Go On the Offensive
Last week I wrote a few words about spiritual discipline that is far too often overlooked: neglect. It’s not often talked about as a spiritual discipline, but it’s something that Christians must strategically embrace for the sake of their souls. But neglect is only part of the equation. You could say it’s the defensive posture for guarding the heart. Effectively living out the words of Proverbs 4:23 is not simply about building walls, it’s also about going on the offensive.
The imperative of Proverbs 4:23 is translated “guard” or “keep”… “keep your heart with all vigilance.”
This is a call that demands pro-activity, because life starts in the heart. What charts the course of our lives is not simply the decisions we make, big or small, it’s what lies beneath those decisions.
Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil…” (Luke 6:45)
The product of your life will never out pace the passions of your heart.
The foundation of every move we make is ultimately dictated by what we love. The course of our lives is not so much charted by what we do, but by what we desire.
Augustine echoed the writer of Proverbs when he said, life change flows not from the acts of the will but the loves of the heart.
What you love matters. What you desire matters. This is precisely why it is so critical that you go on the offensive.
Loves are cultivated. They’re not simply something you fall into or out of, they have to be nurtured. Your affections must be stirred toward the things you want your heart to embrace. Anyone who has been married more than a week can tell you that, but this truth extends far beyond romance. It touches all of life, which is precisely why the writer of Proverbs says of the heart, “from it flow the springs of life.” This is also why the care of your heart deserves a well-developed offensive strategy.
What does this strategy need to look like? It depends.
Oh, there are certainly some mainstays. Your strategy will not be effective unless you give yourself to consistent time in Scripture, communing with God in prayer and life in the community of faith: the church. Those are non-negotiable. They will always feed your soul and move you Godward. But, it also depends, because every person is created with uniqueness that cause their soul to be stirred in different ways. Some love reading theology—it makes them love Jesus more; some don’t. Some find that time in nature stirs their affections for Christ. Some are moved by beholding works of art. It depends. In seminary my pastor, Matt Chandler, would so often say, “Find the things that stir your affections for Christ.”
Only you can find them.
Not only do you have to know what deepens your love for God, but you also have to pay close attention to the tune of your hearts.
Your heart can get off track and out of tune really quickly.
The Puritan pastor and theologian, John Flavel, wrote a whole book on just this one verse, and tucked in the pages of that volume he describes the heart like a musical instrument. Any musician knows that you can get an instrument perfectly in tune, but if, after tuning it, the instrument sits neglected or gets knocked around, it’s not going to stay in tune. Instruments require constant re-tuning. Flavel says it’s the same with the heart. No one can cruise through the spiritual life on autopilot.
The heart doesn’t just stay in tune, keeping it in tune is a task that necessitates, “all vigilance.” You go on the offensive by cultivating certain loves and giving your attention to its tune.