In the second sermon of the series “Head, Heart, Hands,” JP focuses on Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” He reminds us that we must carefully defend and protect our hearts because what goes into our hearts will determine the outcome of our lives.
Keeping the Head, Heart and Hands the Way God Wants Them
Many Hands, One Body
Navigating The Heart
Change Your Mind, Change Your Life
Good morning. It's good to be with you guys. Is anybody directionally-challenged this morning? Oh, yeah. Safe place. Safe place. I've noticed that in God's sense of humor, when he brings a man and a woman together, he usually chooses someone directionally-challenged and someone really good with directions, puts them together, and lets them fight that out. That's true in our home for sure. I would be the directionally-challenged one.
I guess about a month ago I had a speaking engagement in Washington, DC, and it was going to be a 36-hour turn around. It was just one night there. I thought it would be fun to take my daughter with me, Presley. She goes with me; we turn it into a little daddy-daughter date. We get there in the morning, and then we're going to spend the day looking at the sights in DC. Then I'll speak that night, spend the next day looking at the sites, and then we'd leave that evening.
They had rented a car for me. So at the airport, I get in this vehicle. This vehicle is equipped with this navigation system, not built into the car, but it's like this special one that can take you to the different monuments and such. I got in it. I was excited about that. I didn't know where to go; we couldn't check into the hotel. I put in the Lincoln Memorial. We're driving down the road, and I don't know DC at all. The airport, if you know, is outside the city, or this one was.
We were driving into the city to the Lincoln Memorial, so I thought. I look at the navigation system after I had put in the Lincoln Memorial. We pull out of the airport, we're on the highway, and it says, "542 miles to your destination." I'm really beginning to question my competence in direction. I'm like, "Really? That just seems far." I'm like, "That seems like a long drive. That can't be right."
I'm trying to mess with it, and my little girl…it's always bad when you're being rebuked by your children…she's like, "Daddy, you need to keep your eyes on the road." I'm like, "Oh. Okay." So I pull over, and I'm like, "What is wrong with this thing?" I'm trying to get it. I'm looking at it, typing in buttons, and trying to figure out how it even works.
I realized it had never calibrated to the new city. It was still stuck on the old city it was in. Whenever the person had returned the car to that particular Enterprise location at the Washington, DC, airport, it hadn't re-upped to know it was in Washington, DC. I had to figure out how to tell it so that it could grab, "Hey, we're in a new city now, buddy. This is where we want to go." I slowly got that thing figured out.
The reason I start that is because last week, as we talked about the mind, I said the mind was like a filing cabinet. It stores information. If I wanted to put a metaphor in front of you for the heart, I want to give you a GPS system or a navigation system. The reason I go there is because the Bible says over and over that the heart takes you places, that what you put in your heart and what you store in your heart determines where you go. This is one of those things preachers, pastors, and teachers of the Bible say, and the crowd nods. Some are like, "Yeah."
I don't know that we feel the weight of this reality this morning. The rest of your life will be determined by what you feed your heart. Is that true? Do we really grasp that? As I begin to put ideas in front of you and teach from the Scripture this morning, I hope those dots begin to connect and everyone would leave here this morning like, "Wow. God was really onto something there. What we put in our heart really does determine where we go."
Likewise, if we're Christians…so we're not just humans existing in the world, but we are followers of Jesus who have trusted in the one true God and his provision through Christ, his death and resurrection, for the forgiveness of our sins…if that identifies us, if that marks us, then our GPS system, our navigation system, has been calibrated to another world, an eternal world. So we're no longer pursuing the destinations of this earthly fallen world, but we begin to pursue the destinations of the things of God.
We have to start there to fully understand what this means. We're in this series, Head, Heart, and Hands. We just talked last week about how what you do determines what you think, which determines what you feel, which determines what you do, which determines what you think, which determines how you feel, which determines what you do, which determines what you think, which determines how you feel, which determines what you do.
Last week we talked about what we think. This week we're talking about what we feel as we examine the heart. We know heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, the leading cause of death in America. I will tell you that spiritual heart disease is the number one cause of death of the abundant life Christ has to offer us. The number one cause of death. Now the Bible says a lot, the Scriptures say a lot, about the heart.
In Jeremiah 17:9, maybe you've heard, it says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" I will tell you, that is half the story. That's half the story. It's a great Old Testament verse for the heart, but in the New Testament there are a lot of Scriptures that talk about the heart. I'll give you one. Romans 6, verse 17, says, "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance."
I was in a Bible study a few weeks ago with Todd. He was leading some of the staff in studying the Scriptures. We were specifically looking at a book. He was talking about this topic, and I said, "Todd, is the regenerate heart [that's the new heart, the heart Christ gives us] desperately sick and wicked and beyond cure?" I was really, sincerely wrestling with this. I loved his answer. He immediately responded. He said, "No, but the degenerate heart [that's the old heart, the heart of flesh] is never fully dead in this life."
So, while we follow Christ, there is still something inside of us that wars against the instruction of the Spirit. That's our old heart, our degenerate heart, our flesh, warring against the things of the Spirit. As we look at the Scriptures and examine the Scriptures today, I hope to bring clarity to this idea of, "Is our heart good? Is it bad? Can we trust it? How do we trust it? How can we trust it?"
I'm going to look at a familiar verse in Proverbs, chapter 4. If you've been in church for a while, this is one of those Scriptures that can become like John 3:16. It has an incredible truth in it, and it's often taken out of context. I believe we forget the instruction of this incredible verse for our lives in Proverbs, chapter 4.
The Bible, the Scripture, is going to tell us our heart determines where we go. Here's what that means (if I've lost you, tune in): some of your biggest problems in life will begin right here. For most of us in the room this morning, the greatest problems in your life, the biggest things you come in conflict with and that really, frankly, hurt, will start right here. The issue with that is we're blind to it. Most of us cannot see the problems in our heart.
It takes some real work, some real heart surgery, to dig back in there to realize how this circumstance, this experience, this thing we did affected the rest of our lives and affected some of the things we craved, some of the things we desired, some of the things we did, some of the hurts we brought upon ourselves, and some of the hurts we experienced. As we move through Proverbs 4, starting in verse 20, we're going to look at…
What does it mean to guard your heart?
Why should we guard our heart? And before you leave here this morning…
How we can guard our heart.
Verse 20: "My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words." This is the father's admonishment to his son. He's trying to get his attention. In my house, that looks like a hand clap and "Weston. [clap, clap] Listen. Listen, buddy. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to tell you something important. Turn your ear and your heart towards me." "Do not let them out of your sight…" Do not let these words out of your sight. "…keep them within your heart." He presents this idea that our heart is a storage shed for truth, that we store things in our heart.
Keep these words in your heart, "…for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body." The offering this morning, from the Scripture, is life, an abundant life, and good health if we store these things in our heart and we understand the teachings of God's Word this morning. The familiar verse: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." And all the single ladies roll their eyes.
"Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." So my first question…
1._ What does it mean to guard your heart?_ What does this mean to guard our hearts? What is this instruction? Arguably the most important Proverb of all 31 chapters is this one in 4:23. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life, for everything you do flows from it." Here's what it means, in the most simple terms I can put it. It means to be careful what you allow in. Do we think about this enough?
Do we think enough that the biggest problems we will face in life start here? Do we think enough about what we let in our hearts? Is that an everyday part of our lives? Are we consciously thinking about, "What do we let in our hearts?" in the same way a guard would guard a castle? He would sit there with weapons ready to defend the castle. If the wrong thing approaches, he's going to keep it out by force. Do we guard our hearts, being careful and cautious of what we let inside?
Your Bible version might say, "Keep your heart…" What does that mean? To preserve like: Did the food keep? How do we keep the food? How do we keep it good? Or keep the milk, preserve it from going bad? It might say, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, with all diligence." My version says, "Above all else…" In the Hebrew, this is what this means (check this out): more than you guard anything in life, guard your heart. Above all guardings, above anything you would guard, guard your heart.
Now what do we guard? I have a truck. It was broken into. They took my $200 CD player and caused $5,000 in damage. So I guard my truck; I have an alarm on it. I guard my house because there are valuables inside. We have an alarm because I travel. It's not just guarding my house. It's even more than guarding my house; it's guarding my family. I guard my family.
I guard my valuables. If you own valuables… Maybe you listened to the Declaration series and went and bought some gold, and you're trying to protect that. So you guard those valuables. We guard things that matter to us. He is saying, "More than you guard anything, you make sure you guard your heart." These are the words of Solomon, if you remember him. He is the wisest man ever to walk the planet other than Jesus. It says in the Bible that God gave him wisdom and made him wise. He scribed these words so we can heed them.
It's interesting that your heart is the most protected of all your vital organs, where God placed it. I want to tell you we're not talking about the vital organ of your heart. Where the Scripture says heart, it's talking about your emotions. It's talking about your values. It's talking about your morals. It's talking about your desires.
It's talking about your feelings, these things deep within you that are impacted by life's experience. When I say heart, this is what I'm talking about. Jesus says in Matthew 6, verse 21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," The things you value, your emotions, your desires.
The other day we went on an outing as a family. We said, "Hey, let's go see a movie together. What is a movie we can see?" We went and saw Pixar's Inside Out. A lot of you after last week said, "You should go see this movie," so I did. I don't know if you know about it. It was a record-setting movie for them. It was the biggest opening weekend in history for a wholly original film.
Now Pixar and Disney both are pretty genius, very creative in the making of these movies. I took an interest in their creative process. The way they come up with these ideas is they ask a question. Listen to the question: "What if [fill in the blank] had feelings?" That begins their creative process. Let me give it to you again. "What if [fill in the blank] had feelings?" This is how they begin these ideas of coming up with these brilliant movies.
For example, in 1995, they asked the question, "What if toys had feelings?" What is that? That's right. Toy Story. Then in 1998, they asked, "What if bugs had feelings?" That's right. A Bug's Life. In 2001, "What if monsters had feelings?" Monsters, Inc. You guys are good at this. Next we're going to do a Bible quiz. Tell me about Ananias and Sapphira. Let's go.
Okay, let's keep going. "What if fish had feelings?" That's right, Finding Nemo. "What if cars had feelings?" Cars. "What if rats had feelings?" Ratatouille. Rats don't have feelings, okay? Go listen to last week. Rats don't have feelings. In 2008, "What if robots had feelings?" A little harder. Wall-e. It wasn't hard for you. "What if Scotland had feelings?" Brave.
Then in 2015, it's like they ran out of creative ideas. They said, "What if feelings had feelings?" Genius. Pixar asked the question, "What if feelings had feelings? What if our emotions had feelings?" So as the plot goes (of this movie Inside Out) there is this little girl, Riley (I won't tell you anything you can't read on the Internet), and she has these five feelings that are characterized inside of her. You have anger, you have joy, you have disgust, you have sadness, and you have fear.
These five emotions are living inside of her, and joy and sadness get lost. You see, as this girl approaches adolescence, she has no joy and she has no deep despair. She is left with only anger, disgust, and fear. She is left confused. Her countenance changes. She begins to snap at her parents, and her parents begin to wonder, "What is wrong? What is going on inside of you, Riley?"
It shows this really powerful picture about how some of us, we've lived in life in seasons. Maybe in the season right now, when you're reaching for emotions, joy is just not available. It's just not there. You're left with anger and disgust and fear. It doesn't seem that there is anything else there. We see, and you know, this determines where you go and how you interact with people, for out of the heart everything else flows. Everything. Your whole life. It is the wellspring from which everything else flows.
This shows how powerful these emotions are and how they're impacted by our thinking, our hearing, our seeing, our smelling, our experiences, and how we feed our heart through those senses. Then everything in our life flows from the heart. That answers my second question…
2._ Why should you guard your heart?_ Are you ready? Because if your heart is not doing well, you're not doing well. If your heart is not doing well, your faith isn't doing well, your spiritual walk with God isn't doing well. If your heart is not doing well, your relationships aren't doing well, your work is not doing well. If your heart is not doing well, nothing in your life is going well for you. We know what goes in determines what comes out in our words and actions.
Jesus Christ spells this out for us over and over, but I'll give you one. In Matthew 15, verse 18, he says, "But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from…" Where? "…the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…" These things defile a person, and they come out of the heart. Do you see how your biggest problems in life can come out of your heart?
A little over a year ago my girls, Presley and Finley (ages 8 and 6), got iPod touches for Christmas from their grandparents. If you don't know what an iPod touch is, it's like an iPhone without the phone or it's like a mini iPad Mini. It's a small iPad. So they got these things for Christmas, and at first they didn't play with them much. Their cousins introduced them to some new games on them, and then they really began to play with these iPod touches all the time.
They call them their phones, so if I say that interchangeably, that's because they call them their phones. "Where's my phone, Daddy?" So they'll play with their phone. As they begin to play with it, as they continue to play with it, I notice some of their behaviors change, some of their habits change. Some of the things they did and the way they talked changed. It was pretty incredible, to look back now.
I'll give you an example. A tradition in our home is every Saturday morning, they would wake up, they would come, and they would crawl in bed with Monica and me. We would snuggle for a few minutes before we would get up and have breakfast. Well, now when they started taking an interest in this phone, they would wake up, they would go immediately to the cabinet, they would find their phone, and then they would find a place in the house and just play games.
I noticed as they were playing games and I would come in and say, "Hey!" or I would ask them questions, they wouldn't hear me. They wouldn't respond. I'd have to say, "Hey. Put your iPod touch down and listen to what I'm saying." I noticed they began to fight over them. If the battery died, they would get grumpy. It would affect their mood. Are these LCD screens not IVs feeding our hearts? I noticed something funny or interesting or weird happening to my little girls as they became addicted to this device.
I said, "Hey. Sit down. We need to talk. We need to talk about what is going on. I think you're addicted to your phone." Do you know what she said? She said, "Well, you're addicted to your phone." To which I said, "Never talk like that to me again." What? How dare you? Right? But isn't this the truth, that our heart, it's an idol factory? As it finds something to fixate on and something that will feed it, it just goes back to that source and back to that source and back to that source.
What we put in determines what comes out. What goes into our heart determines what flows out of our life. Let me say that again. What goes into our heart determines what flows out of our life. I see this all the time, man. I spend almost all of my time with the product of parenting, life in general, and young adults' experiences. I spend all my time with young adults.
Every now and then I have these same conversations over and over and over, particularly with young women. They'll come up and they'll say something like, "JP, I need some relationship advice."
"What is it?"
"Man, it just seems that I only date losers. Only losers are attracted to me." Sometimes the flavor of the conversation is, "It seems I'm only attracted to losers."
Now by losers what they mean is guys who will take advantage of them or guys who will hurt them or guys who will break their hearts. I know what that is code for. So we're talking, and I started responding to that question in an interesting way. I say, "Okay. So you'll only date losers; you're only attracted to losers. Can I ask you two questions?"
They're like, "Sure." "What are your favorite shows and your favorite songs?" They're always like, "I'll tell you, but can I get some relationship advice?" "Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry. We're going to get back to that in a second. Can I just ask you two questions? Favorite shows and favorite songs?" "I don't know, JP. Favorite shows. I don't know. Have you seen Game of Thrones? That's kinda good. Then there's… I don't know. Miley Cyrus, 'Wrecking Ball.' That gets stuck in my head, and I can't shake it. Then there is Trap Queen on the radio in rotation."
I'm like, "Oh. I see how we got here. It's not a complicated math equation. You have trained your heart to pursue losers. You've put it on the scent of losers. Everything you've fed through your eyes, into your mind, down to your heart has said, 'This is what I want you to look for. This is the scent I'm giving you.' Every time you take in that content, you're informing your heart what to pursue.
So you've basically gone to a university of how to date losers by the things you've taken an interest in. It seems your parents were actually on to something when they said this crazy stuff! The, 'If you listen to that music, it's going to influence you.' It actually has. It really does. It turns out that way."
Now the person who came up and wanted relationship advice never, ever in their wildest dreams connected the songs and shows they watch to their poor dating experience, but they're connected. I've seen the pattern enough to be absolutely convinced they're connected. I'm not fearmongering. I'm not preacher-talking you. I'm not going crazy. I'm just telling you what you put in your heart affects your life.
This guy, the wisest man ever to live, and God, Creator of the universe, were on to something when they said this. It affects your marriage. It affects your relationships. It affects your spiritual health. It affects the way you work. If affects your mood. More than anything, it affects your mood.
If you are not careful with your heart, you will end up somewhere you don't want to be. A broken marriage, an addiction, harmful relationships, and even despair. Deep, deep, dark depression that can come from things that are very difficult to trace back, but if you put in the work, I'm sure you'll see, "Oh. There's something wack I fed my heart." I know the world says, "Trust your heart. Follow your heart. Listen to your heart," but what I'm telling you the Scripture says is, "Don't follow your heart but inform your heart." Don't follow your heart but inform your heart.
When Woody Allen had a notorious affair with his stepdaughter, Soon-Yi, he was way older than her. It was Mia Farrow's (his wife) adopted daughter. He had this interview with TIME magazine. He was famously quoted: "The heart wants what it wants." That was a quote that came out of that TIME magazine that people ran with. "The heart wants what it wants."
It's like, "We're controlled by our heart. We don't control our heart; we're controlled by our heart. What my heart wants, I should feed it, right? The heart wants what it wants." It's interesting that the way he got caught in the affair is Mia Farrow, his wife, found nude pictures of her daughter in his possession.
What I'm telling you, and I'm begging you to listen to, is the heart does not want what it wants; the heart wants what it is fed. The heart wants what you feed it, what you slowly and strategically and potentially unknowingly tell it to seek and to pursue and to feed on. What this means is every time you engaged in those things, it didn't get easier; it got more difficult because you gave it yet one more time an appetite for such things. You fed it one more time, spoonful by spoonful, that which is bringing destruction to your life.
The heart does not want what it wants. It wants what it's fed. We see this. There are so many metaphors, particularly now with technology. I've used Netflix before. I don't know if you've ever bought anything on Amazon? Amazon, they're so smart. They like get into your heart somehow, right? You look at this one thing, and they know you looked at it. They're like, "Hey, you want it in this form or this form? Or do you want 10 of them? Because we have them in bulk."
Then it's like, "You bought that. Do you want this, this, and this?" Then it begins to say, "You know, most people who bought that also bought this." You're like, "Well, I want to be like most people. Let me go ahead and get that too." That's what your heart does. It says, "Hey, do you want that? Let me give you some of this and little bit of this too." "Hey, I saw you look at that. Do you want this? How about this? How about this?" Tell me this isn't true. It's not just our kids, man. It's not just our kids.
Do you watch Fixer Upper? Does anybody ever watch HGTV? Suddenly you want to buy a dump of a house, fix it up, and live there happily ever after. You're like, "Honey, I think we need to sell the house." "Why?" "So we can buy a condemned house and make it amazing." You watch Shark Tank, and then you kinda walk through the world. You're like, "I think I could be a zillionaire inventor. No. I've got this idea, this headband that kinda holds your phone. It's going to be incredible. If I could just talk to Mark Cuban, I'm sure he is going to buy it."
You watch The Bachelorette and you're like, "I think I need to be dating 25 guys at once. How come I'm not content in my relationships? How come…?" This goes on and on. Social media doesn't help. Instagram. I begin to see things. I'm perfectly fine, 100 percent content with my day, and then I begin to look at your day and realize how much cooler you were.
If you were on Instagram yesterday, you realize the entire city of Dallas had a better Fourth of July than I did. I didn't even see any fireworks. You guys were on boats watching fireworks. I'm the only guy in the room without a boat, evidently. How come you didn't call me? You didn't want to call me? I'm sitting there, left in my living room by myself watching your fireworks, which doesn't help the fact that I didn't see any. All of a sudden a fine day had a dark cloud. You've been there.
You have to be careful what you feed your heart. It's like the history of a navigation system. You know, when you continue to go to places it begins to auto-populate the places you've been. It wants to take your there. "Oh, you've been there? Oh, yeah. I know. That's actually marked Home. That's Work. I know those places." You put in the first two numbers, and it populates the address. "Let's go! I know the route."
Your heart is the same way. "Oh, you've been there? Let's go again." "Oh, that's where you've been? Let's go again. I know that address. I know how to take your there. I know how to get there." It just becomes easier and easier and easier to do the things you never thought you would do.
There is a darker side to this. I won't spend a lot of time there. Ted Bundy, a notorious serial killer, talks about how he was raised in an amazing family with parents who loved him, but he was introduced to pornography at an early age. He began to look at violent porn. It fed a desire in him to want to kill people. I don't mean to fearmonger, but there are dozens… Jihadi John. His teachers talk about what an amazing, kind student he was, but at some point there he began to be bullied. Something went dark in his heart.
Hitler even. We look and we're like, "How could a man…?" Then you look backwards at his childhood, his abusive father, how his dad beat his mom on a regular basis in front of him. You're like, "Oh, okay." I'm not trying to make excuses for those awful acts. I'm trying to tell you that everything you do flows from your heart, so be careful what you let in.
Right about now, some of you are thinking, "Well, wait a minute. Things have happened to me. Has it impacted my life?" Let me tell you something. You have a choice. You can pursue hurts, or you can pursue healing. I'm begging you to pursue healing, because you will pursue hurts. I'm begging you, if something awful has happened to you, to bring that into the light and begin to pursue healing, because the hurt will happen naturally. That will be the destination that hurt, broken heart wants to take you. It's familiar to it. It knows hurt.
3._ How to guard your heart._ How do we guard our heart? It was interesting when my girls were addicted to their phones, as they call them. I sat there, and I didn't know what to do, which I'm embarrassed to tell you. I'm sitting there and I'm like, "It seems like my daughters are addicted to these iPod touches, and I don't know what to do."
Then I'm like, "Wait a minute. I'll just take them." It's like, This is not complicated. "Give me your phones. We're done with this." It was like for some reason that felt like such a big crazy thing, like all of a sudden I'm the strict parent. Then I'm like, "No. This thing…" It was interesting.
This is a distraction, but I'll tell you anyway. They began to play this game with these dragons. We ran home for something, and Finley was like, "Daddy, I need to check my phone." I'm like, "Why?" She goes, "Well, I need to see if my dragons are done marrying." "What do you mean?" "Oh, well they go into the dragon lair, they marry in there, and then one of them gets pregnant." I'm like, "What is your mother letting you do? Give me the phone. We're done with that."
There is a war, parents. There is a war over the real estate of your children's hearts. There is a war over the real estate of your heart. You are fighting the world for their hearts. You be prepared to help them guard their hearts. Remove what you need to, okay? This Proverb is going to give us four things to consider.
A. Do not entertain perverse talk. Verse 24: "Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips." If the conversation goes south, you walk away. You say, "I'm done. I don't want to go here," because that is going to feed your heart. That's going to set you on a path that's going to make it very normative. When you talk in the break room at work, and the guys just start talking about this thing. Then all of a sudden your mind gets stuck there, and you continue to think about it.
Or you gather with the girls, and you begin to talk about that show or that movie or that book everyone is reading. All of a sudden your mind gets stuck there, and you can't shake it. You be very careful what you talk about. Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
B. Be careful what you look at. Verse 25: "Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you." You're feeding your heart. Far too often we are entertained by the things Christ died for. Far too often we take lightly, we have fun with, we're entertained by, the very things that sent Jesus to the cross, the very things Christ died for. Some of these things you're entertained by, they're not bad things, but they're powerful things.
Let me give you an example. I was watching this crime show. I like crime shows (confession). Dateline NBC or Forensic Files. It starts with the murder and begins to work backwards how it got there. The detective is interviewing these suspects. They get to this one suspect and it's like, "Whodunit?"
There is this one suspect, and they find his briefcase (these are true stories). They open his briefcase, and they find all of these snippets of shows, shows like Dateline and Forensic Files. He begins to record, on his television, other people's murders and shows like this. The detective says something really interesting. She said, "He went from watching the murders of others to committing his own."
I was sitting there all by myself watching this show and I'm like, "Yeah he did. Wait a minute…" I'm like, "Hold on. That's like the worst publicity stunt ever to put in that show. Why would you…? Well, I don't want to kill anyone! What is going on here?" He went from watching the murders of others to committing his own. I realized that stuff doesn't make me want to kill anyone, but it does just feed trash to my heart. It puts this dark cloud on my day when I just obsess with evil. Let me say this really plainly…
C. Be careful where you go. Verse 26: "Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways." I sit with young adults all the time who have trusted in Christ, and they're just stuck in the world. I give them this counsel and it goes well, frankly. I say, "Change your playmates and your playground." Change who you are with and where you go. Todd told me that a long time ago, and I've continued to pass it on. Be careful where you go. Change your playmates and your playground if needed.
D. If something seems evil, stay far from it. Verse 27: "Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Don't poke it. Let me say this: Something good can become evil when it becomes ultimate. Something good or morally neutral, something that's not bad, can become evil when it becomes more than God to us in our lives, when we begin to obsess about it. I've heard it said, "What makes you angry is what you worship."
My buddy tells this story of his elderly neighbor who loved the Dallas Cowboys. He was a godly man. He would watch the Cowboys. My friend would go over there with him every now and then to watch the Cowboys. He said there was a big game on this particular day. So he goes over to visit his friend and to watch the Cowboys, and the TV is off. He said, "What are you doing?"
He said, "You know, I started to care too much. I realized the outcome of the game would affect my mood. It would affect my day. It would affect my thoughts. It wasn't worth it." Is there anything more ridiculous in life than something that has zero eternal implications whatsoever affecting your joy and contentment? Is that not crazy? When you feed your heart more of what it asks for, you feed it less of what it actually needs.
The exhortation today is to feed your heart a healthy diet of the things of God, to be careful what you watch, listen to, buy, or are entertained by, because your heart is like a well and from it flows life or poison. If poison goes in, then poison comes out. If life goes in, then life comes out. It's that simple. It really does happen. I've prayed you would hear this. It's a really simple truth I don't want you to miss that I've found to be profoundly true, profoundly real.
As I said earlier, guard your kids' hearts. Take control of what is fed to their hearts; model it well for them. Before I watch a movie… I love movies. Before I go see one, I go check on two apps that are free resources to you: Kids-In-Mind and Plugged In. I look on either of those apps to see if the movie has been reviewed for the content of nudity, or what is actually in the film because the previews don't always show that.
If there is nudity in it, I don't go. Sometimes it says, "Brief nudity." I don't go. Here is why: because it doesn't take my heart much, just a glimpse, to get on a scent to send my mind racing so my feelings follow, so my actions would follow. It does not take much. If I had a glass of water up here and I said, "Who wants a drink? It just has a little bit of strychnine in it. Who is in? Who is thirsty?" We would be like, "No."
In the same way, it does not take much to poison our hearts. Just a little bit. Some of you came in here with poisoned hearts, and you don't even realize it. Right now you're kind of rolling your eyes in the back of your mind. You're like, "Oh. You know…" I'm telling you. You have to have heart surgery. You have to get well. Seek to fill your heart with the things of God.
The other day I had a rough morning. I came in. We have this sermon-prep meeting, and a lot of people will take off work to be there. I'm stewarding their time, and I realize that. I had been running late. It was the morning you spill your coffee on you, and you rush out the door. Some things came up in the house that we had to tend to. I get there, and when my heart is corrupt or contaminated, the way that plays itself out in my life is lots of sarcasm, sarcastic remarks. I use my words to put people down under the veil of humor.
I had done that several times that morning without even realizing, without even knowing it. I thought I was just being funny. By about the third account of saying something sarcastic at the expense of someone else, someone in the meeting said, "Whoa. JP hasn't had his quiet time." Everybody laughed (it was much funnier then). I sat there and thought about that and how true that was.
I hadn't had a quiet time. I hadn't fed my heart the things of God. I hadn't calibrated it to the kingdom I belong to. Of course it was sending me off track. It is that simple. It's that simple. If you don't feed your heart the things of God, you will pursue the things of the world, period. You won't even know it. You'll just think it's normal. "Everybody doesn't pursue the things of the world?" No. Not the people of the kingdom. No.
In summary, what does it mean to guard your heart? It means to be careful what you allow in. Why should we guard our heart? Because it determines where we go. How should we guard our heart? By taking control of what goes in.
Spurgeon tells a story that's super relevant to today's passage, Proverbs 4:23. He talks about a wise man who comes up on a shepherd boy as he tends his flocks, as he cares for his sheep. There is a stream that goes by; it's a muddy creek. The shepherd boy is taking the water, putting it in a jug, and letting all the debris settle to the bottom. He can then pour it into filters of cloth and sand so it pulls out all of the contaminants in the water so his herds will drink it (because they wouldn't). The stream was so muddy the sheep wouldn't even drink it.
The shepherd boy would spend his entire day in this process of trying to purify the water from this stream so his sheep could drink. The wise man says, "Hey, you know there is an easier way to do that?" to which the shepherd boy's ears perk up. He says, "Tell me more. I spend so much time, so much of what I do, so much of my job, trying to purify this creek, this stream." The man says, "Let's go for a walk." They walk up the mountain. Miles. They go on a very treacherous hike, a very difficult hike.
They get to the mouth of the stream, which is the mouth of a spring. The mouth of that spring has created a pool of water. Where that pool of water was, the livestock would come in, and they would drink from it. They would walk in it, and it would stir up all the mud from the bottom. The livestock would relieve themselves in that pool, and that would turn into the stream that ran down the side of the mountain of which the boy would have to purify water.
The wise man tells the shepherd boy, "If we can build a fence to protect the mouth of this spring, then the stream will run clean. This is what we need to do. We need to guard the mouth of this spring because what you are feeding your livestock flows from it." They began to put in work to do that so he wouldn't have to spend every single day filtering it out.
Now you can imagine if that fence gets broken in any way, and a cow or a goat or something gets in there, it will mess it up all over again. He has to go put in the work of hiking back up that mountain. You have to put in the work of digging deep within your hearts to figure out what has contaminated this thing.
What has made you so discontent in your singleness? What has made you long for materialistic things so nothing can fill the void in your heart? What has caused the discontentment in your marriage? What has caused this reality that you don't enjoy reading the Scriptures, you don't find life there? What has caused the reality of this dark cloud that follows you that no one can seem to find the solution to? You have to dig in deep. What is it? What was the experience?
That's what we're going to do now as we leave. I'm going to invite the band up, and we're going to pray. I'm going to lead us in prayer, but you're going to pray to yourselves for the next few minutes. Some of you haven't done this in a really long time. Stay with me. I want you to focus. I want you to focus on what we're saying and what we're praying. Okay?
I want you to focus on it. I want you to think about it. Don't let your mind wander. All right? You're going to be tempted to wander. You're going to tempted to wonder what the person next to you is praying. I want you to focus on what I'm saying that from the Scripture you should pray for. Let's go.
Father, do guard us from the evil in the room and in our lives and in the distractions we carried in with us today. Father, would you help us to fix our hearts and our minds on the things we're saying, not on a game or what we're doing next or where we're going to eat or where we're going today or what we did yesterday for the Fourth? Father, would you help us to fix our hearts on this?
I want you to ask God to reveal to you idols hidden in your heart. These are things you are tempted to love more than him. What are the things in your life you are tempted to love more than God? I want you to spend a minute praying on that. Focus on the things in your life you are tempted to love more than God. Focus. The things in your life you're tempted to love more than God. The idols hidden in your heart.
Now please ask God to reveal unhealthy habits to you. Shows you watch, music you listen to, literature that lures your heart from him, things you think are normal in your life. That's just what you do every day, but they cause your heart to drift whether you realize it or not. Ask him to reveal what matters to him, what is important to him. Focus. Continue to focus. What are unhealthy habits in your life? Teams, games, shows, movies, books, magazines. Don't let your mind wander.
Now ask God to help you see when your emotions block out the fruit of his Spirit, when fear, anger, sadness, or disgust overwhelm you blocking out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Ask him to show you in the future, and even now, when your emotions are controlled by your experiences, when there is something messed up in your heart. Focus. Don't let your mind wander.
Finally, and most importantly, I want you to ask God to give you the courage to take the steps necessary to rid your life of idols and evil, and ask that he would help you pursue him in his Word on a daily basis. Some of you left here with the intentions of doing that last week. You went home, and you know you didn't. I want you to re-up with a plan and a place and a time when you're going to get into God's Word starting tomorrow, or even today.
Ask God for the courage to do what is necessary to stop watching a show you love, a song you love, a station, a talk show you love, a magazine you subscribe to, a book series you've given so much time to.
Father, here are our hearts. Please reveal to us the idols we've hidden in them, the things we've been tempted to love more than you. God, I pray you would reveal to us unhealthy habits, the shows we watch, the things we listen to, the things we read, and all the ways we take in information that goes into our minds and sinks deeply into our hearts to determine our destinations, where we'll go, and where we'll end up.
Father, I pray you would help us control our emotions as the fruit of your Spirit is self-control, that we would not give way to anger, that we would not give way to sadness or despair, give way to fear, things inconsistent with what your Spirit brings about in us. Father, would you help us to realize when we're in those situations that we could say to others, "There is something messed up in my heart right now. I need to go spend time with my Maker."
Lord, would you give us the courage to do whatever it takes to remove our lives of things that distract us from you? What a scary prayer! Scary in our flesh, God, but life in our spirit. Would you remove from our lives anything that distracts us from you? Would you give us the courage to do so?
Some of you know there is something messed up in your heart. I pray the Lord revealed everything you need to know as we went to him. Continue to go to him. Some of you have been in church for a long time, and you know that as they say, you're like an old dog. I want to challenge you in that. I want to challenge you in your pride and in your arrogance just to go back and to see it, to look at it, to confess it, to repent from it.
Then some of you, as we were praying, you didn't have anyone to talk to. We would love to know who you are. We would love to talk with you. If you have questions about our great God, if you found this place this morning, it's not by an accident. We would love to engage with you around the truth that has changed our lives.
If you can't come up now, please fill out the Watermark News. We follow up with every single comment that is left in there every single week. If you leave your contact information, we will follow up with you. Just tear that off and turn it in right there in the little slot in the back of the wall. It's been a joy to spend the last two weeks with you. I'm looking forward to next week. Have a great week of worship.