees that, and I think he’s going to take care of you and he’s going to be faithful to you.”
And you know, that happened. Shortly after that, he got another two-year research fellowship to stay at a prestigious university. After that, he got a major teaching job in a seminary in the United States. God tested his heart, he was faithful, and God honored him.
For you, what will it be? Friends might turn against you. It might be illness that goes on for some time, no evident solution. It might be a financial setback that you didn’t plan for. It might be difficulties with children or with parents or with in-laws or neighbors or a thousand other things. It might be a temptation to do wrong for the sake of great gain. In all of this, in all of these situations, God is watching. Will you continue to trust him and not become bitter or resentful? Will you keep your heart with all vigilance?
Now, the third point, how can you keep your heart? See, when this verse says to us, “Keep your heart,” I think it implies that you can know something of what’s in your heart. I think it implies that you have some ability to examine your heart, otherwise there’d be no sense in telling you to keep it or guard it.
So, here’s the question: what do you see in your heart? If you’re nervous or tense, ask, “What is it, Lord? “What’s troubling my heart? Lord, will you make it right?” Or if your heart is fearful and worried about something in the future, tell it to God and say, “Lord, help me to understand this fear and help me to trust you in my heart.”
Don’t pollute your heart. If you know that there are books, movies, or Internet sites that pollute your heart, don’t go there. Keep your heart with all vigilance.
I think one aspect of growing in Christian maturity is learning to know what’s in your heart, learning to know what it feels like when your heart is not right before God. When you’re arguing or pushing for something in the strength of the flesh, as I’ve done from time to time in faculty meetings at the seminary, and then God says to me, “Wayne, shut your mouth.” I mean, he doesn’t quite say that, but that’s the sense that comes to me. And I’ve just got to be still, because I just wanted to prove that I was right, and it wasn’t from the Lord, and it wasn’t the Lord’s leading.
Maybe you know what that feels like, too. You know what it feels like when the Holy Spirit convicts your heart. Sometimes, when I’m in conversation with someone, I’ll get this pain right in here some place. (I see somebody nodding.) And I think it’s the Holy Spirit saying, “Wayne, the words that just left your mouth were gossip. They were slander. You shouldn’t have said that.” And I have to say, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. That was wrong. Will you forgive me?” Know what that feels like.
Know what it feels like also when the peace of God is guarding your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. Know what it feels like when your heart is in constant communion with God, and learn to stay there more and more in that place spiritually. Sometimes, in the middle of a church service, a stillness will come on the room, and there’s a sense of the presence of God, almost a heaviness or a weightiness. Recognize that and rejoice in it, and let God do his work when that happens. A lot of this, I think, is just taking a few quiet moments during the day and thinking, “Lord, now what’s in my heart? Help me to know what’s happening in my heart.”
I think another great help in keeping your heart is just the old fashioned disciplines of the Christian life, what sometimes have been called the means of grace: just Bible reading, prayer—privately and with other people—worship, obedience to God’s word, caring for the needs of others, sharing Christ with those who don’t know him, giving to the Lord’s work, fellowship with God’s people—just those old fashioned disciplines of the Christian life.
Now, before I close, I just want to take a parenthesis here as well and I want to say something in case any of you are new here to Mars Hill Church, or you maybe came with a friend, and maybe you’re not sure that you’ve ever trusted in Christ for forgiveness of sins. Maybe you’re not sure that you’ve ever been born again. Maybe a lot of this doesn’t make sense.
Let me just say to you, the pastors and I am just glad you’re here, but before you do any of this stuff I’ve been talking about, the first step is trust in Christ first for forgiveness of sins. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
There’s another sentence from the New Testament that Jesus said that I think he is speaking to you right now. If you’ve come in this morning and there’s kind of a burden in your heart, kind of a heaviness, and you just feel, “I can’t get my life straightened out; I can’t make things right; I don’t know if I’m right with God; this is too heavy for me, I cannot do it,” I think Jesus is saying to you right now Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I think you should picture him as being in this room right now and saying to you, “Come to me, come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The burden of trying to make your life right is too great. The burden of trying to make yourself right with God is too great. He’s saying, “Come, I’ll give you rest.”
Then he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When I say that, if you sense in your heart that Jesus is speaking that to you and you need to make things right with him, then any of the hundreds of people here would love to talk with you afterward, and especially I think there’ll be a prayer team here in front. So, there’ll be people who will just talk with you and chat with you about it. Just say, “Look, I’m not sure things are right between me and God. Could you talk with me about it?” And there’ll be people here to talk to you.
Will you keep your heart with all vigilance today, this week, for your whole life? If you will, then Proverbs 4:23 is saying to you that from your heart will continually flow a life of blessing and a manifestation of the presence of God, and God will look and be pleased, and his favor, his blessing, and his delight will rest on you through all your days, and your life will bring him glory and honor, more and more, until the day he says to you, “Come home. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
What I would like to do is I’d like to spend a few minutes sort of in quiet prayer, just asking God to work in everybody’s heart in this room in the way he wants to work. So, would you pray with me?
Lord Jesus, thank you for everybody here at Mars Hill Church Bellevue this morning, or this afternoon. Lord, you say, “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.” Well, we believe that you are here present with us. Lord, you’ve lived here on earth as a human being. You know the struggles, the kinds of struggles that each person here is going through. Lord, will you search our hearts now? You know us better than we know ourselves.
Lord, if in anybody’s heart here there is fear—fear of a financial situation, fear of something else in the future, fear of a job situation, or other kind of fear, fear in school perhaps—Lord, I pray that you would take that fear away, forgive it, cleanse it, and replace it with peace and deep trust in you, Lord, with a deep sense of your presence and your protection.
Lord, if there is anybody’s heart here, if there is jealousy, or envy, I pray that you would forgive and cleanse that. You’ve said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Keep your life free of love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Lord, if there is jealousy or envy, will you remove that and let there be deep peace, and replace it with deep peace and trust in you, and a sense of your presence and your care. Lord, if there is bitterness or resentment because of a wrong that’s been done in the past that can’t be made right, Lord, will you remove that? Take it away, please Lord, and replace it with your love and your peace. Lord, we give that situation into your hands. We know that you will one day settle all accounts. You are the judge of the universe who will make all things right and we release it to you. Give your presence and your peace, Lord.
Lord, if there’s wrongful lust or coveting, we ask your forgiveness, and Lord, we ask by the power of the blood of Jesus that you would wash our hearts and consciences clean. Forgive that, Lord, and replace it with joy and contentment and again with delight in your presence.
Lord, if, for anybody here, there’s just a delight in the things of the world more than delight in you—if we’ve put other things ahead of you, and they’ve become our gods, Lord, a delight perhaps in material possessions, in money, in clothing, in where we live, Lord, perhaps even in good things that you have given, Lord, if those have become greater importance than you in our hearts, forgive us. Lord, replace our delight in those things with a greater delight in you, a joy in you, and an awareness of your presence.
Lord, if there’s been a pattern of deceptiveness, lying, or falsehood, I pray that you would forgive that, you would remove it, and you would fill those hearts with delight in truth and the resolve to love the truth and speak the truth.
Lord, if there’s wrongful pride, forgive that. We have nothing that has not been given from you. We ask your forgiveness for boasting in things that are not of our own doing, and we ask that you would give us humility, humility in your presence, and trust in you.
Lord, for all these things, for anything else that you are bringing to mind, I pray that you would take those things away now and fill our hearts with your presence. Complete your work now this morning—this afternoon, Lord. Complete it, amen.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.