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Friday, August 29, 2014

Philippians - Guard Your Heart

OUR SOURCE OF PEACE

Philippians 4:7
“And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Part One: God's Peace will Guard Our Hearts.        

         This verse is such a beautiful promise! In a world full of turmoil, chaos, and devastation caused by sin, isn’t it a comforting thought to know that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds? I think it is a fitting description to say that His peace surpasses or transcends all understanding because there are many times that people try and fail to make sense of what is going on, and we simply cannot, nor can we explain the peace we feel when God gives it to us in situations that should be devastating or stressful. We just know that the only way that we can have peace in this broken world is through the Father. As believers, we know that we are not going to have the safest and easiest lives just because God is our Father. Christians will still experience death, illness, tragedy, and the consequences of sin. Having God’s peace does not mean that there will be an absence of conflict. People wish they could know why things happen and why God allows or causes them. We simply cannot wrap our minds around the fact that God does allow bad things to happen to those who love him. Take a look at Job for a good example! The truth is that we do not know and understand everything, and God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to only allow us to know so much. As believers, and as women, it is comforting to know that the Lord cares about the needs of our hearts!
Bockmuehl states that “Peace is always the gift of God rather than humanly devised or achievedpeace is not merely something external to God which he bestows, but also something which he both ‘has’ and is’ in himself.”[ii] As humans, we know that there is nothing in us that can conjure up the reality of peacefulness or even feelings of peace. If our minds and hearts are in turmoil about something - our marriage, our children, our financial situation, our education, our job situation, etc - we cannot put our minds and hearts at ease on our own. God, in His very being, is peace and has peace, so He is the only one who can give us true peace. Paul wrote this letter at a time when the Pax Romana (or the “Peace of Rome”) was being advertised as true peace. Based on what we know of God and what we know of sinful man, we can easily conclude that only God through Christ can give true and lasting peace, no matter who else promises to provide it. Paul also wrote this during a time where he was in and out of prison and had experienced a multitude of physical punishments. Even Paul, amidst these difficult times, could still boast that the peace of God is sufficient!      
Another beautiful and comforting point about His peace is that it will guard our hearts and minds. Having our hearts and minds guarded is such a compassionate and vital act done by the Lord in Christ. Our hearts need to be guarded because as fickle people, our affections can easily be swayed to earthly things, and especially to our own selves as lord of our lives (which is dangerous!). Our minds can easily drift into doubt and worry if they are not guarded by the bigger truths that God is God, He loves us, He is in control, and He will work for our good and His glory. 

Part TWO: We are commanded to guard our hearts.

Proverbs 4:23: 
"Keep (or guard) your heart with all vigilance, 
for from it flow the springs of life."

          The Lord promises to guard our hearts in Christ Jesus, but we are also commanded to take an active role in guarding our hearts. On a personal note, this past year has been a difficult year spiritually. It has been a year where I have not guarded my heart very well. Before I had our daughter (last September) , I was on a spiritual mountaintop. I had been warned that I could get worn out and spiritually dry after she was born due to lack of sleep and energy to invest time with the Lord. I was determined that this wouldn't happen to me. Immediately after she was born, I still felt close to the Lord. During our early morning feeding, I would read a Psalm to her, and we would pray through it. We'd pray for Patrick as he headed off to work. As the weeks went by and I went back to work, I started being apathetic toward my relationship with the Lord. Instead of reading to Riley Grace in the morning, I would turn on the ESV Audio Bible, which provided a way for me to get other things done (or drift back to sleep) while the Audio Bible was playing in the background. I was plumb tired from being a new mom and starting a new job, and I drifted further and further. I felt dry, distant, and even began to lack the desire to grow in the Lord. I stopped guarding my heart. Instead of using any extra time that I had to spend with the Lord, I just wanted to relax and think about nothing, whether that be by means of putting on a movie or just going to bed. For the most part, I was busy with "good" and "necessary" things, but in my busyness, I neglected the most important relationship in my life: my relationship with my Lord. Within the last few weeks, the Lord has graciously brought me out of that desert season, but it definitely lasted too long. I never want to walk through a season like this again. Nothing terribly traumatic happened. There were no huge emotional or physical crises in my family. We were doing ok financially. The problem was that I was in a very long season of "going through the motions" and forgetting to guard my heart against worldliness, and I honestly didn't want to do anything to change it. Praise the Lord that season is over! 

     The reason that I wanted to share all of that is simply to say GUARD YOUR HEART. With the Lord's strength and guidance, guard against complacency, apathy, worldliness, bitterness, compromising godly standards, disobedience, self-centeredness/inward focus, etc. Guard your hearts and minds against thinking that you can do this on your own, that you are too far gone to return to the Lord, or that anything is more important than the Lord. Guard your heart so that you can be a shining light for your family, friends, and anyone you come in contact with. Most importantly, guard your heart to glorify the Lord. 

TRUTH #1: God is the source of true, lasting peace that will guard our hearts and minds.  No earthly entity can produce or provide this kind of peace.   

TRUTH #2: Believers cannot use human knowledge to explain or understand the peace of God.

Truth #3: The Lord calls us to guard our hearts with vigilance. We can't just sit back complacently. Worldliness will creep into our lives if we don't actively guard against it. 

Truth #4: The Lord offers forgiveness for seasons where your heart has not been guarded, and He wants you to come back.

APPLICATION from Part 1: Would you describe your heart and mind as being controlled by the peace of God, or would you confess that worry, doubt, and sinfulness plague you more times that you would like to admit? Do you find encouragement in the fact that the peace of God in Christ will guard your heart and mind? Have you ever experienced a time where you felt the peace of God in your life in a way that surpassed all human understanding? Write a prayer to the Lord thanking Him for his compassionate and loving character in providing a way of peace for us. Plead with Him to guard your heart and mind against doubt, worry, and sinfulness so that you can live a life of peace and be able to focus on rejoicing instead of living in anxiety. 

FURTHER STUDY from Part 2: Are you guarding your heart? Ephesians 6 explains that the enemy or the adversary is actively scheming against us. He is not just sitting back; rather, he is plotting our destruction! If we are not carefully guarding our hearts, he will gain a foothold. Read Ephesians 6:10-20, and prayerfully consider ways that you can guard your heart from worldliness in order to pursue godliness. Praise the Lord that He will give you the strength to stay near to Him. Grab a friend to hold you accountable in guarding your heart and keeping it sacred unto the Lord!

Always,
Jacquelyn



[i] Melick, 150.

[ii] Bockmuehl, 247.

[iii] Martin, 173.

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