Proverbs 4: 23
There must be something especially important about what is mentioned in this verse concerning our hearts, if we are counselled to “Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded”. It is very evident that we have a valuable possession that has to be protected and looked after. God has a great interest in the hearts of the saints. I have no doubt that most of us are fairly diligent in protecting other things. We might protect our toys, our games, our cars and our houses. None of these will go into eternity for the eternal satisfaction of God’s heart. The affections of the saints will contribute to the praise and delight of what there is for God eternally, which is part of the importance of our hearts. God seeks to possess them for His own delight. He seeks to fill them.
There is a very great deal said in the Scriptures about our hearts. I think any one diligent in pursuing the subject will find that there are several hundred references to our hearts in Scripture; but there are a few references to God’s heart. It is a remarkable thing that God should be said to have a heart. God is not a man; God is a Spirit, and yet there are many physical characteristics of men that are spoken of by God about Himself. Think of God graciously using language which we understand so that we might grasp certain thoughts regarding the knowledge of Himself. He speaks about His eyes, His hands, His feet, and He speaks about His heart. God’s heart is towards us. That is a wonderful thing. The apostle Paul says God is for us and he also says, “If God be for us, who against us?”, Rom 8: 31. What a precious thing that is. Think of the affections of God being towards the saints, enriching us and blessing us with knowledge of Himself.
Many things will not go into eternity but the preciousness of the knowledge of God will. Things written in the hearts of the saints are written there indelibly by the Spirit of God. We have hearts that are so conditioned that they can take on impressions; they can be written upon by the Spirit of God. We were reminded earlier that whatever is formed by the Spirit of God is in itself perfect. Perhaps there is much more to be done and written in my heart. I can only seek to be a quicker learner; that my heart might be more available to the Holy Spirit, in view of what He would desire to write there in permanent record according to His own skilful work. There is a fineness about the Spirit’s work that yields such pleasure to the Persons of the Godhead.
At the time when Solomon completed the house of Jehovah he spoke to God and God answered him. In 2 Chronicles, we have a record of that particular occasion. God said, “Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attentive to the prayer made in this place; for I have now chosen and hallowed this house, that my name may be there for ever; and mine eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually”, 7: 15, 16. What a beautiful reference. God’s eyes and God’s heart were perpetually focussed upon His house. I have no doubt that was in a certain sense in answer to Solomon’s appeal in intercession before God. Solomon sought that, on account of His house, God would have regard for the people. If they should fail, then he desired that God might graciously bring them back.
My own impression is that God’s eyes and God’s heart were also focussed upon His house because the ark was there. Think of the delight of God in His own beloved Son. Think of the heart of God finding such delight in the place that Christ has before Him and will have eternally. The One who came here to express the love of God, did so fully, by going into death. What suffering was involved for the Lord Jesus while bearing our guilt and resolving every requirement of God’s will, then going into the depths of death and being buried. He was raised again by the mighty power of God. He was raised by the glory of the Father. He is seated at God’s right hand. That is not only an evidence that God has set Him there because of His perfect delight and total satisfaction with all the work that Christ has accomplished. I think it is also an evidence of the delight that the Father has in the Son Himself; that He has put Him in that place at His own right hand.
The saints will share Christ’s throne, but no one else shares that place at the Father’s right hand; it is for Christ alone. He has a unique place in the Father’s affections. Think of the Father’s eye and heart focussed, I might say with the greatest reverence and with the greatest delight, on His own beloved Son. Christ will be the centre of that vast universe of bliss. It will be characterised by breadth and length and depth and height; but Paul then says, “and to know the love of the Christ”, Eph 3: 19. That seems like the anchorage point at the very heart of the universe. God’s eye and heart perpetually focussed on His own beloved Son. We have a place in the heart of God and His affections too. I feel justified in saying that because we are told that God has shone in our hearts. Why did He shine in my heart? Was it to show the wickedness that was there? That has undoubtedly been one effect of the light shining in, because light exposes. It is not stated as the reason for God shining in our hearts. He “has shone in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, 2 Cor 4: 6. It all radiates from the face of Jesus Christ. God’s delight is bound up with Christ and with what has been formed in the saints, which speaks to Him of Christ. He has shone into our hearts that they too may be illuminated with the blessed knowledge of Himself made known in Christ. What a wonderful thing!
Think of God opening our hearts by shining in there. God is able to perform things in the hearts of the saints. He is able to transform a stony heart. That is one effect of divine grace; “where sin abounded grace has overabounded”, Rom 5: 20. Grace brings about a transforming effect. How wonderful the effects of God’s grace in the hearts of believers! Where there might have been resistance and opposition we have the blessed transforming effect of grace. Sin brings about deformity. Knowledge might inform, but grace transforms. It changes the heart, and through the operations of divine love and the service of the blessed Spirit it is brought into accord with the thoughts of God; that God should find His pleasure in what is formed there which speaks to Himself of Christ. I like that beautiful reference to God’s eyes and heart being perpetually there, 2 Chron 7: 16. The house was destroyed, and you might ask therefore how God’s eyes and heart could be said to be perpetually there, but I think it is a reference to the delight God has in Christ because the house was the place where the ark was put. It was the resting place for the ark. God’s resting place is in Christ and in all that delights His heart and will do eternally because of Him.
We are told to keep our hearts. There is wonderful potential in the hearts of the saints for God. It would appear as if damage might be incurred through lack of doing so. The heart can soon be led away by other things. I doubt if anyone in the room today needs me to tell them that. If we are in any way honest with ourselves, we very well know that our hearts are so easily led astray, and there is an urgent need that we should keep our hearts, guard them, protect them and hold them. We sometimes sing that verse,
Hold our hearts, O Lord, we pray Thee,
Do you ever feel the need of that? Do you ever ask the Lord to hold your heart? Think of the Lord listening to Solomon calling out to Him to hold their hearts, as it were. You may feel at times distressed in your heart. Scripture goes as far as to speak of a broken heart, Ps 34: 18. You may feel so thoroughly distressed, you hardly know what to do or to whom you may turn, or what course of action you may next enter upon. Ask the Lord to hold your heart. He has an interest in your heart. He so loves us that He has given Himself to win our hearts for Him. How He desires that our affections might be held for Himself.
The heart speaks of the affections of the saints. It is not just a literal functioning member of the natural body that may pump blood around. It is viewed in Scripture as having a spiritual significance; otherwise there would be no relevance in speaking of the eyes of our hearts. We have the capability because of the affection represented there to have our hearts opened to see things. The human heart in itself has no capacity to do that. The heart that has been operated upon by God has the capacity to be opened up to see the heavenly things that are being revealed. How precious that is. Think of God granting me that great capacity within that I have something that is going into eternity, formed of God; and able to see the heavenly things, to treasure the knowledge of God through the affection that God has generated there and through the service of the Holy Spirit: “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”, Rom 5: 5. I have no doubt a consequence of that would be that there ought to be no room in the heart for anything else. If there is a dark corner in my heart then the expression “shed abroad” does not appear to have had the result which would be in the mind of the Spirit for me. “Shed abroad” would involve that the heart is to be fully filled with the preciousness of the knowledge and joy of the love of God.
“God has sent out the Spirit of His Son into our hearts”, Gal 4: 6; that is a wonderful thing. There are three subjects that greatly interest me in relation to divine things: love, life and relationship. God so loves us that He has operated to bring us to the conscious knowledge of His own precious love. God is love; that is His blessed nature. John says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us”, 1 John 4: 10. John would say in effect, I will give you an explanation if you would like to know what love is, well herein is love: “not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins”. Do you know what that has involved? Amongst other things it has involved the clearance of the guilt that put me under the sentence of death. That is wherein life comes into view, love and life enjoyed because the sentence of death has been removed. Christ has gone into death for me. Now I have the life of the One who died for me.
What a blessed thing life in Christ Jesus is. Through what Christ has wrought, I have been brought into relationship with God. How wonderful the relationships that have been opened up in Christianity, amongst the brethren of Christ. That is not any particular or exclusive sect: may we be free from any such thought in order to value and appreciate everyone who belongs to the body of Christ. They have a place in the heart of the Lord Jesus and thus they ought to have in my heart. We are encouraged to pray for all the saints. They have a great place in the affections of the Lord Jesus. Soon every lover of Him will hear His blessed voice; the dead in Christ will be raised and we shall all be changed. We will all be brought into conformity to Christ. What a wonderful thing to be brought into the eternal enjoyment of such blessed conditions where we shall be forever with the Lord, to be like Him and to be for Him. You will not need to guard your heart then; you will not need to keep it any more, for there will be nothing but Christ to fill it. There are plenty other things to fill it now: that is why you need to keep it now. We will be held in full and eternal blessedness through being filled in our affections with Christ. Nothing will ever arise to mar our joy or detract from it. There will forever be the blessedness of all that is to be known and experienced where Jesus is.
As one of the Lord’s servants has quoted: ‘In eternity, nothing is either past or to come but only subsists’, JND Collected Writings vol. 7: 13. Nothing will be lost that has been formed, for all will subsist. I do not doubt but that we will forever enjoy fresh impressions of Christ in all His blessedness. Could I be in the presence of the Lord Jesus and never have any fresh appeal to my affections or any fresh sense of joy pour into my heart? Surely full eternal joy will be in the blessedness of Christ’s presence. These relationships that we have been brought into perhaps reach their highest setting in sonship before the Father. The Father has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, which is not just a nominal relationship, or merely a term that is used in Scripture: it is something very real. It has been said many times that someone may adopt a child but no one can ever impart their spirit to the child, but God has done that. He has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts so that the very consciousness of sonship with all the liberty that it implies, and the dignity of the relationship before God, might be real experiences to every one of us. Think of the blessedness of the relationship of the assembly to Christ. What joy for the heart of the Lord Jesus! Relationships have a very great place in the divine system of things, if I could speak of it as such.
If you care to observe some of the sad features of the enemy’s work you will find that he has methodically set himself to destroy every possible relationship that he could, whether it be the marriage bond, family links or other happy relations between persons. What sorrowful things have intruded into the normality of what should apply to relationships. God preserves His own thoughts, however, and will never give them up. God said through the prophet, “My counsel shall stand”, Isa 46: 10. God’s counsel stands and He has the ability because of who He is to fulfil His will. The will of God is not just an arbitrary thing that He will most certainly fulfil, because He has the power and ability to do so, but His pleasure is bound up with His will. The two words in Scripture are at times interchanged - compare Psalm 40: 8 and Hebrews 10: 7. God’s good pleasure is in the heart of the Lord Jesus. Think of the Lord Jesus with a perfect understanding of God’s will. It could be said prophetically of Him, “thy law is within my heart”, Ps 40: 8. It was treasured there in the heart of the Lord Jesus according to that prophetic word as He came to fulfil the will of God. It is not said there that God’s righteousness was hidden in His heart, nor His loving-kindness and truth. These things were brought out into expression by the Lord Jesus. They have been made known and expressed in the blessedness of all that has shone out from the heart of the Lord Jesus. We have learned of God through Him.
I have touched on quite a variety of things but all this seems to enter into the importance of keeping our hearts. There is such a potential there for God that we surely need to protect and keep our hearts more than anything that is kept. “Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded; for out of it are the issues of life”; that is a beautiful thought. The issues of life emerge from the heart of the believer as wrought upon by God. What belongs to the life and enjoyment of the heavenly family proceeds from the hearts and affections of the saints as a consequence of what God has implanted there. The counsels of God form a principal part of Paul’s teaching. Lydia had a heart that was opened by the Lord to attend to the things spoken by Paul. She invited Paul into her home; such was her interest and affection in relation to the scope of Paul’s teaching that she sought to absorb these things and hold her house in relation to them, Acts 16: 14, 15. What a wonderful thing to have a heart opened to take in something of the counsels of God.
There are great distinctive lines of teaching in Scripture. Paul’s particular line is connected with the counsels of God. Peter’s is connected with the promises of God and John’s with the love of God, although we must not be restricted in our thoughts about any. There are many others that we could touch upon but these are interesting subjects to get an outline of. God has so much to fill our hearts with. No wonder at times we may feel as if our hearts fail us. I often feel unable to take in the vastness and wealth of all that is in view. There is a scripture which comforts me, however, where John says, “God is greater than our heart”, 1 John 3: 20. We learn that God is greater than our hearts and He is able to sustain and hold them. Some of the older brethren may feel that their memories are beginning to fail. It is a comfort and encouragement that the Spirit of God has not exactly written things in our memories, for they may fail. He has written them indelibly in our hearts and what is there of God will never fail, but go into eternity. We might forget about things here but the work of God implanted in our souls will abide throughout eternity.
God is able to protect our inheritance. That is a thought that arises in the Old Testament. The psalmist may have felt at one point that he was unable to care for his own inheritance and protect it. God is able to protect the portion of our hearts and our inheritance, “thou maintainest my lot”, Ps 16: 5. He is able to hold things for us. He will preserve His own work because His glory is bound up with it. God is glorified in what He has wrought. He is glorified by His own works. The psalm indicates, “All thy works shall praise thee”, Ps 145: 10. God will be honoured, praised and glorified by what He has wrought and we may say how great is the area in the hearts of the saints where God has wrought.
He has wrought in creation but all things are to be made new. The new creation work will go into eternity and that is bound up with what has been wrought in the hearts of the saints. We do not have the full scope of new creation yet but we do have elements of it already. What is formed in the hearts of the saints is a new creation work in old creation vessels. Soon the vessels are to be changed and made suitable to house the work that has already begun. The whole realm will be brought into entire complacency with the mind and thoughts of God. The new creation sphere where all will subsist in perfect blessedness according to God’s own mind, will answer to His own affections and be for His praise.
The word is of all importance. It is important to the young and to the old that we keep our hearts continually and hold them in view of Christ having His true place. May there be no part of our hearts given up to the transient things of life or to the moral corruption of things in this world. May they be held for the Lord Jesus and for the pleasure of our God. May He keep us in the enjoyment of His own blessed love in view of His glory.
12th October 2013