A. INVITE A SEARCH
Along with our bodies, we need to offer our hearts to God. David is a man who experienced both great victories and great failures before God. Yet through it all, he is an unsurpassed example of one who desired earnestly to walk before God with his whole heart. (Deut. 6:5)
David prayed these words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try [test] me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23,24).
This Psalm is a picture of a man living in close fellowship with God. Yet he is asking God to search his heart, and test his thoughts for anything wicked that he might not know about.
This Psalm also tells us that God knows us better than we know ourselves. The purpose of having God search our hearts is to discover sin: to allow Him to point out anything He sees as danger areas in our lives that might bring hurt or harm to ourselves or others. We must accept His dealings with us – without excuses – and freely confess our sins to God that we might be set free.
GUARD YOUR CHRISTIAN WALK
There are many believers who are caught up in unworthy practices or sinful habits that they may not recognize as such. These might involve relationships, employment, entertainment, or practices carried forward from a time before knowing Christ.
Usually such conduct is acceptable to the world, but the searching eyes of the Lord will reveal it as unworthy of His sons and daughters. The Lord wants to free us from all sin or bondage – because if it is not dealt with, it will eventually result in a harvest of pain and destruction in our lives and the lives of others.
Very few people just decide one day to turn their back on God, and live a sinful life. Most of the time, we make lots of small compromises over time, and participate in more and more worldly behavior. Eventually, we end up far away from God and His ways.
We must learn – and teach others also – to invite the Lord’s daily searching of our heart and thoughts. We must learn to wait in His presence, to hear His voice, and to respond to what He tells us. If we ask the Lord to show us our hidden sins, He will help us to see them.
As we listen for His voice, and seek to obey His Word, we will learn to follow His directions to freedom! “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me” (Ps 25:4,5).
B. DON’T BE DECEIVED
Deception means to believe that something is right when it is wrong. The prophet Jeremiah warned us how easily the human heart is deceived: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).
It is possible for anyone to be deceived – even a Christian. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [to God], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9).
- Three Areas For Deception
The Apostle John shows us three possible ways a person can be deceived:
- Thinking that we don’t need to confess – that if we do sin, we aren’t required to do anything about it; that God will either overlook it, or forgive us even if we don’t face it or tell Him about it.
- Thinking that we have no sin – and thus do not need God’s forgiveness.
- Thinking that we won’t be forgiven – that God will not really forgive us even when we do confess our sin.
- Deception Spoils Fellowship
If we are deceived in any one of these three areas, our fellowship with God will be spoiled. We will find it hard to pray, praise or worship the Lord. We will not be able to find joy and peace in God’s Word. It will be hard for us to turn our hearts completely toward the Lord.
- Those who believe they never sin at all will keep having problems caused by their sin. But they won’t know why they have the problems – or why their lives are in constant turmoil.
- Those who sin but do not repent or confess their sin to God – thinking He will forgive them without repentance – can become hard of heart (Heb 3:13). Their sin is never dealt with, even though the Holy Spirit may be convicting them (John 16:8). They will, in time, no longer hear the Lord warning them. To walk so far away from God’s ways is very dangerous.
- Some people believe that even though they tell God their sins, He will not really forgive them. The burden of this deception will give them a heavy heart. They may live under a dark cloud of shame, guilt and condemnation.
The Bible tells us the truth: “If we confess our sins [to God], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9). How good it is to be open and honest and confess to God that we are sinners, and to repent before Him of our specific sins. God is ever ready, then, to forgive, restore and strengthen us.
We can avoid future sin by coming to God when we feel tempted – before we sin – and asking Him for help and strength to resist. It is better to come to Him beforehand for help, rather than afterwards for forgiveness.
- Be Sensitive To The Spirit
We should ask God daily to make us very sensitive to His Holy Spirit, to warn us when we are in danger. We must humbly acknowledge our need for His teaching, correction and forgiveness. When we are sensitive, He will let us know very quickly if we sin against His love or truth. We will receive more than just comfort – we will receive His wise instruction and direction.
I think we all understand that if we fail God, we don’t lose our salvation. The littlest sin, however, can quickly spoil our fellowship with God (our walk and talk with Him).
We should be quick to ask Him for His forgiveness, because we do not want our fellowship with Him to be broken. We want to please the Lord in all things, and grieve Him in none!
C. SET A GUARD OVER YOUR HEART AND MOUTH
David wrote, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation [thoughts] of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Ps 19:14).
- Guarding Your Mind
- Three Main Sources Of Thoughts. There are three main sources for thoughts and temptations to come to our minds:
- The World — from what we see and hear.
- The Flesh — from human, ungodly desires.
- The Devil — from the spirit world.
Just because a thought comes to our mind does not mean we have to dwell on it. However, if we do allow unholy thoughts to remain, they will eventually lead to unholy words and deeds. We need therefore to stop them quickly, and replace them with holy thoughts.
- Make Jesus Lord Of Your Mind. When we begin each day with prayer and thanksgiving to God, we are given His peace. This peace acts as a guard over our heart and mind (Phil 4:6,7) and helps us to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
When a wrong thought arises, talk to the Lord about it. Prayer will quickly put a stop to wrong thoughts! Every Christian will have wrong thoughts at one time or another, but Jesus can be the Lord of our minds as well as of our hearts.
- Fill Your Mind With The Truth. Decide to no longer watch or listen to things that feed improper thoughts in your mind. A sure way to purify your thoughts is to refuse to watch or listen to unholy things!
Then, fill your mind with the Word of God. It contains cleansing, purifying and life-giving words that will fill your heart and mind with truth and holiness (Ps 119:11,105; Prov 6:23; 2 Tim 3:16; Heb 4:12).
- Guarding Your Mouth
The words that we speak have power, and must be carefully guarded: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Prov 18:21). But it is from the fullness of the heart that our words come: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34). So what we say truly reflects the condition of our heart.
The Bible teaches us that there are important links between the mouth and the heart:
For Good –
- In our salvation: “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).
- In our faith: “So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says’” (Mark 11:22,23).
For Evil –
- In our character: “Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross” (Prov 26:23).
- In our attitude: “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (Jas 3:14,15).
It is clear that there is a connection between the words of our mouth and our heart. From the heart can flow words of salvation, healing and blessing; or words of destruction, injury and cursing. We see now the wisdom in the Psalmist’s prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Ps 19:14).
How can we best apply this wisdom each day in devotional prayer?
First, review with the Lord the prior day. Did you say anything that needs confession or apology? Were there attitudes of your heart that were embittered, proud or angry? Life and power flow from our heart, and words for either good or evil; so invite the Lord’s search and conviction each day. Then quickly respond with repentance and sincere apology to those whom you might have offended with your words.
Second, give your words and deeds for the coming day to the Lord ahead of time. Ask Him to help you speak words of life and blessing, and to choose to keep a right heart before Him. You can even pray, “Lord, place a guard in my heart and over my mouth. I invite Your Spirit to signal or correct me when I am about to say something that would not please You. Give me the grace and strength to honor and obey Your promptings.”
There is a bright hope you can confess in this regard in Psalm 49:3: “My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.” Hallelujah!
D. KEEP THE GOAL IN VIEW
God does call us to purity. He teaches us to examine our hearts, confess our sins, and be cleansed. But why is this so important? What is the goal?
There is the outward goal of our attention to holy living. We strive to have a right heart, wise actions and godly speech so that our lives will be fruitful and effective for God every day. Living worthwhile days is a worthy goal indeed (Ps 90:12).
But there is an important inward purpose God has for us as well. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:28,29).
There is a deep purpose that God has for every believer’s life. His desire is that we “be conformed to the image of His Son”. His goal for us is to make us more like Jesus!
So as we come to the Lord each day in prayer, asking Him to search our hearts, He will do His shaping, purifying work in our life:
- He will cleanse us, getting rid of the things that keep us from being like Jesus.
- He will show us where we are deceived, so that we can better know and become like Him – the Truth!
- He will purify our hearts, minds and words, so that we can be wiser and more sensitive – and in turn offer His hope, life and truth to others!
DO NOT GIVE UP!
In Philippians 3:13,14, the Apostle Paul speaks of pressing forward each day: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Larger goals are reached by completing a series of daily smaller goals. During our personal prayers, God may bring several things to our mind that He wants us to do – things that will be a part of His plan for our day. (We will discuss this in more detail in our next section.) When we complete these smaller tasks in faith and obedience, we will have “pressed on” toward God’s greater, larger goal (or purpose) for our lives. Each small decision of obedience and righteousness leads to the release of even more of God’s purpose for our lives!
Give your life – and each day of your life – to God. Pray that you will “press on” in Him and obey Him no matter what may come against you. Do not give up in your effort to do God’s will.
You can reach your goals in God. You will win your heavenly prize as you press on. And God will be faithful to use everything to shape you more and more into the image of Jesus! What a blessed hope and promise!