Our society is working hard at getting rid of heart disease, and for good reason. Heart disease accounts for about twenty-five percent of all deaths in America, and each year 600,000 Americans will die from heart disease. There may be some here who are concerned about their heart health because heart disease is in their family.
This text tells us that every Christian is commanded to maintain a true healthy heart program. We see this in three ways:
1) It is required by God;
2) It is needed by people;
3) It is to be applied in life.
As we turn to Proverbs 4, it is important to recognize where our text is in the book of Proverbs. The first three chapters of Proverbs have exalted Wisdom as a divine gift and human goal, giving guidance for life and relationships. Chapter 4 contains the wise instruction of a father, followed by the cautions of chapters 5–7 against adultery and dangerous promises and laziness. It is important to sense the urgency of chapter 4—“hear, my children” (v. 1); “receive my sayings” (v. 10); “give attention to my words” (v. 20). In many ways this is the covenant Father speaking to His covenant children—“get wisdom” (v. 5). In order to guard against sin, the Father is saying, “Follow My Word. Find Jesus, true wisdom; He has come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.”
That is why God says in our text—“keep your heart!” But what is your heart? There is often confusion about what the biblical heart is. Simply speaking, your heart is your mind, emotions, and desires. Surgery cannot see or touch this heart. It is immaterial, but it is real. All of your thoughts, discernments, decisions, plans, purposes, affections, attitudes, actions—all are fuelled by and driven by your heart. So when we read in Genesis 17 that Abraham “said in his heart…,” this was something he was thinking.
The spiritual heart makes man different from the animals. Because you have a heart, you are responsible. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, meaning, all of our mind, emotions, and desires. And yet, because of sin, we know that the natural man’s heart is enmity against God. It hates God. So when God looked at the world in Genesis, He saw that every thought in the heart of man was evil continually. That is why there are many warnings about the heart in the Bible: we are to avoid a double heart (Ps. 12:2), a hard heart (Prov. 28:14), a proud heart (Prov. 21:4), an unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:12), a cold heart (Matt. 24:12), and an unclean heart (Ps. 51:10).
But the Bible also reveals that the heart can be changed. To people who are truly repentant, God has promised to take the stony heart of sin away and give us a tender, working heart of flesh. Then our hearts will be
willing and ready. Then through the Holy Spirit, we will have minds, wills, and desires that love and desire communion with God.