“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:23-27
The idea of guarding our heart from corrupting influences and fixing our gaze on the correct path are often closely linked. Jesus instructs us that our eyes are the gateway to our souls.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23
If we turn our eyes to the left or right, if we focus our gaze on those things that are sinful or are lies from the enemy, our heart will be left unguarded and influenced by those things. If we try to stay on the correct path while “just looking” to the left or right, we might fool ourselves into thinking we are still headed the right direction, but very quickly we will find we’ve stumbled off the path.
Hebrews chapter two ends by describing how Jesus was fully human, tempted in every way that we are tempted, yet without sin, and is a perfect high priest for us. Chapter three then begins by saying,
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” – Hebrews 3:1
Hebrews eleven is a description of many of the characters of the Old Testament and their faith. These characters are referred to as a “great cloud of witnesses” at the beginning of chapter twelve we are urged to throw off sin and to fix our eyes on Jesus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3
In the Old Testament the instruction to fix our eyes on the correct path is more of general instruction to follow the way of the Lord. In the New Testament this exhortation is made more specific by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ who has gone before us. By keeping our gaze on Him, we are assured to stay on the correct path, filling our mind with truth and encouragement.
The idea of guarding our heart is also further developed in the New Testament.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Here the focus is on going to God with our worries, doubts, and fears, things that could easily distract us and fill our mind and heart. When we take these things to the Lord, He is the one that guards both our hearts and our minds. We need not be trying to filter what gets to our hearts and minds on our own. Often we try to do that on our own and because we are fallen we do a poor job of it. Instead, we ought to take everything to the Lord in prayer and He–our perfect high priest–will be the one to guard us.
As we allow Christ to guard our heart from the things not of God, we also fill it with the truth.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9
By fixing our gaze and our thoughts on Christ through reading the Word and prayer we are filled with the truth. By taking every worry and doubt to Him we entrust our hearts and minds to His perfect protection. He will keep us from stumbling and will give us perseverance and endurance. The Lord will be our peace and our strength.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4