Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Prov. 4:23)
Solomon commands us, under the inspiration of God, to guard our hearts – to take seriously the frail condition of our souls and to constantly seek the strengthening power and wisdom of God. Do this with all diligence, and that word in the original Hebrew means a place of confinement. So it has the idea of locking up our hearts for God and avoiding letting them get carried off and captured by the world, the flesh, or the devil.
The world, the flesh, and the devil: These three are the enemies of the new nature in Christ. The world is the domain of Satan’s influence, and with its lusts and ungodly attitude is opposed to the new man in Christ and the values of God’s kingdom. The Bible says:
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16 ESV)
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
The flesh is the fallen nature in each human being, that is also opposed to obeying and following Christ. It is opposed to God and can never be reformed or repaired. The Bible says:
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:18-20 ESV)
[You were taught] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires… (Eph. 4:24)
The devil is the deceptive spirit that is now at work in the world and will lead us astray. The Bible says:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph. 2:1-3 ESV)
Jesus highlighted these three realities as He told the parable of the soils. A sower went out sowing seed, broadcasting it as was the custom of that day. Some of the seed fell on the hardened path and was eaten quickly by birds. Some fell on shallow soil and grew well at first, but then the rocky ground beneath prrevented them from developing roots and they also died out. Some fell among thorns and were choked out and could never develop. Some fell on good ground and produced a harvest of a hundredfold (Luke 8:1-15).
As Jesus explained the meaning of the parable (Luke 8:11-18), He drew attention to these three negative influences in life – the world, the flesh, and the devil. The seed that fell along the path reveals those from whom the devil steals the seed of truth before it can germinate. The seed that fell on the shallow soil reveals those who have hard hearts, who are entrapped by their own fallen natures from hearing the truth of God. The seed that fell among the thorns reveals those who are caught up in the cares of this world, and are distracted from the truth.
Even after we have become saved, we still deal with these three influences in our lives and we still fight a spiritual battle by the Spirit of God. But in Christ we are given a new nature – “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). And this is where we learn discipline, and where God protects our hearts. We need to bring every thought and make it captive to the Lord. The Bible says:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Cor. 10:3-5 ESV)
The biblical solutions are to reject the world and its values and be sanctified by the Word of God.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:15-19)
We must take of the old man, the flesh, and put on the new man in Christ, living in the freedom of the Spirit. We must die to sin and to self and live in the resurrection power of Christ.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:6-8)
We must submit ourselves to God and resist the devil. “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV).
So guard your heart today and this evening in Christ. Reject the friendship of the world, die to self, and resist the devil. Instead bind your heart to the eternal values of God’s kingdom, live in Christ, and submit yourselves to God.