In the Bible the word “heart” is typically a reference to everything that makes you … you. To talk about the heart is to talk about the very core of a person—thoughts, feelings, understanding, inclinations and passions. It’s little wonder, then, that early on in the book of Proverbs, we’re given this warning:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, Today’s New International Version).
Because the heart is the sum total of our character, it’s something that must be actively guarded—defended. If we care at all about the kind of person we are, then we need to be paying painfully close attention to who and what we are allowing to access our heart—establishing ourselves as a gatekeeper of sorts between our heart and the rest of the world.
So, what are you allowing past the gates of your heart?
There’s a lot out there that wants in. A multitude of ideas, concepts, beliefs, feelings and attitudes would love to root themselves in the deepest corners of your heart; and the only thing between them and their goal is you and your gate.
That’s not to say that every single thing that wants in is bad. But certainly not every single thing is good either. What you need is a way to discern between what should be allowed into your heart and what should be kept far, far away. What you need is a standard.
In fact, we do have a standard available to us, and it doesn’t come from any philosophy or humanly devised set of concepts. It’s a standard that provides us absolutes, rather than opinions. That standard is the law of God. Throughout the Bible, God sets forward moral principles that draw the lines between right and wrong—between what we should allow to take root in our hearts and what would destroy us from the inside out.
This is the standard that will teach us to discern between the kind of things that belong in our hearts and the kind of things that don’t. For instance, let’s look at any number of popular songs right now glorifying sex outside of marriage. God’s Word condemns fornication; therefore, such a song doesn’t belong in our .mp3 collection—or our hearts. The same principle applies to, say, violent video games that focus on gruesome homicides with an arsenal of weapons. God’s Word condemns murder; therefore, such games are not appropriate in the hands or the hearts of anyone seeking to follow God.
We may convince ourselves that we can build a wall between the things we allow in our lives and who we are—that we can listen to salacious music, partake in violent video games, watch movies that glorify evil, remain in the company of those with lax morals, and still somehow keep ourselves clean and pure.
Let’s not deceive ourselves. When we allow these and similar things into our lives, we allow them into our hearts. And when we allow them into our hearts, we begin to change who we are. The reason God forbids certain actions and attitudes in His Word is not to have an arbitrary set of elitist rules—God wants us to keep ourselves from certain things because they will change who we are … and not for the better. As King Solomon once asked, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” (Proverbs 6:27-28).
On the flip side, there are things God encourages us to allow into our hearts, because of the same phenomenon—because they will change us and improve our character. The apostle Paul wrote to encourage Christians, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Ultimately, you are the gatekeeper of your own heart. No one else can mediate what you allow into the core of your being. If you leave your gate wide open, all manner of thoughts, ideas and attitudes will come rushing in—and most of them will begin dismantling who you are, piece by piece. But if you carefully discern, with God’s law as your guide, what should come in and what should stay out, you will find yourself living the fulfilling, meaningful life God always intended for you to have.
But that’s up to you.
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Ralph Levy.