Yet God commands us to do the opposite. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)
Have you ever done something because your heart was invested, but the results were disastrous? I’m sure we’ve all got stories like that. If we trust our hearts, we will inevitably find ourselves enmeshed in troubles.
“Above all else, guard your heart…” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV, emphasis mine)
Why do we guard something? Think of a prisoner in a cell. They are confined so that others around them cannot do harm to them. But they are also behind those bars so they cannot escape to cause harm to others.
Our hearts are exactly the same.
“…for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV, emphasis mine)
We affect the people around us by words and actions that spring directly from our hearts. We’re to project the love of Christ into the world, to show others as best we can that Jesus is the only hope we have. This cannot be done if our hearts are left to their own devices.
The world sees what we do and hears what we speak. If we live willfully in sin because we’ve let our hearts run free, we will inevitably appear as hypocrites to a skeptical world. So how do we protect ourselves, others, and our relationship with Christ?
I encourage you to consider the five basic senses:
- Sight. We don’t often think about what we watch. We turn on a show and zone out after a long day. But our subconscious is still at work and everything we see filters into our hearts. Our emotions affect our decisions. Things we see, read, and watch affect how we feel and act. Think deep. Is your relationship with Christ or with others being negatively affected by something you see?
- Smell. Have you ever marinated food (usually meat) in sauce or spice that you thought would be great, but later it just smelled so awful you didn’t even want to taste it? When we allow sin in our lives, the longer we leave it, the longer it soaks into our hearts. We literally marinate ourselves in the stench of death. And God absolutely cannot stand it. Christ washed us of sin, so we should exude his pure, sweet aroma that pleases our Father. Think deep again. Can you think of anything, no matter how little or large, in your life that could be changed so that more of the sweet aroma of Christ will seep through?
- Hear. What we hear and listen to influences us so much more than we realize. God speaks to us in a soft voice, but all the things we listen to clutter up our minds so much that it drowns him out. His voice is soft because he wants us to choose to not only hear, but to listen. He speaks so that we can learn and grow. Is there anything in your life that you listen to, directly or indirectly, that pulls your attention from the voice of God?
- Taste. Jesus himself is the bread of life. He is the only one who can fully sustain us. If we have tasted God’s goodness in our lives, then it makes sense that we should continue to nourish ourselves with the bread of life. However, we tend to reach for what the world offers, because our hearts tell us it’s easier. It looks sweet, sugar-coated and innocent. But beneath that exterior lies a rotten core. Our hearts know that only Jesus, the bread of life, can give us what we need. Can you think of anything in your life that you’ve tried to fulfill yourself with, but you’ve found it isn’t good nor enough?
- Touch. Intimacy is key to relationships with anyone. Personally, touch is one of my top love languages. I’ll hug just about anybody. But how often do I reach in the same way for Christ? How often do I turn with that same longing toward the one who gave his life for me? I can’t help but imagine it this way: If all 7 billion people on the planet loved me, their love combined could not begin to match even a fraction of what is offered me by God! So why do I turn more often to people? Yes, I need the love of those around me. Yes, I need to love others. But the most important intimate love of my life is Christ. I need to touch his presence before I can fully love anyone else.
Using our physical senses, we fine-tune our final and most important sense: Faith. We see, hear, smell, taste and touch the spiritual world through our faith. Without it, we’re lost, and through it we create intimacy with God. We become a sweet aroma to please the Father by our relationship with Jesus. We touch His presence, we hear His voice, we see all the wonderful things He does in us, for us, and with us. We see Him and His presence everywhere. We can’t help it! We are completely rebuilt the moment we allow faith to enter our being.
Beloved, think about your own five senses. Is there anything you could remove or add from your life so that your heart will be guarded and your relationship with the Lord improved?
Above all, be encouraged, beloved. No one is perfect or has a perfect heart. Remember that no matter what, you are deeply loved by a Father who knew every little corner of your being even before time itself. He loved you then, he loves you still. And his love for you will never end.