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From the Series: Momentum - Vol. 2
February 6, 2013

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

Purity of heart does not mean sinlessness of life.  Christians in this world are sinners in the process of recovery.  There is growth, there is progress, but there is never perfection in this life.  If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).

What Does ‘Purity of Heart’ Mean?

PURITY OF HEART MEANS…

  1. An undivided heart

Purity of heart is to will one thing.  A pure heart is a single heart, the opposite of a divided heart.  “Not that I am already made perfect,” says Paul, but “one thing I do…”

PURITY OF HEART MEANS…

  1. A clean heart

We saw that when Christ becomes yours and you become his through the bond of faith, three wonderful gifts become yours: 1. Justification, which is legal (in Christ God drops all charges against you), 2. Forgiveness, which is relational (in Christ God reconciles you to himself), 3. Cleansing, which is personal (in Christ God washes your heart and your life).

The sixth Beatitude is about cleansing.  Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.  It’s about God taking the baggage of your life—the effects on your soul of what you have seen and thought and loved and done—and washing you, cleansing your mind and your heart.

It’s about God dealing with our twisted patterns of thinking, our misdirected patterns of loving and our compulsive patterns of behaving.

Now today we come to the all-important question: How can I cultivate this purity of heart?  How do I go after it?

How to Pursue ‘Purity of Heart’

Purity arises from the pursuit of the first four Beatitudes

There is a roots-life-fruit pattern to these Beatitudes.  The roots and the life are in the first four Beatitudes: Poor in spirit, mourning, meekness (submitting to God), and hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

The fruit is in the next three: Mercy, purity and peace.  The first four Beatitudes are the means by which you get to the last three.

Someone asked me candidly last week, “What if you aren’t motivated to pursue purity?  What if you know there are things you need to let go of, but you don’t want to do it?” Great question.

One answer lies in the second Beatitude—mourning over you your sin.  This involves seeing what it is costing you, what it is costing others, and what it cost Christ.

How do you get there? It starts by realizing afresh the poverty of your condition before God.  Another answer lies in the fourth Beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

How do you get there?  You get there from the third Beatitude, which is all about submitting yourself fully to God.

My point here is that you can’t go after purity in isolation.  There is a pattern of progress in the Christian life.  The character in each of these Beatitudes flows from the pursuit of what went before.

That’s why our series is called, “Momentum: How to Make Progress in Your Christian Life.”

God calls us to be proactive in the pursuit of purity

Notice the active language of the Bible in relation to purity of heart:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

Notice who is acting here… you are to “purify your hearts.”

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.  2 Corinthians 7:1

Again, notice who is acting here: We are!  Let us cleanse ourselves!

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…           1 Peter 1:22

The Bible never speaks of believers justifying themselves[1] but it does speak of Christians purifying themselves by obedience to the truth.

Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself, as [Christ] is pure.  1 John 3:3

This is of huge importance.  The language of the Bible is passive in regard to justification but active in regard to sanctification.

When it comes to justification, we can only look to Christ to do it.  All that we bring is an empty hand open to receive.  “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling.”

But sanctification is different.  Of course we look to Christ to make us holy (1Thessalonians 5:23-24), but the pursuit of holiness is a calling in which the Christian is actively engaged.  Bishop Ryle says,

In justification, our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.  In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive and take pains, and labour. [2]

Bishop Ryle

God puts a responsibility on you for your growth in purity.  Confusion over this point is a major reason why many Christians make little progress.

In over thirty years as a pastor, I have seen many people wonderfully changed, people who in large measure have got free from the baggage of the past, people who have mastered the sharp tongue, the fearful spirit, the self-absorbed life.

And then there are others who seem to make little or no progress.  They remain much as they were, and over time simply become an older version of what they were before.

What makes the difference?  I’m convinced that the difference lies in the seven practices that I want to lay before you today.

Seven Practices That Promote Purity of Heart

  1. Believe: The practice of trusting Christ to change you

Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the ocean that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-7

We spent time on this last week, so I will only touch it briefly today. Many people who profess to be Christians simply do not believe that Christ is able to deal with the baggage of their lives.

They feel that their temptations are too strong, their failures are too many, and their wounds are too deep even for Christ himself.

If you do not believe that Christ can change you, you are not yet exercising faith in him.  I do not say that you are not a Christian.  Jesus said to his own disciples on one occasion, “Where is your faith?”

You have faith, but you are not exercising it!

Faith in Christ is confidence in his ability to justify, to forgive and to cleanse through the power of his shed blood.  And faith is the means by which we receive good gifts from Christ.  James tells us we are to ask in faith, with no doubting.

Progress in the Christian life begins with believing that Christ can cleanse you.  So to every person who languishes in despair, feeling that the habits of your mind are too engrained, the inclinations of your heart are too deep, and the pull of your desires are too strong, I say, look to this Savior Jesus Christ. He has cleansed others and he is able to cleanse you.

Put your trust in him.  Believe in him.  This is the first thing you must do.

  1. Confess: The practice of naming and opposing particular sins

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Notice confessing and cleansing are related.  When you set your mind to go after purity, you need to identify the sins from which you want your soul to be purified.

What are the big sins that lurk in this soul and need to be hunted down?

Pride, lust, greed, laziness, etc?  If you cannot name two or three sins that you are  currently seeking to overcome, you are probably not making significant progress in the pursuit of purity.

Confession is a habit of the healthy Christian life.  If you have not confessed any specific sin to God in the last week, you are probably asleep at the wheel.

Build confession of specific sins into your prayer life.  Don’t move on until you can name at least one.  And then when you name it, set your mind and your heart to oppose it and ask the Lord to help you.

Our first calling is to confess our sins to God, but the Bible also speaks of healing that comes when we confess our sins to each other: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

James is describing an environment of trust where you are able to share the front line of the battle with a mature believer who can pray with you and for you.  Do this especially when you are struggling to gain victory over a stubborn sin in your life.

  1. Obey: The practice of immersing yourself in the Word of God

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Ephesians 5:26

I use the word “immerse” deliberately, because the Scriptures have a purifying effect in the life of a person who hears the Word and puts it into practice: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Over the years served as a pastor, I have noticed this consistent pattern:

The people whose lives have been significantly changed are those who have immersed themselves in the Scriptures.

They are like sponges absorbing the Word of God.  They hide the Scripture in their hearts and it has a purifying effect in their lives.  The opposite is also true: I have never seen a person grow in purity of heart apart from the Word.  The entrance of God’s Word gives light.

If you will immerse yourself in the Word of God, applying its truth to your life, you will grow in purity.

  1. Worship: The practice of gazing on the glory of God

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.       2 Corinthians 3:18

Here is a person who is “being transformed.”  How is it happening?  He or she is “beholding the glory of the Lord.”

This is not talking about heaven.  It’s present tense.  It’s talking about worship—here and now.  You read the Word, you gather with God’s people… you catch a glimpse of the greatness and the glory of Christ,

and it changes you!

The principle is simple: Becoming by beholding.  The more you see of the glory of Christ, the more you will be transformed into his likeness.

Think with me about how this works in practice.  Let’s take someone who says that they are a sex addict.  Compulsive habits and behaviors have built up into a pattern of life from which there seems to be no escape.

How did you get here?  How did this thing gain such power in your life?

You made an idol of this thing.  You set your affection on this idol.  You went to the idol for comfort.  You looked to it for happiness.  You worshipped your way into this addiction.

How are you going to get free from the power of this idol?  You worshipped your way in, you must worship your way out.  Practice gazing on the glory of God.

Some of you remember years of being passive in church, disengaged when others were worshipping in song.  Your mind wandered when others were worshipping in the preaching of the Word.  Then you got serious about growing purity, and you began to worship.

You worshipped as you changed and you changed as you worshipped.

Christ says to us, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Purifying your heart will lead to you seeing God. But the reflex also holds true—seeing God will lead to you purify your heart.

Remember how that happened for Isaiah. He was a prophet with a fine reputation. Then he sees the glory of the Lord, and he becomes aware of his uncleanness: “I am a man of unclean lips.”  He hadn’t seen that before.  Seeing the glory of the Lord had a purifying effect on him.

Here’s this man in the ministry, and a new vision of God compels him to live in a whole new way.  It leads him to say, “Here am I, send me,” and it sustains him in a task that was overwhelmingly difficult.

You say, “Well, that was Isaiah… he saw the Lord!”  But faith sees the glory of the Lord in worship: “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Worship may be the most under-utilized means of grace that God has given to us.

Remember how Moses prayed to God “Show me your glory.”  That’s a great prayer to pray as you come to worship, or when you read the Word:

“Open my eyes to behold your glory, so that I may grow in purity.”

  1. Ask: The practice of praying for purity

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

This is a believer’s prayer.  It is one that you can use often.  We all need to be washed on a regular basis.  Be proactive in asking God for purity. Thomas Watson says…

Most men pray more for full purses than pure hearts. [3]

Thomas Watson

When did you last ask God for a pure heart?  Practice praying for purity.

  1. Persevere: The practice of getting up when you have fallen down

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.  Micah 7:8

Nobody makes uninterrupted progress on the path of purity.  When you set yourself to battle against sins that have held sway in your heart, know this… you will stumble and fall.

Don’t be surprised, and don’t be overwhelmed by another failure. Discouragement blunts the cutting edge of many believers.  When you get tired of the battle, it’s easy to give up hope.  You find yourself saying, “Well, it may work for other people, but it isn’t working for me.”

The people who have made progress in the Christian life are people who get up when they fall down, and that is what you must do!  “When I fall, I shall rise.”

You say, “I have failed so many times…”  Never give up!  You say, “I am tired of the battle…”  Never give up!  Never, never, never, never, give up.

In Christ, you have an atoning sacrifice for your sins (1 John 2:2).  In Christ, you have an advocate with the Father.  Listen to these words…

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood…

Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.  Hebrews 12:3-4;12-14

  1. Anticipate: The practice of knowing who you are and rejoicing in what you will be

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  1 John 3:1

Who are you?  In Christ, you are a dearly loved child of God.  It’s hard to sin willfully against love like that.

 

What will you be?  “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

And notice what comes from knowing this: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God

Some people have the idea that purity is something that you have when you are young, and then you lose it when you mess up.  But in the Bible, purity is something that you go after.  It is not so much something that you lose, but something that you gain as you grow in the Christian life.

Go after purity—a clean heart, an undivided heart—and the more you grow in purity of heart, the more you will see God.  You will see more of him in worship, more of him in his Word, more of him in your trials and in your triumphs, more of him in others, and more on him in his church.

All of this you will see with the eye of faith, and then when Christ comes or calls, you will see him face-to-face.  And when you see him, you will be like him.

 

[1] The rich young ruler wanted to justify himself by keeping the Commandments, and found that he could not do it (see Luke 18:18-30).
[2] J. C. Ryle, “Holiness,” p. 71, Moody press, 2010
[3] Thomas Watson, “The Beatitudes,” p. 195, Banner of Truth, 1971

 

© Colin S. Smith

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By Colin S. Smith. © Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org



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