Above all else, guard your heart,Proverbs 4:23
for it is the wellspring of life.
From time to time I am reminded of Proverbs 4:23. I’ve read it and heard it preached several times. This week I am reminded to guard my heart, and I am reminding you to guard your heart. A prominent local pastor has resigned because of a moral failure. He was a pastor that a lot of people put on a pedestal as a great leader. He lead a congregation of over 4000 people on three campuses. We don’t know exactly what happened, or why it happened. When we see a pastor fail one thing we can be reminded of is we cannot have the attitude that “it won’t happen to me”, because it can. This pastor was just an ordinary human like you and I susceptible to sin like you and I are. But don’t despair, we can avoid moral failure, and the Bible tells us how.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. 27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
I am convinced if we follow the advice above and hide God’s word in our heart (Psalm 119:11) we can avoid moral failures and falling into sin. If God’s word is hidden in our heart, when we are tempted the Holy Spirit will bring God’s word to our remembrance and we will know our way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). We will still sin, but following the above scripture, and hiding God’s word in our heart will keep us from the slippery slope that ends in resigning from a church, losing your job, your spouse leaving you, or ending up in jail. Adultery starts as a lustful thought. Theft starts as a thought maybe jealousy or not being content with what you have. Violence starts as an angry thought or hate. All sin starts in our mind. James takes us through the life cycle of sin in the first chapter.
…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.James 1:15
Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (1 Corinthians 10:5) before these desires conceive as James 1 puts it. Stop the evil desires before they conceive!
Read Proverbs 7. Solomon tells a story of a man being enticed by a prostitute, but it’s about more than just prostitution. It’s about any sin. In Proverb 7:24 he starts to tell how to avoid the kind of trouble and ultimately death described in the preceding verses. I think the key phrase in the last few verses of the chapter is “do not wander into her pathways;”. It’s not good enough to not go in her house, avoid the path to her house. Know where you are tempted, avoid the pathway to those temptations and you will avoid the pathway to those sins.
You can avoid moral failure, but not with the attitude of “it won’t happen to me”. You especially cannot avoid it with the attitude of “it won’t happen to me”! Keep your eyes on Christ, do not look to the left or the right, hide God’s word in your heart, and take captive every thought.
If you have had a moral failure or are living in sin there is still good news. Jesus Christ died for your sins and he will forgive you.