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guard your heartJohn R. W. Stott recounts the letter written by Robert Murray M’Cheyne to the Rev. Dan Edwards on October 2, 1840 after Edwards’ ordination as a missionary:

I trust you will have a pleasant and profitable time in Germany.  I know you will apply hard to German; but do not forget the culture of the inner man — I mean of the heart.  How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care.  Remember you are God’s sword — His instrument — I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name.  In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success.  It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.  A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.

Do not forget the heart.  M’Cheyne’s words echo Solomon’s — “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).  The heart is the center of the man, from which flows everything else (Mk. 7:20-23), so it must be kept, protected, and guarded from all ungodly intrusions.

This word “heart” is an interesting one.  Today we tend to divide and compartmentalize the various functions and aspects of a person’s being into the spiritual, intellectual, volitional, emotional, and rational.  Not so in Biblical times.  Particularly in the Old Testament, the Hebrew mind looked at the human being and saw him as a whole; and all these functions which we have separated, the Hebrew mind incorporated into one term:  the heart.  In the Old Testament, the heart is every function of the inner man — everything that makes man a man.

And the encouragement of Scripture is to watch that inner self carefully — for it will influence the quality and essence of all of a man’s life.

So it is good to ask, “How is my heart?”  Would you like to know the condition of your heart?  Solomon gives us three clues that reveal the nature of a man’s heart:

  • What is your speech like (v. 24)?  Is your speech lying, gossiping, and angry?  Or is it truthful, encouraging, and gentle?  What comes from our lips reveals what is in our hearts.
  • What are the objects of your eyes (v. 25)?  At what do you look?  What are the things that grab your attention so that you are fixated by them?  What we look at reveals the hidden desires of our hearts.
  • Where do you go and what do you do (v. 26)?  Do your feet lead you to places of righteousness and godly service, or to places of sin and evil (v. 27)?  The things we do demonstrate the real condition of our heart.

I’m not sure that this section of Solomon’s proverbs was inspiration for a children’s song from my childhood, but it sure seems like it is —

O be careful little eyes what you see.
O be careful little eyes what you see.
There’s a Father up above,
And He’s looking down in love.
So, be careful little eyes what you see.…

[…and ears what you hear, hands what you do, feet where you go, and mouth what you say]

So guard your heart.  Guard it by watching what it produces in speech, desires, and conduct.  Guard the passions of your life by making your passion singular — by making God your passion.