Proverbs 4:23 Keeping Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 Keeping Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 Keeping Your Heart

Holding Your Heart

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
~ Proverbs 4:23

In this proverb, we are given four instructions regarding the keeping of our hearts.

First, we are told whose responsibility it is to be keeping our hearts.

Second, we are told what to do, that is, to keep our hearts.

Third, we are told how to do it, that is, with all diligence.

Fourth, we are told why we should both keep our hearts and keep them diligently - the very issues of life proceed from our hearts.

1) What is meant by the "heart" in this passage?

 It is not the "physical" heart that is meant here, but the "spiritual" heart.

The Hebrew word here for heart is "labe", and is used (figuratively) very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the center of anything.

The meaning of the heart is the very center and focus of what makes us living human beings.  We have flesh, organs, bones, and other physical material just as do the animals, but we have a heart that the others of God's creatures do not have.  We are far more than just instinct, survival and pleasure.  We have that very special stamp upon our never-dying souls, for we have been made in the very similitude of our Maker.

Notice the context of this passage for the usage of the word "heart."

Proverbs 4:20-22 "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.  Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heartFor they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh."

The idea of the heart, then is that very central part of man from which his living (NOT existence) proceeds.  It is not merely fleshly life, for the idea of health is connected with it.  Spiritual health is unalterably connected with obedience to the commands of God and principles of His Holy Word.  One can have a physiologically healthy heart and have a "spiritual heart" that is utterly sick.

2) Consider the supremacy of the importance of the heart with God.

Matthew 22:36-40

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Isaiah 29:13

13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Matthew 15:8

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Romans 5:5

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

John 7:37-39

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

3) Let us identify those awful enemies of our hearts.

FLESHLINESS pollutes the heart. 

When FREDDIE FLESH makes his way in, he literally "trashes" the place. 

He spreads all sorts of contamination and filth.  That which was pure and lovely he soils with his putrefying presence.  Anything that is still clean is in danger of being defiled by the seething bacteria that attends his unholy nature.

I Peter 2:9-11

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

Fleshly lusts war against the soul, not just the body.

Proverbs 6:27-33

27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?

28 Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

29 So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.

30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

Acts 15:19-20 & 28-29

19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Garbage In - Garbage Out!

Mark 7:1-7 & 14-23

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:

15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

I Corinthians 3:16-17

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

I Corinthians 6:9-20

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

SELFISHNESS stagnates the heart.

When SALLY SELF gets in, she is continually drawing us back inside of ourselves. 

She is continually asking us such questions as

  • "What about your needs?"
  • "How did that make you feel?"
  • "What do you think about that?"
  • "How did you like that?"
  • "What do you want to do?"
  • "If you don't look after your things, who will?"
  • "Are you happy?"

She sites upon her pitiful perch dead-center of our hearts and says such things as,

  • "You'd better take care of yourself first"
  • "You've gotta' waht out for ole #1"
  • "Somebody else can do that"
  • "It's time you do what you want to do."

She is the slick and sick pseudo-psychologist of the soul.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-17

I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:

I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:

I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:

I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

13 Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

14 The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

15 Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.

16 For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Solomon hated life because his life was like the Dead Sea.  His heart was like a stagnating pond. 

EVERYTHING was pouring in but NOTHING was flowing out!

BITTERNESS poisons the heart.

BITTER BILL gets in when we become offended or when we have been violated, or wronged, or have been convinced that we have been.

Sometimes SALLY SELF opens the door for BITTER BILL.  You see, if Sally is successful in her plot to get you self-focused, she can magnify offenses in your eyes.  (She makes MOUNTAINS out of MOLEHILLS.)

She makes you the King of your own heart, and then really embellishes things when you come up on the short end of the stick.  She'll get BITTER BILL to sit with her.  Now, instead of your heart simply being stagnant, thus self-damaging, it begins to breed poisons that pour out upon others.

Hebrews 12:14-15

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

COVETOUSNESS chokes the heart.

COVETING CARL begins his work in our hearts by making adjustments upon our eyes.

He sharpens our vision for the things of this earth.  Once he's been successful getting us to try and fill our empty hearts with things (FALSE IDOLS), he'll make his way in on one of them.  He clinches onto it somewhat like a leech or a housefly.

Once inside, he has the cunning ability to use our hearts to turn our heads.  He is the epitome of the criminal con man.  He is the slick salesman that seeks to sell us from within our own hearts.  He convinces us that we need things, or better, convinces us that we deserve them.  He can talk us into lots of things that we really don't need and often cannot afford.  His goal is to crowd God completely out, because like his brethren, he doesn't like God's company.  He'd rather have you become your own God.

Matthew 13:22

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Colossians 3:5

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Luke 12:15

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

STUBBORNNESS hardens the heart.

STUBBON STAN makes his way in with the others.

He minds his own business until God begins to try and reach a heart that has become:

  • polluted
  • stagnated
  • poisoned
  • choked

Like the others, he has no affections for God, but rather hates God.  When the neck should bend, thus allowing the head to bow, he goes to work.


He is their protectors, and it is his sole assignment to ensure that they are not cast out. 

How does he do it He opposes the voice of God.

He'll offer to rearrange the polluted mess.

He'll even pick it up and put it neatly away into closets and drawers and cabinets and such.  He'll tell you how clean your heart is in comparison to others he's seen.  He'll tell you that God's commands aren't being rightly interpreted and preached.  Or, he'll simply tell you that now is not the time to clean the house of your heart. 

If you yield to his rationalizing, your heart will become hardened, and thus more and more difficult for the light and love of God to penetrate. 

He'll run over to Sally and hold her in his arms.

He'll tell you that God is only talking to someone nearby you, but not you.  He'll convince you that you have the right th let SELFISH SALLY live in your heart.  He'll convincingly argue that you need SALLY and all that she brings. 

He'll speak up in Bill's defense.

He'll remind you of the pleasure (though it is sick pleasure, it is still pleasure) that you extract out of the poison of bitterness.  He reminds you that hold that grudge or hatred or bitterness against that person is the only hold you've got on them.  When he's convinced you, he locks the door to the prison, and you are the one behind the bars.

And then other's lives continue to hurt because the poison continues to flow from your heart.

He'll grab the stuff that Carl's brought into your life and pull it into his own heart.

He'll tell you that God wants you to have them.  He'll tell you to ignore the voice of God.  He'll remind you of how little you have in comparison to others that he knows.  He'll convince you that even though it may be so, it is too late for you to release the excess baggage now, for you have too much tied up in it.

He'll chime in and tell you that you need all that stuff, or whether you need it or not, you want it, and that's good enough.

4) What must we do when our hearts have been "invaded" by unwanted visitors?

These five invaders: Freddie Flesh, Sally Self, Bitter Bill, Coveting Carl and Stubborn Stan are like the five wicked kings of the Amorites that seek to reign within our hearts - the home of God in our lives.  They must be taken out of our hearts and killed.

Joshua 10:5-26

Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.

And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.

So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.

And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.

Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.

10 And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.

11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.

12 Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.

13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.

15 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.

16 But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah.

17 And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah.

18 And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them:

19 And stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the Lord your God hath delivered them into your hand.

20 And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, that the rest which remained of them entered into fenced cities.

21 And all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace: none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel.

22 Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave.

23 And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon.

24 And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them.

25 And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

26 And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening.

A heart that has become polluted needs to be cleansed.

A heart that has become stagnant needs to be opened to others.

A heart that has become poisoned needs the antidote of God's forgiveness.

A heart that has become choked needs the freedom of weeding and pruning.

A heart that has become hardened needs the softening glow of the presence of God.

Psalm 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 51

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.



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