Guarding What God Has Put in Your Heart

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard messages on the importance of guarding our hearts. God wants relationships with people who are pure in heart and who are whole-heartedly devoted to Him. In order to be like that, we need to be careful what we let into our hearts. Guarding our hearts, we’re often told, is about not letting bad things in.

Though that aspect of guarding our hearts is of vital importance, there’s also another side to this. To quote a daily devotional I’ve been reading, “We are to keep things in –things like the Spirit of Jesus, the humility and gentleness, the servanthood and sacrifice, the worship and thankfulness” (Chris Tiegreen, 365 Pocket Devotions, p.23). We need to be careful that we’re not so focused on keeping bad things out that we forget to keep the good things in.

Keep Truth In Your Heart

When Samuel was sent to anoint David, Yahweh told him, “God does not view things the way people do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7, NET). What’s in our hearts is what matters most to God. We don’t want to let in things that would corrupt our hearts, but we’re also not evaluated based on what we’ve kept out. God looks at what we keep in.

My child, pay attention to my words;
listen attentively to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight,
guard them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and healing to one’s entire body.
Guard your heart with all vigilance,
for from it are the sources of life.

Proverbs 4:20-23, NET

This is the one Bible passage that clearly instructs us to guard our hearts. It starts out by telling us to put wise words inside us and then “keep them in the center of your heart” (v. 21, WEB). It’s about guarding the good things in our hearts because what’s inside us determines what comes out of our lives, for good or evil.

He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person.”

Mark 7:20-23, NET

If what’s inside our hearts is bad, the fruit our lives produce will be bad also, no matter how much we polish up the outside. We can, however, with God’s help, replace the bad things with good things. Change has to happen in our hearts as we internalize the words of God, and then we need to guard those good things that He gives us.

Attach Your Hearts to Good Things

Putting His law inside people’s hearts is one of the central aspects of God’s new covenant. When He prophesied the new covenant, He said, “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33, NET). That’s what’s happening as part of the covenant Jesus instituted with His sacrifice (Heb. 8:7-13; 10:14-18). In order to have good things come from our lives we need to have good things in our hearts, and that comes from entering this covenant with God. We also need to diligently guard what God is teaching and giving us.

“Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21, NET

Part of guarding our hearts involves being careful about what “treasure” we attach ourselves to. If the things that we care about most and pour our energy into are worldly, that’s where our hearts will be. But if we put our efforts, time, and affection into good and godly things, then that is what our hearts and souls will treasure.

Entrust God With Your Heart

There is one other verse that uses the phrase “guard your hearts.” This time, though, it’s not an instruction for us. It’s something God does for us when we trust Him with our hearts and minds.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7, NET

We talked about this type of peace at length just a couple weeks ago in a post called “Finding Peace On Earth Today.” The peace that God offers is a sort of peace that’s not dependent on external circumstances. Rather, it is a product of a heart that is committed to fully trusting God. True, lasting, godly peace comes when we trust God to take care of the things that threaten to take away our peace. When we pray in every situation, God shares His peace with us and it works to guard our hearts.

The task of guarding our hearts–keeping good things in and stopping bad things from taking over–is a life-long process. It’s something that God expects us to be actively involved in, and it’s something that He’s committed to helping us with.

Featured image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Finding Peace On Earth Today

Today’s world is not a peaceful place. Wars, rumors of wars, rioting, brutality, oppression, and unrest plague the whole earth. Fears fill our minds, confusing and contradictory information comes at us from every side, and there’s always a new reason in the news for anger, anxiety, or grief. If we ever needed proof that there’s no peace on earth, this past year supplied it.

In the midst of all this, the Bible describes peace as something God gives to His people and which He expects us to have. Finding peace while here on this earth may seem an impossible task, but God specializes in doing the impossible (Luke 1:37; 18:27). The peace God offers is not dependent on external circumstances. It comes from what He is doing inside us and it’s a special type of peace that is only available through God.

Putting Peace in our Minds

The peace God offers us cannot be destroyed by what’s going on in the world. Also, thankfully, it is a type of peace that we can have even during times of trouble and strife–the sort of times when we most need peace.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7, NET

Paul doesn’t tell us that God will take away any reason we might have for anxiety. Rather, he says not to worry about any of the situations that could cause anxiety. Instead, we take those situations to God in prayer and with thanksgiving. We can do this with confidence in the promise that God’s peace–a peace so incredible we can’t understand it, yet which we still get to participate in–will guard our hearts and minds. God doesn’t just take away anxiety and give us peace, though, without any action on our part. We have a role to play as well. In addition to praying for God’s peace, Paul also tells us to replace our anxious thoughts with something else.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9, NET

We have the power to change how we think and even how we feel. We are not at the mercy of our outside circumstances or even our own emotions. That’s true of all human beings. Everyone of us can change and improve the way we think and process emotion. And when we have God’s spirit, we have additional aid in finding real peace. God created us and He knows how to balance and heal our minds, hearts, and souls.

Pursuing Righteousness and Peace

I recently heard a sermon where the speaker talked about the deep connection between righteousness and peace. He started by quoting Psalm 85:10, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (WEB). It’s part of the verse I used as the title of my post about INFJ Christians, but I hadn’t realized how often these two concepts are linked. It seems you can’t have the type of peace God offers without also seeking to imitate His righteousness.

I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way that you should go. Oh that you had listened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:17-18,. WEB

Righteousness and peace must be pursued together (2 Tim. 2:22). The type of peace God offers is only found in relationship with Him, and we can’t have a close relationship with God if we insist on living unrighteous lives. We need to follow His steps, heed His words, and embrace both His righteousness and His peace.

For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people. So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.

Romans 14:17-19, NET

Bearing the Fruit of Peace

Many (perhaps most) of us saw 2020 as a year of severe trails. One of the ways the Bible talks about trials is as discipline–a tool God uses to disciple us into being like Him. Interestingly, this process is not only connected to learning to be righteous as God is righteous. It’s also connected to peace.

Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11, NET

Times of trial are often when peace seems most elusive, but when we go through our trials with God at our side they can actually lead to peace. Several Bible verses tell us to have joy in trials (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4), and I think recognizing how much we can learn from them is one key to having that sort of joyful perspective. Challenges help to refine us, and eventually produce good fruits in our lives.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.

James 3:17-18, NET
Finding Peace On Earth Today | LikeAnAnchor.com

We spent a couple of months earlier this year talking about all these attributes of Godly wisdom, including peace. In that post, we talked about Proverbs and how that book shows us that peace is something which happens when you live with wisdom. It’s one of the fruits that comes from aligning with God’s righteousness.

There is a way to have peace inside us even while living in a world where there is no peace. None of us knows what the year 2021 holds in store. It could be better than 2020, it could be more of the same, or it could even be worse. The outside circumstances cannot take away our peace, though, when that peace is grounded in our relationship with God.

Featured image by Pixabay from Pexels

When Other People Don’t Think Like You, Focus on Thinking Like God

I’ve long been fascinated by Philippians 3 (even wrote a whole post about it). Here, Paul talks about the things he had before conversion–religious status, a good background, the best education, zeal for his faith–and then says all his “human credentials” count for nothing. Indeed, he regards “them as dung!” It is so much more valuable to know Christ “and be found in him,” not because Paul is righteous by following the law but because he has “the righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.” And then with all that as background, he talks about how he keeps striving to live a godly life and will keep doing so until the end of his life in the hope of attaining “to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:5-12, NET).

This discussion is framed by Paul addressing a contentious issue in the church. He warns the Philippians to “beware of the dogs” (false teachers, see NET footnote), “beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh” (those who wrongly teach physical circumcision is still necessary” and those who “rely on human credentials” (Phil. 3:1-4, NET). That is why Paul brings up his own credentials. He’s not attacking these other teachers and saying their credentials mean nothing because Paul doesn’t have any and wants to make himself look better. Rather, he has the credentials and he still says they’re worthless because “human credentials can produce nothing that is pleasing to God” (NET footnote on v. 15). It is with this foundation that Paul then says what I want to focus on today.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained.

Phil. 3:13-16, NET

So often, when we disagree with someone in the church we instinctively want to defend our point of view. But what Paul indicates is that our first response should be to ask God to reveal His mind.

The Mind of Christ

One of the central goals of our Christian walk is to learn to think like God does. He fills us with His spirit to transform us and make us part of His family. We have received the Spirit “from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12, NET)

The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Cor. 2:14-16, quoting Isa. 40:13, NET

We must “arm ourselves with the same mind” Christ had so that we can live “for the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:1-2, WEB). Part of the “will of God” involves living in harmony with our brethren. That only happens when all of us are trying to think like Christ.

Now the God of perseverance and of encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore accept one another, even as Christ also accepted you, to the glory of God.

Rom. 15:5-7, WEB

Like Minded in Him

When scripture says that Christians are to be like minded, it does not mean we reach whatever mutual consensus we want. Our like-mindedness comes from all of us putting on the mind of Christ. That “we have the mind of Christ” verse I quoted earlier is preceded in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians by this:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose

1 Cor. 1:10, NET

Paul goes on to talk about how ridiculous it is to divide the church over which teacher to follow (1 Cor. 1:9-17), the fact that there is no room for human boasting before God (1 Cor. 1:18-31), that our faith is based in God’s wisdom, and that through His spirit we get to put on Jesus’ mind (1 Cor. 2:1-16). It has quite a few parallels with Philippians 3, where Paul talks about the uselessness of human credentials and then urges continued faithfulness, which includes living in peace with your brethren.

It’s a familiar refrain in Paul’s letters. “Live in harmony with one another” (Rom. 12:15). “Be of the same mind … being united in spirit” (Phil. 2:2). “Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11). The more like God we become, the fewer disagreements we ought to have with others who are also becoming more like God.

Continue Aligning Yourself With God

The principle we’re discussing is simple in theory: put on Christ’s mind and you’ll all be united. In practice, we’re all at different levels of growth. None of us have fully put on the mindset and attitudes of Jesus yet, and we don’t always agree on what putting on His mind looks like. Returning to Philippians 3,

Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained.

Phil. 3:15-16, NET

Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you. Nevertheless, to the extent that we have already attained, let’s walk by the same rule. Let’s be of the same mind.

Phil. 3:15-16, WEB

When we disagree, we can ask God to reveal His mindset and align us with truth. When seeking this sort of like-mindedness, always ask for God’s perspective so you can understand what He wants you to see–not to help you understand human teachings or teachers. Our goal for spiritual growth is to be like our Father. Unity with other believers happens as a result of that goal, not as the central goal itself.

Paul also admonishes us to “live up to” or “walk by” the standard we’ve already attained. This goes along with verses like the one in James that says if you know to do good and don’t do it that is sin to you (James 4:17) and passages in Romans that indicate we’re judged based on how well we do God’s will rather than how well we understand the law (Rom. 2:10-16). Though we might not always agree with other Christians on the best way to follow God, we need to live in peace with others as much as possible, follow God as faithfully as we understand how, and always be seeking to align our thinking and mode of living more closely with Him.

Featured image credit: Pearl via Lightstock

How To Be A Better Peacemaker As An INFJ

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the traits people with an INFJ personality type have that can make them wonderful peacemakers. One thing I didn’t cover in that post was how to develop those traits in order to become a better peacemaker. Just because we’re “hardwired” to have certain personality traits doesn’t mean they’re all equally well developed or that we’ll be comfortable using them. Peacemaking comes more naturally to some individuals than to others. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re stuck with whatever traits and quirks we have now which might make it challenging to be an effective peacemaker. We can always grow and improve, even if we’re already pretty good at dealing with other people.

Learn To Handle Conflict

Raised voices are one of my biggest anxiety triggers. Even a hint of conflict used to send me scurrying for another room. But we can’t help create peace if we run away any time there’s a lack of peace. In other words, if you’re paralyzed by fear in the face of disharmony, you won’t be a very effective peacemaker.

One thing INFJs need to keep in mind is that what seems to us like a frightening disagreement often seems like a harmless debate to someone else. What we interpret as a voice raised in anger, for example, might come from someone who merely thinks they’re proving their point in an emotionally neutral way. This is not to say that INFJs should let others bulldoze their boundaries or that they should make themselves stay in genuinely threatening situations. But we do need to learn how to recognize when we might be over-reacting to conflict and learn how to step down our fight-flight-or-freeze reaction.

Learning to handle conflict in a healthy way can be a long process. You might even want to get professional help (that’s what I did, and I highly recommend seeing a counselor if you’re struggling with any sort of anxiety that impacts your quality of life).

Practice Seeing Others’ Points of View

How To Be A Better Peacemaker As An INFJ | LikeAnAnchor.com
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

An INFJ’s favorite mental process is a cognitive function called Introverted Intuition. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Perspectives” because it’s so good at seeing things from different angles and it’s not tied to just one perspective. We INFJs are still human, though, and it’s a very human tendency to get comfortable with one way of looking at things and then not notice (or not be open to hearing) contrasting points of view.

Learning how to take responsibility for our own feelings and talk about complicated issues is not an easy thing to do. When I wrote an article on that topic a little over a year ago, some of the things I recommended for learning how to do that included assuming positive intent on the other person’s part, refusing to insult them, really listening instead of assuming you know what they’ll say, and reading articles like “How To Talk To People You Disagree With” and “We Should All Speak to People We Don’t Agree With. Here’s How.”

Learn to Listen

Since INFJs are so good at seeing patterns, we can very easily fall into the trap of assuming we know what someone will say and then not really listening. But no matter how good we are at predicting what will happen and how people will response, people are still full of surprises. If we want to mediate conflict, we need to learn to really listen to every person involved. Only once we understand each person’s point of view can we help smooth relationships and fix miscommunication.

In most of the opportunities I’ve had to be a peacemaker, I find myself acting as a kind of interpreter for emotion and intent. So many times, conflict happens because people just don’t understand each other. I find there are often times when two frustrated people just need a bit of help to rephrase their arguments so they can sort out misunderstandings and resolve the conflict.

Take Action

INFJs often find theory more comfortable than action. We like to read about how we can grow, but then hesitate to take those steps. I’m as guilty of that as most anyone else. But if we want to become better peacemakers (or improve in any other area of our lives) at some point we need to put theory into practice.

Peacemaking gives INFJs a chance to use skills that come naturally to us because of how our brains work. It can also be an incredibly satisfying use of our talents. Most INFJs want there to be harmony between people, and if we learn to act as peacemakers we have a chance to actively create harmony rather than passively wishing it would happen. We won’t always enjoy perfect success. Sometimes our efforts might even make things worse. But if we are invested in peace, build our peacemaking skills, focus on trying to help others, and strive to act with their best interests in mind we can grow to become effective peacemakers.


Featured image by Comfreak from Pixabay

The Beatitudes, Part Seven: Blessed Are The Peacemakers

The seventh type of person that Jesus talks about in what we call the beatitudes is the peacemaker. Like the others in this list, they are blessed — fully satisfied by God — and they also receive an additional, specific blessing.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Matthew 5:9, all quotes from WEB translation

Being part of God’s family is what He desires for everyone who He has called into His church. Here, Jesus specifically links being God’s children with being peacemakers. This is an activity that God, the ultimate peacemaker, does and it’s one He wants us to learn.

Much as in English, the Greek word for “peacemaker” basically means someone who makes peace. “Peace,” in this sense, is a tranquil, blessed state with security and without strife (eirene, G1515). The Hebrew equivalent is shalom wholeness; nothing missing and nothing broken.

Jesus’s Example

In Psalms and Proverbs, it talks about God making peace for His people by blocking their enemies from harming them (Ps. 147:14; Prov. 16:7). Moving beyond simply referring to “peace” as an absence of war, God promises to “make with them a covenant of peace” which will make them secure in their lands and involve God placing His dwelling among them (Ezk. 34:25; 37:26). It’s looking forward to the time when divisions between God and mankind are removed and there can be true, complete peace.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace.

Ephesians 2:13-15

Jesus “made peace through the blood of his cross” and reconciled us to God (Col. 1:20-22). Without that, there would be separation because of our sins, but God cared so much about making peace with us that Jesus died to remove those sins. He established a covenant of peace by giving His life. He was all-in as a peacemaker; fully committed to reconciling humanity and God.

Following Things of Peace

We know we’re to imitate Jesus, and that includes in His commitment to peacemaking. He is the Sar Shalom — Prince of Peace (Is. 9:16-17) — and His people also value peace. If we have His spirit and wisdom inside us, we will “make peace” and sow “the fruit of righteousness” in peace (James 3:17-18).

So then, let’s follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up.

Romans 14:9

If you look at this verse in-context, Paul is telling us that how we treat each other is more important than making sure we all believe the same things on relatively minor topics. One of God’s primary expectations for those in His church is that they will live at peace with each other. This requires humility and selfless care for others (Phil. 2:1-4) and a commitment to living out the fruit of the spirit, including peace (Gal. 5:22-23).

A Family at Peace

The Beatitudes, Part Seven: Blessed Are The Peacemakers | LikeAnAnchor.com

God is building a family. He does not want a family full of petty bickering, but one of peace. Right now, there are two fully spirit, immortal members of the God-family: Father and Son. Their relationship is so close that Jesus told us, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Their goal is that we may also be one with them, and with each other in them (John 17:11, 20-23).

See how great a love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn’t know us, because it didn’t know him. Beloved, now we are children of God. It is not yet revealed what we will be; but we know that when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure.

1 John 3:1-3

Being children of God involves imitating our Father. Here, John describes that imitation as becoming pure, as God is pure, but we can also include other godly character traits and roles within that goal, including peacemaking. Being a peacemaker is part of living according to God’s spirit — which He gives us as a key part of adopting us as His children — rather than according to the lusts of our flesh (Rom. 8:1-17).

Dear readers, let’s be peacemakers, especially now as we’re living in a time when it’s so easy to divide instead of unite. God has given us His spirit if we’ve committed our lives to Him. And through His spirit, we have what we need to not only be His children, but to act like we’re part of His family by mimicking Him in every aspect of our lives.

Why INFJs Make Such Good Peacemakers

When you read about INFJ strengths or dig-in to tips for personal growth, one of the things that often comes up is the potential for INFJs to act as peacemakers. As an INFJ, you might have mixed feelings about that idea. Sure peace sounds nice — we love peace — but peacemaking assumes that there’s a lack of peace when you start out. In order to make peace out of conflict, you need to be able and willing to wade-in to that conflict.

Many INFJs, including me, find conflict extremely uncomfortable. Our palms get sweaty. Our insides start to shake, and possibly our hands or whole bodies as well. Our throats start to close up and our thoughts race to worst-case scenarios for how this might end. We’d often far rather quietly slip away from the conflicts, hold our tongues, or give-in on issues that don’t seem “all that important” right now than risk escalating a conflict. If we can get past that fear, though, INFJs have innate skills that we can build on to become good at conflict resolution.

We Value Harmony

Because external emotions affect us so much and we’re quick to notice disconnects between people, INFJs typically have a heightened sensitivity to conflict. We notice when something is off between two people (whether or not it directly involves us). INFJs place a high value on peace and we’ll do almost anything to preserve it.

For many INFJs, that means avoiding conflict even when something really should be addressed. We fear conflict rather than resolve it because we want harmony so much. But we need to learn that sometimes in order to create harmony, we have to deal with conflict.

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