The organ we call the human heart pumps 1,900 gallons of blood through it every day. The heart is continually receiving blood through the veins into the two upper chambers of the heart, the right and left atria. The three veins that carry blood to the heart are the superior vena cava, which carries oxygen-depleted blood from the head and arms; the inferior vena cava, which carries deoxygenated blood from the lower parts of the body; and the pulmonary vein, which delivers freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs. A vein is simply a vessel, a hollow tube, which is designed to carry blood from one place to another.
I remember as a child being excited when we drove through long tunnels in the Alleghany Mountains of Pennsylvania. Later, when I lived in San Francisco, I would take the BART subway system that ran underwater tunnel from San Francisco to Berkeley. These tunnels were pathways that took me from one place to another.
Sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world, the mighty Thames Barrier in London is made up of ten gateways that regulate the flow of water to prevent catastrophic flooding from storm surges or high tides. These massive rotating gates act as powerful and effective protection for the city of London, which was long prone to flooding.
A portal, in a historical sense, was an impressive entrance, a gateway to what was usually a magnificent structure. Many castles and cathedrals were constructed with beautiful, ornate portals. Westminster Abbey in England and Notre Dame de Paris are examples of cathedrals with grand portals of entrance.
In the modern computing world, a portal is a website that acts as a gateway to other sites. In other words, it’s an anchor or starting point that makes all types of information available to users who pass through the portal. Search engines like Yahoo! and Google are considered portals because they connect users to information from all around the world. The world’s knowledge is now at the fingertips of ordinary persons like me.
In a similar manner, the heart you’ve been called to guard has vessels/ gateways/tunnels/portals that allow outside influences and information to enter the heart. Information, ideas, images pour through these gateways, shaping and molding the heart and affecting its composition, character, and health. The heart then reflects the nature of what has been allowed to enter through these portals.
If you are to properly guard your heart, you must watch over these gateways and deny entry to that which is ungodly and corrupt. You must act as a security guard or sentry, carefully checking the identity of everything and everyone that seeks to gain entrance. God’s Word sets down in no uncertain terms the truth concerning these portals, making it clear that Christians are to be discerning about what comes through them. To be lax concerning what is allowed through these passages is to court spiritual disaster and put your heart at risk of being corrupted by fear, unbelief, and the unholy. The heart can easily succumb to contaminants flowing through these portals, causing it to become hardened, unresponsive, numb, and indifferent to the things of God.
Spiritual heart disease can be directly traced back to the information, images, and ideas that are allowed to enter these gateways. These portals were designed to be gateways to a fuller communion and fellowship with the Lord, but so many of God’s children have become so careless, allowing so much of this world’s pollution to flow into their hearts. We cannot let just anything pass through the gates and into our hearts and still expect to grow and mature in Christ.
So what are these portals where you must stand guard with all vigilance? In Scripture we discover three important gateways to the heart: our eyes, our ears, and our thoughts. The issues of life that proceed from the hearts always begin with what has been allowed entry through these gateways. Each of these gateways must be deeply understood if we are to truly allow God to change, purify, and cleanse our hearts daily. The eyes, ears, and thoughts are the main portals to the heart, and we must guard these first or the task of guarding our hearts is a hopeless one.
The Eyes: The First Gateway to the Heart
The eye is the second most complex organ in the human body, next to the brain. Our eyes use more brainpower than any part of our body and can process 36,000 bits of information an hour. Our human eye can distinguish up to one million color surfaces, and our eyes take in more information than the largest telescope known to man. In fact, your brain will rewire itself, changing its own structure, function, and behavior in order to better process the images and influences entering the brain through your eyes.
Visual stimulation is therefore an important part of both the development of your brain and the composition of your heart. In The Brain Changes That Changes Itself, Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge writes, “Our brains our modified by the cultural activities we do—be they reading, studying music, or learning new languages. We all have what might be called a culturally-modified brain.”[i] Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich says, “Our brains are massively remodeled by [exposure to the Internet] but so, too, by reading, by television, by video games, by modern electronics, by contemporary music.”[ii]he eye is the second most complex organ in the human body, next to the brain. Our eyes use more brainpower than any part of our body and can process 36,000 bits of information an hour. Our human eye can distinguish up to one million color surfaces, and our eyes take in more information than the largest telescope known to man. In fact, your brain will rewire itself, changing its own structure, function, and behavior in order to better process the images and influences entering the brain through your eyes.
It’s staggering to think how much visual stimulation our brains receive from our televisions, computers, and other visual media and how all this information entering through the gateway of the eye dramatically affects our spiritual health. The brain and, ultimately, the heart are like plastic, easily molded and shaped by the visual information and images flowing through the portal of the eye. When you recognize that a massive remodeling project is occurring in our hearts and brains every day via this bombardment of information, you can begin to see what an enormous weapon of destruction the devil wields as the master and controller of this visual stimulation.
In a Boston Globe article titled “Silence that Idiot Box,” Jeff Jacoby writes:
For turning brains into mush, you can’t do better than television….TV isn’t called the idiot box for nothing. Even at its best it replaces engaged and active thought with passive and sedentary spectating, while at its worse destroys children’s innocence, inuring them to violence, mockery, and crude sexualization. Television is by definition a visual medium; it appeals not to the brain but to the eye. You don’t have to study hypnosis to understand how easily the eye can be exploited to undermine alertness, focus, and good judgment. Just look at the gazed and vacant expression on the face of a youngster watching TV. Most parents would be calling 911 if their child drank something that caused such a reaction. Why doesn’t the zoned-out oblivion induced by TV cause parents to panic?[iii]
Bigger, louder, and bolder than their younger cousin TV, movies remain one of the most popular forms of visual media around the world. Even in communist China, millions flock to theaters every year to be dazzled by an impressive light show of the marvels of the modern filmmaker. Given the power of this medium, it’s unfortunate that so many movies overflow with vivid illustrations of so many characteristics of the kingdom of darkness. They often sugarcoat and glorify the worse traits of our sin nature as they barrage the heart with images that disturb, agitate, or allure the heart into a state where it is numbed and deadened to the things of God.
Oliver Stone, the well-known filmmaker, has said, “Film is a powerful medium, film is a drug, film is a potential hallucinogen—it goes into your eye, it goes into your brain, it stimulates, and it’s a dangerous thing—it can be a very subversive thing.”[iv] Does it surprise you to know that the director of Scarface and Natural Born Killers admits that movies can have a powerful drug-like effect on hearts and minds and can present a dangerous threat to our spiritual health through their mesmerizing visual stimulation?
Add to this mix that other modern monster of visual stimulation, the Internet, and we see that the ear is under an all-out assault through the gateway of the eye. Although much good can come through the Internet, numerous people, including many Christians, have allowed the Internet to consume them and poison their heart for God. This is most vividly seen with the growing problem of pornography. The statistics are staggering. A 2006 study (these numbers have likely increased dramatically) showed there were 4.2 million pornographic websites on the Internet, with 420 million pages of pornographic images and material. Revenues for these sites have been estimated at $97 billion, more than the revenue of all professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises combined. Forty million U.S. adults regularly visit pornographic sites, as this is fast becoming the number one addiction not only in America, but also around the world.
Pornography is like a cancer in the Christian church and has destroyed many lives, marriages, and ministries. More than half of Christian men have admitted to struggles with pornography, and it has become a growing problem among church pastors and leadership.
Becky Tirabassi, in her book Sacred Obsession, expounds on this sad truth:
Sexual addiction is a serious problem for students from every part of the country, those who are ministers of the gospel, single adults, and married couples of all ages….I am no longer shocked by the number of men and women who share how their lives have been negatively impacted by pornography. It is becoming the norm rather than the exception.[v]
Viewing sexually explicit websites is consuming and possessing the young and old, the married and single, the unbeliever and the believer. Pornography has no respect for age, occupation, or marital status. What often starts as an innocent curiosity within a very short time becomes a compulsion, a dark secret, and an addiction of incredible proportion in a person’s life.
Do you see the absolute importance and magnitude of diligently watching over and protecting the gateway of the eye? Visual media can quickly corrupt and contaminate our hearts, quickly consuming us and turning our hearts away from God.
The Great Battle for the Eye
We see the great battle of human history that rages on today depicted in the first few chapters of Genesis, namely those scenes in which the devil vies for the heart of man through the portal of the eye. Satan understood early on the huge impact and influence he could have on the heart through the knowledge that enters through the physical eye.
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8–9, NIV)
Can you imagine the breathtaking beauty of the Garden of Eden? God planted this marvelous garden as a paradise on earth to be the home of His masterpieces, man and woman, a place where they would delight in God’s presence. He wanted Adam and Eve to take great pleasure and inspiration in the beauty of His creation, designing everything on earth to be a constant reminder to His children of God’s constant love.
He made people’s eyes to behold this awe-inspiring and breathtaking beauty and desire to know their Creator in deep, intimate fellowship and communion. They were meant to behold His magnificent works and thrill to the glorious nature and unique wonders of God. Through the eye, God was to become precious and beloved to people’s hearts and the singular object of their devotion and worship.
One of Scripture’s first great truths concerning the heart’s connection to the eye is that there’s a vital link between the desires and passions of the heart and what is seen by the physical eye. So often what the heart delights in and yearns for initially enters the heart through the portal of the eye. The devil understood this truth and used it to his advantage in the temptation and seduction of Eve. She was deceived by the serpent because she failed to guard her eyes and thus her heart:
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4–6, NKJV, emphasis mine)
The devil’s main objective in bombarding a person with visual stimulation is to turn the heart away from God’s Word and destroy the heart’s desire and devotion for God. When the heart is deadened to the things of God, Satan can bamboozle us with the illusion that we must exalt and glorify our own self-interests above all else in order to be happy. He promulgates this great lie that we can be like God and accomplish anything we want through self-promotion. The devil promises enlightenment, pleasure, success, insight, and power without the presence, help, or demands of God. He makes these hollow promises using carefully crafted images designed to suffocate and choke the life out of the human heart and bring it into bondage to him.
It’s the same visual deception found in this description of idolatry in Romans 1:23 (NKJV), that “[they] changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” This is the pattern of every image, picture, and figure the devil manipulates to appeal to the human eye: God is never glorified, God is never experienced, and God is never praised. Rather, the image, picture, or figure depicts the darkness of sin that abounds in man’s fallen nature. Eve fell into this trap, as she was fascinated by the serpent’s words and promises, and allowed her eye to be taken captive by its manipulation. She took her eye off all the marvelous works and goodness of her Creator, and she forgot who God is and all His promises and love for her. She allowed her eyes to blind her heart, and she followed the lie rather than the truth.
We can see this so vividly illustrated by the meaning of some of the Hebrew words in this passage. The Hebrew word rendered as “saw” in Genesis 3:6 has the same root as the word translated “turn their eyes” in Isaiah 17:7, which means to perceive, consider, inspect, and behold with intention and purpose. Eve intently focused her eyes on the fruit of the forbidden tree, and her heart became delighted and pleased with it. She failed to guard her eye but, rather, beheld with admiration and desire the fruit that God had told her to avoid at all costs.
The Hebrew word translated “pleasant” in this same verse means attractive and delightful to the eyes, creating strong affection and the longings and cravings of a person’s heart. Through the gateway of her eyes, Eve allowed images that had been defined and framed by the words of the devil to enter her heart to the point that she craved evil. The fruit became her delight, her passion, and her earnest desire. Her heart became indifferent to God and turned away from Him. Thus she altered her reality and changed human history.
The fall of the human race in the garden was greatly assisted by the subtle manipulation of the gateway of the eye. The devil knows if he can frame and control the images that a person intently gazes upon, he can control and dominate the heart. Satan knows all too well that the heart can be led by the eyes (Job 31:7), and he has incorporated this principle into his schemes of darkness.
As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon declared, “What fascinates the eye is very apt to gain admission into the heart.”[vi]
“I Will Set No Worthless Thing Before My Eyes”
David, a man after God’s own heart, set down an important truth in the Psalms that we must abide by if we ever want to enjoy great intimacy with our heavenly Father while on earth:
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. (Psalm 101:3, NASB)
The Hebrew word translate here as “worthless” is Belial, which means without value and good for nothing. This word always has a strong connotation of wickedness, lawlessness, and evil associated with it. In the Old Testament, it’s used primarily as a name for wicked and ungodly people who have sold out to the enemy and personify every form of imaginable evil, spreading through the earth like wildfire. The aim of such men and women is to hinder and obstruct the pursuit of God by diverting human passions toward idols. They twist, bend and lead the heart away from the God’s light and His Word, thus engulfing the heart in darkness and plunging it into the service of other gods.
People of Belial are constantly sowing seeds of all kinds of evil into unguarded hearts, and if left unchecked, these seeds will grow into ugly weeds and thistles. Even more disturbing is how these wicked people infiltrate the very house of God and corrupt His children’s worship and fellowship by sowing discord, strife, envy, and confusion among those who profess devotion to God and love of the brethren. They are the epitome of wolves in sheep’s clothing, subtly leading astray the people of God. We must watch and be on guard against the ways, words, and works of these worthless ones if we are to effectively guard the gateways to our heart.
These people of Belial are given many descriptive character traits in Scripture that reveal their intentions and their works. They know do not the Lord (1 Samuel 2:12). Their lips burn like fire to spread wickedness and distortion (Proverbs 16:27). They are wicked counselors (Nahum 1:11). They lead the Lord’s people to sin (1 Samuel 2:24). They worship idols and recruit others into their idolatrous practices (Deuteronomy 13:13). They lie and accuse those who stand for God’s truth, often using religious-sounding words to hurt and deceive (1 Kings 21:13).
They truly are the devil’s henchmen upon the earth, captivating the hearts of men, women, and children and enslaving them to corrupt ideas, images, and works of darkness. The first usage of the word “Belial” in the Bible sets forth the pattern and foundation for everything they do.
Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known. (Deuteronomy 13:13, KJV)
“Scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods you have not known before.” (Deuteronomy 13:13, NLT)
These people are at war with the Most High God and everything He represents. They are “worthless” because they have dismissed God as having not any value or worth in their lives and have thrown off the yoke of God, refusing to be subject to Him or His laws. These men and women of Belial are always on the move, advancing, designing, plotting, preparing, and fabricating worthless things to turn hearts and minds against the divine purposes and love of God.
Their main strategy for extinguishing the light of God from the hearts of people is through the use of images and ideas conveyed to the heart through the gateway of the eye. This is why God admonishes us in Psalm 101:3 to not set these worthless things before our eyes, where they can mesmerize and fascinate and gain access into our hearts.
The Amplified Bible reads “I will set no base or wicked thing before my eyes.” The Hebrew word translated “thing” in this verse is dabar, which means a word, a message, a saying, and a communication. In Hebrew, dabar was regarded as an extension of one’s personality and a revelation of the very heart of that individual. It not only reveals the heart of the speaker, but the communication or message is meant to captivate the heart and be absorbed into the depths of the heart. It is a message or communication spoken directly to the heart and on a personal level as an encounter, an interaction and experience meant to bring two hearts together. There is a bonding that takes place where hearts are intertwined and tuned to the same pitch of the image, word, or message. This was truly an event where the power of the communication was released into the heart.
We often downplay the effect of a word, picture, or image we see. We say, “It’s just a movie” or “It’s just a book” or “It’s just a video” without realizing how powerful and life-altering these images or words can be. These worthless and wicked things come from the very heart of the men and women of Belial and are designed to have a profound spiritual impact on those who fix their gaze upon them. Can you imagine what havoc occurs in people’s lives when their desires, passions, and feelings are reshaped and manipulated by such worthless messages? A person’s heart is chained in bondage through this transformation and becomes a reflection of the selfishness and evil of this age. Love, compassion, and purity are pushed out of the heart by the aggressive nature of these worthless things, leaving behind a wasteland of spiritual darkness, a heart numb and apathetic to the things of God.
If we allow our attention, focus and sight to be mesmerized and captivated by these worthless communications, they will begin to fasten and cleave to the heart. God clearly illustrates this truth by the usage of the word “fasten” in Psalms 101:3 which, in the Hebrew, means to cleave, cling, join together, pursue closely and overtake, to be glued together, and to be attached to. These worthless things are like the strongest glue on earth. They are specifically designed by the devil to fasten firmly to the heart and turn it away from God. The Scripture teaches that there is a powerful cleaving nature to these worthless things, and they will grip, overtake and dominate the heart if we do not guard the gateway of the eye. These worthless things form an adhesive bond that fastens to the very fiber of the heart and most often cannot be separated from the heart without the help and power of God Almighty.
Can you see why David chose not to set his eye in an admiring gaze on any image, message, or communication coming from the men and women of Belial? He refused to allow any worthless thing to fasten itself or cleave to his heart. David had learned the lesson all too well about the careless gaze of the eye when he saw Bathsheba bathing and became infatuated with her beauty to the point he committed adultery and murder. His great sin before God all began with the gaze of the eye.
David later wrote in Psalm 141:8–9, “But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord.…Keep me safe from the traps set by the evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me.” When your eyes are fixed on God, then He will protect your from the snares and traps set by these men and women of Belial who throw out worthless things as bait to capture the heart. The focus of your eye must always be directed first and foremost on our loving Lord if your heart is to remain spiritually healthy and vibrant. Isaiah 40:26 declares, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens,” because nothing on earth compares to the greatness of God. It is only when your gaze is cast down upon the worthless things of this world that your heart can be drawn toward evil.
The Allure of Vanity
The phrase “word (dabar) of the Lord” appears 242 times in the Old Testament. The words of the Lord are power (2 Peter 3:5), light (Psalm 119:105), and life (John 6:63). We need to fix our eyes daily on the pages of the Bible and meditate on the life-changing words of God. We need to fasten them to our hearts like superglue, for these words reveal the heart of God, and our own hearts should always be tuned to the pitch of His words. This is an absolute requirement if we are to effectively guard the gateway of our eyes.
God’s Word helps us turn our eyes from the deceptive pleasures of this world and direct our focus back on the majesty of all that God is and everything He does for His people.
Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways. (Psalm 119:37, AMP)
David knew he could not guard the gateway of his eyes in his own strength. He needed God’s help, guidance, and wisdom to turn his gaze away from the fascination of vanity. The Hebrew word translated “vanity” in this passage means emptiness, nothingness, futility, uselessness, ruinous, false, and deception. There is an alluring deception in the pleasures of the world that can overwhelm us for a moment, but it ultimately fades into the night like a mist of vapor. Vanity is fleeting, yet the eyes can be spellbound by the bombardment of its images, ideas, and promises. The sad truth is that it’s all a lie, a cruel hoax, a journey into nothingness because God has no part in it.
Ecclesiastes 1:8 tells us, “The eye is never satisfied with seeing,” while 1 John 2:16 speaks of “the lust of the eyes.” But no matter how appealing earthly delights are to the eye, it can never satisfy the heart. When the eye is turned to vanity, we will always desire more, but nothing can quench this thirst or satisfy our lust. Vanity always disappoints the hope that is set upon it. Vanity ultimately mocks our foolishness for pursuing it above all else as it our life wastes away. Vanity is a stealer of destiny, purpose, and calling. It’s is a destroyer of virtue and an enemy of spiritual growth and intimacy with God.
The first biblical usage of the Hebrew root for “vanity” appears in the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7, esv). The base cause of vanity is a false report, or false witness, in the heart of a person regarding the nature, character, and name of the Lord God Almighty. Vanity is rooted in confusion as to who God is, and it exhibits a total lack of understanding of His majesty, goodness, and grandeur. A vain person does not know God on a personal level and does not experience Him in a close, living relationship. Without this knowledge, the vain person exalts himself to be god on the throne of his heart and worships the works, thoughts, and ideas of his own hands. Such people fall in love with their own image rather than the magnificent glory of God.
The path of vanity always ends in misery, for it rests on the great lie of the devil that “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). This lie led to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. Even today, vanity is the great seducer of the human race, calling us to play God, be God, reject God, and usurp His authority. Vanity is the grand masquerader and seductively beckons for all to look upon her, fall in love with her, and become consumed by her. She has deceived generation after generation of people foolish enough to follow her and devote their lives to the pursuit of her.
Unfortunately, vanity is not the exclusive domain of the unbeliever but resides as a fixture in the lives of far too many Christians and churches across the world. But as Job 35:13 says, God will not hear vanity or pay it any attention. Vanity shuts down the active and vibrant presence of God in the heart and blocks effective prayer. Vanity throws us out of fellowship and intimacy with God and turns the focus of our lives inward toward selfishness and pride. Vanity is a driving force behind the worship of idols and religious systems that claim to represent the words and will of God Almighty but are in fact empty of truth and lead the heart away from God.
Vanity is the deception of a life without God—a life where God is not wanted or needed, a life in which a person’s goals, desires, and morals are built on a foundation of sand. The Bible clearly describes this pursuit as empty, useless, and futile. Without God, our every pursuit leads to a dead end. Without God, the heart is hopelessly sick, condemned to wander aimlessly in darkness, lacking vitality and real joy. If God is absent from your desires, motivations, and goals, then you are utterly wasting your life:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:1–2, NIV)
Let’s return for a moment to Psalm 119:37, in which David prayed, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways” (NASB). The word “revive” in the Hebrew means to be alive, to restore to life, to flourish, and to cause to grow. The word “ways” here comes from the Hebrew word meaning to walk or tread. Hence, David is speaking in terms of a journey that someone takes or a path that one has traveled. He is describing the pattern, habits, and course of one’s life. God will make alive His path in our hearts if we will look away from vanity and turn our focus and gaze on Him.
God has prepared the journey of all journeys for your life—an exhilarating adventure of passion, audacity, and earth-shattering power. God wants to imprint His map on your heart and be the sole programmer of your life’s GPS. Your heart will flourish with the vibrant life of God when His ways become your ways and His path becomes your path.
However, vanity rejects this God-ordained journey and instead re-routes the heart for a journey that ultimately leads to nothing but disappointment, misery, and destruction. William Cowper, the great English poet and hymnist, once said, “By the eyes, oftentimes, as by windows, death enters into the heart.”[vii] Vanity hinders, suppresses, and suffocates the ways of God in our hearts. Therefore true revival will never become a reality in the church (or a Christian’s life) as long as our eyes are fixated on vain things.
Does not [God] see my ways and count all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood or vanity, or if my foot has hastened to deceit—oh, let me be weighed in a just balance and let Him weigh me, that God may know my integrity! If my step has turned out of [God’s] way, and my heart has gone the way of my eyes [covetously] invited, and if any spot has stained my hands with guilt, then let me sow and let another eat; yes, let the produce of my field or my offspring be rooted out. (Job 31:4-8, AMP)
The heart will always go the way of the eye. Job knew this to be true. Focusing the eyes on vanity and worthless things will invariably cause us to turn from God’s way. Aren’t you tired of all the dead ends you encounter when you try to forge your own path?
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. (Proverbs 4:25, NIV)
Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways. (Proverbs 23:26, NASB)
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 18, NIV)
If you are ever to fully give God your heart, then your eyes must delight in His ways. Your eyes should sparkle with the light of His presence and remain ever fixed on the majesty, goodness and greatness of God. He gave you two marvelous, wondrous eyes so that you could behold His awesome works and never forget His faithfulness. However, if you fail to fix your eyes upon the Lord above all else, then your heart will soon forget His ways. His light will begin to fade and your heart wither until He is pushed out altogether and another ascends to the heart’s throne.
The remembrance of Christ vanishes from the heart as it now cleaves to something new, following an image or likeness that has captivated you. The Second Commandment declares, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:4–5). One of the great weaknesses of the human heart is that it gravitates toward an image and begins to worship and build its life around it. Our eyes are bombarded daily with a thousand substitutes for God, as the devil hopes that one or more of these images will gain access to the heart as an object of worship, ultimately dominating and controlling the issues of life that flow from it. This is the modern-day golden calf that the devil wants to place in your heart through the gaze of your eyes, so that you turn away from God and give your devotion to another.
Yet when you cling to the Lord for life, you can defeat a thousand enemies attempting to infiltrate and corrupt your heart. You need only fix your eyes on the eternal and the magnificence of His kingdom. For how can an image or any likeness ever compare to our glorious God?
Make a Covenant with Your Eyes
So we must make a solemn covenant with our eyes that we will not look lustfully on any person, thing, possession, or ambition that usurp the place of God in our lives. This covenant is a sacred promise to God Almighty that we will guard the gateway of our eyes. This is the highest form of a pledge or contract. God will honor our covenant and help us guard our eyes when we trust and seek Him with all our heart.
There is perhaps no greater example in the Bible of the destructive consequences of a wandering gaze than the story of Achan from the book of Joshua. The day had come when the walls of Jericho would fall and the city delivered into the hands of the children of Israel. But the Lord had given Joshua explicit instructions concerning the contents of the city. So Joshua warned the Israelites:
“Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the Lord….Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury.” (Joshua 6:17–19, NLT)
But Achan, of the tribe of Judah, could not control himself. He fixed his eyes on vain and worthless things—a cloak, some silver, and some gold (Joshua 7:20–21). His heart earnestly craved and desired these things at enormous cost to himself, his family, and his nation.
Achan failed to guard the gateway of his eyes, and as a result, the people of Israel could no longer stand against their enemies. The army of Israel was routed by the men of Ai, thirty-six of Israel’s best fighting men were killed, and the hearts of the people melted in great fear and discouragement. God’s help had departed from Israel. The covenant of the Lord had been transgressed, and so Achan lost his possessions, his family, and his life, dying in disgrace in front of all the children of Israel.
Achan’s devastating sin began with the wandering gaze of the eye. When we fail to guard the gateway of our eyes, the same tragic consequences can befall our lives, our families, and our communities.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If all the light you have is darkness, it is dark indeed!” (Matthew 6:22–23, PHILLIPS)
When either light or darkness enters the heart, it’s directly related to the focus of our eyes. If the gaze of the eye is pure, the heart will be pure. If we focus on that which is healthy, the heart will be healthy. But if the gaze of the eye is directed toward evil and worthless things, then the heart will be filled with darkness. If we focus on that which is impure and wicked, then the heart becomes diseased and unhealthy.
Nothing else is more worthy of our gaze than God Almighty. We should never allow any earthly image to turn our eyes away from His face. We need to see as our Lord Jesus Christ sees, to lift up our eyes to the eternal where we behold the wondrous things of God—His creation, His mighty acts, His living Word, and His awe-inspiring nature. We must see through the eyes of faith, trusting in God’s faithfulness and His unfailing love. Let us not grieve God by recklessly turning our eyes away from Him to gaze on another. For if we habitually fix our eyes in adoration on worthless things and earthbound images, our hearts are surely lost.
This is an excerpt from my new book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life.” Order now at: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476275467&sr=8-1&keywords=the+heart+the+key+to+everything
[i] Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (New York: Penguin Books, 2007).
[ii] Michael Merzenich, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life (San Francisco: Parnassus Publishers, LLC 2005).
[iii] Jeff Jacoby, Silence that Idiot Box, The Boston Globe, September 27, 2009.
[iv] Oliver Stone-quoted in Dworkin 1996.
[v] Becky Tirabassi, Sacred Obsession (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 28.
[vi] Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Charles Spurgeon Commentary on Psalms (Easton: Niche House Publishing, 2011), Kindle, 52461.
[vii] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 6, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), 106.