Keeping the Heart

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
—Proverbs 4:23

THE HEART IS THE MOST industrious of all organs in the human body. By rhythmical contractions it drives the blood to all parts of the body. If this organ ceases to work, death follows. If the blood current is interrupted even for a little while, a clot forms which often leads to death. In view of this important function of the heart, the Bible very properly uses it as a symbol of our motives, affections, intentions, and desires.

Concerning the ‘heart’ of fallen mankind it is recorded, “The heart is deceitful [crooked, slippery; Young’s Analytical Concordance] above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:9) If we are to be pleasing to the Lord there is an urgent need for the fulfillment of the psalmist’s words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”—Ps. 51:10

As God’s children we have been taught through the Holy Scriptures concerning the only way by which we can have our hearts made right with our Heavenly Father. It is through his beloved Son, “who gave himself a ransom for all.” (I Tim. 2:6) “He is the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:2

Realizing our need of a Redeemer, we have gladly and gratefully accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, and have accepted the invitation, “My son, give me thine heart.” (Prov. 23:26) We have fully consecrated ourselves, all that we have and are, to our Father in heaven. Following this consecration, something else that is wonderful happened. Paul mentions it: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”—II Cor. 4:6

We receive of his Spirit, and God, having anointed us, has stamped us with his seal, giving us the Holy Spirit as a pledge “in our hearts.” (II Cor. 1:21,22) It is our great joy and privilege, as indicated in Hebrews 10:22, to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [clean] from an evil conscience.”


During our Christian walk we may at times feel discouraged with self. We may, on occasion, be vividly reminded that we still have the fleshly tabernacle to contend with. Let not discouragement hinder us. A humble condition, in such circumstances, becomes a very favorable one if we seek Divine assistance, willingly becoming submissive to the Lord, and ready to do his will. Then we will surely receive Divine blessing. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Ps. 34:18) “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”—Ps. 51:17

A heart is contrite when it has a quiet, deep sorrow because of thoughts, words, and deeds not in harmony with righteousness. Our Heavenly Father, who is very great and lofty, is also particularly sympathetic towards those who are of a broken and contrite heart; whose spirit is humble; who realize that they are imperfect; who desire to be in accord with him, and to dwell in holiness. To such he is ever near to revive and to give them strength.

“Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”—Isa. 57:15

We should ever remember that a truly broken and contrite heart the Lord never despises. Therefore, if, when we stumble and come short of the Lord’s requirements, we find ourselves hungering for his forgiveness and fellowship—if we find our heart broken and contrite—never despair. “If we confess our sins, he [our Father] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” through “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son.”—I John 1:9,7

To us the exhortation comes: ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence.’ The Lord is looking at our hearts, at the motive that prompts what we say and do; also concerning what we are not doing. “The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts.” (I Chron. 28:9) “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”—I Sam. 16:7


As fully consecrated children of God, the Lord is proving and testing us. He is not taking merely a surface view; for example, the amount of knowledge we have, or the extent of work done, or the esteem in which we are held by our brethren. He is not looking merely at these outward conditions, although they are all very fit, proper, and important. He is also looking down into the heart—our innermost thoughts and motives, our desires, intentions, our will—for ‘out of it are the issues of life.’ He is judging, from our hearts, whether we are fit for a place in his kingdom.

As we reflect upon this fact, we may find a great many things that would be perfectly right of themselves that will be condemned by him, because there was not the right motive behind them. This thought is expressed in Proverbs 21:4, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.” The plowing of a field is perfectly right and proper. It is not the act that makes it sin, but the man who plows the field with a wrong spirit, with wrong intentions, thinking angry thoughts, working on his field to get money to spend selfishly—no matter how this would affect others—that man’s plowing is sin.

We see, therefore the importance of having our hearts, our motives, right before God in all matters. If we do something that is perfectly right in itself, something that would receive the commendation and approval of all around us, and yet there is a wrong spirit behind it, then it would not receive God’s approval.

Because it is difficult to discern our motives clearly, we do well to go frequently, carefully, and prayerfully, to the Word of God which our Father has provided for our learning and instruction, for it teaches us to discern our intentions—the thoughts of our heart. We read, “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”—Heb. 4:12

The Lord has made it clear that we cannot judge correctly the motives of others. We cannot read their hearts. But we are to judge ourselves. We are to examine our motives in the light of the Scriptures, and not merely guess at the matter. We should not conclude, “Well, I am as good as so-and-so, and if he is a child of God, so am I.”

If this is our attitude, then we are deceiving ourselves. We should realize that our own personal ideas and imaginations, our own judgments (apart from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit) are not only unreliable, but very misleading. We need the cleansing and corrective powers of the Word of God. Paul wrote, “The weapons of our warfare [and God’s Word is the ‘sword of the Spirit’] are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations [reasonings, Marginal Translation].” (II Cor. 10:4,5) Our human imaginations, ideas, and reasonings, which are so very unreliable, are to be demolished.


In Proverbs 16:5 we read, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” Pride is a deadly poison to the New Creature. If we should permit pride to fill our hearts and remain there, we would be led out of the path of light, Truth, and life.

We are also to rid our hearts of envy, anger, malice, hatred, selfishness, bitterness, and all the works of the flesh and the Devil. We are to watch always lest any root of bitterness enter our hearts and remain there. These poisons not only do great injury to ourselves, but frequently defile others as well. Even a small seed of these evil tendencies can grow.

Then there is distrust. This quality also must be kept out of our hearts. Have we the confidence, the faith, in the Lord that we should have? Are we closely embracing all the exceeding great and precious promises of God? The “high calling” of God in Christ Jesus is very wonderful. (Phil. 3:14) If for one moment we could have an actual glimpse of that glory which is beyond the veil there would be no question about our faithfulness. The heavenly glory would so overwhelm us that all the trivial distracting things of this life would be laid aside. But the glory is there just beyond the veil, not seen with natural vision, but with the eye of faith.—II Cor. 4:17,18


How stimulating are the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8) And how beautiful are his words, “Come unto me, … and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:28,29) We want our hearts to be like his. “If a man love me,” Jesus said, “he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”—John 14:23

We should see to it that, by Divine grace, our Father and his Son are abiding with us continually, and that their sweet, holy influence is the motivating power of all our thoughts, affections, desires, and will, circulating the new life within us. Thus we will be nourished as New Creatures, also cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh.

We can further help in the keeping, or guarding, of our hearts by increasing our attention and obedience to God’s Word. In this connection the context of our opening scripture is excellent instruction: “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.” (Prov. 4:20,21) In other words, keep my words in the very center of your thoughts, affections, desires, motives, and will.

In the Psalms we read, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.” “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.”—Ps. 119:11,80,111,112

We should ‘let’ Christ and his Spirit dwell in our hearts; and “let the word of Christ” dwell in us “richly” (Col. 3:16); we should also “sanctify the Lord God” in our “hearts” (I Pet. 3:15); and “let the peace of God rule” in our hearts, then “the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”—Col. 3:15; Phil. 4:7

The ‘peace of God’ is an essential, so is the quality of love. Paul wrote, “May the Lord cause you to be full and to overflow with love to each other, and to all even, as we also to you; so as to establish your hearts blameless in holiness before God, even our Father.”—I Thess. 3:12,13, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott


While the human, physical heart is the most industrious of all organs of the body, it is also the best nourished. Similarly, our heart, which relates to our desires, intentions, motives, and will, must be very specially nourished. And the means of doing this is by the inspired Word and the Holy Spirit.

We read, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” (Jer. 15:16) Here, the prophet is testifying, “I did meditate upon, and ponder thy words in my heart; I did eat, masticate and assimilate them, so that they formed part of my very being.”

We, also, are to see that the Word of God gets into our hearts, representing our motives, affections, and will. It is our joyous privilege and responsibility to see that the spirit of the Holy Scriptures gets to the very center of our desires, intentions, and will. Our hearts should be so full of God’s Word, together with the Holy Spirit, that it becomes as “a burning fire.” (Jer. 20:9) As we have opportunity, we must tell it forth, whether those around us will hear, or whether they will not.

This experience is graphically described by the Prophet Jeremiah: “I am laughed at all the time, every one mocketh me, … the Word of the Lord is become unto me a disgrace and a derision, all the time. And I thought, I will not make mention of him, and I will not speak any more in his name. But it became in my heart as a burning fire enclosed within my bones, and I was weary with enduring, and I could not overcome it.” (vss. 7-9, Leeser) The prophet could not overcome that ‘burning fire’; he could not stifle that great urge within him; nothing could prevent him from proclaiming the message that God had given to him.

It is true that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34) Our hearts should be full of God’s Word; and his love, his peace, and the Holy Spirit—full, even to overflowing.

O for a heart more like my God,
From imperfection free;
A heart conformed unto thy Word,
And pleasing, Lord, to thee.”
                       —Hymns of Dawn

Dawn Bible Students Association
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