Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Guard My Heart

Episode Resources

Watch Nancy teach this series.

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asks you—how is your heart?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Here’s the problem for some of us who are twenty-first century religious Pharisees: We can know what’s right, and we can do what’s right, and we can impress everyone around us who thinks that we are really righteous, but inside, we have an unrighteous heart. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh for Monday, October 21, 2019.

Dannah: Nancy, I'm comfortable praying for others; I'm comfortable with intercessing. You know, I have a list of people I'm praying for right now. I think a lot of us are. But . . . is it okay to pray for ourselves? And how do we pray for ourselves?

Nancy: Yes, I can feel that I'm selfish praying things for myself. And yet, there are qualities that we know that God wants us to have; there are things we know He wants us to do in our lives that we need to pray for. We don't have those things. We need Him to give them to us.

As I think back over my life, there are a number of personal petitions that I have made to the Lord more often than any others over the years. These are things I have prayed again and again—sometimes out loud, sometimes just expressing my heart silently to the Lord.

Dannah: Nancy, I am very excited to learn more about that. And over the next couple of weeks, you're going to be helping us explore ten personal petitions, here on Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: My hope is that as you hear me teach on these ten personal petitions, that you will make them your petitions as well.

Dannah: Here's Nancy beginning the series, "My Personal Petitions."

Nancy: Let me tell you what the ten petitions are, and we'll focus on the first one today, then we'll pick up with the others in the days ahead:

1) Guard my heart. (I've prayed that perhaps more times than almost any other prayer throughout my life.)

2) Fill me with Your love.

3) Fill me with Your Spirit.

4) May I be clothed in humility.

5) Make me a servant.

6) Guard my tongue. (Some days that one should probably be first!)

7) Give me wisdom and discernment.

8) Give me a grateful spirit.

9) Teach me the fear of the Lord.

10) Help me to walk by faith and not by sight.

Here's the first personal petition (of ten): Guard my heart! Over and over again I've prayed this.

The word "heart" is used over one thousand times in the Bible. Occasionally, it refers to that beating organ that pumps blood and keeps us alive, that center of physical activity that sustains and moves the rest of the body.

But more often, when you see the word "heart" in the Scripture, it refers to that unseen center for our mind, our will, our emotions, and all of these things are inseparably, integrally connected. Our thoughts are part of our heart, what we feel is part of our heart. Our joys, our sorrows, our fears, what we love, what we desire are all bound up in the heart. Our affections, our choices, what we decide, how we act, our conscience. All these functions are part of, and are controlled by, what the Scripture calls "the heart." Not the physical heart, but that unseen control center for all those aspects of our lives.

And so the condition of our heart is critical. In our fallen, sinful, unregenerate condition, before we come to faith in Christ, Scripture says our hearts are foolish, desperately wicked, they are bent on sinning, they are bent against God and against His moral law. In this state, our hearts are fallen, they're depraved, and they're sinful. That's the kind of heart you were born with. 

That sweet little baby . . . that's a sinner. That's a fallen, depraved sinner; created in the image of God, yes, but bent toward sinning. That child isn't a sinner because it grow us to sin; that child grows up to sin because it is a sinner. From the time of Adam and Eve on, we are born in that fallen, sinful condition, with sinful hearts.

But, praise God, in the new birth, at our conversion, at our point of regeneration, God gives us a new heart, the Scripture tells us. Thank God for that! But, did you ever find that you have a new heart but you live "old ways"? It's not just me who experiences that?

The thing is, as long as we're in this fallen world, our hearts are still vulnerable to being influenced by the world: the world around us, the world system, by our flesh, indwelling sin. It's not been removed and it won't be fully removed until we see Jesus and we're like Him.

And then we have the devil who works with his minions to get us to live the old way and not to live as new creatures with a new heart.

Now, if our heart has toxins in it, if it's not inclined toward the Lord and toward His ways, what comes out of our heart will reflect that. Jesus said in Mark chapter 7, "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness . . ." and add whatever else you want to that list! (see vv. 21–22) If your sin wasn't mentioned there, you can just add that in.

Where do those things come from? It's not, "The devil made me do it!" It's not, "My mother dropped me on my head when I was two, so I've had this proclivity toward . . . whatever kind of addiction, ever since." It's not ultimately my genes or my whatever.

What makes us sin is that our hearts are poisoned, our hearts are bent toward sinning. Apart from Christ giving us a new heart, we're bent to sin. Out of the heart of man, from within, come these things. If our heart is pure and it's filled with Christ and His Word and His ways, what comes out in our behavior, in our speech, in our actions, in our attitudes, all of this will reflect the purity of heart.

We tend to evaluate and judge one another by that which we can see, that which can observe, that which we can hear, but what we do and what we say—the things that are outwardly observable—those are the overflow of what's in our hearts.

Now, here's the problem: for some of us who are like twenty-first-century religious Pharisees, we can know what's right, and we can do what's right, and we can impress everyone around us who thinks that we are really righteous, but inside we're not right. We have an unrighteous heart. Man looks on the outward appearance.

You know, I've been a "good girl" since I was born. In my home you didn't have any choice, pretty much. You were going to behave. I was in church and doing good things, but God is the One who looks at my heart and knows why I'm doing what I'm doing.

He knows how I really feel about that woman I'm talking to, that I'm acting like I really care about her long story, but inside I'm thinking, When is she going to leave? (laughter) Now, I know you have never done that, so I hate to be so vulnerable, but I'm just telling you—my heart can be very wicked!

I can be saying the right things, knowing the right theology, doing a lot of the right things, doing a ton of ministry but still have a heart that's toxic—a heart that's bitter or resentful or selfish or proud. And here's the thing: God knows our hearts.

That's what Luke 16:15 says, God knows your hearts. He knows. And what God knows is what really matters. Because the heart is so important is why it's so important that our redeemed hearts be protected, guarded, kept for God.

But you and I will never ever get to the point where we don't need God's power to keep and protect and guard our hearts. If He let my heart go for one day, I'd be back acting like a pagan—at least from the inside.

I will never get to the point where I don't need God's power to keep, protect, and guard my heart.

God knows the heart, right? We need Him, we need His keeping power.

When I pray, "Lord, guard my heart," I'm asking God to give me a whole heart, and undivided heart, a heart that is totally devoted to Him. Not half a heart, not a divided heart. I'm praying what the Psalmist prayed in Psalm 86:11: "Unite my heart to fear your Name." That's part of what I'm praying.

I'm praying, "Lord, keep me from things that would distract my heart, that would take my focus away from You." Keep me from trivial pursuits, things that are not worthy of You." So I'm praying, "Lord, give me a whole heart."

I'm also praying, "Lord, guard my affections—what I love, what I value. I want to love You with my whole heart. I want to love what You love, so keep me from things that would steal my affections. Keep me from idols; keep me from lesser loves. Keep me from loving anything or anyone more than I love You." When I pray, "Lord, guard my heart," that's what I'm praying—"guard my affections."

I'm also praying, "Lord, would You guard my mind—guard my thoughts. Would You keep me from deception? From believing things that aren't true about You or about myself or about others? Would You help me to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ? (see 2 Cor. 10) Would You guard my mind?"

And then I'm praying, "Would You protect me from the evil one?" Jesus prayed this for His disciples and for us in John 17:15. He said, "Oh, God, keep them from the evil one." That's part of what we're praying when we pray, "Lord, guard our hearts." If Jesus prayed that for us, do you not think we should pray it for ourselves? "Keep us from the evil one. Keep us from his subtle schemes, the wiles of the devil. Keep us from his overt attacks, protect us. Keep us. Keep us from temptation. Keep us from sin." When I pray, "God, guard my heart," I'm praying,"Lord, keep me from sinning. I don't want to sin." But I'm prone at times to sin, so, "Guard my heart."

Psalm 19 talks about two kinds of sin that the Psalmist wanted to be protected from. He prayed for protection from "hidden faults," those things that maybe we can't even see in our own hearts, and he prayed to be kept from "presumptuous sins," from willful sin.

"Lord, keep me from every kind of sin. Keep me from worry, from anxiety, from fear, from pride, from selfishness." Put your sin in that list.

I'm praying, "Lord, keep my heart from loving this world system that is anti-God. Help me to love You, guard my heart!"

I'm praying, "Lord, keep my heart tender and pliable and responsive—tender and responsive to the Holy Spirit. Give me a touch-sensitive conscience, so that when I grieve Your Holy Spirit I know it and I deal with it right away. Guard my heart."

Psalm 121 tells us that the Lord is our keeper. He's our keeper. He guards our hearts. Philippians chapter 4 talks about the peace of God that will "guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus," if . . . instead of worrying about everything, you pray about everything. "Then the peace of God will guard". . . it will be like a fortress around your heart (see v. 7).

So if you want that heart to be guarded, then stop being anxious, stop worrying, and start praying about everything. And Scripture says the peace of God will put a fortress, a guard, around your heart. Paul says in 2 Timothy chapter 1 . . . There are two interesting verses here. 

First of all, Paul says in verse 12, "I know whom I've believed, and I'm convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me." So who guards our hearts? Who did Paul say he was convinced would guard his heart? God would!

But then, look at verse 14 of 2 Timothy 1: "By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you." So who's supposed to guard our hearts? We are, by the power of the Holy Spirit! So who's supposed to guard our hearts? God or us? Yes!

We're responsible for choices that affect the condition of our hearts.

We need Him to guard our hearts, and we have to make choices that help us guard our hearts. He guards, we must guard. We're responsible for choices that affect the condition of our hearts.

You see this in the case of King Solomon as well as many other Old Testament kings. Here's an obvious one: 1 Kings chapter 11. Listen to this. 

King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods." 

So God said, "Don't marry these foreign women. They will turn your hearts away." So what did Solomon do? The wisest man who ever lived did something really dumb! He married women God said not to marry. "Solomon clung to these in love." In fact, he really got carried away.

Verse 3,

He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. [This hardly seems possible.] And [what happened?] his wives turned away his heart. [Exactly what God said would happen.] For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Now, David's a man who sinned greatly at a season in his life—committed immorality, adultery, treason against the nation—but he was called a man after God's own heart because, when he was confronted with his sin, he repented. God cannot bless the foolish things we have done in our past, but I'll tell you what He can bless—a broken and a repentant heart.

So when we pray, "'Lord, guard my heart, help me to guard my heart. Help me not to make foolish choices that will put me in a place that will put me in a place where my heart may be turned away from You." Young people, this is why it's so important that while you're young you make choices to honor the Lord, to guard your heart so that you don't set habit patterns and pathways in your life that, when you're an old lady like me, you'll be looking back and saying, "Why did I not listen to counsel?" And all the older women are nodding vociferously here.

Years ago, I sent a letter to a sweet friend of mine when she turned thirteen. As she was entering her teenage years I felt prompted to challenge her about her heart. Let me read that letter to you. I pulled it up the other day:

My dear Robyn,

Happy thirteenth birthday! It's been such a joy to see you develop into a beautiful, sweet young woman. I wanted to give you a special gift for this birthday that would be an encouragement and a challenge throughout your teenage years.

I finally decided on this little piece of jewelry. You'll notice that Proverbs 4:23 is inscribed on the back. The first part of that verse says, "Above all else, guard your heart." In recent weeks I've been meditating on that little phrase. It says that guarding my heart is more important than anything else I do. "Above all else."

Let me paint a picture to help explain what I think it means to guard your heart. Think of your heart as a precious treasure, more valuable than the most expensive treasure in the world. Last week one famous document from the 1500s was sold for seventy-million dollars. The jewels that belong to the Queen of England are worth much more than that—over a billion dollars!

And yet your heart, as a thirteen-year-old girl, is worth more than the Queen's whole jewel collection! Now, I'm sure that you can imagine that the famous document, and the Queen's jewels, are not just left lying around for anybody to touch or play with. No way!

Those items are precious to their owners, and they go to great expense to protect them from being stolen or damaged. Day and night those valuable possessions are carefully guarded from thieves or vandals with a sophisticated, elaborate security system that includes locks and guards. They're watched all the time.

They're also protected from the weather and from decay by being kept in a place with just the right temperature and humidity. Robyn, your heart belongs to the Lord Jesus. It's precious to Him, and He's very concerned that it be protected. One day, when you get to heaven, you will want to give Him a heart that is not damaged in any way. In order to do so, you must guard your heart every day of your life.

Just as there are thieves that would like to get their hands on those valuable treasures, so there are thieves that would like to steal your heart. The main one, of course, is Satan, and he has lots of people that he uses as his helpers. It's essential that your heart be guarded against these intruders.

There are also "weather conditions" that can destroy your heart: things like bitterness, pride, selfishness, laziness, immorality. Your heart needs to be protected from all these as well.

So, how do you guard your heart? I like to think of building a great strong fortress around my heart. I think there are two ways we do this. First, it's important to keep the bad guys out. That means watching out for negative influences that could corrupt your heart.

Those influences could be people with wrong values or attitudes, or they could be books, magazines, movies, music, or television programs that don't promote holy, wholesome values, behaviors, and attitudes. Second, it's important to keep the right temperature and climate in the fortress that guards your heart. You do this by filling your heart each day with the Word and by prayer and meditation on His ways.

I'm thrilled, Robyn, that you've established a habit of starting each day by reading the Scripture. I pray that this will never become just a routine to you, but that you will see it as a way to get to know God personally, and to allow Him to keep your heart clean and fresh.

My prayer as you go through your teen years is that your heart will be kept pure and undamaged for the Lord Jesus, and that He will always be first in your heart. I hope that this piece of jewelry will be a constant reminder to, above all else, guard your heart.

Much love,
Nancy

Keep your heart. Guard it with all diligence—with all vigilance—because from it flow the springs of life!

I want to end each of these sessions with a prayer and ask that we would make this our prayer about that particular request. The request today is, "Guard my heart." So, let's bow our hearts before the Lord. I want to read first a prayer that I've written, and then a prayer in the form of a hymn, from Charles Wesley.

Pray with me if you would, Lord, help me to keep my heart, and would You guard my heart? Make and keep it pure. Protect me from the schemes and the attacks of the evil one. Guard my heart so that when I get to heaven I can present it whole to You, for You are worthy!

Here's how Charles Wesley said it:

O, for a heart to praise my God, a heart from sin set free;
A heart that always feels Thy blood so freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive, meek, my Great Redeemer's Throne,
Where only Christ is heard to speak . . . where Jesus reigns alone.

A humble, lowly, contrite heart, believing, true and clean,
Which neither life nor death can part from Christ who dwells within.

A heart in every thought renewed and full of love divine,
Perfect and right and pure and good, a copy Lord of Thine.

Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart. Come quickly from above!
Write Thy new name upon my heart, Thy new, best name of love!


("O for a Heart to Praise My God," Charles Wesley)

And we pray this, Lord, in the sweet Name of Jesus, amen.

Dannah: Lord, guard my heart. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth regularly prays that for herself, and she’s been telling us why that’s such an important prayer.

Nancy, the first of your ten petitions was so meaningful as we listened to you teach on that today. I can’t wait to hear the remaining nine as you walk us through them in the next couple weeks.

Nancy: Thank you, Dannah. Again, I want to say that my hope isn't that these will be just my petitions, but that these will become our personal petitions; that we'll begin praying these prayers—not only during this series, but beyond. In fact, we want you to remember these petitions and pray them over the coming months. So I'm excited to let you know that the 2020 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar is based around these themes. 

Dannah: Wow! It's that time of year again!

Nancy: It's that time! And in this series we have just ten personal petitions, but there are twelve months in the year. So we added two to the ten. We have twelve personal petitions for 2020 so that you can hang this wall calendar. It's beautiful. It's got beautiful photographs. There's the petition; there's a prayer that goes with it and a Scripture that goes with it to help you each day of each month of the year to be thinking about one of these petitions.

Dannah: It's always a joy every year; it's kind of like an event to get the Revive Our Hearts wall calendar in the mail. It's always so beautiful and rich with biblical ideas. I love that it now has these personal petitions. Imagine taking the whole month to pray, "Lord, guard my heart." What could God do with that prayer in the first month of the year?

Nancy: I just imagine people praying that prayer throughout the whole month not just in one home, but in thousands of homes, as together we are saying, "Lord, guard my heart. Or, give me wisdom. Or, fill me with Your Spirit." We're going to be focusing on those things, one of those requests, each month throughout 2020. What a joy that's going to be for us.

Dannah: It is. I'm so excited that I'm on your mailing list. But maybe someone is listening and they are not on the list to get this wonderful calendar. How would one go about that?

Nancy: We’d like to send you that calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts this month with a gift of any amount. You may have never given to this ministry before, but you've been blessed by it. It's encouraged you. Maybe you have given in the past, but when you make a donation this month, we'll send you a copy of that 2020 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar based on these twelve personal prayer petitions.

Dannah: You can make that gift by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com. Remember to ask for the wall calendar. It's our way of saying "thank you" for making a gift. You can also make that gift by calling 1–800–569–5959. 

Okay, think about this. “Love” is talked about all the time. But love is talked about a lot more than it’s lived. Do your actions show that God’s love is filling you? Nancy will explore that question next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you guard your heart. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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