Wisdom of the Heart

June 23, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Proverbs 3:1-6; 4:20-23 |


Wisdom and the Heart | Proverbs 3:1-6; 4:20-23
Brian Hedges | June 23, 2024

Good morning, everyone! Let’s turn in our Bibles this morning to Proverbs 3-4. We’re going to be reading Proverbs 3:1-6 and Proverbs 4:20-23.

A couple of nights ago Holly and I took one of our kids to see this new Pixar film Inside Out 2. It’s a sequel to the 2015 movie Inside Out. How many of you have seen that? A few of you have. Both films I really like a lot. The new film is quite good; it’s very wholesome and pretty funny.

I think the films do a pretty good job of presenting in a way that we can understand the inner world of a child and, in this movie, the inner world of an adolescent. In that first film, the story is about this girl named Riley whose family has just moved into a new area, a new place, and the movie really focuses on her emotional adjustment to the new surroundings. It does this by personifying the various emotions that she feels—Joy is a character and Sadness is a character and Anger is a character, and these different emotions are personified, and of course, it’s all really humorous.

In the new film she’s now thirteen years old, and there are a lot of new emotions. Now there’s anxiety and there’s embarrassment and so on. It’s all really quite funny. The film explains how her experiences and especially some core memories begin to make up a part of herself, her inner self and her sense of self and her identity. In the film, there’s kind of like a control center. There’s an area where the emotions are all kind of working, and there’s this huge console, and whichever emotion has control of the console, at that moment the console turns the color of that emotion, and so on.

I think it’s fairly good psychology, and of course it’s a great and fun film. And there’s a lot of wisdom in that film.

Today I want to talk about the inner world of human beings. We all experience this. That console, that control center that you have in Inside Out, in the Bible that’s called the heart. The heart in Scriptures doesn’t refer simply to the emotions, but it really refers to that command central, that place within our inner being from which our thoughts and our emotions, our affections, our choices, and really everything flows from that.

Today we’re going to see this in the book of Proverbs. This is part of our ongoing series “How to Make Life Work: Wisdom from Proverbs.” Today we’re looking at Proverbs 3 and 4, kind of the beginning of chapter 3 and the end of 4. As I read these verses, I want you to notice the word “heart.” It’s used about five times in these verses we’re going to be reading, but really dozens of times in the book of Proverbs. I think Proverbs has a lot to teach us about the heart, how the heart works, and why it’s important that we should give attention to it. So Proverbs 3:1-6.

“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Drop down to Proverbs 4:20.

“My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart [some versions say keep your heart or watch your heart],
for everything you do flows from it.”

This is God’s word.

So, this is a simple message. I want to ask three questions today:

1. What Is the Heart?
2. Why Do You Need to Keep the Heart?
3. How Do You Keep the Heart?

This passage says, “Above all else, guard your heart,” or, “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” Literally in the Hebrew it’s, “Keep with all keeping your heart.” So there’s an emphasis here on the priority and the urgency of keeping the heart.

Let’s ask these questions: What is the heart, why do you need to keep it, and how do you do it?

1. What Is the Heart?

There are a lot of ways we could answer this question. Let me just give you three statements that kind of sum up the biblical teaching about the heart.

(1) The first is this: the heart is the core of your identity. So the heart is command central. It’s like the bridge on the starship Enterprise. This is where all the action happens. This is where the decisions are made. This is where life is governed from. It’s governed from the heart.

The Hebrew word for heart and the corresponding Greek word both really carry the idea of the whole inner being. It’s not only the emotions, but the emotions are included. But it’s also the thoughts and the feelings, the desires, the passions, and the choices, the motivations of the heart.

One dictionary defines it like this: “The religious center to which God turns, which is the root of religious life, and which determines moral conduct.”

So we could say, as the old King James says in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” As you are in your heart, so you are, because the heart is the essential you. You are what your heart is. Your heart reflects the reality of your essential identity. It’s the core of your identity. That’s the first answer to the question.

(2) Here’s the second. Not only is the heart the core of your identity, the heart is the source of your vitality. I draw that from Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

The image here is that of a fountain and its streams. This is a little clearer, I think, in the English Standard Version, which says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

The idea here is that the heart is the wellspring out of which all the streams of life flow. The streams of life would include your words and your actions, your behaviors, the choices that you make. All of that flows out of the fountain or the wellspring of the heart.

In Proverbs there’s a lot of emphasis on the heart and on the different states of the heart. We’ll talk more about this in a future message, but there’s a lot of emotional language in Proverbs. Proverbs talks about a cheerful heart in chapter 15, or a happy heart. But it also talks about the bitter heart—the heart that knows its own bitterness—or the heart that grows sick—“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” Proverbs 13:12—or even a heavy heart.

The book of Proverbs is attuned, in other words, to the various states of the heart, and then it contrasts those who are wise and discerning in heart with those whose hearts are foolish and who are resistant to the Lord. But all of the different states of heart and then all of the choices and actions and behaviors and words that are characteristic in our lives—all of that flows out of this central part of our being and our identity. Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” In other words, a person’s life is a mirror to what’s going on in the heart, but if you want to change the life you have to change the heart.

Here’s how Charles Bridges describes it in a classic commentary on Proverbs. He says,

“Above all keeping, exhorts the wise man, keep your heart. Here, Satan keeps; here, therefore, must we keep special watch. If the citadel be taken, the whole town must surrender. [I like that image. The heart is like the citadel in an ancient city.] If the heart be seized, the whole man—the affections, desires, motives, pursuits, all—will be yielded up. The heart is the vital part of the body. A wound here is instant death; thus spiritually as well as naturally out of the heart are the issues of life. It is the great, vital spring of the soul, the fountain of actions, the center and the seat of principle. As is the fountain, so must be the streams. As is the heart, so must be the mouth, the eyes, the feet. Therefore, above all keeping keep your heart. Guard the fountain lest the waters be poisoned. Many have been the bitter moments from the neglect of this guard. All keeping is vain if the heart be not kept.”

The heart is central to who we are, the source of life, the core of our identity.

(3) The third thing we can say is that the heart is the battleground for our worship. The heart is the battleground on which this spiritual war for our souls is being fought. It’s a war between the true God—the God who created us, the God who loves us, the God who redeems us through the gifts of his Son and his Spirit—it’s a war between him and all other things that compete for our ultimate allegiance.

There’s a war going on in our hearts. There’s a conflict between good and evil, between righteousness and wickedness. Ultimately, it is a battle of the gods. It’s a battle between the true God and every false god that is trying to win our worship. The heart is the battleground for that worship.

Here’s the deal: No matter what we say with our mouths, if we’re not worshiping God with our hearts we’re not really worshiping him at all.

Jesus said in Matthew 15, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me.” He’s quoting from the prophet Isaiah. If your heart is not engaged in worship, then you’re not really worshiping God. So the heart has to be won for the Lord, and the heart has to be watched and guarded and kept. That’s the heart. That’s why this is so crucial.

2. Why Do You Need to Keep the Heart?

It leads us into the second question, why do you need to keep the heart? One answer to that question, of course, is because the heart is this central part of our identity, and everything else flows out of the heart.

One of the great Puritan authors was a man named John Flavel. He wrote this wonderful little book that’s been republished as Keeping the Heart, and in his book Flavel says,

“The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God, and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God. The keeping and right managing of the heart in every condition is the great business of a Christian’s life.”

That’s a really striking statement. I wonder if you’ve ever thought about the Christian life in that way, that the keeping and the managing of your heart is your greatest business; it is your priority in your Christian life. It’s to keep the heart for God, to keep the heart in relationship to God, to keep the heart in fellowship with God, to stay attuned to God, to maintain an ongoing sense of vital connection to God in your heart. That’s your great business in life. That’s what you have to attend to in your spiritual life tomorrow and Tuesday and on through the week.

This is difficult to do. Flavel says this is the greatest difficulty after conversion, to keep the heart with God. Do you know that? Do you experience that? I mean, that’s certainly my experience in my life. The great difficulty in my life is to keep my heart in the right place, to keep it in the right frame of mind, to keep the right desires, the good desires, the godly desires, the holy desires, to keep those supreme and to keep the desires of the flesh and sinful desires and the wrong kinds of motives, to keep all of those mortified and put to death and keep them under the reign of Jesus. That’s the greatest difficulty in life.

I think Flavel is right. He is echoing here the wise man in Proverbs, that this is the big thing to do. Above all keeping, you have to keep the heart.

Why do we need to do this? Why is this so difficult, and why does it have to be done? Let me give you a couple of answers.

(1) The first answer is this: we need to do it because there is a division in the heart. It’s because our hearts are not whole. They are not fully and completely redeemed yet. Even if you are a Christian, even if you have experienced new birth and you’ve been given the gift of a new heart, you still have something within you that is resistant to this work of grace and to God’s call in your life. You still have a principle of sin within.

Really, everybody experiences this. Even the non-Christian, by virtue of creation, being created in the image of God, even the non-Christian has some good impulses. But of course, there are bad impulses as well. So there’s this battle. There’s the classic war between the black dog and the white dog. Which one wins? Right? Remember the old fable? There’s a black dog and a white dog and they’re warring inside. Which one wins? Well, the one which you feed.

Everybody experiences this to some degree. This was the insight of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, when he documented his suffering in that prison under communism in the former Soviet Union. This is from his book The Gulag Archipelago, and he says that it was gradually disclosed to him that “the line separating good from evil passes not through states nor between classes nor between political parties, but right through every human heart.” That’s why the heart is a war zone; because you have this division internally, in your heart and in your soul, between good and evil.

Maybe the classic passage in Scripture describing this is found in Romans 7 and the words of the apostle Paul where he says,

“I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me; that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.”

What a confession! Confession from the apostle Paul himself that he finds this inner conflict within his soul, this conflict between the good he wants to do and he can’t quite achieve it. His reach extends his grasp. And the evil he doesn’t want to do, and even as he fights it and tries to keep it at bay, he finds sin erupting up within him.

I think Paul would have resonated with the words of that old hymn writer:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord; take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.”

I wonder if you feel that this morning. You know this division in the heart, this conflict between good and evil. If you are at all self-aware, if you’re at all attuned to the things that are going on in your heart and your soul, I think you’ll recognize this problem of the division in the heart. Because of that, the heart must be kept, the heart must be watched.

(2) Then there’s another reason, and in some ways this is kind of a summary of many other reasons why the heart needs to be kept: what we might call dangers to the heart. If the heart is this battleground, if it is this war zone between good and evil and it’s the battleground for our worship, there are many threats against the heart and against the soul. There are many dangers.

There are the dangers of temptation, temptation that comes from the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is seeking to seduce us away from God; the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and then the temptations of our own sinful hearts.

In fact, one of the great dangers is the danger of self-deception. It’s the danger that even in our own hearts we can be deceived. So there’s a warning sometimes in Scripture against trusting the heart.

Listen to the prophet Jeremiah. This is Jeremiah 17:9, where he says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure; who can understand it?”

Or Proverbs 28:26: “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”

Now, that’s really important for us to hear. That’s important for us to hear, because we live in a culture that essentially wants to say, “Everything in your heart is okay. You shouldn’t feel bad about anything in your heart.” The great goal in life, the supreme goal in life, is to fulfill the deepest desires of your heart. “You do you; to your own self be true. Why did God create me with these desires if he didn’t want me to fulfill these desires?” That’s the question.

In other words, personal fulfillment of our heart’s desires is held to be the highest value, the most important thing in life. What’s the problem with that?

I don’t think you have to think very long before you recognize that, first of all, that’s just simplistic. It’s simplistic and naive, because none of us can actually fulfill every desire in our hearts. Our hearts are too complicated for that. And you don’t have to think long to recognize that it’s even kind of dangerous to think that way, because we can have desires—even really deep desires—that actually are sinful and could be self-destructive if we give free rein to those desires.

Let me give you some examples. You might think of someone who has the desire to inflict some kind of harm upon themselves. This is something that many people face, many people struggle with. The pain in their lives is so great that in order to numb that pain they want to do something physically to themselves that takes their mind off the pain. So this is the problem with cutting or with overmedicating or with abusing substances, using substances that can impair the mind. There’s a desire to do this activity. But the activity itself is self-destructive, but it’s driven by a deeper kind of pain in the heart and in the life. I think all of us would say that’s not healthy. It’s not healthy for someone to indulge a desire to harm themselves in any of these kinds of ways.

Or there might be someone who has the desire to hurt another person. Maybe it’s an act of retaliation. “This person has hurt me; now I want to hurt him back. This person said something that was cutting and hurtful and really wounded me, and now I want to lash back and I want to say just that right thing. I want to put that knife and I want to twist it. I want to hurt him back. I want to speak to him in a way that makes him hurt.” We may not acknowledge that, but I think all of us have experienced that at times. We’ve said something that we should not have said, and we’ve said it out of retaliation towards someone else.

I think we would all say that there’s something really problematic about that. Those are desires that do not need to be indulged; in fact, they need to be suppressed, they need to be dealt with, they need to be recognized, acknowledged, but then put to death.

Let’s take another example: the world of romance and sexuality. Let’s say you’re a single person and you meet someone and you fall in love with this person. You meet them, and within the first hour of conversation you feel like you have met your soul mate. This is the person that you were made to be with. You’re crazy about this person.

You go on a date or two, and then you realize, “Uh-oh. This person’s married.” They hadn’t told you.

Now, if that’s a Hollywood movie, the whole movie is going to be a justification for why that’s right to do, right? But I think we would all recognize that to follow that feeling of romantic love even when it means adultery is going to lead to deep and destructive consequences in one’s life.

The application here—this is what I want us to get—is that you should never overidentify with the desires of your heart, because those desires can lead you astray. Instead, we have to evaluate the conflicting desires within our hearts and the conflicting parts of our hearts. We have to evaluate them in the light of truth.

I think someone who’s put this quite well is Tim Keller, in his book Making Sense of God. He says,

“It’s an illusion to think identity is simply an expression of inward desires and feelings. You have many strong feelings, and in one sense they are all part of you, but just because they are there does not mean you must or can express them all. No one identifies with all strong inward desires; rather, we use some kind of filter—a set of beliefs and values to sift through our hearts and determine which emotions and sensibilities we will value and incorporate into our core identity and which we will not. It is this value-laden filter that forms our identity, rather than our feelings themselves.”

You can’t follow every desire of your heart! Your desires can lead you astray. Instead, you have to evaluate.

Because of this division in the heart and because of these dangers to the heart, the problems of self-deception, we have to do something with our hearts. The call of Scripture is not, “Follow your heart”; instead, Scripture tells us to keep the heart, and it gives us many different actions of the heart and things to do with the heart that help us to do that, to keep the heart with God, in relationship to God, connected to God, and so to keep our lives headed the right direction.

3. How Do You Keep the Heart?

That leads us to question number three: how do you do this? How do you keep the heart?

What I want to do is give you about five answers to the question. These are in somewhat of a progression, and in some ways they are five different aspects of this whole work of keeping the heart, but maybe these are five categories that will be helpful in how to do this.

(1) Number one: trust the Lord with all your heart. This takes us back to Proverbs 3:5-6. These are famous verses. You might have these on a plaque in your home or somewhere else, but most of us, if we’ve been around church much, we have heard these verses before. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Think about those verses for just a minute. What is it that it’s telling us to do? It’s telling us, first of all, to put our confidence in the Lord. That’s what it means to trust. Put your confidence in the Lord.

It’s telling us to do that with all of our hearts. In other words, don’t hold anything back; give your whole heart to the Lord. Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.

Then he’s saying, “Don’t lean on your own understanding.” What does that mean? It means don’t trust your heart! Don’t just try to reason things out on your own; instead, you have to evaluate things in light of the truth of God’s word. Don’t lean on your own understanding; instead, in all your ways submit to him.

It shows us the real expression of trust in God. If you trust in God, if you have confidence in God, if you depend upon God, the expression of that or the fruit of that, the proof of that, is going to be that you seek to submit your ways to him.

This is just the way life works, isn’t it? If you have a health problem and you go to a doctor, and if you trust the doctor and want to get well, you’re going to follow the doctor’s prescription. If you’re on a team and you want to win and you have a great coach, you’re going to follow the drills that the coach gives you to do. You’re going to follow the plays that are given by the coach. You’re going to do that if you want to win.

But God is more than just a physician and he’s more than a life coach. He is the creator of human beings. He designed you, he made you, he knows how life is supposed to work. If we trust him, we’ll follow him.

He is also our Father, our Redeemer, which means that he loves us and he’s able to rescue us from ourselves and set us on the right paths and instruct us in the way we should go. Part of a life of trusting the Lord is to continually bring back our hearts to him, trusting in him, putting our confidence in him, turning away from our impulses to lead life on our own terms and instead submit ourselves to the Lord.

Listen, this is something you do initially when you become a Christian, but it’s not a one-time thing. This is something that has to be renewed again and again and again as you continually bring your heart back to the Lord.

(2) That involves the second thing: searching the heart. Search your heart. This wonderful prayer from Psalm 139:23-24—I commend it to you—this is a prayer to pray often. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

If we are to keep our hearts, we have to search our hearts. Self-awareness is going to be crucial if you really want to manage your heart well. You have to know what’s there; you have to know what’s inside. You have to be able to name what’s going on internally in your heart. Self-awareness means an attunement to what’s going on internally, so that we can see the emotions, we can name those emotions, we can identify motives, we can sort out the good and holy motivations from those which are selfish or are sinful or deeply wicked. You can’t really know yourself by yourself. You need the Lord’s help to do that. So it’s not just search your heart, but it’s asking God to search your heart and to show you what’s there. But you don’t get that without some self-examination. There has to be an inward look. You have to take time to do heart work.

(3) Then, once you see what’s inside, here’s the third thing you do: you ask God to cleanse and to renew your heart. Again, it’s something you do in prayer, even though this is a command. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” You see, he’s acknowledging here the division in their minds. He calls them double-minded; it literally means “two-souled.” It’s like a person with two souls; it’s like the Jekyll and Hyde, the Gollum and Smeagol. It’s these two sides vying for control. He’s saying, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded,” and do that as you draw near to God.

This is something we have to do. We have to draw near to God and prayerfully ask the Lord to cleanse our hearts and to renew our hearts.

Again, this is something we do initially when we come to Christ, but we have to renew this again and again and again in our lives.

Here’s one of the great promises of Scripture. It’s one of the great promises of the new covenant, that God promises to do for us in Christ and through the Spirit: he promises to give us the new heart and to cleanse our hearts.

You find this in the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, where God promises to write his law on the heart, to take out the old heart of stone—that heart that is so hard that it cannot be pierced—and to put in a heart of flesh; that is, a heart that is sensitive and is soft and is able to respond to the Lord. In fact, God promises to put his own Spirit within us, so that his Spirit begins to renew our hearts and give us a new heart, a heart that will know him.

I pray the words of this verse from Wesley’s hymn that we sang this morning:

“Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sins;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.”

That’s God’s work. Our job is to bring our hearts to the Lord, lay our hearts bare before the Lord, ask God to search, ask God to cleanse, ask God to renew, and then let God do his work through his gracious Spirit.

(3) So you ask God to cleanse and renew your heart, and then, the heart being cleansed, you have to fill it with something else. This is number four: fill your heart with truth.

You see this over and again in Proverbs.
Proverbs 3:1: “Keep my commands in your heart.”
Proverbs 3:3: “Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Proverbs 4:21: “Keep them within your heart.”

Read through Proverbs—maybe do that in this series—and underline every time it says “heart,” and over and again he is saying, “Apply your heart to wisdom. Bind these truths on your heart. Write them on your heart. Keep them in your heart.” In other words, you have to fill your heart with the right things.

I like the imagery that’s used by the Puritan John Owen in his book on temptation. He sort of imagines the human heart like a city, a city that is going to be under siege by enemies. That’s what the temptation is like. It’s like being under siege from the enemies of your soul. He says in order to last out against the temptation you have to store your heart up with the truths of the gospel, sort of like an ancient city under siege warfare would have a rich supply of food and everything they would need to last out the siege.

Part of our problem is that we have not stored our hearts up with truth and with the gospel so as to last out when the temptations come. But you remember that the psalmist said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” And Paul in Colossians 3 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you.”

Ultimately, we do that not just through memorization, although that’s important, memorizing Scripture, but we do that through the ongoing feeding on Scripture and meditation on Scripture; so that we’re building up in our hearts, in our experiences with God in prayer and in his word, we’re building up an experiential acquaintance with the truth that’s shaping us and forming us and changing us from the inside out. That’s what we need. That’s how the mind is renewed.

We’re telling ourselves the truth. We’re telling ourselves a different story than the world is telling us. We’re identifying ourselves with Christ and who he is and what he has done for us, and we are reminding ourselves of our new identity in Christ. All of that’s included here as you fill your heart with the truths of the gospel.

(5) This isn’t just a cognitive thing. It’s not just getting a lot of information in your head. Here’s the most glorious thing of all: Scripture says that Christ himself can dwell in our hearts. So this is the last thing: let Christ dwell in your heart. I’m drawing it from Ephesians 3, where in a wonderful prayer—maybe my favorite prayer in all of Scripture—Paul prays that God, out of the riches of his grace, would strengthen our inner being by his Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith.

Some of the commentaries point out that the word “dwell” there has a certain prefix on the Greek word that really carries the idea of settling down, making one’s abode, making one’s dwelling place in the heart. The idea is that Christ comes and actually takes residence inside. He’s not just a visitor who comes and then goes, but he actually takes residence inside our hearts.

Paul’s writing this to Christians, and he’s praying that Christ may “dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, being rooted and grounded in love, you will have strength to comprehend with all the saints [what is] the length and the breadth and the heighth and the depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” It is an experience of the indwelling Christ in our hearts. That’s what we need.

One of the best applications of this I think was written by Robert Munger. This was maybe thirty or forty years ago. He wrote a little booklet that was called My Heart, Christ’s Home. He really just imagined his heart as a house with all the different rooms in the house, and he tells of how Christ came and he cleansed these various rooms. They went to the library; it was the room of images and information, our minds, our thinking; and how the Lord Jesus sorted things out and threw certain things away and stocked the library with new ways of thinking.

They went to the dining room, the room of appetites and desires, and dealt with those.

They went to the workshop, the place where we build things using our talents, and in this room Christ came and he found only toys, not things of great value. So there was work to do there.

He came to the living room, the place of fellowship and relationship. He describes how Jesus would wait for him to come talk with him, but he would never show up. He was ignoring fellowship with Christ.

He came to the bedroom, the most private room in the house, dealing with relationships and sexuality.

Finally, after Christ had been through every room in the house, Munger tells of how he detected an odor coming from a closet. He told the Christian, “There’s something dead in there, something rotten and decaying.” He asked him for the keys. “Let me have the keys so that I can clean that out as well.” He opened up this locked cupboard, this locked closet, and Jesus went to work there, cleaning that out.

That’s a great picture of what it looks like to experience the indwelling Christ through the Spirit taking residence in our hearts and beginning to sort things out in our hearts.

Now listen, we’re all in the process of this. I’m certainly in the process of this. There’s so much work that I feel like still needs to be done in my own heart. But here’s the invitation this morning. The invitation for every one of us is to get with the Lord and to begin handing these keys over to him, and say, “Lord, search this part of my heart. Search this in my life. Look at these emotions, look at these desires. Help me deal with this. Help me forgive this person who offended me. Help me deal with this sinful pattern of behavior. Help me put to death these desires. Help me act on these good desires that you’ve given me. Help me strengthen what is new. Lord, work in my heart.”

It’s only as we engage in this kind of work with the Lord that our hearts can really be kept. The most important thing you and I can do in our lives is to keep the heart with the Lord.

How are you doing this week? Are you keeping your heart with all vigilance, knowing that from it flow the streams of life? Are there some things in your life that are going wrong—words, behaviors, habits, relationships? The way to fix those streams is to go to the source, and the source is the heart, and the one person who can change your heart and cleanse your heart and begin to renew your heart is the Lord Jesus. So let me invite you to come to him today. Let’s pray together.

Lord, we acknowledge this morning the great need of our hearts to be cleansed and renewed and to become more like yours. We pray with Wesley, “O for a heart to praise my God, / A heart from sin set free,” a heart in every thought renewed, a heart that is more like your heart. We ask you, Lord, to do that for us today.

As we come to the Lord’s table, may we come bringing ourselves to you so as to receive from you all the grace that you have promised in the gospel, the grace that comes to us through personal fellowship with you through the Spirit.

Lord, I pray this week that as we go about our work and our relationships and our various activities in life that we would not neglect our hearts, but we would stay attuned to what’s going on internally, that we would learn to keep our hearts, and that we would do that in company with you. Lord, you have created our hearts to be a sanctuary for your Spirit, to be the dwelling place of God on earth. You created our hearts to be the place where we can enjoy a rich and deep relationship with you.

All the temptations that would pull us away from that relationship that we will face this week, we ask you, Lord, to help us be prepared for them and help us to respond to your gracious invitation. You say to the church that you stand at the door and knock, and if anyone will answer you will come in and dine with them. Lord, you’re not knocking on our hearts’ doors today. Would you help us to open the door, to invite you in, and to experience the rich friendship and relationship that you offer to us? Lord, would you do this work of cleansing us and renewing us and changing us?

So Lord, even this morning work in us what is pleasing in your sight as we prepare our hearts to take these elements, and may you be glorified and praised and worshiped as a result. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.