“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Diligent heart-keeping is essential to a healthy growth in grace. The heart in its natural state is a habitation for unholy thoughts and sinful passions. When brought into subjection to Christ, it must be cleansed by the Spirit from all defilement. This can not be done without the consent of the individual.
When the soul has been cleansed, it is the duty of the Christian to keep it undefiled. Many seem to think that the religion of Christ does not call for the abandonment of daily sins, the breaking loose from habits which have held the soul in bondage. They renounce some things condemned by the conscience, but they fail to represent Christ in the daily life. They do not bring Christlikeness into the home. They do not show a thoughtful care in their choice of words. Too often, fretful, impatient words are spoken, words which stir the worst passions of the human heart. Such ones need the abiding presence of Christ in the soul. Only in his strength can they keep guard over the words and actions.
Pray without Ceasing
In the work of heart-keeping we must be instant in prayer, unwearied in petitioning the throne of grace for assistance. Those who take the name of Christian should come to God in earnestness and humility, pleading for help. The Saviour has told us to pray without ceasing. The Christian can not always be in the position of prayer, but his thoughts and desires can always be upward. Our self-confidence would vanish, did we talk less and pray more.
We give evidence of the sincerity of our prayers by the earnestness of our endeavors to answer them, to overcome the sins which strive for a place in the life. Our prayers will be ineffectual unless we continually strive to correct that which is wrong and unlovely in our lives. If we ask God to work for us, and then make no effort to conquer self, our prayers will rise no higher than our heads. God helps those who co-operate with him. We can obtain forgiveness only through the blood of Christ. His atoning sacrifice is all-powerful. But in the struggle for immortality we have a part to act. Christ will help those who pray and then watch unto prayer. He calls upon us to use every power he has given us in the warfare against sin. We can never be saved in inactivity and idleness. We might as well look for a harvest from seed which we have not sown, and for knowledge where we have not studied, as to expect salvation without making an effort. It is our part to wrestle against the evil tendencies of the natural heart.
The Results of Disobedience Certain
Contrast man’s physical, mental, and moral feebleness with Adam’s perfection before he transgressed God‘s law. Among the waving trees of paradise the holy pair stood in their sinless beauty before God, and the privilege of unrestrained intercourse with him was theirs. Adam was a noble being, with a powerful mind, a will in harmony with the will of God, and affections that centered upon heaven. He possessed a body heir to no disease, and a soul bearing the impress of Deity. But all this rich inheritance, the gift of his Maker, did not save him from the result of disobedience.
God did not spare Adam, though his sin may seem to us a small one. Neither will he spare us, if we continue to disregard his requirements. He divorced Israel from him because her people walked not in his ways. Never was a people more beloved. Never had a nation greater evidence of the divine favor. Yet only two of the adults who left Egypt entered the promised land. The rest died in the wilderness, having proved unworthy to enter Canaan. Pride and self-indulgence were their ruin.
Their history has been traced by the pen of inspiration, that by their experience we may take warning. It is written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. God will call us to account if we retain wrong traits of character, refusing to call to our aid the power of the word, and in the name of Jesus correct our faults and subdue the passions of the natural heart. Many enthrone Satan in the heart, to triumph over Christ by the indulgence of evil inclinations. Sin reigns where Christ should reign. Those who thus continue to cherish sin can never be saved as they are. Unless they change, they will never enter heaven themselves, and they make very difficult the path of those who are trying to overcome. Their faulty, unconsecrated lives place them on the side of the power of darkness, while they are professedly on the side of Christ. Jesus makes them the objects of his tender solicitude and unwearied labor, until, notwithstanding all his efforts, they become fixed in sin. Then those over whom he has wept and yearned in love and compassion are left to pursue their own course. The Saviour turns from them, saying, sadly, They are joined to their idols; let them alone. God forbid that this should be said of us.
Every Man That Hath This Hope in Him
The sins of fretfulness, impatience, love of the world, are grievous in God‘s sight. Some who cherish these defects confess that they are doing wrong; but year after year passes, and finds them still in bondage to these sins. Each year the same acknowledgment is made, but no change appears in the life. They confess, but they do not repent. They do not realize how grievous their sins are in the sight of God. If they were really one with Christ, if his Spirit were dwelling in them, they would see the sinfulness of sin. Not only would they confess; but they would forsake that which God abhors.
Those who remain in transgression, who do not strive for self-control, are ignorant of God. However high their claims of godliness, their spirituality is weak, their faith small, their love imperfect, their hopes and experience are governed by circumstances. But those who resolutely try to obtain the victory over temptation, who promptly and decisively resist the attacks of Satan, will become rooted and grounded in the truth. Their experience will not be dwarfed and sickly, but will bear rich fruit to the glory of God.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
This is our work. It is not enough to profess to be a child of God. He who has in him this hope will purify himself from all defilement. But this is the work from which every day nine tenths of us excuse ourselves. We seem to think that it does not matter if we get angry now and then, if we cheat now and then, if we are selfish and uncourteous.
Dear young friends, let us not spare ourselves. Let us with self-renunciation lift the cross of Christ, and follow in his footsteps. Let us begin in earnest the work of reformation. Let us crucify the flesh. Unholy habits will clamor fiercely for the victory, but in the name and through the power of Jesus we may conquer them. To him who seeks daily to keep his heart with all diligence, to be a true child of God, the promise is sure, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Living the life of him who went about doing good, overcoming self-love and every other species of selfishness, fulfilling bravely and cheerfully our duty to God and to those around us,–this makes us more than conquerors. This prepares us to stand before the great white throne, free from spot or wrinkle or any such thing, having washed our robes of character and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
— E.G. White, Youth’s Instructor, 3/5/1903