keep thy heart
with all diligence
The fourth chapter of the book of PROVERBS repeatedly admonished the reader to take hold of instruction, to learn discernment, to embrace wisdom, and then with all diligence, to keep his heart.
- PROVERB 4.23 Keep [nasar] thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are [flows] the issues of life.
The Hebrew word nasar, translated here as keep, has several different senses which can be gathered from its meaning. It has to do with guarding or protecting something important like a citadel or fortress (2 KINGS 18:8 NAHUM 2:1); it also refers to maintaining or keeping watch over a garden or vineyard (JOB 27:18 PROVERBS 27:18 ISAIAH 27:3); and it frequently has to do with minding what one does or says (PSALMS 34:13; 141:3 PROVERBS 5:2; 13:3; 16:17). The word is further defined as keeping in a safe and secure place, thus to guard or look after (DEUTERONOMY 32:9-10 PSALM 32:7), and to preserve (PSALMS 12:7; 31:23; 64:1; 140:4 PROVERBS 20:28 ISAIAH 49:8).
In this very chapter of PROVERBS nasar is used two additional times.
- PROVERBS 4:5-6 Get wisdom, get understanding:
- Forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
- Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee:
- Love her, and she shall keep [nasar] thee.
Here the reader was reminded of the importance of getting, and loving and not forsaking wisdom. When he did this, then wisdom would keep him, wisdom would guard and nurture and maintain him. Then in the next usage of nasar, the reader was again encouraged to hold tightly to his father's instruction, for it was life.
- PROVERBS 4:10-13 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings;
- And the years of thy life shall be many.
- I have taught thee in the way of wisdom;
- I have led thee in right paths.
- When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened [hindered];
- And when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
- Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go:
- Keep [nasar] her; for she is thy life.
In the passage we are considering (23), the pupil was further instructed to keep his heart with all diligence because "out of the heart flowed the springs of life" (NRSV). Thus, if our heart is deceived, or turned aside, or hardened, then our doom and destruction or demise is soon and surely to follow. Thus we must diligently guard and nourish and maintain our hearts. We must learn to shield them from unholy and unhealthy influences. We must learn to cultivate and develop and feed them with the necessary and needful nutriments.
What we are mostly to protect our hearts from are the values and philosophies and ambitions of a world which for one reason or another, doesn't adhere to GOD's word. We must be watchful against the superstitions and suppositions and aspirations of those who see only this life and are totally blind to the reality of the next life, the resurrection life. We must diligently guard ourselves from being lured after their pleasures and treasures, their causes, their pursuits and purposes.
The great key for protecting and nurturing our heart is the doctrine, reproof and correction of the scriptures (2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17). The words of GOD guide us, and protect us and re-directs us as we stumble through this life. Thus, our experiences are given so as to teach us HIS ways, to train us and prepare us for that next life, to shape and mold us into responsible sons and daughters of GOD.
But if we don't cleave to and embrace HIS word, then we can't help but find ourselves lost and adrift, aimlessly floating no where, trapped in an illusion where the false reality is this earthly life. But that is also part of our journey, for it is often then, when we have gotten ourselves into a real jam, that we hopefully return with renewed energy and vigor to the Father's purpose.
Yeshua (Jesus) warned His followers to beware of false prophets (MATTHEW 7:15-18), but He also revealed to them that these false prophets don't always look like false prophets. Oftentimes they show up as wolves in sheep's clothing. They vail themselves to look harmless and helpful but indeed they are the most dubious and unreliable fellows or friends we could have. Only by their fruits, He taught, can we really know them. Only by measuring their works and actions against the words of GOD can we see beneath their sincerity and discover their true motives.
Thus, in order to successfully guard our hearts we must learn to recognize and separate ourselves from these who are themselves deluded by the ways of the world. We must be able to astutely measure them by their works and when their fruits betray them, we must cut ourselves loose from their influence and pull.
It is indeed true that Yeshua took meals with those who were thought to be sinners, but He did so as a doctor ministering to the sick (MATTHEW 9:12). The ones He usually fellowshipped with were not GOD rejecters or GOD haters; they were not traditionalist or Bible deniers, but instead they were among those who had previously come to John to be baptized and instructed (LUKE 3:12). And they were then the ones who drew near to Yeshua so as to hear His teaching (LUKE 15:1) and be guided by the Master. As a result He was able to save at least some of them.
- LUKE 19:8-10 And Zacchaeus [a rich tax collector] stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
But the religious leaders were handled by Yeshua in a totally different fashion. They had not sought the truth but instead they had endeavored to trick and trap Him in His words; to lay snares for Him seeking His destruction.
- MATTHEW 15:12-14 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Let them alone! Leave them to theirselves. They are destined to be uprooted and discarded and destroyed because of their obstinate resistance to the truth. Many bewail and lament the fact that the so-called Christian Church is shrinking into insignificance as congregations continually fall away from it. Perhaps the hunger for GOD is as great as ever, but many of the searchers for truth have just come to realize that the modern Church, which has for the most part turned its back on the Bible, has few true answers.
We must remind ourselves that scholars and theologians are not to be blindly trusted as authorities on scripture simply because of their titles or the letters after their names. It was usually the doctors of the law, the educated scribes and religious leaders who were continually plotting and conspiring against Yeshua. They were the ones who were so oblivious to the truth that they saw fit to work tirelessly to have Him arrested and killed.
These scholars and theologians should be the ones directing and teaching us concerning the intricate truth of the word of GOD, but instead they too often become critics and skeptics, doubting even the authenticity of the scriptures. It is absolutely astounding that in some of their writings that they claim that they know that Mark wrote his Gospel long before some unknowns wrote MATTHEW and LUKE, when in reality they can't know anything of the sort. Then other scholars come along and claim that they know that GENESIS is full of myths and fables, that Yeshua and His apostles were deceived or accommodating when they quoted it, when in fact they also can know nothing of the sort. All of their knowing is nothing more than speculation and guess-work, but it is presented to the laymen as accepted and proven fact.
Just the very notion that GOD would pre-arrange and pre-ordain all of the events and players in the great drama of the ages but then not exercise some control over preserving a record of what HIS Son suffered and accomplished is absolutely ludicrous. To suggest that Almighty GOD allowed HIS Son to be brutally beaten and killed as a sacrifice for the world, but then not be able to preserve a true and accurate testimony of it, is nothing less than sinful. These critics take the influence of Almighty GOD out of HIS word and suppose that scripture just evolved and fell into place by chance and happenstance, from perhaps nothing more than oral traditions and here-say.
One major reason many of them began to doubt the authenticity of much of the Christian writings (the New Testament) is because nearly every Book and Epistle proclaimed and fully expected the soon return of Christ, which they don't think ever happened. As such, all of those ancient writings must be wrong, or so they assume. But it is just as likely that they are wrong and He did in fact return, just as He had promised (MATTHEW 16:28). The interested reader might want to refer to the Study, Whatever Happened to Timothy?
Of course this is not to say that errors and erroneous additions have not crept into scripture. Not all of the words in the Bible which are attributed to GOD are HIS words. We have presented and endeavored to explain this in the Study, The Inspiration of the Scriptures. But the general and prevailing premise that none of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses of the events which are recorded therein is utterly absurd. If one believes that, then why is he even bothering with them? Why write upon them or study them if you don't even believe that they are authentic records of the events which they depict? Why not find some other thing to do with your time?
Many of these so-called scholars and critics are the kinds of individuals, who because they themselves evidently lack a true and vital personal relationship with their Creator, even today invent preposterous and absurd commentaries on HIS word. Many of them take for granted that the Gospels were invented by imposters; that or else that they just evolved over the decades following the passing away of the first generation of believers. Howbeit, Paul reminded his readers that the wise and scholarly were rarely called by GOD, and as such lacked the insight and perspective needed to grasp and appreciate the truth.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 1:20-21, 26 Where is the wise? where is the scribe [man of learning, NEB]? where is the disputer [debater] of this world [aion, age]? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world [kosmos]? For after that in the wisdom of God the world [kosmos] by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. . . .
- For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
Who else was the apostle writing about but those elevated to high positions of authority because of their learning and education? They sat in the seats of supreme influence, dictating to their lessors their wisdom and interpretations. They were the ones who knew the ancient languages and had perhaps devoted their entire lives to the study of religious doctrine, but they were as wrong as wrong could be. They were part of an intellectual community which by its very nature, would not, indeed could not find the truth.
- We should take a moment to explain these two Greek words translated world in the passage above. The KJV and others often wrongly render aion as world whereas it really means an age or some distinct period of time (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary).
- The other word rendered world here is kosmos. This word more closely reflects the world as we today would think of it. Specifically it has to do with the order, arrangement or systemization of something, such as the political order of a city or country (MATTHEW 4:8), the moral or ethical order of an individual (JOHN 1:29), the methodical order of perhaps the four seasons or the punctual orbit of the planets (MATTHEW 13:35).
- In the passage above, the wisdom of the world is the knowledge and scholarship of the political and religious and educational systems. It is the systemized reasonings of man without GOD. As such, kosmos doesn't necessarily intimate the physical universe, and only the context can tell us the writer's intent. For further elaboration on the meaning of kosmos, see The Framework of the New Testament Stories by Arnold Ehrhardt, pages 206-207.
This unbelieving world still fails to find GOD, because they too often elevate their own scholarship or enlightenment above the scriptures. Rather than just accepting the miracle which lies open before them, they look for anything which might suggest its forgery and un-truthfullness. Mostly they work for their own glory, hoping to receive the acclaim of their fellow peers and colleagues. As such, GOD closes the Book to them. HE veils the answers and solutions to all of the so-called discrepancies which they think they have discovered and uncovered.
Thus, we are often warned in scripture to keep our distance from this world and its false assumptions and conclusions. We should be most careful and diligent to not be drawn away from the simplicity of the truth by the world's sordid ways and means.
- 1 JOHN 2:15-16 NEB Do not set your hearts on the godless world or anything in it. Anyone who loves the world is a stranger to the Father's love. Everything the world affords, all that panders to the appetites or entices the eyes, all the glamour of its life, springs not from the Father but from the godless world.
But it is not the creation itself which is evil, but it is that which society often presents and peddles, that which attracts and leads us away from the truth. There is nothing wrong with a colorful sunset and the enchanting rhythm of the ocean waves or of a clear flowing mountain stream. This is not the world we are to steer free of.
What is to be avoided is that which is often taught by those endowed or appointed as its authorities; the understanding and assumptions which run at cross purposes to the words of our Creator. That which flows against or contradicts inspired scripture is to be shoved aside and left to itself. It is even today the blind leading the blind. And the curious thing about the blind leading the blind, is that oftentimes those being led fail to realize that their leaders are as blind as they are.
- COLOSSIANS 2:8 JB Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of the world instead of on Christ.
According to the Jerusalem Bible's version of this passage, Paul warned the Colossians here that they should beware of rational philosophies which were based on worldly principles. He likened these philosophies to a trap which too often ensnared and then deprived one of his freedom. We may come to the word with a sincere and genuine desire to understand GOD's ways, but too often the novice is sidetracked or lured away from the truth by the false notions of the intellectual elite, who neither know the truth themselves nor want others to know it either (MATTEW 23:13, 15 GALATIANS 4:17). This is similar to what Peter had also written.
- 2 PETER 2:18-22 JB With their high-flown talk, which is all hollow, they temp back the ones who have only just escaped from paganism, playing on their bodily desires, with debaucheries.
- They may promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves, slaves to corruption; because if anyone lets himself be dominated by anything, then he is a slave to it; and anyone who has escaped the pollution of the world once by coming to know our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and who then allows himself to be entangled by it a second time and mastered, will end up in a worse state than he began in.
- It would even have been better for him never to have learnt the way of holiness, than to know it and afterwards desert the holy rule that was entrusted to him. What he has done is exactly as the proverb rightly says: The dog goes back to his own vomit and : When the sow has been washed, it wallows in the mud.
These are all good and encouraging reasons for guarding our hearts. The only real freedom in this life, the only true escape from corruption, is in becoming a servant to Christ. The only way we can be fully liberated from all that the world would enslave us with, is to discipline ourselves to be obedient to the words of GOD (JOHN 8:31-32).
We may associate and do business with non-believers, but we should be careful not to be yoked together with them. We should not be working shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm towards a common cause. We should not be devoting ourselves so as to accomplish their earthly goals and ambitions. Paul detailed all of this in his epistle to the Corinthian believers
- 2 CORINTHIANS 6:14- 7:1 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said,
- I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people [LEVITICUS 26:11-12].
- come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing [ISAIAH 52:11 LXX]; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters [JEREMIAH 31:9],
- saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
In the above reference, through a prophetic vision Isaiah was fore-warning his fellow countrymen to come out of Babylon and leave behind all of its corrupting influences. They were to return home, to the life for which they were chosen; to a life for which they were called. The apostle Paul used the same passage to encourage the believers of his own age to not yoke themselves together with the unbelieving world, but rather to keep themselves uncontaminated from the world's influence.
Yeshua's own disciples and followers were likewise instructed to yoke themselves to His cause and join His work, His goals and ambitions. We should thus be working together to accomplish His plans and purposes and not become entangled with the world's strifes and struggles. This was no doubt what caused Judas Iscariot's own demise for as a Jewish zealot his heart and soul was set on overthrowing the Roman invader rather than living and working towards riches in the kingdom of GOD. Similarly, it was very possibly what contributed to John the Baptist's demise, for he evidently got side-tracked from his calling and sought instead to challenge and condemn the sins of the political power (see the Study, Wise as Serpents).
- MATTHEW 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Yeshua not only instructed them to be yoked together with Him, who was meek and lowly, but also and perhaps more importantly, they were to learn from Him. They were to hear His message and then align their actions and ambitions and goals to conform to His. Thus, they were not called upon to try to overthrow or correct all of the social and political ills of their nation, but instead they were to become more Christ-like.
Paul's readers could fraternize with non-believers if they indicated a hunger for the truth, but if a fellow believer forsook the right way they would do well not to fellowship or even associate with him. Paul further explained this distinction in another one of his letters.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 5:9-13 NEB In my letter I wrote that you must have nothing to do with loose livers. I was not, of course, referring to pagans who lead loose lives or are grabbers and swindlers or idolaters. To avoid them you would have to get out of the world altogether. I now write that you must have nothing to do with any so-called Christian who leads a loose life, or is grasping, or idolatrous, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a swindler. You should not even eat with any such person. . . .Root out the evil from your community.
We should notice that Paul was not instructing them to become recluses or hermits or to completely separate themselves off from society. In fact, he explicitly wrote them not to do such a thing, not to "get out of the world altogether". Rather, he encouraged them to go ahead and do business with the non-believer, but if a fellow Christian fell away from the truth of the gospel and persisted in his sin, these indeed should be shunned (2 THESSALONIANS 3:6 TITUS 3:10-11 2 JOHN 10).
The primary reason was of course because of the ill effect it would have on a new believer (1 CORINTHIANS 10:25-29). If a recent convert saw the elders fellowship with other so-called Christians who were overtly sinning, then they themselves might think that that behavior was acceptable. Here is where we must be particularly carful to guard our hearts, for scripture warns, a little leaven leavens the whole lump (GALATIANS 5:7-9 1 CORINTHIANS 5:6 MARK 8:15).
- 1 CORINTHIANS 15.33 Be not deceived: evil communications [associations] corrupt good manners [morals, Lexham English Bible].
Note that the context of this passage is the resurrection, where one is tempted to live for today, failing to consider his future existence. Furthermore, if one continually associated himself with "loose livers" then he himself might be easily seduced away from the truth of the gospel. If we accept adultery then it won't be long before we accept homosexuality. If we accept lying then it won't be long before we accept stealing. If we put our trust in earthly riches then it won't be long before we forget how to trust GOD to meet our needs (1 TIMOTHY 6:17).
Yeshua gave Himself so that the believer might be delivered from that evil aion, that evil age (GALATIANS 1:4). James wrote that believers should be careful to keep themselves uncontaminated by the world (JAMES 1:27 JB), and that friendship with the world makes us enemies with GOD (JAMES 4:4). Perhaps Peter summarized it best when he wrote, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 PETER 1:4).
The only way to be partakers of the divine nature is to first escape the world's corrupting influences. We see it in all forms of their entertainment; in their songs, their theatre, their sports. But it also permeates their commerce, their trades and their professions. Most everything seems to be pushing an agenda which is contrary to the word of GOD. Much of this present life seems to elevate financial gain and physical pleasures as the ultimate endeavor and accomplishment. Little if any thought is given to the next life, the life after resurrection, the life which is eternal.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 7:31 JB . . . . and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.
It almost seems absurd how little thought is given by most to resurrection life. Too many are so entirely engrossed with having a better and secure life in the here and now, that they spend up the few years which they have been given, in pursuit only of the world's pleasures and treasures. Thus they miss out on all of the countless opportunities given them for awakening to the true purpose of this life, which is to learn truth and to nurture and develop within them the fruit of the spirit (see the Study, Nurturing and Harvesting the Fruit of the Spirit). We must break out of that endless cycle, free ourselves from the shackles of this world, separate ourselves from the Herd and begin to live for that future life.
First we must learn to discipline ourselves to live according to the dictates of scripture; to grab hold of our minds and force them to think thoughts which align with the word of GOD (JOHN 15:3 ACTS 15:9 JAMES 1:21). Then we will begin to manifest the fruit of the spirit in our lives. Then we will begin to become more godly, more righteous, indeed, more Christ-like. But if we refuse the doctrine, reproof and correction of the scriptures, then we are flirting with disaster and are in danger of being released, being cut loose by GOD to pursue our own doom.
- ROMANS 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient [proper or conducive for spiritual growth].
There is little room for the Creator in the lives and daily routines of those who devote themselves to the world's ways. HE is ok, they suppose, in a tragedy or disaster of some sort, but to actually order their steps in HIS word (PSALM 119:133) seems like a ridiculous notion to most of them.
The apostle Paul summed all of this up most aptly and thoroughly in his epistle to the believers at Ephesus.
- EPHESIANS 4:17-19 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Being alienated from GOD by their ignorance, they walked and lived in vanity. There was no real purpose to all of their efforts and activities. They were so far removed from the truth that their very understanding was dark, even more than clouded as they staggered through life. As such, they gave themselves to the present world, to be guided and ruled and enslaved to its tenets. Paul continued.
- EPHESIANS 4:20-24 But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation [lifestyle of] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
It all has to do with learning and resolve. What are we learning from the experiences of life? Have we heard Him? Have we been taught by Him? Have we considered and pondered truth? If so, then we have an opportunity to change our lifestyle. To quit chasing after the deceitful desires of the world and begin to follow His ways. We can thereby renovate or renew our minds to become righteous and holy.
Paul again took up this most important matter in the next chapter.
- EPHESIANS 5:1-4 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
- But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
There are indeed two ways for us to go in life, two entirely different paths for us to grasp after. Either we can follow GOD and then as joint-heirs with Christ we can anticipate an eternal inheritance at our resurrection, or we can follow the world and render up our liberty to its bondage and corruption (1 PETER 1:14-16). But then, how can there really be a choice, for one road leads to vanity and blindness while the other leads to true freedom and eternal life.
- EPHESIANS 5:5-6 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
"Let no man deceive you" he wrote. Thus we must guard our hearts and protect them from being deceived. We must know and learn not to be led astray by vain or empty words, either from the pulpit, the lecture hall, or from the back-alley.
- EPHESIANS 5:7-12 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes [once] darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light . . . . proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
Be not partakers with them, nor have fellowship with them. Before we learned the true way we were as them; but now we have been taught a better way, a more fruitful lifestyle. Far be it for us to return to the darkness now that we have been exposed to the light (2 PETER 3:17-18).
The Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) gives us this same encouragement and instruction.
- PSALM 1:1-2 Blessed is the man
- That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
- Nor standeth in the way of sinners,
- Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful [scoffers].
- But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
- And in his law doth he meditate day and night.
When scripture speaks of the cancerous and deadly effect of the world (2 TIMOTHY 2:16-17), this is to what it is usually referring. The counsel of the ungodly, the way of sinners and the seat of the scornful. These are people who have been molded and fashioned by the ways of the world, by the pleasures and treasures of this present life. They seem little aware of the next life and are content to make themselves comfortable, and influential, and dominant in the here and now. Instead, the man who is blessed is he who meditates in GOD's word, continually, both day and night.
Those blinded by the ways of this world accommodate and adjust their behavior to the fears and triumphs, the value systems of this present world. They have learned to become lovers of themselves, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of GOD (2 TIMOTHY 3:1-5).
Perhaps this is the reason why Yeshua warned His disciples to not accept the notion that they were just like everybody else, but rather to recognize that they had been chosen, called out and distinguished from others.
- JOHN 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
They were chosen out of the world, but they were not directed to separate or isolate themselves from the world. Indeed, Yeshua sent them into the world (JOHN 17:18). Thus, after His ascension into heaven Yeshua's followers didn't physically seclude or divorce themselves from the world. Even though they regularly met for prayer and fellowship in upper rooms (ACTS 1:13) and from house to house (ACTS 2:47), they also went out into the world to minister the word and reflect that light which shined within them.
Even so, we are not all one brotherhood. The faithful believer has been set aside, chosen out of this world, destined for a new world where the ways of this present world are not tolerated. It is for life in that world that we are being prepared. There we shall find peace and harmony. There we shall find the purpose and reason for all of the trials and tribulations which we have endured and overcome here.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11 NEB Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God. Such were some of you. But you have been through the purifying waters; you have been dedicated to God and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus and the spirit of our God.
Surely you know. Make no mistake! These are solemn warnings to the believers, for some of them had once been on the road to destruction. As Paul reminded Titus, "For we ourselves also were sometimes [once] foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (TITUS 3:3).
But by GOD's grace and mercy, and then by their obedient response to HIS word, they were cleansed (JOHN 15:3) and justified (ROMANS 3:28), no longer deemed guilty. Indeed, it was because of the words of GOD, which had wrought in them a change, a turning from the world's ways to GOD's ways, that caused those still held in bondage to the world to despise and abhor them for the freedom they enjoyed. As Yeshua prayed to His father,
- JOHN 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
It often irritates and incites those of the world when they find that they can no longer influence or dominate us. Thus we can expect and not be surprised by the world's disapproval and hostility towards our new lifestyle. Some of them consider us narrow-minded and misguided. They think that we have stuck our heads in the sand; that we live in a dark age of prejudice and intolerance. Scripture explains their hatred as the result of their own deeds being evil (JOHN 3:19-21 1 JOHN 3:12). Many of them just can't figure out why we don't think as they do, why we don't live only for this present life. They think it strange that we no longer run with them (1PETER 4:4).
- 2 PETER 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
This is the overriding reason that they must ridicule and condemn and get rid of the word of GOD. Scripture has the potential to free the believer from their jealous grasp. It opens the prison doors of the cold dark dungeon and sets the captives free. When we set our goals and aspirations on the next life, then this present life can no longer hold us in its grip . All of their power and authority is limited to this earthly existence (MATTHEW 10:28). They will have no power there, in HIS kingdom.
Returning to our subject of guarding the heart, in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians we see that he repeatedly admonished his readers to recognize the stark difference between the wisdom (1:17) and understanding (1:19), the enticing words (2:4) and the spirit of this world (2:12) with the power and wisdom (1:24) and spirit of GOD (2:12). These are the two ways, the two diverging roads for us to recognize. Either we can allow our hearts to be influenced by the wisdom and philosophy of this world's institutions or we can seek and find that hidden wisdom of GOD, which as we shall see was the resurrection.
Howbeit, that which the holy spirit taught (2:13), GOD's hidden wisdom and secret purpose (2:7 NEB), was able to be revealed only to those who were spiritual (2:14). But those at Corinth were proving themselves to be anything but spiritual. They were showing themselves to be worshippers and adorers of this world, adherents to the ways of this present life. They were impressed by and being led away with the theories and suppositions of the learned and lettered, who not only objected to Paul's preaching concerning the crucifixion of Christ, but as did the Athenians earlier (17:32), they also disparaged and ridiculed the idea of His resurrection (1 CORINTHIANS 15:12, 35-36).
According to ACTS Paul and the other apostles had repeatedly taught that Yeshua was the Messiah. But how could that be? Yeshua had been crucified, hanged on a tree in humiliation. Logically, there was not a chance in hell that such a person could have been the long awaited Messiah and King and deliverer of Israel. But Paul knew that He was because Paul had seen Him (ACTS 9), and continued to see Him (ACTS 18:9-10), resurrected. That closed the case. That settled the whole issue. If Yeshua had been raised from the dead, then there were no two ways about it, He was the Messiah, the chosen One of GOD.
Indeed, the apostle wrote that if the elite rulers of this world had only known and realized that secret purpose of GOD, then they would not have sought the Lord's crucifixion (1 CORINTHIANS 2:8). This is humongous. This is utterly astounding. Their earthly learning and scholarly wisdom had completely misled and deceived them. They were indeed as the blind being led by the blind. They had stumbled into the greatest error and blunder possible. Thus they had missed and were completely oblivious to the power and ability of the Creator who was bringing to pass HIS own purposes.
The resurrection was this hidden wisdom of GOD (see the Study, The Great Mystery is. . . .), which was not going to be considered or believed by those who received and accepted and elevated the words of man's wisdom. Instead, it would only be believed by those who accepted the existence and forsight and ability of an unknown and unseen Creator (1 CORINTHIANS 2:5). Those who denied the resurrection and ascension into heaven of this humble Man from Nazareth, simply were denying the power and ability of GOD, for the evidence was overwhelming (see the Study, The Source and Sequence of the Gospels, pages 42-47).
Thus, the resurrection was this mystery and hidden agenda which GOD had left concealed from the ages. This was the simple truth which was now being revealed to the humble disciples but seemed out of reach to the wise and noble and mighty (1 CORINTHIANS 1:26). This was the great truth which the prudent had been stumbling over (1:23) and walking around. As Paul boldly asked king Agrippa, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (ACTS 26:8).
We must consider and recognize just what were the exact consequences of Yeshua's death? Why did He allow Himself and His life and ministry to be snuffed out? Why was GOD willing to step aside and allow HIS beloved Son to be tortured and killed? Simply because they both knew that that was not the end. GOD ordained and Yeshua believed that after three days in the tomb, that He would then be awakened to eternal life. Only in that case, only in that situation could it all be worth it.
Thus Yeshua did not live only for this earthly life. He consistently and regularly pointed His followers to that next life, that resurrection life. He encouraged them and instructed them to live for that life, to store up treasures there, to make themselves ready and worthy for that new world.
When Yeshua appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus, then the apostle himself awakened to the reality of the resurrection. Then he also knew that to live only for this present life is a blind folly. Indeed, this was the gospel which he preached.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-5 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you . . . . how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
His entire gospel had to do with first awakening his listeners to the reality of the resurrection, and then instructing them on how to prepare for it. We must protect our hearts from the temptation to make our life's pursuit the pleasures and treasures of this present life and instead we must learn to feed our hearts with that which nurtures and produces the fruit of the spirit.
We should not be wasting away the hours on trivial and meaningless pursuits but instead we should be concentrating our efforts and energies on building that which will last and endure into the next life. Not physical or earthly structures, but heavenly buildings. In other words, that which Yeshua had taught and exemplified in His life and ministry, we are to take and build upon. We are to study and scrutinize and adhere to His instruction, and thus order our lives according to all which He had laid out.
- LUKE 6:47-49 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
- But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
Building upon a solid foundation was nothing other than hearing and doing that which Yeshua had instructed. It had to do with nurturing the fruit of the spirit and developing the Christian virtues within. It was to become more Christ-like, more holy and righteous and godly.
Thus, in guarding and protecting and nurturing our heats, we must find that true sustenance which is nothing other than the words of GOD. We must learn to order our steps according to HIS word and discipline ourselves to a lifestyle which harmonizes with the scriptures. We must train and guide our feet into the way of truth. Indeed, we must become more Christ-like.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
- But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.