Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by all the information the world throws at us?
Within the 24 hours of any given day, everything from “breaking news” highlights, social media notifications, text messages, emails, and phone calls, to radio/TV commercials, pop-up ads on the internet, and viral YouTube videos fight for our minds and attention.
As Christians, how do we maintain a good balance so that we aren’t carelessly distracted for hours on end, focused on things and ideologies that often negatively affect our walk with God?
In this post, we will tackle this question, by looking at 3 crucial things that the Bible warns us to always guard our hearts against.
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Guarding Your Heart According to the Bible
First, I’ll start with a brief recap of the first part of this post series, 30 Bible Verses About Guarding Your Heart, in which we learned 5 key things the bible says about guarding our hearts:
- Our heart is our mind, intellect, conscience, and emotions; the center of our feelings, reasoning, and thoughts. Therefore, our hearts are who we are at the very core, and God see our hearts. (Proverbs 23:7, Psalm 139:1-4)
- Every Christian has two opposing mindsets that are always fighting against each other: our sinful mindset that we were born with, and the mind of Christ given to us by the Holy Spirit. (Jeremiah 17:9-10, Galatians 5:16-17)
- The devil targets our hearts constantly. (1 Peter 5:8)
- Scripture warns us to guard our hearts above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23)
- We guard our hearts by filling our mind with God’s Word regularly, proactively filtering what our mind consumes, and by praying for wisdom and help from God. (2 Peter 1:2, Philippians 4:6-7)
In light of what Scripture teaches us about why it’s important to guard our hearts, and how to do so, let’s now dive specifically into what we are to guard our hearts against.
3 Things to Guard Your Heart Against
Although we all may have our own individual “heart struggles” to guard against, I believe all of them essentially fall into one of three main categories according to Scripture: sin, lies and deception, and idols.
Guard Your Heart Against Sin
Although we will never be sinless or perfect in this present life, as Christians we are called to live in obedience to God. And because we have the mindset of Christ, we are fully equipped and capable of doing so:
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.2 Peter 1:3 NLT
Because of our new Christian mindset, sin does not have the control over us that it once had. Yes, our hearts are naturally prone to sin, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome sin and resist temptation.
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.Romans 6:12-14 NLT
But what does it look like to guard our hearts against sin on a practical everyday basis? It starts by embracing two important concepts about sin.
1. Learn to always agree with God about what sin is.
God is the one who defines sin, not us.
Sin is any and everything that doesn’t meet God’s holy standards as established by His righteousness. And the Bible is clear on what things fall into the sin category.
Anytime we start to question, doubt, compromise, or subtract from what God calls sin, that should ALWAYS be a warning sign to us. In other words, if you find yourself always looking for a way to defend your sin, make excuses for it, or call it something else other than sin, that should be cause for concern.
One of the best examples of this in Scripture is the story of King David and his sin with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (1 Samuel 13:1-15, chapters 15-16, and II Samuel chapters 11-12).
God chose to remove Israel’s first king Saul, and appoint David as king instead. Even knowing all the sin that David would commit, God referred to him as “a man after his own heart”:
And when He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king: of him He testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart [conforming to My will and purposes], who will do all My will.’Acts 13:22 AMP
To summarize David’s story, he had many successful victories as king of Israel. But, then David fell into sin. He lusted after a married woman named Bathsheba, slept with her, and got her pregnant. He then befriended her husband Uriah (one of his own soldiers), and then put a plan in place to have him killed in battle.
David’s plan succeeded and Uriah was reported dead. Bathsheba mourned briefly, and then David married her to cover up the affair, and they continued with day to day life as if nothing ever happened. (Who knew Lifetime movies originated in the Bible?)
God then sent his servant Nathan to confront David regarding the situation, as well as, to pronounce the punishment He had set forth:
Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”1 Samuel 12:7-12 NLT
After this confrontation, there is no denial, no excuses, no lying, and no running away. David simply responds as follows:
Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”1 Samuel 12:13a NLT
His response is simple and genuine. In his words of confession, David agrees with God by acknowledging his sin, setting forth a great example of what it means to live as a child of God, truly “a man after God’s own heart”.
When we fall, we often react the way David initially did – we ignore, hide, manipulate, pretend it didn’t happen, and go on with life. Oftentimes, we don’t acknowledge that we have sinned against the Lord until we too, are confronted.
Regardless of how we sin, like David we must always acknowledge the fact that sin is sin. We MUST learn to agree with God. We can never say that something is NOT sin that God has already deemed as sin in His Word – whether its lying, cheating, adultery, fornication, stealing, homosexuality, jealousy, pride, or gossiping.
Agreeing with God about what sin is doesn’t mean we will never sin again. It means that when we do sin, we will acknowledge it as such by confessing it to God (and any other involved parties) and do whatever is necessary to make things right if possible. The beauty of this acknowledgement/confession/agreement with God is that when we do this, He forgives us.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.1 John 1:8-10 NLT
This of course does not mean we go completely unpunished when we sin. If you know the rest of the story and how the rest of David’s life goes, then you know that although he is forgiven, he still bears the exact consequences of his sin as determined by God through Nathan. In fact, the child that David had by Bathsheba dies.
Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the word of the Lord by doing this, your child will die.”2 Samuel 12:13b-14 NLT
Forgiveness NEVER excludes us from God’s discipline as His children. There are times where God will punish and there are times when he will show mercy – and we can never demand either:
Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.Romans 9:14-16 NLT
2. Never adapt the attitude that we are free to sin just because God will forgive us.
This was a problem that the Apostle Paul addressed in his letter to the church in Rome. The Roman Christians had heard the teaching about their newfound freedom in Christ and took that as a free pass to live however they wanted to. After all, at the end of the day they could just confess their sins and ask for forgiveness, right? WRONG!
What shall we say [to all this]? Should we continue in sin and practice sin as a habit so that [God’s gift of] grace may increase and overflow? Certainly not! How can we, the very ones who died to sin, continue to live in it any longer? Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways].Romans 6:1-4 AMP
We are to acknowledge our sins, confess them to God, and ask for His help to overcome in those areas where we fall short or struggle. This is a lifelong journey and process, and none of us will reach perfection on this side of heaven.
However, the key is to make sure that we ALWAYS keep sin in the proper biblical perspective in our hearts: sin ALWAYS displeases God, sin does NOT have control over us, we have been equipped with the power to overcome sin, when we fall short we are to confess our sin, we know that He always forgives us, and we should aim to turn away from our sins and live a life pleasing to God.
- Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, that I may not sin against You. Psalm 119:11 AMP
- How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. Psalm 119:9 ESV
- Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies. Psalm 141:4 NIV
The more time we spend reading God’s Word, the more of his Word we hide in our heart, which means the more ammunition we’ll have to help us guard our heart against sin.
So, ask yourself:
- What is my attitude towards the sin in my life? Do I ever find myself feeling apathetic about sin?
- Do I agree with God about what He calls sin in His Word, or do I let culture dictate what is acceptable for me to do in life?
- Do I acknowledge my sin, or am I hiding it, ignoring it, or acting like it’s not actually sin?
- Do I find myself living like the Roman Christians as if I have a free pass to sin because I know God forgives?
Guard Your Heart Against Lies and Deception
As mentioned in the first part of this post series, the devil has always had one key strategy when targeting the hearts of mankind: lies and deception. And his reach is globally exponential when you consider the fact that he is the ‘god of this world’ and that anything and everyone that is NOT of God is under his direct influence.
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT
Do you realize how many lies the world is promoting that are in complete contradiction to the Word of God? Most of the lies are so subtle because they come in the form of things we see, hear, read and interact with every day.
POP QUIZ: Take a few minutes and see if you can you pick out the items from the list below that are lies according to the Bible.
- You only live once (YOLO), so you better live your best life!
- All religions lead to heaven.
- Everyone is special and fine just the way they are.
- We don’t have to answer to anyone but ourselves.
- Love is all that matters in this world.
- The Bible is outdated and irrelevant; besides it was written by men anyway so it is not the authoritative Word of God.
- Happiness is the ultimate goal of life.
- You should always follow your heart, dreams, and passions – no matter what!
- Jesus was just a great man and prophet, but He was not God.
- Sin is not a nature that was passed down to all mankind, because God created us all ‘good’.
- We shouldn’t care about what happens after we die, because heaven and hell don’t really exist.
- There is no such thing as objective truth, so we are to live our own truth – whatever we determine it to be.
- Christians should accept any and all things that culture and society deem as acceptable, even if it goes against what the bible teaches.
- Every individual Christian can determine their own definition of what it means to be Christian.
- When it comes to identity, our gender, race, sexuality, and political affiliation are more important than who we are in Christ.
So, how many lies did you find?
Biblically speaking every statement above is a lie!
Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t come to that conclusion. That’s precisely the point. Most of these statements, slogans or phrases are common ideologies that saturate the internet, the entertainment industry (tv, music and movies), social media, news, and everyday conversation. And most of us don’t even realize it.
Since Satan’s favorite weapon to use against us is lies and deception, the only way to counter him is with the truth. And although many (including some “Christians”) deny the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, any true Christian, as defined in the biblical sense, knows that the Bible is in fact our source of ultimate and objective truth.
- Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 AMP
- So Jesus was saying to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word [continually obeying My teachings and living in accordance with them, then] you are truly My disciples. And you will know the truth [regarding salvation], and the truth will set you free [from the penalty of sin].” John 8:31-32 AMP
Going back to Satan’s deception of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3) – “Did God really say . . .” We can fill in the blank with literally anything that the world is currently teaching that is contrary to the Word of God. The devil is literally using the same strategy today – to get Christians to doubt the Word of God! And as you can see it’s working in more ways than one. Not only are people doubting God’s Word, but they are doubting the fact that God’s Word is God’s Word!
Scripture warns us countless times about lies and deceptions that will arise, and how important it is to be on our guard against them.
- “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:6, 12 NLT
- Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. 1 Timothy 6:20-21 NLT
- Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 NLT
- Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Acts 20:28-31 NIV
- And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 NIV
The less truth we know, the more lies and deception we will fall for.
The naive or inexperienced person [is easily misled and] believes every word he hears, but the prudent man [is discreet and astute and] considers well where he is going.Proverbs 14:15 AMP
We must learn to recognize false ideas, teachings, and ways of thinking when we see and hear them.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV
If you don’t already know, our primary spiritual weapon is the Word of God, also referred to as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). When Paul says “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” it means to replace the lies of the devil that enter our minds with the truths of God’s Word. That is how we guard our hearts against lies and deception.
So, ask yourself:
- What lies do I believe about God, the Bible, Christianity, myself, life in general, or the world around me?
- How often do I find myself entertaining those lies in my heart?
- How are those lies affecting my thoughts, words, and actions each day?
- How are those lies affecting my relationship with God?
- How much time do I spend reading God’s Word to fill my mind with truth?
Guard Your Heart Against Idols
Last but certainly not least, the bible teaches that we must guard our heart against idols. The word idol is defined as:
- an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship
- a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved or revered
Biblically speaking, an idol is any “false god”, which can be anything or anyone that we allow to take the place of God in our hearts.
Little children (believers, dear ones), guard yourselves from idols—[false teachings, moral compromises, and anything that would take God’s place in your heart].1 John 5:21 AMP
Idols look different for each of us. When trying to identify idols in your life a good test is to ask yourself how you would complete this sentence: My life ONLY has meaning/worth if I have . . .
For some of us it may be power, approval, comfort, control, achievements, materialism, a person, a relationship, a group we belong to, a political cause, or an ideology. If any of these things (or anything else not mentioned) is something you feel you MUST have to give your life meaning or worth, then you should consider that an idol. Because God should be the true source of our meaning and worth.
Please note that I am not saying the people and things in our lives are not important. Remember we are talking about our hearts. And, anytime we start to give anyone or anything the place or priority in our hearts that ONLY God should hold, then we start to enter the danger zone.
In other words, your spouse, your kids, your career, your Instagram page, your bank account, your pedigree, your house, your car, your health, your church, your business, or anything else, should NEVER be the source of meaning and value for your life. People and things may enhance our enjoyment of life, or complement our God-given purpose, but they should never be our source of meaning/worth.
From the Old Testament days where God warned against idol worship in the ten commandments, to the New Testament warnings to guard against all forms of idolatry, Scripture is very clear regarding this matter:
- You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 NLT
- Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:4 NLT
- So be careful not to break the covenant the Lord your God has made with you. Do not make idols of any shape or form, for the Lord your God has forbidden this. Deuteronomy 4:23 NLT
- “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Joshua 24:23 NLT
- Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 1 Samuel 12:21 NLT
- Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies! On the day of reckoning they will all be destroyed. Jeremiah 10:15 NLT
- And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Romans 1:23-25 NLT
- Therefore, my beloved, run [keep far, far away] from [any sort of] idolatry [and that includes loving anything more than God, or participating in anything that leads to sin and enslaves the soul]. 1 Corinthians 10:14 AMP
We MUST make it a point to identify any idols we may have. Some may not be as obvious as others. The good news is that we can ask God to help us identify them, and to help us work toward putting them in their proper place in our hearts and lives.
So, ask yourself:
- Is there anyone or anything in my life that I feel in my heart gives me more meaning and worth than God?
- Is there anyone or anything in my life that I value so highly, regardless of the fact that it is actually hindering my relationship with God?
- Are there people or things in my life that I would much rather be spending time with or doing rather than spending time with God?
- Is there anyone or anything in my life that if God were to take it away today, would cause me to have a melt-down and feel like my life is completely over because I have no purpose?
Stand Firm in Guarding Your Heart Always
In a world where mankind creates its own definition of sin, where truth is relative, and where people idolize almost everything but God, it is imperative that we, as Christians, learn to stand firm in guarding our hearts.
Jesus knew that we would face much opposition in regard to our faith – from within, from the devil, and from the world around us. Which is why he warned the disciples many times about what was to come, and he encouraged them to be ready. The Apostle Paul’s letters were also loaded with admonitions to be on guard, to endure, and stand firm in the faith.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV
The best way to do this on an ongoing basis is to spend time in God’s Word regularly. It is the ONLY way we will be equipped to truly stand firm and guard our hearts against sin, lies and deception, and idols.
In this modern digital age that we live in, false ideologies are spreading like wildfire due to the internet and social media. And the devil is capitalizing on every aspect of it. If we don’t prioritize the truth of God’s Word in our lives, we risk becoming like the Nation Israel did back in the days of the judges:
For in those days Israel had no king, so everyone did whatever he wanted to—whatever seemed right in his own eyes.Judges 17:6 TLB
Whenever Christians live severed from the bible, they live like non-Christians who have no God and only answer to themselves. They live in complete anarchy!
We must learn not to discount Scripture just because it makes us uncomfortable. Instead, we must acknowledge and wrestle with the truths of God’s Word. And when necessary, ask God for wisdom and heart change to correct the lies we believe.
Do you realize that before he died, Jesus prayed to God the Father not only on behalf of his disciples at the time, but for every person who would ever come to know him as Lord and Savior – that includes you and I! And his prayer was that we would made holy by the truth of God’s Word:
Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.John 17:13-20 NLT
The more time I spend with God by reading His Word and praying, the more I realize just how backwards most of us have it in regards to what life is all about. And I pray everyday like Jesus did, that God will help his universal body of believers to get back to truth. For it is the only way we can stand firm in guarding our hearts always.
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