Keep Your Heart

The heart is the heart of the matter.

What use is it for the passions to be assailed by a servant, when they are found to be in league with the master?

  - Columbanus, Sermon II, Irish, 7th century[1]

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

  - Proverbs 4.23

It’s always the passions that get us in trouble.

We get angry because of this, that, or the other, and those closest to us pay. We brood in a melancholy funk for no particular reason, and drag others down with us. We allow fear to overwhelm us, and we fail the people in our Personal Mission Field by withholding the grace and truth we owe them.

The devil – who is the Lord’s servant – knows full well that we are vulnerable in our hearts. He will “assail” our passions like a man working a bellows, seeking to heighten and intensify our emotions until they’re completely out of control.

Which is all the more reason why we need to take Solomon’s advice very seriously, and keep our hearts firmly lodged in righteousness, peace, and joy of Jesus. For what good will it do for the devil to try to fire-up and hijack our passions, causing us to sin, if our passions are consciously and continuously in league with the Master?

Making sure that our hearts are in sync with the heart of Christ is full time work. From our hearts spring the issues of life, but we need to make sure that what springs from that fount of affections is appropriate to the moment and intended for love.

The Bible speaks much of our affections – those feelings, desires, hopes, and aspirations that guide us day by day. Jonathan Edwards explained that some affections incline us toward someone or something – love, compassion, longing, interest, friendship, and so forth. Other affections make us want to turn away from someone or something – fear, distrust, anger, hatred. All affections are valid, but only as they are properly focused and invested with the right intensity.

For example, we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. For most of us, this will mean continuous work getting the intensity of our love for God to the proper level. Loving God any less than this means we’re keeping in reserve some love for something else.

At the same time, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves; but if we love ourselves too much, or in inappropriate ways, we’ll likely fail in this second great commandment. If we love others as Jesus loves us, then we will consistently deny ourselves and seek the wellbeing of those around us.

Similarly, we might think that hate has no place in the human heart. But we are commanded to hate sin (Ps. 97.10), and if you don’t hate the devil, he will make you his slave before you know it.

The heart is the heart of the matter in the life of faith. It is important to understand the various affections that harbor there, and to know how to order and express them so that love for God and neighbor are the defining condition of our lives.

Keep watch over your heart with all diligence, because everything else in life flows from that fount. Don’t let your passions get the best of you, but keep your heart linked to the heart of Jesus. What you say, how you say it, how you treat other people, how faithful you are in following the Lord – all this comes from the heart, the affections, the passions. Understand the affections, and how God intends to use them. And keep watch against those affections that might become the fly in the ointment of your walk with and work for the Lord.

We are all vulnerable to the attacks of the devil at precisely the point where our affections are not carefully guarded. Guard yours at all times, by resting them at the feet of the risen and glorious Master. He’ll train your affections to love, and send the devil packing.

For Reflection
1. How might you be able to tell when your affections (passions) are getting the best of you?

2. What’s involved in keeping our affections lodged in Jesus?

Psalm 4.1, 4, 5 (Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent)
Answer when I call, Lord Jesus, God of all my righteousness!
Bend Your holy ear, relieve us from all terror, all distress!
Lord, receive our prayer, release us; send Your grace to save and bless!

Let your anger flare, yet sin not; meditate, be still, and rest.
Turn your heart to God, give in, not trusting in your righteousness.
Praise the Savior, all from sin bought; look to Him to save and bless.

Lord, help me to watch over my heart. Do not let my passions get away from me, but help me to…

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T. M. Moore
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Walker, p. 71. 

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore