Sermon Text: Proverbs 4:23
Date: June 9 & 10, 2018
Confirmation Sunday (The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost)
Proverbs 4:23 (EHV)
Above all else, guard your heart carefully,
because your life flows from it.
Guard Your Heart Carefully
On late Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning I woke up with a very specific kind of panic in my heart. The panic that comes from knowing that the rest of your night and maybe the following day is going to be a disaster. I knew at that moment I was going to be sick.
Whether it was something I ate or a stomach virus, I’m not sure. It doesn’t really matter. Something bad was in there and was going to leave me a mess for a day or two. Avoiding that sort of issue is one of the reasons we all try to be careful with washing our hands or cooking our food properly or ensuring that what goes into our bodies is as good and healthy as it can possibly be. None of us long for that feeling in the middle of the night and do everything we can to avoid it.
But it’s true that what goes into us changes us. If I only eat cotton candy for three weeks I’m probably going to be in pretty rough shape. If I have a carefully balanced diet, I’m probably going to be feeling really good.
The same is also true of what we take in spiritually—perhaps even more true than what we ingest into our bodies physically. Because what we hear and think, what the Holy Spirit does for us, has an impact not just on our comfort level here, but on our eternity.
Kaitlyn, the passage you chose for your confirmation verse, Proverbs 4:23, is a tremendous encouragement and warning for you from this day forward. Guard your heart and what goes into it carefully, because from it flows your life, your God-given eternal life.
In our Catechism classes we get the chance not only to review the teachings of Scripture, but also get to see those teachings in action throughout Bible History. We get to review the life of people like Adam, and Abraham, and King David, people who had faults but were focused on God. But we also get to see the lives of King Saul or Judas, people who had the truth, who ostensibly believed what God had done for them, and eventually punted it all away. They let other things get into their hearts, be it love of self or love of money, and sacrificed what God had done for the temporal blessings they wanted.
That’s easy to do, isn’t it? It’s easy to be influenced by the world around us. It’s easy to start to think that the world around me and my immediate gratification is more important than anything I might be looking forward to in eternity. So maybe I ignore God’s directions on relationships and sex, or his guidance on money and its proper place in our lives, or in how I use substances like alcohol and I just do what I want to do because everything around me says that I should just live it up while I can.
You, Kaitlyn, are entering what could be a scary new world. High school begins next year, college not long after that. You will face pressure to do what you know is wrong and pressure to stop doing what you know is right. How will you respond to those pressures? What will you do? What do any of us do?
If we have the focus on our contributions to this equation, though, we have the wrong focus, don’t we? If I look over my life and think that everything about it depends on me, I’m ignoring everything that God has done any continues to do. God is the one that takes care of me, God is the one that works in me, God is the one that changes me from one who loves sin to one who love him.
We learned how he made that change—he promised and then sent his Son to live and die for us. Jesus took the burden of our sin on himself. The Father punished Jesus for what you and I have done so that when he died, he was dying the death that we deserved but will never face. Jesus did it for us so that we could have the certainty that we will live with him forever in heaven, not because of anything we have done, but because of everything he has done for us.
But it’s not hard to find people who will think all of that is nonsense. They will tell you that your faith is misplaced, that you believe in fairy tales. They will tell you that it depends on you and your efforts, not on some God-man living and dying for you. They will tell you that nothing beyond this life exists so that nothing beyond right now matters at all.
My dear sister, my dear congregation, guard your heart carefully. These poisonous ideas can lead us astray, lead us away from our Savior and the comfort he provides. The moment we start trusting in ourselves to make our lives better is the moment that we jettison our God and his truths in exchange for lies. We become no more focused on the truth that the “spiritual” people in Athens when the apostle Paul visited, when he found an altar to “an unknown god.” They worshiped what they didn’t even know. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into the same trap.
Instead of letting the world’s poisonous ideas drive our hearts and lives, we want God’s message of love, forgiveness and comfort to be our guide through this life and into the life that is coming. I don’t want to steal Kaitlyn’s thunder because she has a lot of great plans and points to share with all of us today in her essay, but it’s a reminder for us to retain God’s Word as the focus of our lives. It’s not just a focus during our years in Catechism class, after which we “graduate” supposedly knowing everything. It’s not just a focus when things are really bad (or really good), as if his Word were situationally appropriate. No, God’s Word, his message of love and forgiveness in Jesus, should be our focus every day, whether today is our confirmation day, whether that day is yet to come, or whether that day happened long ago. God’s Word is as important for us today as it was yesterday and as it will be for us tomorrow.
Above all else, guard your heart carefully, because your life flows from it. Don’t let anything and everything come into your heart because it’s too precious, too much is riding on your heart being focused on your Savior. Thanks be to God that through his Word, the Holy Spirit keeps that focus on him for us. He does what we cannot do, what we need him to do. He focuses you on your Savior and then your life flows from it, your eternal life especially, but even your day-to-day life as well.
In our studies, we learned about the God using his law as a guide, which was different than other uses of the law. The law might be used as a curb, threatening us with punishment if we don’t do what is right. The law might be used as a mirror to show us just how far we have fallen, how greatly we have missed the mark. But the guide is unique because when the law is used as a guide, it’s not used to spark fear or shame in our hearts. It’s meant to guide us in thanksgiving to God.
We have opportunities every day to do the right thing, yet we don’t need to do the right things to be forgiven of our sins; God already does that for us freely. No, the opportunities to do the right things, to help a friend who is struggling, to speak a word of encouragement to someone who is downtrodden, to provide for the needs of someone less well off than we are, all of those are ways that we show our appreciation to God. God has forgiven our sins! God has given us eternal life! Why wouldn’t we serve and thank him with what we do?
Your life flows from your heart. A heart that rejoices in what your Savior has done for you will flow with thankful good works, even sharing that comforting message of Jesus with those who don’t know it yet. If your life flows from your heart, you want you heart swimming in the undeserved love of God that he gives to us in Jesus.
Whether today is your confirmation day or not, take to heart these words from our God through Solomon’s pen. Guard your heart. Rejoice in your Savior. Live your life today as a response to the perfect life that you know is coming! Amen.