We are instructed in Scripture to guard our hearts with all diligence such as a guard watches at his post, because the heart determines the entire course of a man's life. To guard our heart doesn't suggest that we should become hard hearted and encase our passions and compassions within a steel vault. Rather, it means that we are to watch closely that which seeks to enter and rule there. We need to regularly recognize any inclination to desire that which flows at cross purposes to GOD's word. We need to prepare our hearts to be faithfully obedient to HIS word and not allow the world to fashion us into one of its own.
As GOD's will is always "good, and acceptable and perfect" we should eagerly seek HIS guidance and resist the world's attempt to entangle us in its affairs. As the Proverb wisely instructs us, "My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction" (PROVERBS 3:11). There is a profit to HIS chastening and correcting if we are willing to receive it and not become hard hearted, stiff necked or have our "conscience seared with a hot iron". By HIS chastening HE is fashioning on the potter's wheel a vessel fit for HIS use. By HIS chastening HE is preparing the day for the dawning, HE is laying the foundation for a mighty work.
Even the casual reader can find much that is written in the Scriptures concerning this stirring within the heart of man. Another Proverb declares that "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water [is in the hand of the LORD]: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (PROVERBS 21:1
). Indeed, even Cyrus king of Persia was thus moved.
EZRA 1:1-2 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Another king of Persia, Artaxerxes, whom Scripture declares to be a "king of kings", was similarly moved by the hand of GOD.
EZRA 7:27 Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's [Artaxerxes'] heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
To no surprise we find King Solomon among this select group.
1 KINGS 10:24 And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.
But not to kings only are GOD's stirrings reserved. Nehemiah twice made mention of it.
NEHEMIAH 2:12 And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem...
NEHEMIAH 7:5 And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy...
And the apostle Paul writes of Titus being thus moved.
2 CORINTHIANS 8:16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
This is precisely what the psalmist meant when he wrote, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (PSALM 37:4). GOD can and does implant desires within the heart of man. Not desires for earthly treasures, but desires for those that moth and rust cannot corrupt. Desires for earthly treasures often originate from another source and end in sorrow or even death (ACTS 5:3-5 JAMES 1:15). GOD alone can give us the desires that assure us of an entrance into HIS kingdom.
Without GOD directing our steps, we mortals know not the way. We know not even what tomorrow holds, how can we possibly find the way into life? "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (JEREMIAH 10:23). We too easily stray from the straight path and wander into dangers. We need the Almighty to direct us. We need HIM to first tell us the way, then to tell us when we have strayed and finally to point us back to the right path.
PROVERBS 1:23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
When we delight in the LORD's reproof, a floodgate of blessings open up to us. Not only does HE pour out HIS spirit unto us, but HE promises to make known to us HIS words. Words of truth, words of direction and deliverance, words of hope. How enlightening is another one of these Proverbs.
PROVERBS 8:34-35 Blessed is the man that heareth me [GOD's words], watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
How very blessed it is to hear from GOD. Whosoever is blessed enough to find HIS words, finds life. There is no life without HIS word for HIS word births life. Those without it may think they are living, but alas, they are no doubt only living death. And furthermore, the blessed one who hears GOD's word and finds life, also obtains favor of the LORD. Favors from GOD are always given at HIS discretion, otherwise they wouldn't be favors.
Of what profit are the words of GOD? How rich is the man who hears GOD's voice? How precious is that treasure when discovered? All the riches of this world are of little worth when compared with it. Not only does it reveal to its possessor the purpose of his existence, but adds also the fulfillment of accomplishing that purpose. And even beyond that, GOD's word gives its discoverer the sure hope for life eternal.
It only stands to reason that everything is relative to the resurrection. What in our lives really matter if they are to be discarded when leave this world and are resurrected into the next? Our renewed minds along with the fruit of the spirit if pretty much all that will accompany us there, in HIS kingdom.
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
GOD's purpose through the ages has not been the perfection of the world, nor even the perfection of the Church. HIS inspiration has been for the perfection of the individual believer. It is to HIS chosen ones that HE has given an understanding of the Scriptures, for their perfection. These words are for their profit, that they might be perfect. How? By doctrine, reproof and correction which is instruction in righteousness. The Scripture is how we measure whether or not the ideas which we ponder are from GOD. This is how we sift the wheat from the chaff. This is how we determine if the desires of our heart are those HE has given us, or if they are the world's attempt to conform us to its way.
ACTS 17:11 These [in Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
The Bereans received the word, but then they took that word which they supposed was GOD's word, and daily went to the Scriptures to determine whether those things were so. They didn't just go to their preacher, nor did they cling to Church tradition. They went to the Scriptures! Thus, these of Berea were more noble then even those of Thessalonica.
Even some Bible students don't adequately measure what they suppose the truth is about GOD, with Scripture. Failing that, they have an imperfect understanding of HIS ways because they too often settle for what others say instead of ferreting out the truth for themselves. But even beyond measuring what we are taught with Scripture, to be of any profit the truth must also be applied in our daily lives by faith. Too many, when finished reading, leave GOD's word on the page when it was intended to be written in our hearts, "not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 CORINTHIANS 3:3). This truth was likewise written in the epistle to the Hebrews.
HEBREWS 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
Scripture is profitable, but only if it is mixed with faith. Without faith one might be taught the doctrine but then reject the reproof. Or he may even learn the doctrine and receive the reproof, but then not accept correction back to the right way. Faith is the process in which the ground is made good that the seed may bare fruit. This process is accomplished by taking that which we have read in the Scriptures into our daily life. As we step out on the doctrine we have read, we hear more. Then, if we stumble as we step out, we receive the reproof, after which we again hear more. Once we get back up after we have fallen, we are corrected to the right way and we again hear more, starting the process all over again.
This cycle is repeated over and over again until we begin to be transformed, perfected, even renewed. Like a lump of clay on a potter's wheel, each rotation gradually molds us into the men and women we need to be. This in a nutshell is faith. All is towards "instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works".
We are given many examples in Scripture of GOD's spirit working upon the heart of those HE has called. One is here in EXODUS.
EXODUS 35:30-35 And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work. And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work...
What Moses described in a few sentences is a process that requires time to work. They were not just sitting cross legged on the floor in a trance when GOD touched them with HIS magic wand and all of the sudden they were able to "devise curious works" and "cunning work". I would venture to say that over the course of many years, they developed an understanding of GOD's ways to eventually gain the capacity to be filled with the spirit of GOD. HIS servants are not mindless robots, but men and women who through years of doctrine, reproof and correction have become filled with the spirit and then wisdom so as to be able to "work all manner of work".
Hence, this process is successful only if we endure the chastening. That is why faithfulness is such a big part in having faith. Remember Yeshua's (Jesus') words, "...If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (JOHN 8:31-32). Over the course of time, if we continue to receive the word and are faithful to measure it along side of Scripture, then we shall begin to know the truth which will gradually make us free from the lies which the world endeavors to entangle us with.
HEBREWS 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
One does not know the truth just because he goes to Sunday School every week. We must be chastened; we must by doctrine, reproof and correction be fashioned upon the potter's wheel. Even if we read the Bible everyday, without being mixed with faith it is most generally still unprofitable to us. Faith is vital in that it routinely chastens our hearts by the doctrine, reproof and correction of the Scriptures. It is the gradual flowing together of experiences, resulting in a meshing or harmonizing of thoughts into a true understanding of GOD's ways. This truth is more than knowledge. It is even more than a destination. Truth is a way. It's a transformation; it's a lifestyle.
PROVERBS 4:20-22 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Attend, incline, let not depart and keep them in the midst of thine heart. Only then will we find life. Most never attend long enough to escape death's grip. They only pass from the womb to the tomb. Their prison is the night in which they wander. It is the darkness in which they stumble. As the poet wrote, "stonewalls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage". Their prison is the stone walls of ignorance. Their cage is the iron bars of blindness. Life is near, even in their midst, yet without faith they cannot find it.
GALATIANS 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith [faithfulness] of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Only by a faith which "groweth exceedingly" (2 THESSALONIANS 1:3) can we experience that of which Paul writes. Only by continually hearing and believing the doctrine, reproof and correction can one find the way into life. "Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." If we have been born again by the word of GOD, that life which is now, is so different then that which was before. Before, we were as the dead burying the dead. But now we have the "spirit of life" and thus we can be led by that spirit into life (ROMANS 8:14).
GALATIANS 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Obeying the truth is the doctrine, reproof and correction of the Scriptures. It is to "have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you" (ROMANS 6:17). The spirit endeavors to lead us in the right way, but if we do not obey the truth, if we "resist the truth", not continuing in the faith, we become ungrounded, unsettled and moved away from the hope of the gospel. We become imperfect and unfurnished. Paul wrote the Colossians that in order to perfect them, he preached, warned and taught them (COLOSSIANS 1:28). We are not made perfect by confessing with our mouths some magic formula, but rather by faithfully adhering to the truth.
Scripture contains the doctrine, reproof and correction which chastens the heart of the believer. Although it is walked over by the masses, a few do stop and take the time necessary to uncover it. The payback from that discovery will yield returns to its finder many times over. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" (JEREMIAH 15:16). As we continue to hear and believe those "words of faith", our heart will begin to "burn within us" as truth is gradually realized.
HIS word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Without it, the true way is hidden. Without HIS word, we do our best to grope around in the dark, seeking others to lead us, knowing not whether they themselves are also blind. "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple [foolish]" (PSALM 119:130). Understanding the words of GOD lightens our path that we might find the true way.
We may all believe, but if we fail to measure our beliefs with Scripture, having not doctrine, reproof and correction, what we believe matters little. What we think, what we do, how we worship and how we pray are too often all in vain. It is only the words of GOD mixed with faith that opens the eyes of our understanding and delivers us from the bondage of darkness. Some may wonder what we believe about this or that. What we believe is only secondary as to why we believe. Do we believe because some council in Nicaea determined it to be so, or rather are we convinced from Scripture that a thing is so. Do we believe because of the status quo, because that is the way we were taught, or do we believe it because we have discovered it in Scripture?
JOB 23:12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.