Friday, August 25, 2006

Keeping The Heart

I have recently been reading John Flavel's book Keeping the Heart. Flavel was a Puritan who lived in the 1600's. His words are old but enriching. I have this book encouraging, insightful, challenging and convicting. Here a few reasons why Flavel says that the Christian's greatest attention must be fixed on the heart.
  1. "The glory of God is much concerned because heart evils are very provoking evils to the Lord." When you really break down the New Covenant, it is primarily about God's desire and design to address a heart that has gone so bad within humanity because of sin that the only solution to make men right with God through the work and merit of His Son Jesus is to give the people of God a new heart. God's concern, then, is that His daughters and sons would guard and preserve the heart so that we might not be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:13).
  2. "The sincerity of our profession much depends upon the care we exercise in keeping our hearts." Consider the hypocrisy of Jehu (2Kings 10:28 cf.) He did not walk in God's ways within his heart. Though his work was outwardly good, his heart was not purged from selfish ends. Heart negligence makes our confession of Jesus questionable at best. Aren't we all hypocrites in some way? Yes. But as Flavel says, "There still remains some wildness in the thoughts and fancies of the best to humble them, but if you find a care to prevent them, and opposition against them when they come, and grief and sorrow afterward, you find enough to clear you from the charge of reigning hypocrisy" (p. 26-27).
  3. "The beauty of our conversation arises from the heavenly frame of our spirits." I take this to mean that talking about Jesus is a sign of a healthy heart. We are less inclined to talk about Jesus when sin is entrenched in the heart. Our conscience bears witness against us.
  4. "The comfort of our souls much depends upon the keeping of our hearts; for he that is negligent in attending his own heart, is, ordinarily, a great stranger to assurance, and the comforts following from it." I'll let Flavel provide his own commentary for this point: "A neglected heart is so confused and dark that the little grace which is in it is not ordinarily discernible: the most accurate and laborious Christians sometimes find it difficult to discover the pure and genuine workings of the Spirit in their hearts. How then shall the Christian who is comparatively negligent about heart-work, be ever able to discover grace." I would add: does the negligent person even care to discern God's grace and activity in their lives?
  5. "The improvements of our graces depends on the keeping of our hearts. I have never known grace to thrive in a careless soul." The neglected heart is not only assaulted, but it is given by thoughts that are foolish, vain and tainted with self-interest and self-importance. A neglected heart is like a small leak in an automobile tire. Left unattended eventually the tire will go flat and make it virtually impossible to drive on. The same is true for us spiritually. Neglecting our hearts will leave us flat and useless in the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, it will empty us of spiritual power, joy and any desire to serve God in humility.
  6. "The stability of our souls in the hour of temptation depends upon the care we exercise in keeping our hearts." I think the simplest way to understand this statement is that we are easy prey to temptation and Satan when our hearts are defiled and polluted with sin.

This is just a snapshot of the godly wisdom found within this great piece of literature. I encourage you to pick up a copy at You heart will thank you.


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