Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guard Your Hearts, But Don't Guard Your Hearts

There are some pretty standard phrases commonly used in the Christian Lingo that I think need to be addressed. Please excuse any perceived violence or aggression toward these phrases, but know that I think violence is necessary because of the destructive nature of the ideas behind these phrases. Here is the phrase I want to talk about today. "Guard your heart." Make sure you are "guarding your heart." Girl, you better "guard your heart." "Guard your heart, man." Everyone in the Christian world hears this phrase, and thinks it to be wise counsel for things like dating and marriage. I do not. I know what you're thinking. "The Bible says we are supposed to guard our hearts." Yes. It does. So let's examine it, because I believe that what is meant by the words in Scripture, and what is meant by the words of our culture are two different things.

"Above all else, guard you heart, for everything you do flows from it." (NIV) Prov 4:23

"Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life." (NLT) Prov 4:23

"Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." (ESV) Prov 4:23

Yes, you are correct! It is in the Bible. The only problem is that what is traditionally meant when it is said...IS NOT IN THE BiBLE! This phrase is used in dating a lot. Most of the time, it is used fairly early in the dating process. "I hope things go well on your date, just make sure and guard your heart." Translation - "I hope things go well on your date, just make sure to never put your heart in a vulnerable position that might result in you getting hurt." What?!!! This is the very reason why the commitment to marriage is being postponed longer and longer. Because dating is driven by fear. Fear of getting hurt. That's the reason why marriages are falling apart. Because marriage is often dictated by fear. Fear of getting hurt. Walls are built around the daters heart before the dating even begins. Walls of defense. Walls of protection. Walls of fear. And most of the time, these walls are built strong and firm on day 1 of marriage. These walls that we have begun to label as "good", are a deceitful lie from the enemy for the purpose of destruction. These walls are not from the Lord, and absolutely not what is meant by "guard your heart." Tear them down.

The definition of guard is "to watch over in order to protect or control." To "guard" something implies a "shield" or a "defense". I do believe that the Scriptures are commanding us to put a shield around our heart, or to build a wall around our heart. But, if the "shield" or "defense" is against a person, or even against the possibility of being hurt by another other person, then we are building the wrong walls, and shielding our hearts from the wrong things. These hearts are enclosed by a wall that the enemy built. I would contend that we could potentially even be shielding ourselves from a good gift that the Lord desires to give to us, but the enemy wants to keep from us. These walls are built on sand, and will be destroyed when the storm comes.

To shield or defend our hearts from hurt presumes that God does not want us to feel grief, be rejected, encounter sorrow, or to have our hearts broken. Not true.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you will not despise." (ESV) Psalms 51:17

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (ESV) Psalm 34:18

"He (Jesus) was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." (ESV) Isaiah 53:3

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction." (ESV) 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

These are only a few examples, but this theme is literally all over the pages of Scripture. These verses not only indicate that we are certain to face sorrows, grief, rejection, affliction, and broken hearts, but also promises us that this is where He will be near, He will save, He will comfort, He won't despise.

Why would I shield myself from the place where I will experience His nearness? Why would I protect myself from a place where He brings comfort? It simply doesn't make sense. Does that mean we should desire pain? Yes and no. We should desire the presence of the Lord, and His presence is often found in pain. So, if encountering His awesome presence means being despised, rejected, full or sorrow...bring it (always a scary prayer). But, that does not mean He only uses the place of sorrow to offer His nearness.

So, what are we to shield ourselves from? What are we to guard our hearts from?

"Be alert, and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (NIV) 1 Peter 5:8

"For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (ESV) Ephesians 6:12

These verses indicate two things. Our defense need not be against man (flesh and blood). Our defense needs to be against the enemy, the devil, the powers of darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness. We need to put walls of defense up around our heart, in order to protect our hearts from the enemy, because "all of life flows from the heart." We have a heart that can easily be deceived (Jer 17:9). How do we resist the enemy? How do we protect ourselves from being deceived by the enemy? It is simple. Know the truth, so you can recognize deceit, in order to combat the lies.

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (ESV) James 4:7-8

Stop guarding your hearts, and start guarding your hearts. Tear your walls down, and rebuild your walls. It will be for your good and His glory!