By David Dombrowski
The last few years have been an educational experience for me regarding the nature of people’s hearts. I believe it would be accurate to say we have entered perilous times; and where it will take us in the immediate future, we don’t know except that we must always keep our hope in the Lord, even as we see Bible prophecy being fulfilled. Meanwhile, guarding (keeping) our hearts is perhaps more vital now than it has ever been before in our lives as we witness all that is happening in the world. Jesus warned:
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:11-12)
If we look at the context of this Scripture, we will see that Jesus is talking about what will precede the end of the world; but it’s easy to see that things are already astir, and just as we see in our weather how one season changes to the next, we can see the clouds of change approaching.
Guarding Our Hearts When Fear Rules
Looking back, one vivid memory stands out. Covid was well into its second year, and the Covid mask mandate was not being enforced in the small Montana border town near which we lived, but people were just being urged to do what they felt was safest for them. So at our local post office, no one was required to wear a mask. But, on one particular day, we took our fifteen-year-old granddaughter (who was visiting us from Oregon) to a nearby town for lunch. Prior to our lunch, we stopped at the town’s post office to drop off the day’s shipping. When the two of us entered the post office, we saw that a woman was in front of the service counter but somewhat blocking the area for people to place their drop-offs. My granddaughter slipped behind the woman and discreetly placed the tub of packages on the counter while trying to observe the six-foot distancing rule. To our utter surprise, the woman whirled around when she spotted my granddaughter and began shouting, “Six feet, six feet!” Just about then, she saw me without a mask, and she went ballistic. With our packages on the counter, I whispered to my granddaughter, “We just need to leave,” and we did that as the woman screamed “get out, get out,” along with obscenities. We heard her shouting until we were out the door. At one point, the woman yelled that it was people like us who were murderers and responsible for the deaths of others.
About a week later, one of our workers told us of a woman in that town of that description who was following a teenage boy with his mother throughout a grocery store and filming them on her iPhone as she kept shouting to the boy, “Put a mask on.” Finally, when the mom and son were in line with their groceries with the woman still yelling and filming them at close range, the boy turned to her and said, “I have asthma and cannot breathe with a mask on.” He then reprimanded the woman as other people in the line broke out into applause and cheers for the boy.
During this time period, scientific studies contradicted what the media was telling us to do, so it was actually quite difficult to know what the best course of action was in any given situation. But my point here is not really about who was right and who was wrong as much as how people’s hearts were responding—some showing civility and others hardness of heart. I truly felt like I understood how a wicked person like Adolf Hitler was able to dupe an entire country through propaganda and fear mongering.
Machiavelli pointed out in his book, The Prince, you can rule an entire country through fear and compliance, where morality is superseded by craft and deceit in governing the affairs of men. This is the man who came up with the well-known and unfortunately much-used maxim, “The ends justify the means.” We see this operating today.
And this is why I have felt compelled at this time to remind myself and others that God has given us the incentive to guard our hearts through verses utilizing the word “keep,” such as the following:
Keep [guard] thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22; emphasis added)
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27; emphasis added)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21; emphasis added)
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21; emphasis added)
Each of the verses above has the word “keep” in it as a reminder that God has the keeping power to cleanse us and make us pure and unspotted with a heart fully devoted to the Lord. No, we won’t be perfect, but we will have a heart devoted to the Lord if we really want that.
Guarding Our Hearts From Becoming Hard
I, therefore, choose to live in expectation and hope that God can do a great work in our lives even if the world is falling apart. But my point here again is that, while there is only so much each of us can do, it is important to remember that God looks at the “heart”:
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts. (Proverbs 21:2)
I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:10)
Even if we find ourselves in a situation where there is nothing we can do, we can always keep our hearts devoted to God—to have a heart after God’s own heart as the Bible describes of the Psalmist, David (Acts 13:22).
Sometimes, when we check our hearts, we may find something there that is not fully pleasing to the Lord. Perhaps we may have a very busy schedule, but then we take a moment in our day to stop and reflect on what’s happening in our hearts. Jesus was grieved at the hardness of heart He witnessed in His day. For example, in Mark 3, Jesus entered a synagogue on the Sabbath where there was a man with a “withered hand.” As the Pharisees watched for an opportunity to accuse Jesus, we read the following account:
And [Jesus] saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? . . . [And He] looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. (Mark 3:4-5)
Actually, Jesus had much to say about the condition of our hearts. The heart is basically the wellspring of our deep-seated emotions, convictions, and beliefs that incite us into action. We see this happening in Mark 3 where we read of the reaction of the Pharisees after Jesus healed the man:
And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. (Mark 3:6)
The following are some examples of what Jesus had to say on issues of the heart:
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. (Matthew 12:35)
In response to the mandate of the scribes and Pharisees to wash one’s hands before eating bread, Jesus said:
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. . . . teaching for doctrines the commandments of men . . . Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (Matthew 15:8-9, 17-20; emphasis added)
Where Our Treasure Lies
The following from Luke reiterates Matthew 12:35:
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)
Jesus’ use of the word “treasure” is quite informative because it adds another attribute to what and where our heart is. In another place, He said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
The Greek word for heart is kardia meaning literally our physical heart, which is at the core or center of our bodies, but it is continually used figuratively, just as we do in English. The Hebrew word for heart also has the same literal and figurative meaning that at the core of who we really are, it is there we find the things that we truly treasure. As believers in Christ, we should always hope that God has a special place there—should I say has all of our heart, for when Jesus summarized the intent of the whole Law, He said:
The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12: 29-31; emphasis added)
Unfortunately, most of the scribes and Pharisees had lost the intent of the Law and turned it from a heart issue to a vast array of dos and don’ts.
Please keep in mind also that “keeping” or “guarding” our hearts has a lot more to do than just protecting ourselves. It really has to do with keeping our heart in the right place as we treasure the things that are truly most important. For Jesus, the most important matter on His heart was the salvation of souls, and for that, He, who was a sinless unblemished Lamb, gave the ultimate sacrifice—His own life.
Now in the last few years, as we are witnessing an unprecedented number of challenges throughout society, our whole world has become a testing ground for where people will place their hearts; will it be for the things of God or for vain or wicked purposes? The fence of neutrality is being shaken where we are now often forced to take a stand. Along with these challenges, we have witnessed the forces of good and evil, accompanied with truth and falsehood, pulling at our heartstrings, so to speak, and bringing confusion to our minds.
And now, in the present moment, we face one of the biggest challenges of all because it is something very dear to God’s own heart—and that is Israel. God chose Israel from all the nations of the world to be His special possession. In a recent interview pertaining to the Hamas massacre in Israel, an Israeli spoke to a pastor of his deeply felt appreciation for Christians who have not been bought out by the lies and false media concerning the Jews. But he added a strong word of caution in saying that, even the devotion of Christians who stand behind Israel will be severely tested. Already, since that interview, the mainstream media has blocked and ignored accurate information in favor of lies; and pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas protests have erupted around the world denouncing Israel’s existence as a nation and her right to defend herself against terrorist attacks. Even many claiming to be in the Christian camp are denouncing Israel.
And so, the testing of our hearts begins again, but this time concerning the apple of God’s eye.
For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (Deuteronomy 32:9-10)
In these times of testing and challenge, let us guard our hearts with all diligence, knowing that as we keep our eyes on Him and our hope in Him, He will be our strength:
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
(Photo from istockphoto.com; used with permission.)