THE PURE HEART
When Peter reported to the church in Jerusalem about the Holy Spirit interrupting his sermon and suddenly falling on Cornelius and his entire household, he described in this way His coming, “put no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). Both the examples are the same, first with Jews in Jerusalem, and then with this Gentile and his whole house the very same results—a pure heart! Later, Peter in his letter seems to repeat the same idea, “Seeing you have purified your souls … see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Peter 1:22).
Jesus had spoken previously of a pure heart saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8).
But let’s take a purposeful step back—and be reminded, the term “heart” is used symbolically throughout Scripture. Here is the reason for it: just as physically the human heart is the center of all our function, just so, we have a spiritual center. That center is the source of control and conduct. So the Bible speaks of “the intents of the heart” (Jeremiah 30:24), and more, the statement in Proverbs comes to mind, “Keep thy heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23). Why? “because out of it are the issues of life.”
It is no surprise or wonder that after his moral fall, David prayed these classic words in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
Norman Grubb called the heart “the inner sanctuary of the human spirit.” The theologian R. B. Kuiper made it simple, “A man’s heart is what he is.” What are the indications of a pure heart? Thomas Aquinas said, “A man’s heart is right when he wills what God wills.” We measure people by their height, God measures people by their heart—how pure it is and how focused it is on bringing glory to Jesus Christ.
And long ago when bells were common in almost every church, a Puritan pastor said that the heart is the brass bell and the tongue is the gong or the clapper. Jesus said a person’s heart determines the words they speak.
No man then is converted until his heart is converted, and a converted heart is one that is purified by God. God promised “A new heart also will I give you” (Ezekiel 36:26). That’s true conversion.
But, now building on that foundation, let us go on to understand some of the implications of a pure heart.
I. THE PURE HEART ADMIRED
The idea of a pure heart is the picture of it unmixed and undivided. The idea is there is no impurity within and no rival affection. It is amazing how a person can outwardly be going through the most terrible attacks and assaults and yet have an undisturbed heart, with total peace within. It is supernatural and miraculous, yet I have seen people with pure hearts who were exactly that way. They were unshaken even by the threat of death. Martin Luther on several occasions had traps laid for him and assassination attempts made. Yet, he was poised because of a pure heart.
And as we prepare for ministry, one of the things we need most is a clean heart. So we all need “the pause that refreshes.” We sit down and examine our motive and our purpose—asking about our heart, “Is it pure and unmixed by a rival challenge to the Lordship of Christ?” If the answer is yes, we are promised His presence and His power.
At this point I can think of no better word than that of integrity and relate it to the inner working of the real me. The question is, do I have a pure heart? If the answer I receive from God is yes, then I fear no challenge for He will bring me through, for it is then the matter is settled, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit” (Romans 8:16). And honestly, we cannot ask for a greater confirmation than that.
II. THE PURE HEART ASSAULTED
Our hearts are the target of a fierce assault of our arch enemy Satan. It is very much his aim and he does it in two ways:
1. He Attracts Our Hearts~
Satan skillfully advertises something that is both attractive but sinful. We have all had moments when we knew it was wrong and yet, we could not deny it became a desire in our hearts. Satan customizes temptation to each person! He knows what attracts you may not attract me, so he designs temptation accordingly. Which means, Satan studies us and he thinks, “How can I now pollute their hearts so I can dilute their witness?”
And never forget that even the best saints may be tempted to commit the worst sins, so we all are enticed by the devil. He is crafty, he knows how to set the best dish to appeal to our sinful appetite. It’s also a well planned invitation to draw us away. But then realize that Jesus was tempted, but not because He was bad, but because He was important. Temptation is not sin, yielding is!
And yet, every single temptation is a very good opportunity for us to tell God afresh how much we need Him. Proverbs talks about guarding our heart. We can draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to us—the positive thing about temptation is it may drive us to ask repeatedly for help. Keep a pure heart by never holding back when you talk to God. Tell Him the naked truth and ask Him for a pure heart repeatedly. “Never, ever lie to God,” said Chambers.
2. He Attacks Our Hearts~
For many Christians he often does that with false condemnation, but we have no business listening to the lying condemnation aimed at disturbing our communion with the Lord. Satan brings up what we once did and says, “How could anyone that did that ever think that you could be used by God!” Evil accusations!
I once spoke with a man converted in his mid-twenties. He had lived a wild and wicked life. He said, “When I think what has come over my lips—words and drink—and where my lips have been, I tremble! And frankly, Satan tells me that I have forfeited the right to use my lips now to honor God!” — False condemnation!
That may be the perfect example—of Satan’s way of bringing up the past with false accusations. But Scripture says what God forgives, He forgets! So, “if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” (I John 3:21) But on the other hand, “if our heart condemn us,” then full and total repentance is in order and we must do that without delay. At that point, remember I John 1:8-9, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (NIV) Yes, “purify us from all.”
III. THE PURE HEART ACTIVATED
The psalmist once confessed, “Lord, my heart is quiet and confident” (Psalm 57:7), and there is a heart that is confident in God and it’s a beautiful thing for God to give that blessed assurance!
But, it’s activated, and so Jeremiah prayed that God would give His people “a responsive heart” (see Jeremiah 24:7), and Ezekiel heard God promise to “give you tender hearts of love for God” (Ezekiel 11:19), and the other phrase used by Ezekiel, “new hearts of love.” (Ezekiel 36:26) What a picture that is—a loving heart is a fully activated heart!
But in Luke, Jesus spoke of something wonderful, “honest, good-hearted people. They listen to God’s words and cling to them and steadily spread them to others” (Luke 8:15, TLB).
1. A Pure Heart That Is Activated Is Visible in Service~
By that I mean it is practical. Nobody will know what we mean when we say God is love unless it is seen in the arena of life. It is visibly active before people; seen, not just heard!!
John R. W. Stott said, “Christian love is not the victim of our emotions but the servant of our will.” It is proven by obedience that is visible. A pure heart of love is its own displayed evidence.
2. A Pure Heart That Is Activated Is Vocal in Speech~
A pure heart will be active to tell the world of how God will do two things if we ask Him: He will forgive and give.
Jesus indicated in that verse from Luke, they “steadily spread them [God’s words] to others.” So those who have a pure heart become the effective messengers of God’s Word. Pure-hearted people are the best evangelists for they go to the world, that is, “to others.”
Billy Graham’s comment is fitting, “Our world today is looking for men and women with integrity, for communicators who back up their ministry with their lives.” These are the pure-hearted servants that are most usable by Him—thank God for those activated by the Holy Spirit, who with pure hearts speak out the Good News! They joyfully tell everyone and overlook no one. Pure-hearted people as evangelists know everyone will not believe but everyone should be told. “They,” said Jesus, “… steadily spread them to others.” With pure hearts they do it!