“You change your life by changing your heart.” – Max Lucado
Over the past several Tuesdays, we’ve been studying what it means to stand firm in our faith. We reviewed the armor of God, reinforced the power of prayer, encouraged total surrender to God, and discussed maintaining proper focus.
The Bible warns us to guard our hearts because the springs of life start there (Prov 4:23). The Bible also warns that our hearts are deceitful and wicked – only God can truly understand them (Jer 17:9-10)
To guard our hearts is to set boundaries for ourselves.
When we’re out of balance, we’re more easily led astray. Our faith slackens to a lukewarm temperature. We sink into apathy and complacency, or worse, total turning away from our faith.
Setting limits is imperative if we’re going to stand firm. We need to set:
- Boundaries on our flesh. We’re born with a sinful nature, which means we tend to think about ourselves and what feels good in the moment. These impulses toward instant gratification can be anything from eating too much food (or the wrong kinds of foods) to spending above our financial means to staying up too late at night (or sleeping in too late). This also includes ignoring the things we ought to do, such as the inclination to skip church, procrastinating on prayer or Bible study, letting the dishes stack up for several days, etc. Our flesh is all about what we right now rather than what’s best for us long-term or taking care of responsibilities. While a little indulgence can be good for us, we need to be careful to keep a tight reign on our flesh and practice self-control regularly.
- Boundaries on the things of this world. As the saying goes, ‘this world is not our home, we’re just passing through.” The Bible tells us that while we have to live here for a time, we’re not of this world. We need to live differently – people need to be able to see something different in us. This means setting limits on worldly behaviors such as cussing or crude talk, drunkenness (or addiction to drugs), ungodly music and movies, etc. While we can enjoy watching or playing sports, shopping with friends, family parties or vacations, we need to be careful that we put more of our time and attention into things that advance the Kingdom.
- Boundaries in relationships. God wants us to live in community. We each have different gifts and talents, and need each other. Yet part of living in a fallen world is that we’ve all been hurt by the sinful actions of others, which affects how we interact with each other. Sometimes we close ourselves off, afraid to be vulnerable, afraid of rejection. Or we go to far the other way, constantly seeking to make others meet our needs, such as begging for compliments to feed our sense of worth or letting others hurt us over and over because we don’t want to ‘lose them’. We often have trouble seeing this in ourselves, so we continue bad habits. We need to admit that something is wrong, take our broken places to Jesus and let Him heal us so we can learn to relate properly with others. Only in Christ can we develop healthy relationships and inspire harmony around us.
- Boundaries with emotions and behaviors. We are a culture that tends to live by feelings rather than truth. Too often we let our emotions dictate our attitudes and actions. When we’re sad, we tend to withdraw or seek pity. When we’re angry, we lash out or give the silent treatment. When the future looks bleak and our dreams feel far away, we tend to lose heart, give up altogether, or expect others to make us feel good again. When we don’t have enough in our budget to pay the bills, we worry or complain. When we don’t see a solution to a problem, we get anxious and constantly think over how we can come up with a plan. Instead of letting our emotions and insecurities control our behavior, we need to let God’s truth be our anchor. We must study the Word so we can speak and pray God’s promises.
We guard our hearts by setting limits on the selfishness of our flesh, the temptations of the world, the way we relate with others, and the controlling pull of our emotions.
Boundaries are set and kept with discipline. Where can you become more disciplined with guarding your heart so you can stand firm?