Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov 4:23)
Many have studied this verse for years and have been wondering how to do it. I believe the first thing you have to do is to know what part of you is the heart. I used to believe that the “heart” referred to the spirit of man, but not anymore. I believe it has more to do with the soul. The soul is the seat of consciousness; the mind, the will, and the emotions. The soul is the place where decisions are made based on information it receives.
The heart is the center and, if this is where decisions are made then it is indeed the place where the issues of your life flow from.
Everything you do flows from this area where you have made a decision.
However, the spirit of the Christian always does the right thing, always makes the right decision, and here is why:
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. (1Cor 6:17)
So this issue is not with the spirit if we are one spirit with Christ. It is because of this union, that we are seen as righteous and holy by God.
So why must we guard the heart above all else? And why does the bible say that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked?(Jeremiah 17:9) If this verse is talking about the spirit that has been joined to the spirit of Christ, then the blood that Christ shed is not doing what it was supposed to do.
A more accurate translation is found it the New English Translation (NET):
The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
This is why Paul wrote in Romans: And be not conformed to this world: but be all of you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that all of you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.(Romans 12:2) It would seem that the mind needs to be trained.
Now, of course, one of the best ways to renew the mind is by reading the written word of God. As I said earlier the heart is the center of the man. It is the place where decisions are made, and those decisions are made based on input and the influence of said input. This why you must guard your heart with all diligence. The mind/heart is easily influenced, and you make decisions based on input that influences your mind one way or another. You can have godly influence and evil influence.
You can influence your mind with scripture, but you can also allow the Spirit of God to influence you from within. This is living by the Spirit. If you try to live your life solely by trying to live by the written word, you end up making it a law unto yourself, thus again you are trapped by the letter of the law. I am not saying that you should not read your bible (read it often).
What can happen when we take the word of God and use it as a set of rules, is that Sin rears its ugly head.
For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.(Romans 7:11)
Remember sin takes advantage of a command through your flesh (old patterns of thinking). Later in Romans 8, Paul says…
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; so that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (verses 3-4)
So there is sin in us (in the flesh), but, not in our spirit where Christ dwells. It is in the old thinking patterns of the mind. The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. (Romans 8:7)
So if you try to live by what you know to be the command of God written in the bible, in other words walking by the letter, you will fail because of sin working against you.
You must begin to live out of the union that you have with Christ in your spirit. Use the scripture to renew your mind to the fact that it is not you who lives; it is Christ who lives through you. Let the Spirit of Christ influence everything you do. You must come to realize that Christ is in you. He is the only one who can live the Christian life.
God is constantly trying to lead you from within your spirit. You feel His influence in your heart, the mind. This is where you have to make a decision. Do you do what you know, or follow worldly advice, which is walking by the flesh? Or, do you follow the influence of the Spirit within you? He is there at every decision point but, you have to stop and present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.(Romans 12:1)
In other words, when you have a decision or, are considering any action, stop and offer yourself to Him. Simply say to Him, I want to do what you want to do in this situation. Then trust what you hear is coming from inside where Christ dwells.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
The heart is the mind. It is the control center of your life. In the heart you can choose to walk according to what comes out of your spirit from God’s Spirit (which will always be in agreement with His written word), or, walk by trying to keep the word of God (the law) by your own effort, or, walk by what the world says which is ruled by Satan.
It is your choice, and, that choice is made from a carefully guarded heart. What is allowed to enter the heart is what will influence decisions that are made there.
To answer the question above, about why the bible says the heart is “deceitful” and “desperately wicked,” sometimes the mind can become confused because of wrongful desires.
Example: A person could be in a marriage and, that marriage could be going well. Then someone new comes into the picture; a new co-worker, a new friend, a trainer at the gym, a deacon at church. It could be anyone who possesses something suddenly captures your attention. You may see something in them that you admire, a trait your spouse doesn’t possess. It could be something they do. It could be anything. You can become more and more infatuated, more interested and distracted, and suddenly, you think you are in love. Your desire for that person begins to change and becomes something that you can’t resist. You have let your guard down and thoughts that you should have guarded your heart/mind against have taken over in the desire of your flesh. Before you know it you’re having an affair, destroying your marriage and the life of your spouse and children (if you have any). You do all these things because you think you “love” this person.
The fact is love is a choice. This is why in your marriage vows you “promise to love” etc.. The heart can become confused. This is why it must be guarded. Be careful of what you allow to influence your heart/mind (soul), for out of it comes the issues of life.