The Quest for a Pure Heart

Our attention is once again turned to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In the list of character traits commonly called the Beatitudes, Jesus says in Matthew 5:8 – 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.   Last week we discussed the meaning of the key words in this verse: purity & heart. At the conclusion of our lesson last week we noticed two key elements of a pure heart:

1) A pure heart lives to serve God. This person recognizes God’s ultimate right to determine right form wrong (clean from unclean) and strives to live up to God’s law. 2 Tim. 2:22 –  ‘Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  

2)  A pure heart lives for the sole purpose of God. Purity of heart is a single allegiance. It is free from ulterior motives or hidden agendas. The pure heart is also described in scripture 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).

3)  Notice how the Psalmist points to the essentiality of this composite character. Psalm 24:3-5 – Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.   The Psalmist poses THE question that should concern all of us. Who can stand with God? Who is acceptable to Him? 

  • clean hands” suggests conduct or behavior. We must do the right things to be pleasing to God. There is an objective standard by which we can determine right from wrong.
  • pure heart” points to a clear and uncontaminated motive. Doing it with the right attitude.

 

How Do I Obtain A Pure Heart?

 

I.  It is Possible with God.  The challenge of absolute purity is quite daunting. (Robert Turner’s illustration of the embroidered tablecloth and the long stem glasses. Do not spill anything on the tablecloth or else”. They were doomed before the meal began. – changing a tire in your good suit). Left to my own efforts, absolute purity is impossible. This is especially evident when I consider purity of heart – Have you ever entertained an impure thought? Have you ever done something for a selfish reason? Have you ever been envious or jealous of another?   Although it is impossible for us to have a pure heart in and of ourselves, we can have a pure heart by the grace of God. What is impossible for man is possible for God.  

A.  God’s Promises:  God spoke of His intentions to cleanse the hearts of His people in the prophets.

  • Jeremiah 31:3333 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  Jeremiah 32:3939 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.
  • Ezekiel 36:25-2625 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.\
  • Writing in the 5th century B.C., the Lord revealed to Daniel a time when “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined,…” (Daniel 12:10) In the 4th century B.C., the prophet Malachi described God’s efforts 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 will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD” (Mal. 3:2-3

B.  God’s Provision: This purifying was fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ, through the atoning power of His sacrificial death. His blood cleanses the conscience. Hebrews 9:13-1513 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 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? 15 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.  Nothing is made pure without the blood of Jesus.

1.  The appropriation of that cleansing blood is by faith.

Not simply assent or belief, but obedient faith that consummates in baptism. 1 Peter 1:22“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…  1 Peter 3:21 – 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,

 

II.  How Do I Maintain a Pure Heart?  But despite my inability to provide the means for a pure heart, God does call on me to live a pure life through obedience to His will. Eph 4:17-18 – 17 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, 18 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 like new people; as people who have new heart.  As we mentioned earlier this is not just outward conformity, but inward purity. How can I have pure thoughts, intentions, and motivations? 

A.  The influence of the Word of God… In a sense, Jesus has answered that already in the previous beatitudes. As one is mournful and repentant of his sins, he ceases the practice of those things that are wrong. But tandem with the expelling of evil is the reception of what is right. He also hungers and thirsts for righteousness, and is filled with what is good and pure.  This spiritual transaction is not mystical or magical. It is not the result of an inexplicable indwelling or emotional presence. The Holy Spirit creates a new heart through the agency and power of the Word of God.  This is manner in which God changes the inner person.

1.  We must learn what God wants. 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?

a.  As the apostles went about teaching and preaching the word through the power of the Holy Spirit, new hearts were created. Go back to Eph. 4:20-21 – After calling on the Ephesians to no longer walks as the Gentiles walked he said, …But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus;

b.  Hearts are changed through meditation and prayer. Casual acquaintance with scripture is not enough to overcome the evil in our hearts. Paul told Timothy that it was through meditation on the things of God that he would be able to save himself and those who would hear him. (1 Tim. 4:15) God told Joshua to meditate on the law of God day and night and he would prosper and God would be with him wherever he went. (Josh. 1:8-9)

2.  Learning Christ leads one to execute a change in conduct. Eph. 4:22-2422 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. … (Eph 4:20-24)  The word of God turns my heart away for evil conduct, and toward what is right.

a.  This putting off and putting on process is not simply outward conformity to rules, but evidenced in the willingness of the Christian to respond inwardly to God’s word. He purposes in his heart to do what is right. Through putting off the evil and putting on what is right, the heart is renewed or recreated according to God.  Col 1:28-29 – Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.  29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

b.   Later, Paul called them again to put away sinful conduct (the old man and his deeds) and …put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, (Col 3:9-10) Repentance is the heart of God’s message. The pure heart never balks at repentance and confession of sins.

c.  If you desire a pure heart, then spend time in God’s word. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:9-11  How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. 10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! 11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

B.  The Influence of Pure Thoughts. This is not just a matter of reading scripture, but choosing to occupy our thoughts with wholesome and spiritually healthy ideas.  Philippians 4:8“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 

1.  This is call for self-discipline. Gird up the loins of our minds (1 Pet. 1:13).

2.  Battle with false ideas. It is also calls on us to see the danger and influence of false ideas. (subjective vs. objective truth). Your mind is the battleground. 2 Cor 10:3-5 – 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

3. Battle against impure images:  Consider the pervasiveness of impure thought today.

  • 4.2 million pornographic websites. (12% of the total).
  • A new pornographic video is created every 39 minutes in the U.S.
  • Average age of 1st exposure – 11 years old
  • 90% of teenagers admit to viewing pornography online.

You don’t look at pornography? Well do you watch TV? The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. You do not need statistics to tell you that the average TV show is rampant with sexual innuendo and images. Can we think on these things and remain pure in our hearts?

 

Conclusion:   Proverbs 4:23-2723 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.  26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

  • How do we know if someone has a pure heart? The pure heart is evidenced by the way we live. As Peter says, a person devoted to the Lord “does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).
  • Jesus said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile them” (Mk. 7:15). Christ’s own disciples needed him to interpret what he meant. Jesus explained, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mk. 7:20-23).
  • Why is sexual immorality so pervasive in our culture? Because of impure hearts.
  • Why is lying so pervasive in our society? Because of impure hearts.
  • Why do marriages too often end in divorce?  Because of impure hearts.
  • Why are we so discontent with what we have? Because of impure hearts.
  • Why is there so much bickering and fighting? Because of impure hearts.
  •  Why is it easier for us to think bad of a person instead of good? Because of impure hearts.
  • Why will most people be lost???

 

What is the standard of purity?  In the same sermon in which He gave the Beatitudes Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). God Himself is the standard. We have a tendency to judge ourselves by the worst among us. (as the Pharisee praying in the temple. He looked good to himself as he compared himself to the publican. He heart would never be pure.

God’s standard for men, however, is Himself. They cannot be fully pleasing to God until they are pure as He is pure, until they are holy as He is holy and perfect as He is perfect. Only those who are pure in heart may enter the kingdom. “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?” David asks, “and who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:3-4).

Only God can give you a new heart. Will you come to him.  2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.