Lucia's Blog: IN PURSUIT OF A PURE HEART
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Saturday, January 31, 2015

IN PURSUIT OF A PURE HEART

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  
Matthew 5:8


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of a number of qualities that characterize the heart of a true follower.  These character traits are commonly known as the "Beatitudes."  In this study, I would like to focus more on:  purity and the heart.  Keeping the heart and guarding it wisely is not an easy task to achieve on our own.  We definitely need God's help to purify our hearts of what is called SIN. We also need Him to help us with our heart's stubbornness and hardness that sneaks in, darkening its corners.  The marvelous thing is that He will help us if we ask Him.  Only God can give us the wisdom that we need.  His counsel is found in His revealed Word which teaches us how to pursue such purity of heart.  But we must seek His wisdom for direction.  This leads me to the following question:  What did our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:8 mean by the word "heart”?  In the Bible the word heart is far more than a bodily organ.  The Word of God defines the heart as that part of a man that is able to believe, to understand, to desire, to purpose, to feel, to plan and to will.  The mind is that part in us that combines all these qualities as they are found in the intellect, the emotions and the will. Our intellect contains all the facts of knowledge we have acquired. The emotions include all our feelings and desires. The will is the power to convert our wishes into deeds. When Jesus in this "beatitude" said, "Blessed are the pure in mind,"  He meant "Happy are the pure in heart."     Hence, purity of heart and happiness go hand in hand.  No one can be truly happy with an impure heart.

Notice what Jesus said about an impure heart, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man."  Matthew 15:10-20.  The apostle Paul added saying, "with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness."  Romans 10:10.  Also, Jesus rebuked the Jews because of their hardness of heart saying, "For the heart of this people has become dull.  With their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes,  hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them."  Matthew 13:15.

Since we understand the meaning of heart and purity, let us consider the qualities of a pure heart:
  1. A Pure Heart Yearns to Serve God Alone:  Such a heart accepts submissively and humbly God's ultimate rule to determine right from wrong and clean from unclean, good and evil, true religion and false religion.  Such a heart also strives to live up to God's Law.  A pure heart is one that is in complete accord with the Law of God.  "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22.  By the way, this passage applies to both young and old.  You don't have to be young to suffer from youthful lusts.  We laugh at the "dirty old" men and women, but what makes it funny is the surprising truth hidden in the humor.
  2. A Pure Heart Lives to Please God Alone:  Such a heart is one whose affections, thoughts, wishes, habits and conduct are clean. The pure in heart repulses and abhors everything vile and evil. Those pure in heart desire to do good.  They hunger and thirst after righteousness. Their desire is to please God, and they strive to be good and do good. They will not compromise with evil.   The pure in heart are those with a clean heart; clean from everything that is sinful, wrong, evil and contrary to God's will. A heart that does not believe in God is an impure heart.  All those who do not obey and abide by God's Laws have impure hearts. They have a defiled understanding.  Purity of heart is a long-life commitment!  What that means is that a pure heart is free from hidden motives or agendas.  In the Bible, the pure heart is also described as a "whole" heart.  It is not divided.  "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."  James 4:4.

In Psalm 24:3-5, we read regarding the character of the heart, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  And who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation."  The Psalmist poses the question, "Who can stand with God?”  "Who is acceptable to Him?"  This should be a concern to all of us.  When the Psalmist speaks of "clean hands" he is suggesting a conduct or behavior. That means we must strive to do the right things to be pleasing to God. This is a necessary standard by which we can determine right from wrong.  Notice that the "pure heart" directs our attention to a clear and uncontaminated motive.  Such a motive is to do it with the right attitude.

This leads me to the following questions:  

HOW IS THE HEART MADE PURE OR
 HOW CAN CAN WE OBTAIN A PURE HEART?

Consider the following possibilities:

I.   It Is Possible With God.  Only God can purify the heart of man.  Although it is impossible for us to have a pure heart on our own, God can make it possible through His grace that teaches us how to deny ungodliness and worldliness, teaching us righteousness and godliness.  The Scriptures call this purity of heart.  This is how He purifies our hearts from all lawlessness. 

Consider the promises that God made in the prophets and His intentions to cleanse the hearts of His people:

A.  God's Promises:
  1. In Jeremiah 31:31-33, God promised that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not like the one He gave them at Mt. Sinai.  "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'"
  2. Again He said, "And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them." Jeremiah 32:39.
  3. He made the same promise in Ezekiel 36:25-26, "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” God gives us new hearts by purifying our old ones and putting His new Law in the mind, writing it on the heart.  Again He said, "And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God." Ezekiel 11:19-21.
  4. God spoke to Daniel saying, "Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand."  Daniel 12:10.
  5. The prophet Malachi described God’s plan to cleanse His people as a "refiner’s fire" and "a fullers' soap." He would purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they would bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.  Mal. 3:2-3.
God's Law was to enlighten people to know and do His will.  He made His Law wise and understandable.   His Law is composed of infallible Truths that are trustworthy beyond all dispute.  All this, God has done and beyond this nothing more is needed.


B.  God's Provision:  

God sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, from heaven to reveal the true God to the world. Our Lord and Savior went to the cross and offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.  His blood cleanses the conscience. Hebrews 9:13-15 "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."  This new heart Law is the Law of Christ as revealed in the Gospel of Christ, and it impresses the mind with God's offer of mercy and forgiveness and by the promise of immortality and eternal life. The new Law that the apostles and  prophets spoke of, was to be written in the mind, producing a new heart.  Nothing is made pure without the blood of Jesus.  Consider with me, how the blood of Jesus makes us pure of heart:
  1. God's new Law purifies the heart by a twofold process. When God said, "I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh," He referred to a change that begins when one obeys the Gospel of Christ.  Our hearts were purified when we became Christians.  Peter said to Christians, "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth though the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” I Peter. 1:22.   Their souls were purified when they were baptized and received the forgiveness of their past sins. Moreover, they were justified, sanctified and saved.  In other words they were given a pure heart.  In Acts 15:9 Paul said that God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, purifying their hearts by faith. When we obey the Gospel of Christ by faith, repentance and baptism, God purifies our hearts. He forgives us of our past sins making us clean.  This new and pure heart is only possible through our obedient faith that goes into action in baptism.  1 Peter 1:22 "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…"  3:21 "There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."  It is after we are baptized that we can keep our hearts pure.  We were a sinful people before, because of our association with the world of darkness.  This leads me to the following question:

HOW DO I MAINTAIN A PURE HEART


Regardless of our lack of ability to provide the means for a pure heart, God does call us to live a pure life through obedience to His will. Ephesians 4:17-18 – "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart."  We must live and walk with understanding, discerning between right and wrong;  in newness of life, as those who have a new heart which is pure.  This inward purity of heart does not conform to the standards of the world.  How Can I Have Pure Thoughts, Intentions, and Motivations?

I.   The Influence of the Word of God:   The Word of God is crystal clear about what we ought to think on and digest. We must let the Word of God enter our hearts and let it influence us, change us and transform us.  We must live up to God's standards!  We must live in accord with our new and pure heart.  We must remove our impurities.  We must let the Word of God remove the callouses of our heart.  We are to be pure in heart and mind.  Let us seek God so that we may rid ourselves of our impurity and be filled with His living water.   As those who once mourned our past sins and repented, let us cease to practice lawlessness.  Let us walk in righteousness filled with what is right.  Let us also hunger and thirst for righteousness, and be filled with what is good and pure. And let us not grieve the Holy Spirit but rather let us ask God to create a new heart through His Divine Word.  This is the only WAY that God changes the inner person: the heart and mind of man.

A.  We Must Learn What God Wants of Us:

He requires that we spend time in His word. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of a time when God would write His Law in the minds and hearts of His people, Jer. 31:33.  When was this fulfilled?  Consider how this fulfillment was accomplished:
  • As the apostles set about teaching and preaching the Word of God, the Truth that was inspired by the Holy Spirit in them, new hearts and transformation began to happen.  A new heart was created to be in complete agreement with the Law of Jehovah God.  This new heart enlightened them so that knowing His will, they were deeply touched by it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, by the revealed Word spoken through these apostles, prophets and teachers, God was making known His Law to the whole world.  This new Law, the Law of Christ, was written in their hearts and minds so that it could produce a new heart.  Isn't that wonderful and awesome!  This same Law inspires us, influences and affects us the same way it did 2,000 years ago.  God offers man, through Christ's Law, a new heart so that man can receive His mercy and forgiveness as well as the hope of eternal life with Him.  But we must hunger and thirst for the new Law of the heart, the Law of Christ in order to have that pure, new heart.
In Ephesians 4:20-21, The Ephesians were exhorted by Paul to no longer walk as the Gentiles did.  Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit said, "If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."  Let us take heed to these words!  There is no other WAY to purify our hearts from all lawlessness!

Although God purifies our hearts when we obey His Gospel, we must keep purifying it by hating all evil and having no fellowship with the kingdom of darkness.  It is a long-term commitment for us, His children.  It does not stop in the waters of baptism.  This purification must continue fervently until the day we die.  This is what His grace does in our lives, a complete transformation of the heart and mind.

  • Our Hearts Are Changed When We Pray and Meditate in His Word, His Law.  We must become very well acquainted with His Law in order to overcome evil and the kingdom of darkness.  Notice how Paul exhorted Timothy, "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.  Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”  I Timothy 4:15-16.  How was this possible?  Through meditation of His Word, the things of God.  This was going to save him and those who would hear him.  Do you remember what God told Joshua in regards to His Law?  He said, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.  Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:8-9God told Joshua to meditate upon His Law day and night that he might prosper and God would be with him wherever he went.
B.   We Must "Learn Christ" and Know Him:

Why?  Because knowing Christ requires a pure heart.  It leads one to put to death the flesh, our old manner or conduct of life, with all its lawlessness and walk in the Spirit.  "But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Ephesians 4:20-24.  The Word, the Law of Christ, can transform, change and turn our hearts away from our old manner of life corrupted because of sin.  It leads to righteousness and holiness of the Truth.
  • The process of putting off the old self and putting on the new self in the likeness of God is not a simple one.  It requires effort, submission, obedience, death to self, willingness and a love for His Law, His Truth.  A pure heart purposes in his heart to love righteousness.  This is how the heart is renewed or recreated, by putting off sin and evil and putting on what is right: righteousness and holiness. Notice Paul's admonition regarding this, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."  Colossians 1:28-29.
  • Later in the letter to the Colossians, Paul admonishes them regarding their new birth and the new self saying, "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—"  Colossians 3:5-10.  Repentance, a change of heart, is the main focus of God's message and Law.  The pure heart, the changed one, never resists repentance and confession of sins.
  • It is only in seeking God's face through His Word and praying that we are going to be able to turn our hearts away from all evil conduct.    If you desire a pure heart, then start spending time, meditating on His Word.  In Psalm 119:9-12, we read this beautiful exhortation regarding the heart, "How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word.  With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments.  Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.  Blessed are You, O Lord; Teach me Your statutes."

II.   The Influence of Pure Thoughts:  The Bible is crystal clear about what we are to think on and "digest" inside our hearts.  We are not to dwell or give much time to that which is not pure and fitting to God's standards.  It is not by simply reading the Bible that we are going to influence our heart to pure thoughts.  It is by choosing to be busy and to engage our thoughts with healthy, holy, spiritual and righteous thoughts and ideas.  Notice what Philippians 4:8 has to say about keeping our thoughts with all excellence, in order to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Also, there is a connection between purity and the cleansing our mind, regeneration and the renewing of our heart and mind, "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled."  Titus 1:15.  The Greek word translated as "pure" means clean, unsoiled, clean from guilt, guiltless, innocent, sincere, upright, virtuous, void of evil, clean doctrinally and morally.

A.  This Calls for Self-discipline:  We must gird up the loins of our minds, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation."  I Peter 1:13-15. 
B.  We Must Battle With False Ideas:  We must ask God to make us aware of seeing the danger and influence of false ideas, subjective vs. objective Truth.  Lest we forget, the mind is the battleground of our soul. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."  2 Corinthians 10:3-6.
C.   We Must War Against Impure Images, Pornography:  Everyone who claims to be a true follower of our Lord and Savior must war against impure images.  Our Lord Jesus directs our attention toward our hearts and specifies how sin begins within our heart. The war is first waged in our mind.  In Matthew 5:28, we read, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  These impure thoughts and impure images take us captive in our mind.  In the end, they are sinful even if there is no physical contact or fornication.  Such things affect our mind and emotions in the same way that pornography does.  Let us take heed and be wise!  According to Jesus, fantasizing in your mind about someone other than your spouse or indulging in even literary sensual voyeurism is SIN.   Why is it SIN?  Because sin is ultimately a heart issue.  Let us be careful about what we choose to ingest, take in or participate in.  This includes magazines, books, movies, videos, television, websites or anything that would provide for the lust of the flesh.

Consider the pervasive influence and the impurity of thought in our culture today:
  1. There are about 4.2 million pornographic websites today. That is 12% of the total internet site.
  2. A new pornographic video is created and promoted every 39 minutes in this country.
  3. The average age of first exposure is as young as nine years old.
  4.  90% of all teenagers admit to viewing pornography on line.
  5. The average child will watch an average of 8,000 murders on TV before he finishes elementary school.
  6. By age eighteen, the average teenager has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders.
  7. The average TV shows and Hollywood movies are bombarded with sensual innuendo and voyeurism.

My question is:  Can we think on these things and remain pure in our hearts?  One cannot walk in the light with an impure heart.  God simply will not accept us.  The one who is pure in heart will see God in this life, come to know Him, love Him, obey Him and find happiness in this life.  The pure in heart will honor and appreciate the Father and the Son.  He, the one with a pure heart, will enjoy fellowship with Them in his life. That is the blessing of those who are pure in heart.  "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."  What does see God mean?  What is the blessing?  What does it mean we shall see God?  It should be obvious that the word "see" does not mean to see with the physical eye.  We all know there are two kinds of sight:  the physical and the mental.  We can see the Son and the Father by mental vision.  All Christians walk by faith and not by sight.  We see God by faith, with the eyes of understanding.  Some saw Jesus with the physical eye but in reality they never saw Him.  Although we cannot see God with the visual eye, we know that He exists because the Bible tells us so.  We understand and believe so we see Him.

When Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," He meant that those with a pure heart would recognize His existence and enjoy HIM.  They will enjoy Him and walk with Him hand in hand like good and close friends.  Our friendship, fellowship, relationship and our understanding of God's ways and thoughts depend on our purity of heart.  There is no other WAY with God.

In Conclusion, one who is a follower of the Son and the Father must keep the heart pure with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life, Proverbs 4:23-27.

The pure in heart is seen by a)  the way he lives as Peter said, inspired by the Spirit, "So as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."  I Peter 4:2  b)  Jesus said, "There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man."  Mark 7:15.  Jesus points out that what comes out of a person’s heart is what defiles him.  "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."  Mark 7:20-23.

This leads me to the following questions:

  • Why is sexual immorality (fornication) so pervasive in our culture today?  Because of impure hearts.
  • Why is lying so pervasive in our culture today?  Because of impure hearts.
  • Why do marriages so often end up in adultery and divorce today?  Because of impure hearts.
  • Why are we so discontent with what we have in our culture today?  Because of impure hearts.
  • Why are there so many quarrels and fighting among us in our culture today?  Because of impure hearts.
  • Why is it that we find it easier to think bad of a person instead of good?  Because of impure hearts.
  • And finally, why would most people rather be lost eternally rather than change their hearts in repentance?  Because of impure hearts.

What is the standard for purity?  Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  God Himself is our standard and nothing else.  We cannot please God until we change our heart for a pure one as He is pure, perfect and holy.  Only those who are pure in heart may enter the kingdom.  Only God can give us a new heart, "therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  2 Corinthians 5:17.

I want to leave you with these beautiful and encouraging words from Revelation 21:3-7.  "And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them....  And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.  Then He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son."

May we take away the layers of impurity from our heart to have more purity in our lives.  May we yearn to be holy and pure toward God in our manner of living.  May we dwell in that which is true, honorable, pure, right, lovely, of good repute, of excellence and worthy of praise.  May we practice these excellent things so that we may see God and have peace.  May our hearts be pure according to God's standards.  May our hearts be pure so that we may please Him.  May our hearts be pure so that we may enter the kingdom of the Father and the Son.
"Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  And who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart."  Psalm 24:3-4.
Luci

The following beautiful Hymn expresses well this thought of a pure heart:

Purer In Heart, O God

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
May I devote my life wholly to Thee:
Watch Thou my wayward feet,
Guide me with counsel sweet;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly;
Be Thou my Friend and Guide,
Let me with Thee abide;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Until Thy holy face one day I see:
Keep me from secret sin,
Reign Thou my soul within;
Purer in heart, help me to be.