In the final installation in the Guardrail series, Andy talks about the heart, and the importance of guarding it. Of all the guardrails we place in our lives, be it in our marriage, friendships, finances, or academic, none of those compare to the ones we place around our heart.
Guardrails, as mentioned previously, are placed in our lives within the safety zone. They’re there to light up our conscience BEFORE it’s too late. They make us feel uneasy if we start edging toward a line.
They’re personal standards we hold ourselves to, but we have no right to impose those on others. They’re personal. So where I place mine, may not be where you place yours.
Importance of Guardrails
We NEED guardrails in our lives. These boundaries keep us safe, much as the guardrails on the road do for our car. We need them to help monitor our finances, keep us accountable in marriage and relationships, even as parents we need them when it comes to disciplining and how we handle the relationships with our children.
“Above all else, guard your heart”
These are the words spoken by Solomon, the author of the book of Proverbs. Ecclesiastes. Song of Solomon.
King Solomon, in fact, was considered to be the wisest person of ancient times. He wrote about relationships, money, marriage, work, the after life…
And in regards to guarding our heart, he says, do that above all else.
Why?Because everything you do flows from it.
All Things Originate in the Heart
Everything we do flows from the inside out. Our words, our actions, they all originate from within.
Think of it in these terms.
In order to be successful, we have to modify our behavior.
At work, there’s a certain way we have to dress. In certain environments, or around certain individuals, there are things you just don’t say, or topics you know you just don’t discuss. “We don’t use that kind of language here,” and “We don’t dress like that.”
Behavior modification. We pick up on it in various social settings.
And yet, despite all the above, on occasion, we do or say the dumbest things, and we think
Where did that come from? That’s not me. Why did I say that?
But if it’s not of us, or it’s not like us, where does it come from?
How To Guard Your Heart
Let me back up a step. and ask, What does it look like to guard your heart?
It’s sometimes a matter of conscience, but more than that, it’s heeding that small tug that tells you you’re about to overstep your own boundaries. It’s letting others know where you stand on certain issues and not putting yourself in a position that could cause trouble.
An example of this would be a married man being alone with a woman he’s not married to. A lot of Christian men find it difficult to adhere to their own boundaries in the workplace, but it’s best for everyone. This kind of boundary used to be commonly known as the Billy Graham rule, but many would be wise to practice it even today. Like a guardrail on the road, these kinds of boundaries are meant to keep us safe.
An Attempt to Trick Jesus
1000 years after Solomon writes about guarding our heart, Jesus is healing, teaching, and preaching, and as the story goes, he was always surrounded by a crowd. All kinds of people followed and flocked to him wherever he went.
Some out of curiosity, awe, and respect for his teachings, but others…
They wanted to isolate him. To arrest him.
But as long as there was a crowd, they could not.
But one day, a couple of them made their way to the front of the crowd, and asked Jesus, in an attempt to ensnare him,
“Why do your disciples not wash their hands before they eat?”
To us, we think, sure, ok, germs, but in ancient times, their reference was towards anyone doing sacred work before God. Those who did had to do a certain ceremonial washing, and of course some things were off limits, and considered unclean, like blood and dead things.
What it boiled down to was that the temple leaders had elevated this tradition to the level of law. And so, they were trying to trick Jesus.
But Jesus could not be tricked. As often happened, in answer, he asked a question, and this time he asked them, “Why are you breaking a command of God in order to celebrate a man made tradition?”
Appropriate Use of Guardrails
One of the ten commandments plainly states, Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. And they had found a way around it.
In essence, it would be like a father saying to his daughter, “Do not speak to your mom disrespectfully,” and in turn, the teen daughter saying, “Fine, then I won’t talk to her at all, so as to make sure I won’t speak to her disrespectfully.”
The point is made, but it’s overkill. The teen gets what she really wants and has found a way around the rule, just as the elders had come up with their own rules so they would get around doing what God had commanded.
For God said, “Honor your Father and your Mother” but then the elders- these religious leaders- knowing full well the commandment, had come up with a tradition to get around that. Although the command was “honor your father and mother” you could technically dedicate all your belongings to the temple, and when your parents came a calling, asking for assistance, well, there was nothing to give, they’d already dedicated it.
It was a rule they came up with that allowed them to forego being generous,- no giving while I’m living- I’ve already given everything to the temple-
So the parents would come to them, and the children would say to them, I’d love to help you out, but I can’t give you anything, because I’ve already given it to God.
They were nullifying the command- and getting around obeying the will of God.
And Jesus was saying, “You hypocrites!”
Made the religious leaders look crazy. They’re angry, they leave, but-
It’s not the end of the story. Or lesson.
What Defiles a Man
Jesus then turns to the crowd and says, “Now listen to me, I want to make this clear. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them.”
What defiles you- it’s not what you put in your mouth. It’s what comes out.
You see, the ancient law of Moses, it was all about staying clean.
And Jesus was a law abiding Jew- but He came to introduce something better.
Something new was coming.
It was a shift.
Jesus said, What comes OUT of your MOUTH defiles you.
What’s already in there that comes out, THAT defiles you.
Your WORDS. They effect people.
And they were stunned.
God is more bothered by how my words and actions impact people.
By what I say.
He’s more concerned by what I say, than what I eat. And he’s more concerned about my heart, than with anything I have.
This is where Peter says to Jesus, can you clarify? And Jesus says, Don’t you see? Whatever goes into the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body. To which the disciples are like, ok, we’re following, go on.
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart. They come from inside the person. And that’s what defiles them.
What defiles a person… is how their words effect the people that God loves.
For out of the heart … comes evil thoughts.
Murder. Sexual immorality. Slander. False testimony.
All these things defile a person.
When you hurt others, it hurts God.
Your behaviors impact other people.
Mistreating other people puts us at odds with God. You can’t mistreat one of God’s children and still be on His good side.
Importance of Guarding Our Heart
Our behavior will eventually mirror our hearts and our hearts will mirror our behavior.
Have you ever known someone that
- Alienated their children by how they behaved?
- Burned down their marriage with their tongue?
- Offended someone so horribly, you can’t even use the words they used without blushing?
We have some work to do.
If we don’t deal with what’s on the inside, it’ll eventually make its way to the outside.
And it’s offensive to God.
When you love someone, you don’t want them to hurt themselves or be hurt by others. Same goes for God, because He loves you, and He also loves the person beside you.
Address the Mess That Is Your Heart
Internal tensions. They demand our attention.
The Big Four:
Guilt. Anger. Greed. Jealousy.
We have all felt these. Experienced these. Perhaps acted on them. If you’re like me, and you’re harboring any of the above, then you have some work to do. I know I do.
Our tendency is to wait until after we say something. AFTER. But why wait? God wants our hearts now. He wants better for us and for those around us.
Guilt says, I owe you.
I owe you an apology.
I took something from you. If we run from that conviction, it’s dishonest and wrong.
Dishonesty is secret keeping. And secret keeping, it’s creating distance.
What’s wrong? Nothing.
What’s wrong? Nothing.
What’s wrong? Not-
Guilt seeps into our words. And it will eat at you.
Guard your heart from guilt. Seek forgiveness.
Anger says. You owe me.
You either pay me back or I’ll pay you back.
Anger leaks. It’s mobile.
It leaks into our other relationships. It is never isolated.
You were hurt in that last relationship. You were hurt at that last job.
And that anger… it will eat you up inside, it stays with you wherever you go.
You owe me. And until you pay me back, I’m going to hold this over you…and everyone else. Long after you’re out of my life. I’m going to hold other people hostage.
Anger goes hand in hand with hatred when left unchecked and hatred can best be described as drinking poison. It’s drinking poison and hoping the other person will get sick.
It’s toxic and deadly, and not just to the one holding onto it. As I mentioned above, it’s mobile.
If you’re battling anger, surrender it to God. Seek forgiveness. And if need be, seek help.
Greed. Assumption that it’s all for my consumption. I owe me.
I know you’re in need, and my heart goes out to you, but my money…. does not.
As long as I “feel sorry” for –
It’s a feeling of
I owe me.
You get to feeling like, “I just can’t do that.” And greed becomes a filter.
People closest to us can feel like they’re competing with our stuff.
You can look, but don’t touch.
Do your children feel like they’re competing with your stuff for your attention? That needs a guardrail.
When you’re gone, they’re gonna SALE it! They don’t’ care.
And you shouldn’t care that much either.
Jealousy. Life owes me.
He got what I deserve. She got what I deserve.
When I find myself secretly celebrating someone else’s loss….. or failure…
You see the above?
When you notice it. Or someone else notices it. Address it.
Don’t say, I can’t admit it, I’m embarrassed about it.
If you’re not a Christian, you didn’t sign on to what Jesus says, you’re not a Jesus follower.
But if you are a Christian, this will make your life better and make you better at life.
It makes your life better.
It makes you a better wife….friend… employee….
Makes you a better person.
Follow me (says Jesus).
You’ll experience peace. Freedom.
And if you’re a Christian?
Do it. Whether or not you want to.
When You Are Not Enough
So how do we conquer those big four?
Guilt, Greed, Jealousy, and Anger. Is prayer enough?
God already knows. Don’t confess to Him.
Confess to someone in your life. Confess to the people that you hurt or stole from.
To be honest, it may in fact damage your marriage. Your relationships. May.
And hopefully that’s temporary.
Secrets suck. They suck the life and passion out of you and your relationship.
God loves you. Confess.
Swallow your pride. Your pride is what kept you from confessing in the first place.
If you think you’re not ready to confess it to the person you hurt… confess it to someone else close to you. Because you need to get it out.
Eventually, you will confess it to the person. But the longer you wait, the more damage it’ll do.
Forgiveness. Deciding to let it go.
What did they take from you? You have to identify what was taken, and still say, cancel the debt. Let them off. It’s not hurting them, it’s hurting you.
Do not let it follow you into your next relationship, your next marriage.
Decide, you don’t owe me. And forgive them.
Importance of an Attitude of Gratitude
Count Your Blessings, Not Your Problems or Deficits
Greed? Give. While it may seem counter-intuitive when you’re struggling with coveting and wanting more, give. Write some big to you checks. May not be “big” but it’s big to you.
Greed doesn’t control you. Write to the church. A non profit. Find something precious, an object, an x box, some thing, not a someone. And that object?You sale it. Then give the money.
These objects will not control me. I’m not about stuff. When an “it” or a “thing” becomes the priority over people, you have a greed problem.
It’s not even yours!
Christians don’t trust in riches. He provides. God provides.
Jealousy. Life owes you? Admit it. You think… God owes you.
It’s not between you and your sister in law, or your brother, or roommate, it has nothing to do with them!
You think God owes you and God didn’t give you.
We receive what comes our way from His hands.
Life happens. Stuff happens.
Think of someone that has had a rough time, just, they got the short end of the stick, they got a bad hand, keep getting a bad hand….and instead of becoming bitter, they’re becoming better. We all know someone like that.
Instead of comparing their bad fortune to our good fortune, they just offer it to God.
And admit it, you have the most respect for them. You do.
They don’t compare. They just receive life from God.
More Tips on Guarding Your Heart
Celebrate. Begin to celebrate what God has given you. And what God has given others.
Celebrate out loud!
“Dear (Frank), congratulations on the promotion.”
GENUINE. Be genuine!
Congratulate. Be genuinely happy.
You don’t feel it? Don’t have to. Behave your way past them.
BEHAVE YOUR WAY past these stumbling blocks.
Confess. Forgive. Make all those things that were taken from you. Make a list. Decide.
Greed? Be almost unhealthily generous.
Cheerful giver. Give until you’re cheerful. God opens your hands and your heart. You’ll have more peace without it. More peace without it than when it’s with you.
Jealousy? Don’t allow it. Celebrate their success.
Tell jealousy he is not your master.
And your kids?
Set your kids up for success.
Early on, pay attention to what’s going on in the inside.
Behavior modification. We do this a lot for kids. Identify what’s going on in the heart.
Do you feel guilty?
Did anyone break a promise?
How’s your heart?
Give voice to it.
Is everything ok? I’m not mad at anyone. No one broke a promise.
Is everything ok in your heart?
These imaginary conversations? Between you and him or you and her. If you’re having them… something is churning in your heart. Are you clinging to anything.?You know you have hurt some people’s feelings.
Did you celebrate someone else’s failure?
If so, that’s dangerous.
If it’s in your heart, it’s going to come out of there… and it’ll defile you.
Don’t let it.
God loves you. And He loves those you love.
Above all else, guard your heart.
For everything else, flows from it.
**This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you click one, I may receive a small compensation at no cost to you.**
***(Guardrails is a series from North Point Ministries and its pastor, Andy Stanley. The following is a summary of the original message, in my own words, injected with opinion and paraphrasing. The original message in its entirety can be seen here at: http://woodstockcity.org/messages/guardrails-2017/ )***
**** It can also be purchased here****