by Jeannette Haley
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8. The word “pure” in this verse is katharos which means clean, clear, pure. It reminds me of Idaho’s famousClearwater River, or the indescribably beautiful crystal clear streams flowing in Glacier National Park, or the sparkling, fresh fallen snow, high in the pristine mountains. Just as purity is a requirement for healthy, refreshing drinking water, so is purity a prerequisite for seeing God, because God is holy.
Sadly, purity of heart does not come naturally for us fallen human beings, nor is it something we are prone to place high on our list of priorities. In Jeremiah 17:9-10 we read: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
There is no escaping the fact that regardless of whom we are, or where we are, God knows our hearts and will judge us accordingly. No amount of outward show involving church attendance or religious activity can fool or impress the Lord.
To begin to understand how wicked our hearts are, we need to stop and consider what comes out of our mouths. In Matthew 15:16-20, Jesus uttered these words: “Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man…”
First, let’s consider “evil thoughts.” The Greek word for evil in this verse is poneria, which basically means hurtful, evil in effect or influence, derelict, vicious, malice. Here we see that hurtful and malicious words that spill out of the mouth are a dead giveaway of what is habitually in the heart. The offender may try to cover up his or her unkind verbiage by contending that he or she was only “joking,” or he or she may try to justify it in some other way, but the truth is, if we refuse to guard our hearts against harboring evil thoughts, sooner or later they are going to come out in the form of slander, gossip, mocking, or belittling of others. Please note I am not talking about good-natured teasing among close friends in a way that does not truly offend or have the wrong spirit behind it. An evil heart represents an evil spirit that needs to be recognized and dealt with.
Concerning words, Proverbs 10:18 says, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” The “hatred” in this verse is hatred that has been hidden in the heart. Such a heart will produce a lying tongue—a tongue that slanders and falsely accuses others. King David wrote this about God’s desire concerning our innermost thoughts: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom” Psalm 51:6.
Following evil thoughts in this verse (Matthew 15:19), Jesus listed murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, and false witness. It goes without saying that all of these actions are the result of premeditation and a deliberate act of the will; that is, making a conscious choice to carry them out. A person cannot accidentally murder someone (although they can accidentally kill a person, which is different); nor can they accidentally commit adultery, fornication, thievery, or lie about another.
Finally, we come to blasphemies. According to Strong’s Concordance, blasphemies means vilification, especially against God: evil speaking, railing. Blasphemy is more than taking the name of the Lord in vain. It involves a rebellious heart that reviles its Maker and is set on not only speaking evil of God, but blaming Him for the devil’s work.
We see an example of this in Matthew 12:22-37 where the Pharisees said that Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub (Satan). We also read that Jesus knew their thoughts (hearts). Among other things, in His discourse with the Pharisees, He said, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” verses 31-35. As Rayola says, “Your fruits tell on you.”
Concerning Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:18-20, Oswald Chambers wrote: “We begin by trusting our ignorance and calling it innocence, by trusting our innocence and calling it purity; and when we hear these rugged statements of Our Lord’s, we shrink and say—but I never felt any of those awful things in my heart. We resent what Jesus Christ reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme Authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust His penetration, or do I prefer to trust my innocent ignorance? If I make conscious innocence the test, I am likely to come to a place where I find with a shuddering awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I shall be appalled at the possibility of evil and wrong in me. As long as I remain under the refuge of innocence I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been a blackguard, the reason is a mixture of cowardice and the protection of civilized life; but when I am undressed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis.
“The only thing that safeguards is the Redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will hand myself over to Him, I need never experience the terrible possibilities that are in my heart. Purity is too deep down for me to get to naturally: but when the Holy Spirit comes in, He brings into the center of my personal life the very Spirit that was manifested in the life of Jesus Christ, viz., Holy Spirit, which is unsullied purity.”
The problem with our fallen nature is that we are adept at deluding ourselves as to what is actually in our hearts. The Word talks about vain imaginations of our heart. This shows us that the issues of life come out of our heart (Proverbs 4:23). When the heart is not pure, it means there are divided loyalties. These divided loyalties exist because of the worldliness of Christians. Worldliness means that we are bowing down to the different idols of the world, and worldly idols, ideas and man-made systems, and traditions, within the Church, while maintaining an outward façade of loyalty to God.
Jeremiah wrote: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” Jeremiah 17:9, 10. In his day, he rebuked the people of Judah because they lived this double standard. The people worshipped God, while at the same time, bowing down to idols. Idols possessed their hearts, while they gave lip service to God. In Isaiah 29:13, we read: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” This is a fitting description of our churches and nation today.
Jesus knew the idolatrous heart condition of the Pharisees had no regard for the holiness and righteousness of God. Because of their condition before God, they made His house a den of thieves. We must ask ourselves, as temples of the Holy Spirit, have we made ourselves a den of thieves where we are lying to ourselves, and deluding ourselves, as to our true heart condition before God? This contradiction and hypocrisy are what caused the Prophet Jeremiah to proclaim that, from the prophet to the priest, they were dealing falsely with God and others. He wrote: “For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely” Jeremiah 6:13.
The warning against covetousness rings throughout the entire New Testament, for covetousness is idolatry of the heart. No person with an idolatrous heart shall enter the kingdom of God. Ephesians 5:3, 5 plainly warns: “But fornication, and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” This scripture makes it clear that any person with an idolatrous heart is not saved. This goes as well for the other sins outlined elsewhere in the New Testament. All such persons are the “children of disobedience” who shall suffer the wrath of God. (See Colossians 3:2, 5, 6.)
When Israel demanded that God give them a king to rule over them, He “sought him a man after his own heart” 1 Samuel 13:14. When Samuel the Prophet saw David’s brother, Eliab, he was sure that he was the man God sought to anoint king over Israel. “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7.
The purity of David’s heart was God’s measurement for the hearts of every succeeding King beginning with David’s son, Solomon, of whom God said at the close of Solomon’s life: “…and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father” 1 Kings 11:4b, 6.
The importance of purity of heart cannot be overly emphasized. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals man’s heart condition, God’s heart towards man, and His requirement for our hearts if we are to gain eternal life. Obviously, we dare not foolishly or flippantly overlook our own heart condition as it is this very day. To do so is to jeopardize our own souls. One way to test our hearts is by the “fruit test.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:22-25.
You may be saying right now, “But, I want a pure heart. I want honesty in the inward parts. I want to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind. I want to love others with unfeigned love. But, sometimes my heart feels so hard and cold. How do I acquire a pure heart before God?”
The answer is, you come to the Lord with the simplicity of a child, and you tell Him with all honestly your heart condition. Tell Him if it is cold and hard, or blackened with sin. Tell Him your feelings of anger, fear, faithlessness, or rebellion. Admit it if your heart is dead and indifferent. Remember, He knows what is in your heart. This is confession. Then, repent in true brokenness and offer your heart up to Jesus and ask Him for a new heart that is pleasing to God. Ask Him to fill it with that very purity and love for God that He requires. Ask Jesus to fill your heart with the Holy Spirit, so that out of your innermost being will flow the living water. Consecrate your life to God, and settle the issue once and for all that you belong to Him and no other, including yourself. Determine to have an established or fixed heart, upon the Lord. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse our wicked hearts and make us white as snow.
We have this promise in Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”