Keep Your Heart Clean
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” [Proverbs 4:23 NLT]
From this Scripture, the Bible clearly tells us that it is important for us to keep our hearts (our spirits) clean. Whatever we allow into our hearts will control our thoughts, words and eventually our actions.
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are [the things] which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” [Matthew 15:19-20 NKJV]
Note that the Scripture lists evil thoughts in the same category as evil actions such as murders, adulteries etc. that defile a man (i.e. that amount to sin). We should not think that it is okay to allow evil thoughts in our minds as long as we don’t do or say what we think. God knows our thoughts and our evil thoughts are themselves sin:
“Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts?” [Mathew 9:4 NLT]
“Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.” [Acts 8:22 – 23 NLT]
By failing to guard our hearts, thoughts of doing evil will enter. By allowing these thoughts of evil in our minds, they will eventually dwell in our hearts and we will start speaking the evil that is dominating our minds. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” [Luke 6:45 NKJV]
We have already heard from the Scriptures that allowing evil thoughts to fill our minds is itself a sin. At that stage the sin is within us only. Once we start speaking these evil thoughts, our thoughts have translated into action (i.e. communicating that sin to others through our words). These thoughts also become our desires to do evil (i.e. temptations to carry out these evil thoughts). These temptations lead to evil actions. Consequently, the evil thought multiplies into various levels of sin. Allowing sin in our lives will eventually lead to our spiritual death (separation from God): “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” [James 1:14 -15 NLT]
How do we keep our hearts clean?
1. By making sure that what we see, hear and touch is clean
By making sure that what we see, hear and touch is clean Check that what you watch or read in movies, social media, television, magazines, books etc. is not out of line with God’s Word. Unfortunately, in the name of “entertainment” a lot of ungodly images, words and sounds can come into our hearts. If it is not in line with God’s Word, avoid it. In the same way that companies advertise their products through these media to influence us to buy their products, so it is that ungodly images, words and sounds influence our hearts negatively against what the Bible teaches us. An easy example is how we may start using swear words we hear in movies. It is also well known how images such as in pornography can negatively influence people’s behaviour, sometimes leading to crimes such as rape, abusive behaviour or adultery.
We should also physically distance ourselves from activities that may lead us to sin. For example, avoid putting yourself in a situation where drugs are being consumed if you know that drugs are a temptation in your life.
2. Choose the people you surround yourself with carefully
The saying goes: “Birds of the same feather flock together”. You will become like the people you spend most of your time with. If they are ungodly, their values and behaviour will influence you to be like them. Choose to spend most of your time with people who are godly.
3. Know your weaknesses and avoid them
Everybody has a weakness in their lives that is their greatest temptation. Know your weaknesses and avoid putting yourself in situations where your weaknesses may be tested. For example, if you know that alcohol is your weakness, don’t spend time in a bar or a night club!
4. Renew your mind
Avoiding temptation is the easiest way of resisting it. But, it is not enough to avoid temptation, we need to replace such temptation with new values which replace the old temptations. This we do by renewing our minds with the Word of God.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” [Romans 12:2 NLT]
5. Resist temptation
When tempting thoughts come, resist them by subjecting them to God’s Word (i.e. remind yourself of what the Bible says concerning that temptation).
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” [2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV]
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” [Philippians 4:8 NLT]