Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
This is not a political blog, but the title serves as a critical metaphor we can use to help us understand sins impact on our everyday lives. Everyone who walks with Christ knows what it is like to be at war with sin. The sudden realization that you have been set free through Jesus’ work on the cross grips the senses and through the Holy Spirit, the battle begins. Much like Philippians 3, we press on, laying hold of Christ and our walk with him grows stronger; amazing stories have been told through time of people overcoming their sin through the Holy Spirits work and the power of God’s Word in their life.
But we are still stuck in the war with sin, the “already, not yet” reality that we live in has us declared righteous through Christ. Christians are able to stand before God blameless, yet we are going through the sanctification process continually until Christ comes or calls us home. This is where our war is, and in Ephesians, Paul writes to this specifically in 6:10-20 about having the armor of God on us. This idea of being prepared, set, and ready for battle with the devil is firmly explained for the believers of Paul’s day, and for believers today.
However, like many wars, they evolve over time. Tactics change and the enemy looks for different avenues of approach in order to subvert the Lord’s authority and attempts to place something else on the throne of your heart. This is where the Borders metaphor will serve us well as believers. Most of us have fought sin on one battlefield or another, some adultery, others anger, whatever the fight might have been, we have built a strong defense against it and allow no permissible thought to go unchecked in the area that was once in conflict. The enemy knows this, and scripture warns in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” Peters warning here is true for them and for us today, we must be alert for the avenues of approach the devil might take, and when he shows himself, stand firm against his attack. But where the devil might lose a battle in one area of your live, he will attack another, laving us unprepared most of the time because we simply do not guard that part of our heart. That is why we must be sure to guard the entirety of our heart, and always to check everything that might come in (Matthew 6:19-23).
What this looks like is simple, we need to be sensitive in all areas of our life (Proverbs 4:23). While a believer might have won a battle with anger and can detect it, they might not freely vet or even perceive power, lust, or greed to be a problem. Yet continuous “harmless” social media feeds that provoke the mind, or multiple episodes of road rage could fester and lead to sin because it was unchecked all the way through to the heart. They simply did not know or protect themselves from it, and over time it has come into the heart and set up camp, building, and eventually trying to take over. This is typically the way sin unfolds (James 1:13-15).
Sin then, can roll passed unprotected areas of our lives. Therefore, believers must keep with scripture when it warns to stay alert, so there must be a vigilance, a constant eye and ear for what might be the enemy coming into our lives. A Marine might train for hours on fighting and be able to defend himself well, but not regard his spirituality and sees no impact or harm of his adulterous behavior until it is to late, and he faces punishment for failing to see the enemy used a girl to hurt him and to attack his country. While he was careful to dissect each area the enemy might attack him physically, he missed the spiritual attacks that come as well. Believers too often face this, focusing in on one area, and not the total border of our lives. We must keep with watching any and all aspects of our lives, physically and spiritually, and weigh that with the Word of God, so that it is a complete and continuous stance we take daily.
Knowing what to look for at these open borders (eyes, ears, mind) can prevent infiltration into our heart, here are some specific areas to watch:
The Eyes. “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
The Ears. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:11
The Mind. “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10
And not to forget random checks, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
As you can see, the greatest way we guard ourselves is with the Word of God. Psalms 119:9-11 speaks to this: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me stray from Your commandments. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Going back to Corinthians, we take God’s Word and use it to defend ourselves in times of battle, allowing nothing to come in unchecked, all our thoughts are “taken captive” (2 Cor. 10:5). So then, open borders are not a preferred method in the case of the believer, allowing ourselves to only guard areas we have fought in, and not others. Christians must take awareness to each area in their life so that they are wholly protected when the enemy tries to come.
Protection comes through a rich knowledge of God’s Word, which helps us identify areas that we might be attacked in. Through the Word’s illumination we can see the different avenues Satan might be trying to infiltrate. Do not miss the note in the Psalm, not only do we have God’s Word, but the Psalmist seeks the Lord with all of his heart, and we too should be continually pressing in our relationship with the Father that we get through knowing his Word so that we might be able to stand when the fight comes. With every intention we should immerse ourselves in God’s Word so that we can rightly walk in the love he has shown us through Jesus Christ, always ready for battle, and always on the forefront of watching for when the enemy might come.
Zachary Hicks, former Marine, serves at Cornerstone College of Virginia in the Administrative Department. In his free time he proudly serves as revitalization lead at First Bible Baptist Church and works as a local leader in Norfolk, VA. with Tun Tavern Fellowship, a missional organization to the Marine Corps.