“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt. 5:8)
We never see many things that are pure. Some things are supposed to be pure but are not. Other things are partly pure. Streams and rivers were no doubt meant to be pure, but today many of them flow with a high percentage of sewage. The church was meant to be pure, but even she is often defiled. Brides are clothed with the outward symbols of purity, but statistics tell us that today many of them recite the marriage vows in impurity.
There are a few things that are really pure. God is pure, holy and separate from sinners. God’s word is pure (Psa. 119:140). Jesus is pure (Heb. 7:26). We believe that someday there will be a pure church. The New Jerusalem will be pure as it comes down from heaven, and a pure river of the water of life will flow out of her (Rev. 21:18, 21; 22:1). In that day there will be a road to Zion that will be pure and holy, and only the pure ones will venture to walk upon it (Isa. 35:8). At that time those who serve the Lord will be pure; they will be clothed in spotless linen.
In the scripture, God gives us many pictures of his purity, and of his desire that man should be pure. In the book of Exodus, the Tabernacle, where God came to dwell and meet with man, is intimately described. In the innermost part of the Tabernacle we see all things overlaid with pure gold. The candlestick, that represented the presence of God, was totally made of pure gold (Ex. 39:37). The High Priest was clothed with a chain of pure gold upon his breastplate (39:15), with bells of pure gold upon the hem of his robe (39:25), and he wore a crown of pure gold upon his head (39:30). This is a picture of how man is to walk with God, in purity, glory and holiness. We see this picture again at the end of the book of Revelation, as redeemed and purified men walk before God in a city that has a street made of pure gold.
We also see in Exodus that the holy anointing oil had to be pure (37:29). The olive oil for the great menorah also had to be pure and undefiled (Lev. 24:2). These items represent God’s Holy Spirit, and we see that the Holy Spirit is called “Holy” for a reason.
THE OPPOSITE OF PURITY AND HOLINESS
The opposite of purity is defilement. There are two areas of defilement that we might consider. First of all, there is the defilement of the flesh. Surprisingly, there are not too many ways in which the flesh can be defiled. A person can defile his body through various forms of sexual immorality. He can defile it through drugs, drunkenness and gluttony, but there are not too many other ways he can defile the body.
The big area of defilement is in the area of the heart, which includes mind and spirit. We can say that unless the heart of man is first defiled it is impossible to really defile the flesh. All fleshly defilements first begin in the heart. It is for this reason that the biblical writer says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).
King David realized this truth after he had fallen into his awful sin. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his own great military heroes. To cover up the crime he had the man killed. When David was confronted with his sin he came into deep repentance. His heart-rending sighs are recorded for us in Psalm 51:10 where he says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David came to realize that evil deeds spring from the heart, not from the flesh.
Jesus dealt with this matter when he spoke on the subject of clean and unclean foods. He instructed us that the body is made unclean by what proceeds out of a person’s heart. This includes evil thoughts, lusts, passions, greed, pride, envy, unbelief, etc. (Mt. 15:19). When a person lusts, that person is defiled. When he has unbelief in his heart he is also defiled. When a person is affected with dead theology, dead religion, or dead works, that one is defiled just as surely as if he had walked through the tomb of a dead person in Old Testament times.
WHAT IS PURITY OF HEART?
What does it mean to be pure in heart? It was Sören Kierkegaard who published a book in 1938 by this title: Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. Purity of heart is to have one thought and that thought be God. David summed it up with these words from Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple“ (Psa. 27:4). It is precisely for this reason that the pure in heart will see God. God is the sole object of their search in life. He is their aim, their goal, and their delight.
In these days, hearts seek after many things. People may pretend that they are seeking God with all their heart and with all their strength, but often the telltale signs betray their true motives. Purity of heart deals with motives and hidden purposes. The writer of Proverbs says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters…” (Prov. 20:5). Yet, the Lord knows man’s heart and carefully deals with it. The scripture says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart“ (Prov. 17:3).
Once there was a king in Jerusalem by the name of Amaziah. In some ways he was a great king, but in other ways he was not so great. The scripture testifies of him, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly“ (2 Chron. 25:2). Imagine that! It is possible even to do the right things and have a wrong heart. God examines the heart. When God sent Samuel to look for his chosen king, the prophet thought God was looking for a man with outstanding appearance and stature. The prophet looked upon one of the sons of Jesse, thinking that he must surely be the chosen king. At last God said to the prophet, “…Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.“ (1 Sam. 16:7).
Young David was chosen by God, and he went on to become not only the greatest king Israel ever had, but he became the greatest seeker after God. With his life he defined purity of heart in a way it had not been defined before. It was not that David lived a sinless life. He probably sinned worse than many people in the church today, but he always came running back after God, even in tears of remorse.
HOW MAY WE HAVE PURE HEARTS?
If we desire a perfect heart – a pure heart, we must ask for it like David did. He said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting“ (Psa. 139:23-24). We must gain the courage to face our real selves and take a hard look at our true motives. We are not fooling God, and chances are that we are not fooling as many people as we think. We must be willing to open up our inmost beings to the thorough searching of God, without fear and in simple faith. We must let God examine and change our real motives. Those hidden drives and ambitions and those dark secrets of our lives must be brought to the light. This whole process is known as repentance.
Moses dealt with this very matter when he challenged Israel: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer“ (Deut. 10:16). God wants to do a deep and personal work in us. He desires to get past the outward, fleshly things into the inner man of the heart – into the area of desires, goals, loves, and aims of life.
We read in scripture a very unflattering assessment of the heart of man in its natural state. The scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?“ (Jer. 17:9) But God says, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve“ (Jer. 17:10). The natural heart of man is bent on evil, but God desires to give each of us a new heart – a pure heart. God desires that we have a spiritual “heart transplant.” The Lord says in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.“
As Christians we call this the new birth, and we believe it comes by accepting Jesus and allowing him to take up residence within our innermost being. It was for this purpose that he died. He “…gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Tit. 2:14).
Once we have called upon the Lord as David did, and circumcised our hearts as Moses bade us do, God wants us to progress on in purity. The scripture challenges us: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). He exhorts us further: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God“ (2 Cor. 7:1); “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure“ (1 John 3:3).
God desires that we keep our hearts and minds fixed upon him, upon that which is pure (Phil. 4:8). Such a one may ascend to the hill of the Lord and may stand in his holy place. He or she is the one who has clean hands and a pure heart (Psa. 24:33-4). This one shall see God and live in his presence forever. This one, above all people on earth, will be truly blessed and happy.
This updated article is published courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem. Original publication date, 1992.