Proverbs 4:23 clearly says that the reason we should guard our hearts is because everything flows out of it. This scripture is further explained by Jesus when He tells us that ‘from within , out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness’ – Mark 7:21
Hence, we see that we must guard our hearts so that filth does not to flow into it. Why is this? It is because whatever flows into our heart will ultimately flow out of our hearts. Once filth flows into our hearts, it becomes sin and leads to sinful actions.
Now, while it is clear that we should guard our hearts away from the filth of the world, what is at times unclear is how we actually go about this. Should we keep lock ourselves up so we do not get contaminated by filth or is there another way? Here is the answers: The way we go about guarding our heart away from the world is by keeping our minds filled with the word of God. Since the mind is the gateway to the heart, whatever we keep in our mind will ultimately make its way to our heart. If we keep out mind filled with the word, our hearts will reflect the word of God and so we develop a heart that is akin to that of God.
Moreover, our mind is either being influenced by the world or it is being influenced by the word. By filling our minds with the word of God, there is no room for the world in there; hence we have effectively guarded our hearts from the world and its influences. Put another way, by filling our heart with the word of life, we find that only life flows out of our hearts.
The alternative to guarding our heart with the word is trying to avoid the world. Doing life this way requires that we cease to be salt and light to a fallen world because everything in the world would cause us to backslide since there is no ‘word’ barrier. It is not the will of Jesus that we seclude ourselves away from the world. Jesus did not do seclude Himself but spent time with tax collectors and other marginalized people so that He could be salt and light to them. Furthermore, He said He does not want us to be taken out of the world but to be protected from evil (John 17:15). Why? It is because He wants us to influence the world by shining our light in the darkness – instead of hiding our light under a basket and away from the darkness.
So how does God protect us from evil that works through people? He does this through the Holy Spirit via the spiritual gift of discernment. Thus, it is the Holy Spirit that protects us from evil. This is why Jesus prays to God that He protect us from evil. He does not pray that we protect ourselves from evil through our own prejudiced and experienced based thinking. Hence, just as Jesus kept away from certain men because he discerned their hearts (John 2:24), we must keep away from evil company through spiritual discernment – not experiential or cultural discernment.
To conclude, guarding our heart with the word allows us to insulate ourselves away from the effects of the turmoil of the world and the actions of people, without alienating ourselves from people out of fear. Since guarding our heart Jesus style allows us to be salt and light to the world, we see the guarding our hearts has everything to do with love and has nothing to do with fear.