What does guarding your heart mean?
This is a common phrase in many Christian circles. You’ve likely heard it used a few times and maybe even said it yourself. But you do know what guarding your heart actually means?
I suspect while most Christians likely have an idea of what it means to guard your heart, they don’t know exactly how to do it.
In this blog post I want to break down what it means and look at how to guard your heart. We will start by looking at the most common verse that uses this phrase, Proverbs 4:23.
What Does Proverbs 4:23 Mean?
Above all else, guard your heart,for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Proverbs 4:23 is where we get the phrase guard your heart. Although this concept is found all over the Bible as we will see.
The word heart (translated from the Hebrew word: לִבֶּ֑ךָ) in the Old Testament is used almost 600 times. But this word doesn’t just mean heart as we think of it. It can be translated as inner man, mind, will, or heart.
Thus, when the Bible is talking about our heart it typically has a much broader meaning than what we might think. It applies to our whole inner self.
So, why is it so important to guard our heart? What you think and feel will ultimately dictate what you do. What’s happening on the inside will ultimately control what you do on the outside. That’s what Jesus was getting at in Luke 6:45.
Our actions really aren’t the primary problems. They are symptoms of much deeper seeded issues. Our heart, our thoughts, and our mind are what causes us to falter. Our actions are simply reacting to what already exists inside us.
That’s why we are told to guard our heart. Because if we get our heart right our actions will follow.
The word for guard (translated from the Hebrew word: שָׁמַר) means to keep, watch, or preserve. It carries with it the idea that this isn’t a one time deal. It requires continual effort. We need to keep watch, careful to not let anything infiltrate our heart.
When Solomon stresses the importance of guarding your heart in Proverbs 4:23 this is what he’s getting at. We should be on constant guard of what’s going on inside of us because what’s inside will make its way outside.
Proverbs 4:23 is a verse that warns us to deal with the root cause of our problems.
For many the Christian life is about behavior modification. It’s just about doing the right things and avoiding the wrong ones. Not only is that ineffective, it misses the point. Our actions aren’t the problem, our heart that longs for something other than God is the root issue.
So guard your heart.
Let’s take a deeper look at what guarding your heart means.
What Does Guarding Your Heart Mean?
So, what does it mean to guard your heart? We already looked at some of the broad concepts of guarding your heart. Now I want to put it in more everyday terms because this phrase is often just written off as cliche. But it’s a really important truth that we need to know and apply to our life.
Guarding your heart means that we are continually making sure our heart and our head align. It means that what we know to be true is what’s setting the direction of our heart.
Our heart and our head tend to drift apart. If left unchecked what we know to be true in our head won’t be what we actually live out in our lives. That’s why guarding your heart is important.
Again this isn’t a one time thing. It’s not something we can set and forget. Guarding your heart is something you need to do daily. The reality is our hearts don’t just drift, they are under attack.
Whether you realize it or not there’s a battle going on for your heart. You are constantly getting bombard with messages that run contrary to the Gospel. That are trying to erode your faith and walk away from God. That’s why guarding your heart is so pivotal for you to do.
What does guarding your heart mean? Guarding your heart means that you are making sure your heart is living out what the Gospel says is true.
How To Guard Your Heart
So, how do we do it? I want to end by giving you 5 practical things you can do to guard your heart.
We get an inside glimpse of how to guard your heart in Matthew 4:1-11 from Jesus. Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan and he guards his heart from the attacks. These principles below are what Jesus did so well in the desert. Let’s take a look.
1. Focus On Jesus
I know it’s said a lot and it’s become a cliche of sorts. But, I just don’t know a better way to grow your faith and guard your heart than reading your Bible and praying. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus and there’s simply not a better way.
Jesus model this for us in his life. Continually throughout the Gospels we see Jesus slipping away from crowds to be alone and pray. He was guarding his heart, keeping his eyes on his father.
The reason Jesus was able to resist the devil in the desert was because he was so in tune with his father. If we want to have any success in guarding our heart we need to spend time alone with our father. There’s just not another way.
When Peter was walking on the water he took his eyes off Jesus and he sank (Matthew 14:22-33). Similarly, if we take our eyes off Jesus our hearts will drift away from what really matters. How to guard your heart starts with keeping our eyes on Jesus.
You might also like: What Following Jesus REALLY Looks Like
2. Identify The Lies That Surround You
You are being fed information constantly. Every time you open your phone, scroll through social media, turn on the tv, go to the store, or even drive down the street you are inundated with messages. There’s a constant feed of information bombarding you.
The problem is much of this information has an agenda. And that agenda runs contrary to the Gospel. And if you aren’t paying attention you will start believing and buying into the lies.
Many Christians today have abandoned the truth of the Gospel for what culture says is best and true. Instead of identifying the lies, they’ve bought into them.
Think back to Jesus being tempted in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus continually noticed the lies and called them out. He didn’t just let them slide, he named them.
We need to train ourselves to notice the lies that surround us. Too many Christians have succumbed to what culture teaches rather than what the Gospel teaches.
Guarding your heart means that you identify the lies around you.
3. Reject What Is Not True
It’s not good enough to just know what’s untrue. You need to reject it.
When Jesus was tempted in the desert he didn’t just state the lies, he countered them with truth. Satan would lob a lie and Jesus would throw back the truth.
To do that you need to know what is true. Which goes back to the first point. You have to regularly be getting alone with God. Again, I know that sounds cliche. Read the Bible and pray more… but there’s just not another way.
You need to know and remind yourself of the truth. Otherwise you will not be able to know what to reject and what to accept.
Guarding your heart means that we reject what is not true and embrace what is true. That means we need to know what is a lie AND know what is true.
When you identify a lie in your life combat it with truth. That’s part of the armor of God. To learn more about this point check out a recent blog post I wrote about it here: The Powerful Truth About The Armor Of God
4. Remember Your Identity
One of the reasons you should guard your heart is because attacks on your heart are attacks on your identity. Satan wants nothing more than for you to forget who you are and what Jesus has done for you.
In the desert Satan was trying to tempt Jesus with an easier path. But Jesus knew his mission and he knew his identity. He wasn’t swayed.
You need to remind yourself of who and who’s you are. The world will try to hijack what God says about you. You need to remind yourself of who you are in Christ.
You are loved. You are enough. You are secure. God has given you everything you need to get through whatever is in front of you. On your own you will fail, but with God you will thrive.
5. Continually Remind Yourself Of What’s True
This is similar to the first point, but it’s important to say again in a slightly different way. Guarding your heart isn’t just defensive, it’s offensive.
Have you ever swam in the ocean when there’s a strong tide? You continually drift away from where you started. To counter that you need to find a maker, such as your beach chairs, and constantly be correcting what the current is doing to you. If you aren’t going on the offensive the ocean will move you further and further away.
The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we don’t have an anchor that we continually look to we will drift further and further away from Christ.
Make time. Get alone with God. And remind yourself of what’s true. It’s so easy to buy into the lies that are all around us. We need to continually remind ourselves of what’s true.
I know. At this point I sound like a broken record. But guarding your heart centers around having your foundation in Christ. AND continually reminding yourself of that.
Guarding your heart isn’t a one time affair. This is something every Christian needs to do regularly. That’s what Proverbs 4:23 is trying to drive home. We are under constant attack, therefore we need to be vigilant and guard our heart.
Don’t give up. Don’t let your guard down. Guard your heart.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on how to guard your heart from Proverbs 4:23. And I hope that it helped you rethink parts of your life and faith. If you did would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have. I would love to hear from you! You can comment below or email me here: [email protected]
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