Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Guard Your Heart

Leslie Basham: What’s in your heart today? Nancy Leigh DeMoss says it’s going to come out.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Everything else about your life flows out of what’s in your heart—what you say, what you do, how you think, how you react, your emotions, your choices—your whole future life springs out of what’s in your heart.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, June 15.

Over the last couple of days, Nancy’s been telling us some principles she learned from her dad. Here’s a review:

First, take God seriously. Second, start your day with God. Third, trust and obey. And finally, little things matter. You can hear any of the points that you missed at ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ll hear more of these principles today as Nancy continues in a series called, Instruction of a Father.

Nancy: I want to share with you today something—which actually I learned not only from my father, but also at a seminar I attended when I was a young teenager—that is one basic, foundational principle in life and has made a world of difference to me.

I’m talking about a number of principles that I learned from my dad in this series, The Instruction of a Father. These principles have been so helpful to me as I’ve become an adult, and now as I’m walking with the Lord and serving Him. These principles have laid a foundation for my life and have been enormously helpful.

I want to pick up a fifth principle today that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it has helped me so much in relationships and in dealing with circumstances of life. Here’s how I would state that principle: You are responsible for your own behavior.

I can remember first hearing this principle consciously—I’m sure my dad had been teaching us this as we were growing up—when I was a young teenager. I attended a seminar, and at that point in my life, I needed to hear this: I’m not responsible for the actions of others. I’m responsible merely for my own reactions and my responses to others.

Now, the implication of that is that no one can make me sin. We feel like, “I reacted that way; I lost my temper; I got rough in my spirit; I got bitter, or whatever—I had this negative reaction because my mother treated me this way, my dad treated me this way, my mate treated me this way, my child did this to me, this thing happened at our house, or this circumstance happened in my life. That’s why I reacted this way.”

Now, circumstances certainly have bearing on our reactions, but the liberating principle for me—one that my dad emphasized a lot as I got into my teenage years—was, “You will never give account to God for what someone else does to you.”

You’re not responsible for what they do. You are responsible for how you react to them. I just want to tell you, really practically, one situation where this became an important principle.

As a teenager, I will tell you honestly that my mother and I used to tangle. Now that I’m a grown woman and I have lots of friends who are mothers and have children, I see things a whole lot differently than I did then. I make a whole lot more allowances and have a whole lot more understanding of what it was like for my mother, parenting at the time six teenagers, of whom I was the eldest. I see things very differently now.

But at the time, there were aspects of my mother’s style of parenting that I really resisted and resented. I would react at times to things that she did or said that I felt were not reasonable, didn’t make sense, or that I just didn’t agree with.

Now, I had been raised in the fear of the Lord enough that I couldn’t really mouth off. I couldn’t outwardly rebel, but in my spirit and sometimes in my words, I made it clear that I did not agree with her.

My father was so wise to make two points to me. First of all, you must honor your mother. Period. You don’t have a choice. In this household, you will honor your mother. How I thank the Lord for that. I have grown to honor both my parents a lot because my dad insisted upon that.

His second teaching was, you are not responsible for what she does. You see, the issue wasn’t—in his mind, as he was dealing with me—“Is she right or is she wrong?” For his purposes of dealing with me, it didn’t really matter. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was, “You are not accountable for what she does. You’ll never have to give account for that to God. You are responsible for your attitude and for how you respond to what she does.”

That was such a liberating thing for me. I only wish I had gotten it faster and sooner and easier, but the Lord has a way of putting us into circumstances of life that will teach us these lessons. I’ve come to see how important this principle is because you can go through your whole life and there will always be people and circumstances that we don’t agree with.

I want to be clear in what I just said. I am not faulting my mother for the way that she was raising me. I’m faulting myself. I’m saying I was reacting sinfully and wrongly to my mother, and God had to deal with me about that.

God has to deal with her, with my dad, and with anybody else in your life about their issues. They’re not my responsibility. My responsibility is to respond under the control of God’s Spirit. That’s what I will give account to God for.

So I’ve learned that I’m responsible for my own behavior. I can’t blame; I can’t justify. For so many people today, their mindset is, “I am the way I am because someone did this to me; someone treated me this way.”

Ladies, we need to grow up and learn that we do not have to live in bondage to how other people have treated us. Some of you had lousy parents, ungodly parents, cruel parents, absentee parents. I’m not saying that hasn’t affected you, but I’m saying, as a woman today, you can make choices to get past that.

You don’t have to be crippled for life because of the hand that got dealt you in life. You had no choice over your parents, or perhaps the way that your mate has treated you, or perhaps things that your children have done.

What you do have a choice about is how you respond to those circumstances. You are responsible before God. I’m responsible before God for how I respond and react to those circumstances.

Now let me just bring up here another principle, and that is the importance of listening to godly counsel. My dad used to challenge us not only to listen to counsel, to advice, but to ask for it, to solicit it.

Over and over again, Proverbs says, “The wise person heeds counsel. The wise person listens to counsel. The wise person listens to instruction.” So the challenge here is always to be a learner. Have a teachable spirit. Be willing to listen—to have humility when you listen.

Listen to some of these verses from Proverbs: “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (1:33).

Proverbs 7: “Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth” (v. 24).

Proverbs 8: “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways. . . . Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates” (vv. 32-34).

Proverbs 13:1: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

Proverbs 19: “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (v. 20).

So lest you think that I’m lecturing you younger women, I’m just following in the way of the book of Proverbs. I’m saying to young people, “Listen to counsel, and if you do, you will be blessed in your latter days.”

Proverbs 23: “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (v. 22). Have a receptive heart, a teachable heart, and a humble spirit. Always be a learner.

Listen to your parents. Your parents may not even know the Lord, but God has given them the ability to give you wise counsel. Listen for it. Ask for it. Solicit it.

Ask for counsel from your parents, your teachers, pastors, godly counselors, wise people. Look for wise people. Ask them to teach you. I’ve been so thankful for the people God has brought into my life, in every season of my life, to help me be more effective in what I do.

Sometimes that counsel has been hard to receive. Sometimes it’s been hard to follow, but I’ve said, “Lord give me a humble heart, a teachable spirit. Make me a learner. Help me to listen to counsel. Help me to listen to reproof, to listen to correction.”

It will save your life, and you hear this in Proverbs over and over again: “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (10:17 ESV).

“Poverty and disgrace,” Proverbs 13 says, “come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored” (v. 18 ESV).

Proverbs 15: “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent” (v. 5 ESV). Over and over again, the Proverbs tell us that we should have listening ears, wise hearts, and that we should receive instruction and reproof.

Let me encourage you to listen to instruction and reproof from your critics. Some of your critics will be constructive and really want to help you. Some of your critics don’t have a good motive at all. They just want to tear you down. But if you will have a teachable spirit and a learner’s heart—a humble spirit—you can learn a lot from your critics. Say, “Lord, what is the seed of truth in this that you want me to receive?”

Have a humble heart. I don’t care how old you are; I don’t care how young you are—and especially if you’re young—listen to counsel. Listen to instruction. Listen to criticism. Don’t reject it. The wise person listens.

All through your life, be asking for counsel. I will tell you honestly, women, I hardly make a decision in my life, about big or little things, that I don’t ask someone. It may be a peer, someone I’m accountable to, or a pastor, or a mature Christian friend, “Could I have some counsel on this? What do you think?”

Now, that’s not because I’m stupid or I am hesitant to make decisions. I just know that a wise person seeks and listens to counsel. Do you want to be wise? Walk with wise people, ask them for counsel and input, and God will bless you—not only now, but down the road.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of today’s program. She’s been talking about getting input from others, and we’re taking a break to get some input from a listener. Hi, Mary!

Mary: Hi, and thank you for having me.

Leslie: Good to have you. What stood out to you about today?

Mary: Well, listening to Nancy’s transparency about her own dad caused me to go back and think about some of those things my father’s taught me over the years. I got a chance to be thankful for him all over again.

Leslie: What are some of the things your dad taught you?

Mary: Well, my dad’s kind of an idea guy. He’s very creative, and he taught his kids that there is nothing we can’t do—that most ideas are attainable if we’re willing to just put the care and the effort behind learning how to do it. If it’s a learning process, then we can do it, and the effort we put into it will go a long way to make up for what we might lack in inborn talent.

Leslie: That’s great, Mary. We want the rest of our listeners to respond to that same question. Let us know what you’ve learned from your dad by adding it to the Revive Our Hearts listener blog. You’ll find it at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you can order Nancy’s teaching on CD. Now, let’s get back to Nancy.

Nancy: We’ve been talking about specific teachings of my dad that have become foundational for my life. Another one that was, again, just woven through our upbringing, I can say in three words: Guard your heart.

Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (NIV). Another translation quotes that verse this way: “Keep your heart with all diligence,” you’ve got to work at this; you’ve got to be intentional about this “for out of it” that is, out of your heart “spring the issues of life” (NKJV).

Everything else about your life flows out of what’s in your heart—what you say, what you do, how you think, how you react, your emotions, your choices. Your whole future life springs out of what’s in your heart.

We sin, not because of our environment, not because of our upbringing, but because of what’s in our heart. So that’s why Jesus said, “If you want to change your behavior, you’ve got to have a new heart.” You’ve got to deal with your heart. Even once you become a child of God, you have to consistently, consciously, conscientiously work at guarding your heart.

Our heart is the first thing to go. That’s how come our hearts can get hard and cold when at one time they were tender, warm, and responsive to God: because we didn’t guard our hearts.

In Luke chapter 8 is the parable Jesus told about this sower who went out to sow seed. There were four different kinds of soil, and each different kind of soil, representing four different conditions of our heart, had a different result.

It talks about some soil that was thorny soil. That seed fell among the thorns and didn’t take root, so it never could produce fruit. And when Jesus explained in Luke 8, verse 14, what He was talking about, what that thorny soil meant, here’s what He said: “As for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear” they hear the Word of God “but as they go on their way” they’re just going through the course of ordinary, everyday life “they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (ESV).

Their roots never go down deep, so they never produce a harvest. What are the things that will choke out the Word of God, that will keep my heart constricted? The things I need to guard my heart against: It’s the cares and riches and pleasures of life.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those three things, but they’re all things that can be dangerous to your heart. I’m so thankful that as we were growing up, my dad was constantly warning us, cautioning us, about how the cares of this world—just things, stuff, distractions, riches, prosperity, and pleasure—how those things are normally not a friend of grace in our lives, how they can steal our affection from the Lord.

They can make our heart grow cold or hard, and that’s why he would remind us to be careful about the input we allowed into our hearts, about the books we read, about the entertainment choices.

He cautioned us to avoid negative input and influences that could steal our hearts. Guard you heart. Be intentional about feeding things into your mind that meet the qualifications of Philippians chapter 4, verse 8. Do you remember that verse? “Whatever things are pure and good and true, if there’s any virtue, let your mind think on these things” (paraphrased).

God’s Word says—and I can hear my dad reading this passage in Deuteronomy 8—“If you don’t guard your heart, then when you become prosperous, successful, you’ll forget the Lord” (vv. 11-14, paraphrased). Your heart will be lifted up; you will stray away from Him, so guard your heart.

Now, as it relates to guarding the heart, let me bring up another principle here that my dad emphasized a lot, and that is that marriage is for keeps, so don’t settle for less than God’s best.

He challenged us to guard our hearts when it came to dating, relationships, courtship, and marriage. He believed so strongly, as the Scripture does, and emphasized the permanence of marriage.

Marriage is for keeps, so be careful whom you marry. His way of cautioning us about that was to say, “If you want to be careful about whom you marry, be careful about whom you date.”

Now, apparently, that’s not true in many Christian families today. I will just say to you, whether you’re pre-marriage, single, or considering marriage—or if you’re a mother raising daughters and sons—do not, do not, do not, do not, do not ever date or marry someone who does not share your faith in Jesus Christ!

And can I say, as a single woman, not only is it important that whoever you date or marry be a believer, but it’s important that they have a strong, fervent heart for God; that they have godly character and biblical convictions; and that you have counsel.

This is where we come back to listening to the counsel of those who know best. As my dad would remind us, once you have fallen in love, you fall out of your mind. You don’t think straight, and no matter how spiritual you may be, no matter how well-intentioned you may be, you’re not thinking straight when your emotions get involved.

That’s why it’s so important to develop a habit of listening to godly counsel. You can get what you want. You can get a mate, but if you don’t wait for God’s choice and for a choice that those in the body of Christ are affirming as being God’s choice for your life, you are making a serious mistake.

Marriage is for keeps, so don’t settle for less than God’s best. I just have to read you an email I got from a young professional woman who was talking with me about the fact that she had been dating a guy that her parents did not approve of.

He was a believer, and she just felt her parents didn’t really know in this case, so she went ahead and dated him. In time, she came to see the light and to believe this was really not the right one for her. So she broke off the relationship, and she was now writing to tell me about the heartache that was transpiring in that relationship because she had made the foolish choice to be dating someone that wasn’t right for her. She said,

Even though I didn’t have my parents’ support, or that of my friends, I continued to date _______, [and she names him.] Now, in the aftermath of the breakup, I have seen the things that people tried to tell me that I never knew existed—although others did, like my family and my friends.

I see his true colors now, and I’m happy to be out of the relationship, but it still hurts. I do see that I brought a great deal of this misery on myself by disobeying my parents.

Now, this is a grown woman, and she could have made the argument, “I’m not under my parents’ authority.” But it’s foolish to ever get out from under your parents’ counsel, especially on something as major as whom you’re going to marry.

She says,

I did that. I rejected my parents’ counsel willfully. I knew that God wanted me to honor my parents and not go out with this young man, and so I feel like for much of this, I have only myself to blame. These are the consequences.

Now, the one happy thing is that she didn’t marry the guy that her parents really believed was not right for her—and she has now come to believe wasn’t right for her.

Could I say to those of you who are younger women, guard your heart. Guard your emotions. Don’t give your affections prematurely to any man until you know—and those around you have confirmed—that this is God’s choice for a permanent lifetime partner.

And then, make sure that you have not ignored obvious cautions.  If he doesn’t have godly, biblical character when you’re dating, he’s not likely to have it later.

Now, that doesn’t mean that he has to be ready-made and glorified and perfectly sanctified. He’s not, and you’re not. God will develop and shape him as you go on in your married life, but don’t overlook obvious caution signs, yellow lights—much less red lights.

You run the red light, you run the caution light, you may well end up in a head-on collision, something you’ll pay dearly for the rest of your life, and it just isn’t worth it.

That’s godly counsel. It came from my dad. It came from the Word of God, and I’m sharing it with you today with the hope and prayer that you will heed it.

**Nancy: O Father, I think of how many single listeners we have—how many write and say that they want to be married, or some who have been previously married and they want to be married again. I think of how many have written to say that they’ve been through two or three or four marriages and are now looking for another one that will be the right one.

O Lord, I hear the heartache, the tears, and the frustration of women who have made unwise choices. They haven’t guarded their hearts. They’ve given their affections away, and now they’re living with lifelong circumstances and consequences that are painful.

So, Lord, I would just ask that even through these words that I’ve shared that You would spare some younger women who are still on the front side of those decisions, so that they would guard their hearts, that they would listen to counsel. I ask that You would bless them with godly, wholesome, healthy marriages that will reflect Your glory and will bring them great joy and satisfaction—and bring You satisfaction for all of eternity. I **pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss is part of the series, Instructions of a Father. She’s been sharing several principles her dad passed on to her.

If you’ve missed any of the series, you’ll benefit from visiting our website to catch the other points she’s made this week. You can order the CD, or listen to audio, or read the transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com.

People are interacting with these messages in all stages and seasons of life. Now Nancy’s called to speak to women, and we tailor the program for women, but we’re aware that men get a lot out of the Bible teaching as well. Nancy received an email to remind us of this.

Nancy: The email was from a man in Pennsylvania, who said:

I just wanted you to know that I am a police officer. When I work the late night shift, I listen to Miss Demoss on the police car radio in between calls. Although I know that she works with women, she is a blessing to me.

And I’m so thankful for listeners who support this ministry, allowing us to be on the air:

  • for homeschooling moms first thing in the morning
  • for singles on their commute
  • to police officers, filling their minds with God’s Word in the middle of the night
  • and for many, many others who are in all seasons of life

Your financial gift at this time would you help us reach into more places with biblical truth? When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount this week, we want to say thank you by sending you a copy of a book by my brother called, The Little Red Book of Wisdom

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Mark DeMoss leans on wisdom from the God's Word, along with lessons learned from our dad, and his own experience as a business owner. He packs a lot of powerful material into this slim volume. It’s easy to read, easy to understand, and very practical to apply.

While women will get a lot out of the book, I think men will especially resonate with Mark’s writing, and this will make a perfect gift for your dad, your husband, your son or son-in-law.

We’ll send you The Little Red Book of Wisdom when you contribute any amount this week to Revive Our Hearts. Just assk for the book when you call 1-800-569-5959, or support the ministry at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Nancy’s dad shared with her some important things about investing time wisely. She’ll pass the wisdom on to you on tomorrow’s program.  Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.