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Keeping of the Heart

We read in Proverbs 4:23 the following biblical directive: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV) Perhaps the best and most extensive commentary on this verse of Scripture was written by the Puritan, John Flavel, in a treatise titled, Saint Indeed: or, The Great Work of A Christian, Opened and Pressed. At the very beginning of this treatise, Flavel observed (as seen in the caption on the left):

The heart of a man is his worst part before it be regenerate, and the best afterwards: it is the seat of principles, and the fountain of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it. 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. Here lies the very pinch and stress of religion; here is that which makes the way to life a narrow way, and the gate to heaven a strait gate.

What is the essence of this command? The Hebrew word for “keep” is the word, נָצַר (naw-tsar´), and it means to guard in a good sense, to protect, to watch over and maintain its object against any encroachments that would threaten its purity of unrivalled devotion to the God Who has made it new in the Lord Jesus Christ. We could appropriately translate it, “With all your keeping, keep your heart!” It is true that all of us are our brother’s keeper. But no one can keep, indeed no one can watch over your own heart before God, but you! Is your heart set upon pleasing God in terms of your thoughts and desires. Are your prayers characterized by pleading with God for grace to maintain a heart that is tender and responsive to the precepts of God’s word? If your heart has been won to God, are you keeping your heart with God? Do you possess a heart that is tender and compassionate to the needs of others? Do you have a heart that is sensitive not to offend a brother or sister in Christ? Do you have a heart that finds itself willing to extend grace to others, even as you have been the recipient of God’s grace in Jesus Christ?

If you do not have such a heart, then you do not know the heart of God towards sinners. Begin to cry to Him for His grace in Jesus Christ, and ask Him to give you a heart to know Him, His ways and His people. Indeed, plead with Him daily to give you a heart to love Him above all else supremely, and then to make His love known to others by patterning our steps in those of our Savior.

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