Guard your heart above all else
For it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 NLT
According to this verse, the heart “determines the course of your life.” In another translation the verse reads, “for from it flow the issues of life (NASV),” and yet another reads, “for out of it are the issues of life (KJV).” The basic image is that our life over flows from this core of who we are. This inside out living, is not the way most of us think about our lives today.
We are appearance driven, we curate our Facebook and Instagram feeds to show the world who we want to be, or maybe who we think we should be. We don’t invite people into our lives because they are messy and difficult. We don’t ask for help because we want to appear strong and competent. We are often isolated behind the walls of self sufficiency we erect.
The scriptures reveal a different way of living. A way of life that is grounded in our need and our insufficiency. From God’s vantage point, we are all in need and He has provided the answer in His Son. From God’s vantage point, our paper walls of perfectionism and self-sufficiency actually reveal our need rather than concealing it. Sometimes it seems as if we are being swept along by the swirl of life around us, our culture, our environment, our Christian norms instead of living our lives from this internal place of need and power promised in the scriptures. I wonder if this is why we seem to be so ineffective in the world around us.
Throughout the scriptures there is a consistent call to live differently. The central part of that difference is our connection to God through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. This relationship is now the center of my life and from it, my whole life (internal and external) is transformed.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing whole heartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave and was born a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
And gave him the name above all other names,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
In heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 NLT
This relationship with God through Christ then, should impact both my internal attitudes and my interactions with others. If I am impacted by the love and power of Christ’s life, then that should flow out of my life in particular ways. The focus of this passage is not only on what should be flowing out of my life but on the particular kinds of internal interactions the Love of Christ has within me. Does this news encourage me? Does His love comfort me? Does His Spirit bring fellowship and oneness? Does it bring tenderness and compassion to my heart? If it does, then, the outward flow of that should be evident. I often focus on the external deeds, but this passage reminds me that what comes out of my life, must first come through my life, changing me first on the inside.
Is there any encouragement in Christ? The greek word for encouragement here is paraklesis which has the same root as paracaleo which means to call to ones side for help. This is the same word Jesus uses to describe our Helper – the Holy Spirit. Who indwells believers in the very core of who we are – our heart. According to John 14:15-21, the Holy Spirit will not leave us as orphans but care for us and will lead us into all truth. Romans 8:15-17 describes the Holy Spirit as the one who frees us from the fear of slavery and welcomes us as sons (and daughters) and assures us of our adoption into the family of God. We are encouraged when we rest in the assurance of HIs commitment to us. Read Romans 8:31-39 and count the evidence of His Great Love as well as the promises He has poured out upon those who believe. It is this encouragement that must come alongside our own hearts, reaching the very depths of who we are. This assurance and encouragement then pour out toward those around us.
This attitude of giving away of our rights and our very life like Jesus then, comes not from a slavish obedience in hopes that He might love me but, pours out of the blessed assurance that He loves me completely. When my life shows little evidence of this “attitude of Christ,” it is not enough to redouble my effort toward sacrifice and obedience instead I need to lean into the great love of God as evidenced in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To be reminded and encouraged in this relationship. Then when I am encouraged by this relationship, woven deeply into the fellowship of His Spirit, and filled with tenderness and compassion that comes as a result of seeing myself in relationship to a Holy God… then, I am able to make His joy complete by pouring out the love and joy I’ve found with a dying world. The Love of God pours into my life from the life giving Spirit and the water of His Word and that changes me and opens me to the world around me. The fullness of God pours into my heart and then cascades into the lives of those around me.
What does this look like? When I see a lack of love pouring out of my life, it should immediately point me back to the source of all goodness. If my life is shallow and petty, when I am angry and self-centered, when my life is all about me… I can try and pull together a “nice Christian face” and preserve my reputation, but what I really need, is a fresh vision of the One who calls me His own. From that space, from the freshness of that relationship, life and love can pour through me again. I don’t have to be perfect, I can simply be me… In relationship with Him.
The question for me… and for you – will we make time to prioritize this relationship, so that the life and love of Jesus can flow to those around me?