Week 4 – My Heart
We’re in week #3 of a series called fences. We typically put fences around things that are important or valuable to us. Fences serve an important purpose in our lives. They are for our benefit. FENCES are often used to keep BAD things OUT and GOOD things IN. And even if you don’t have a literal fence around the place where you live, you do have a boundary that is like a fence. Walls and doors serve the same purpose, don’t they?
Fences provide BOUNDARIES that are designed to PROTECT us and keep us safe.
In the first two weeks of this series, we talked about two specific fences that God has erected, then last week we talked about a fence that we are responsible to put in place. If you missed any of those messages you can check them out at gotothepoint.com, or on The Point app. Today, as we conclude this series, I want to take this idea another step forward as we consider the importance of building a fence around our heart.
For a fence to matter, it must be respected. For instance, if I see a fence and I decide to climb over it, that fence really has no significance. For a fence to matter, it must be respected. Have you ever considered the fact that even God RESPECTS our personal fences.
God could intervene whenever He sees we are about to go off the rails spiritually.
He could step in if He sees we are about to make a bad choice. But He doesn’t. He has given us the freedom to choose and He will not violate that boundary. To say it another way, He respects our fences.
He allows us to make our own decisions. He respects our boundaries. If we want to leave God outside the fence in our lives, He will respect our decision. He will never force Himself upon us. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t desire a relationship with us. God has a desire for us, but He has given us the freedom to choose a different path.
Second Peter 3:9 tells us what His will is. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
God’s wants to have a relationship with us. Even though it hurts Him deeply, He has given us the freedom to turn our back and walk away from Him if that is our desire. That is what so many have done. They spend a lifetime rejecting God, then He grants their desire to be left alone for all eternity and people ask, how can a loving God send someone to hell? He respects our right to reject Him. He allows us to say no and go our own way. He will not violate our desire to be left alone.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the story of the rich young ruler, or the story of Joshua and his people, God gave the people a choice. Then He allowed them to make up their own mind. And when people said no to Him, God allowed it. But He kept on loving them and the door back to a relationship with Him always remained open. Nobody can deny the fact that God respects our boundaries.
Fences provide necessary BOUNDARIES in our lives. Some fences are placed by God, some are built by others, and some are left up to us to build. One of the most critical places where fences are needed is in the area of relationships.
We began talking about this last week, but today I want to dive a little deeper and then consider some specific fences that are up to us to build and preserve. One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself, is establish strong fences that represent firm emotional boundaries. An emotional boundary is a fence that is designed to protect you from a person who is unsafe for you to be around physically or emotionally.
An emotionally unsafe person may be someone who is overly critical and judgmental toward you, someone who creates emotional tension, or someone who triggers emotional pain or stress in your life. Erecting an emotional fence might include things like lowering your expectations in certain relationships.
For instance, if someone has been abusive, manipulative, or controlling, it is probably wise to expect them to be how they have “always been” and do what they’ve “always done”. That is not being pessimistic, that is just being real. You can hope for change and pray for change, but in the end, their past behavior will be the greatest predictor of their future behavior.
When you expect them to be who they are, there is no reason to be surprised by their behavior and it will help you be better prepared to respond appropriately. Their behavior will still hurt, but if you have predicted and prepared for the struggle ahead of time, it is likely to have a less significant impact on you personally. God can still change them. Miracles do happen. We believe in that potential.
But until then, for your own emotional health, it is wise to adjust your expectations based on your past experiences with this person. This is difficult to admit, but based on their freedom and their choices, your relationship may never become what you hope or desire for it to be. I believe there is a process of grieving in a relationship like this. It will be painful, but their freedom, their boundaries, and their choices must be respected, whether you like them or agree with them personally.
This brings us face to face with the fact that because of personal choices, some people are incapable of having a healthy relationship with you or anyone else for that matter. They may have made some personal choices that will prevent you from ever having a healthy relationship with them. Because of their decisions, you may be forced to erect an emotional fence.
Emotional fences are a matter of the HEART.
And, as we said last week, the Bible has a lot to say about the heart. The heart we read about in the Bible is typically not the blood pumping muscle in your chest. The heart we read about in scripture is that invisible part of us that enables us to live, laugh, love, and experience life. The heart is the sphere where relationships are made and broken.
That is why it is so important that your heart is protected.
King Solomon, the wisest human being to ever live, had this to say about the heart…“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” – Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) As we said last week, we should always pay attention to any “above all else” statements in the Bible. Above all else, guard your heart.
The heart dictates so much about our lives and how we live. Different translations of this verse talk about diligence and vigilance when it comes to the important task of guarding our heart. Protecting our heart is a responsibility that cannot be delegated to someone else. It is up to you and me to protect our hearts.
So, how do you guard your heart? A great place to start is with the Psalmist who prayed…“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalms 139:23-24 (NIV) As we think about the potentially toxic, unhealthy, or dysfunctional relationships in our lives, are we willing to ask the Lord to turn on the search light of our soul?
Would you be willing to crawl up on the examination table and allow the Holy Spirit to shine the penetrating light of His truth into the darkest corners of your heart? Your invisible heart is so important. It is worth whatever time or energy you might invest in understanding, protecting, and improving the condition of your heart. There is great potential for growth as we expose ourselves to the light of His Word and allow His Spirit to speak to us about those things that might have gotten lodged deep within our hearts.
Let’s just face it. Life can be HARD on your heart. In addition to relationships, there are lots of outside influences that can also affect the rhythm of your heart. So many unhealthy things can find a way to creep into our heart. Whenever we fail to guard our heart, when it is left unattended or unprotected, our heart can be hardened by the things that are allowed to reside there.
Our heart’s sensitivity is easily eroded, and our heart gets out of synch with the rhythm it was created to maintain. Part of the problem is…most of us were never taught how to guard our heart. The idea of putting a fence around your heart to protect it seems counter-intuitive and it is hard to do.
Guarding my heart requires that I ADMIT that I am the GATEKEEPER of my heart.
As the gatekeeper of my heart, I get to choose what I let in, and what I keep out.
I get to choose who I let in and who I keep out. I must take personal RESPONSIBILITY for the condition of my heart. We’ve talked about how a relational fence can contribute to your relational health. Well, an emotional fence is about your emotional health.
It is about protecting yourself even at the risk of disappointing others. As the gatekeeper of my heart, I understand there are some things I can say yes to and there are some things I must say no to. There are some people I say yes to, and there are some people I must say no to.
Sometimes we must put up a fence and say no to unhealthy or unsafe people. This may sound harsh or mean, but this is exactly what the apostle Paul was talking about when He wrote to Timothy. He was letting Timothy know there are people who may need to be kept on the other side of the fence. See if any of this sounds familiar.
“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT)
Stay away from these people Timothy. Keep them on the other side of the fence. We need the wisdom and help of the HOLY SPIRIT to know how to erect effective fences in our lives. Undoubtedly, some people will have a tendency to see fences as mean, unkind, or even ungodly. But when you understand the intent and purpose of a fence, you will understand that they are important, and in many cases, they are a necessary part of the landscape.
With God’s help, we must learn to guard and protect our heart. Because everything comes from the heart and the heart impacts every aspect of our lives. Jesus was having a conversation with the religious leaders when He made this statement…“The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart…” – Matthew 15:18a (NIV)
This is just one more reason why we need to erect fences to protect our heart from the things that subtly creep in and wreak havoc in our lives. In some ways, the mouth is like a stethoscope. You can learn a lot about what is going on in your heart by listening to what is coming out of your mouth. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” – Matthew 15:19 (NIV)
Where do evil thoughts come from? Evil thoughts come from your heart, along with murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander – these things all come from the heart. So how did these things get in there? No boundaries. Fences could prevent these hideous things from finding their way into our heart.
But here is the problem. Most of us were never taught to guard our heart. Instead, we were taught to filter our word and monitor our actions which can provide a good cover for what is really going on in our hearts. Jesus wants us to understand the magnitude of what happens in the heart and the importance of making sure you protect it at all costs.
Do you want to know why you do what you do? Look within. It is a heart issue. This is why people sometimes admit they would do certain things if they knew they would not get caught. The have a filter in place, so they don’t do what they want to do, because they know it would be unacceptable. But every once in a while, something slips past the filter. That’s when we are shocked by what someone said or what they did. It seems so out of character. This is also why someone will teach their kids not to do something then go and do that very thing themselves. It is because something was left lurking deep within their heart that should have been removed.
Until you learn to deal with the issues that are lurking deep within your heart, or those things lurking deep in that relationship, there is no real or lasting change. When we deal only with symptoms, we’ll never get to a cure. This is why the wisest man who ever lived wrote what he did in Proverbs 4:23. He said, “Above all else guard your heart…”
As we learned earlier this summer, Solomon said a lot…He had insight on business, ethics, money, family, morality, poverty and so much more. It is like Solomon is saying, if you don’t hear anything else I say, hear this – Guard your heart. BUILD A FENCE AROUND YOUR HEART TO PROTECT IT! The heart is the invisible part of you. We can’t find it, but we know it is in there.
We have been taught what to say and what not to say. What to do and what not to do. We were told where to go and where not to go. We were told what to think and not think. We’ve been taught to edit, filter, and monitor our thoughts, words, and our actions.
But most of us were never taught how to guard our heart. With God’s help, we need to develop the maturity to be able to push back from a situation, or push back from a person, and monitor what is taking place on the inside. What is getting inside the fence that should not be there? What is coming out of the heart that tells me there is something wrong on the inside?
The reason we need fences to protect our heart is because in the living of life, if we are not careful, things creep into our heart that we should not allow. Unfortunately, certain things can get lodged in there and they are difficult to remove. That is why we should allow the Lord to regularly examine our heart, to search out heart, and to see if there is anything that’s lurking in the bottom of our heart that needs to be removed.
This affects every person listening to this message. You can choose to respond to this any number of ways. You can think about how this applies to everyone else but you. You can begin to negotiate in your mind and say things like, “If he or she would just have a change of heart and do this, then I would do that…You can choose to blame others or play the role of the victim. I may have a heart problem, but it is not my fault.
It is because of what someone else has done to me.
We can make excuses and try to explain our heart problems. We can dream up all kinds of reasons, that are everyone else’s fault, for why our heart is so messed up. Or we can take responsibility for our LIFE, our RELATIONSHIPS, and for the condition of our HEART. We can ask God to not only search our heart, but to cleanse and transform it and make it brand new.
I love this promise from Ezekiel 36…“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…” – Ezekiel 36:26a (NIV) He is talking about a new beginning. A fresh start. A new birth. Imagine going to the cardiologist and he says you are close to needing open heart surgery, but he says he thinks you can head it off with exercise and diet.
We may say things like, “I don’t want to exercise, it makes me tired, and I don’t want to diet, because then I am hungry all the time. But I want you to fix my heart.” I believe God will show us what we need to do when it comes to the fences we have been talking about this month.
I am convinced that for some, this is your next step toward spiritual or relational health and wholeness. Whether we are talking about the important matter of Sabbath keeping, holiness, relationships, or protecting our heart, it is up to us to listen and apply His truth. You will never become the person God is calling you to be by remaining where you have been. None of us have arrived.
That is why I want to invite you to take a definitive step forward by faith. What has the Spirit of God been saying to you today, or over these past few weeks? I have a feeling that He has been speaking to those who have been listening. What He has spoken to you could be messy. It will probably be tough.
If we could just pray a prayer and our heart would be healed, and the relationship restored, and everything could be fixed, every one of us would pray that prayer. We are all about the quick fix, aren’t we? But it is much more difficult to have to do the work required to get to a better place. It is not easy to learn to monitor, to guard, to clean out, and protect our hearts.
Building fences and establishing boundaries looks a lot like work because it is. It would be easy to make excuses, blames others, walk out of here and forget about what God has said, but I hope you won’t do that. Because if you do, everything stays the same. God is calling us to something so much better. The question is, how will you respond? Your heavenly Father wants to give you a new heart and then He wants to help you protect it. God wants to create in me a clean heart, a heart that will positively impact my words, my thoughts, my behavior, and all my relationships, and then He wants us to protect it.
PRAYER – Lord, teach me to guard my heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Walk with the Lord through this process. Boldly listen and boldly apply His truth. This is not something you can pull off on your own. But with God’s help, I believe a transformation is on the way.