Everyone who has studied microbiology and hygiene should understand the value of cleanliness to prevent sickness, but physical cleanliness is not the only kind of cleanliness that is necessary. Spiritual cleanliness is even more important, and without it no one can receive the gift of eternal life. But the question is, How can an impure mind become pure?
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus enunciated the sixth step of a spiritual ladder that will lead a person into the kingdom of God. It says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This step establishes citizenship in the kingdom of God. Purity of heart and life is a result of the spiritual experience that is represented by the first five steps in Matthew 5; the person first of all recognizes his spiritual poverty, he mourns over his sinful condition until God makes him humble or meek. He has a thirst for righteousness that he cannot generate and becomes merciful. He is then purified from pride, and malice, and deceit, and other heart-defiling sins. There is no other road to purity of heart than the beatitude road and each step needs to be taken in that order. This next step, like the others, is not the enunciation of something that is new, but actually a restatement of a truth that is as old as the plan of salvation.
Notice what David wrote about salvation in Psalm 15. In verse 1 he asks the question, Who is going to be saved? “Lord, who may abide in Your holy hill? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” He then gives the answer in verse 2: “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” Upright walking, righteous working, and truthful speaking from the heart results in a pure heart.
David, after he had fallen into sin with Bathsheba, recognized that a divine miracle had worked in his life. Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” Then verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David was afraid on this occasion that because of the grievous sins he had committed against the Holy Spirit, he was lost and he could not be saved. He says in verse 11, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” I want Lord that You recreate my heart. My heart is wicked, lustful, impure, but Lord I want a different heart. The Lord heard His prayer; He created in him a different heart, a different spirit, a new heart, and a new spirit. Receiving a new heart and a new spirit is so important that Jesus said that unless it happens there is no chance for any of us to be saved. Speaking to Nicodemus, one of the leaders of the Jews who had secretly come to Him one night for an audience, Jesus said in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” A birth represents a new creation, a new being comes into the world when a baby is born. Jesus said, if you haven’t been born again, there is no chance for you to be in the kingdom of God. When Nicodemus heard this he sarcastically replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s uterus and be born” (verse 4, literal translation)?
“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ ” (verse 5). Unless you have been born again, not just of water, but of the Holy Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. We do not naturally have hearts that are pure. Our hearts are impure, and wicked, and unholy. The only way we can have a pure heart is through God’s recreative power making us a new creature. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
If you and I are ever to have a pure heart, we must be a new creation. The Lord must create within us a clean heart, a new heart, a new spirit. That is what being born again is all about. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that the heart is made pure. Many people are confused today about this work. They think that the work of Holy Spirit is doing some kind of magic or miracles, speaking in tongues, or doing some other thing that is a scientific wonder that unconverted people cannot explain. But the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus, is to give you a new heart, to cause you to be born again, to give you a new spirit. Unless that happens, Jesus said, there is no chance of inheriting the kingdom of heaven.
Only he who becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus can have a new heart, a new spirit, new thoughts, new feelings, new motives, created by the Holy Spirit in that person’s mind. The wise man said in Proverbs 22:11, literal translation, “He that loves pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips, the king shall be his friend.” The heart is the emotional center of a person, the fountain of life. The character and conduct are determined by the condition of a person’s heart, the spiritual condition of our heart.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” As a person thinks in his heart, that is the way he is, that is the kind of a person he is, that is the kind of a character he is. It is for this reason that the wise man counsels us to guard our heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” The heart here is represented as a fortress which must be guarded. One version of the Scriptures translates it this way: “Keep your heart above all that thou guardest.” The heart is a fortress, a citadel that is to be guarded against the attacks of the enemy, because out of it are the issues of life. Out of the fountain of the heart there flows, or issues, the stream of character and conduct. Our words and our actions are simply the result of what is in our heart. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” When you stop to think about it, all evil in our world has its source and fountain in an evil heart. And the human heart is by nature, evil. It is a part of our inheritance from our first parents, Adam and Eve.
Notice what David said about this after he had sinned and he was thinking about his situation and the awful series of things he had done. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He understood that from the time he was conceived, he had been born in sin. The Lord recognized the same thing when He spoke to Noah after the flood. Genesis 8:21 says, “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.’ ” The Lord said the imagination of a man is evil from his youth.
How evil is our imagination? How evil is our heart? In Jeremiah 17:9, literal translation, it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and is desperately wicked.” Or it could be translated, incurably wicked. “Who can know it?” Jesus made it very clear when He was here that the heart is the source of all evil. In Mark 7:21–23 He said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile the man.”
That was the secret of the terrible wickedness that came upon the world in Noah’s time, before the flood, and brought the judgment of a world-wide deluge. Genesis 6:5 says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (verse 11).
That was the condition of the world before the flood in Noah’s day. Jesus stated very clearly in Matthew 24 that this same condition of wickedness would occur in the world again, before His return to this world. That prophecy explains to a large extent the cause of the present tidal wave of crime and iniquity and lawlessness that is sweeping over all the earth. The source is the corrupt and unregenerate hearts of mankind.
The patriarch Job asked a question in Job 14:4: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” So who can bring a clean heart out of an unclean heart? Nobody. What are we going to do then? The purpose of the gospel is to enable a person to receive a new heart, a new creation, a new spirit, a brand new one. And there is One power in the universe that can do that for you, friend. No human being is able to cleanse the heart, but there is One Who can. Jesus is the great purifier and cleanser from sin. The genius of the Christian religion lies in the restorative power of the gospel, not in the performance of certain ceremonies or recitation of certain doctrines. The core of the Christian religion is that if you accept Jesus as the Lord of your life and as your Saviour from sin the Holy Spirit will create in you a new heart, a new spirit.
If you acknowledge Him as the Lord of your life, as your Saviour, the Holy Spirit will work a new creation in your heart and in your mind. All forms of false religion, paganism, tend toward corruption. Purity of heart does not find any prominent place in the teachings of Socrates or Aristotle or other heathen philosophers. The wisest and the greatest of them were impure and they knew it. They were corrupt in their teachings and in their practices. The gospel, though, will produce purity and holiness in the heart, not just on the outside, but in the heart. It brings the heart and the life into conformity with the divine law which is the standard of righteousness.
Jesus Christ, when He was here, was the very incarnation of purity. One time He said to the people, “Which of you convicts Me of sin” (John 8:46)? They didn’t have anything to say. The Bible says that if I accept Him, if I hope to meet Him, “every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, as He is pure” (1 John 3:3, literal translation), because it is only the pure in heart that will see God.
This purifying process cleanses our motives. When right principles are enthroned in the heart, then we do right because it is right, not because of policy or expediency. The right doing of the pure in heart occurs not to escape punishment, or for hope of reward; their good conduct occurs because of the motives inside.
A question that many Christians could ask themselves is, Is my obedience for the purpose of avoiding punishment or because of an inborn love of what is good and what is right? Many people would be shocked if they stopped to think about their honest answer. Why do I obey God by observing His law? This beatitude says that the pure in heart will see God. If my heart is full of sin, then my vision is beclouded. I cannot see or understand God. The disease of sin produces spiritual blindness. The Bible talks about this in many places. Peter talks about it in 2 Peter 1:9. Jesus talks about it in the message He gave to John the Revelator in Revelation 3:17, referring to people who thought that they had need of nothing, and yet Jesus says, you are blind, you are miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked. You do not even know your spiritual condition.
That was the reason the majority of people in Jesus’ day failed to see God. To them Jesus was only a root out of the dry ground, as stated in Isaiah 53:2. They saw in Him no beauty that they should desire Him. This is also true with the mass of mankind even today. It explains the reason why there are so many modern thinkers or philosophers who see Jesus only as a man. O, they say, He was a good man, even a superman perhaps, but only a man. To them, the beauty of His matchless character is no evidence that He is the Son of God. To them Jesus is altogether such a one as themselves. Sin dims our vision about God. But when we get a vision of God, then sin is revealed and holiness is produced. We see in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. It is a vision of God that gives a person a vision of themselves and their true condition.
When Job saw the Lord he wrote about it in Job 42, verse 5 and 6. Verse 6 says, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” A vision of the Lord’s glory had the very same effect upon other Bible writers, for example, Isaiah. When you read Isaiah 6 you will see that he had the same experience. Daniel had the very same experience recorded in Daniel 10. Peter had the very same experience as recorded in Luke 6. Paul had the very same experience as recorded in Acts 26. And the apostle John had the very same experience as recorded in Revelation 1.
We can never know the blackness of our sin until we see the purity of the character of Christ. And once a person really sees that, the contrast brings us to a state of shock and awakens us to realize that we need a complete change in character and the person says, “Lord, I’m all undone” (Isaiah 6.5 literal translation), as Isaiah said. The Lord said, I’m going to purge your iniquity (verse 7). In other words, you’re going to get a new heart, a new mind. Jacob was a crooked dealer, a cunning trickster, a person that you would not want to do any kind of business with. His very name meant a deceiver or a supplanter (Genesis 27:36), and he lived up to his name.
But his character was completely changed one night when he had a wrestling match with the Lord Himself. It’s recorded in Genesis 32. For a man that had been spiritually bankrupt, he was changed into a prince of God. What was the secret of the wonderful transformation that he experienced? In Genesis 32:30, he said, “I have seen God face to face …”
The apostle Paul had that experience. It was the vision of the crucified One on the road to Damascus that transformed him into a different person and changed the whole current of his life. From then on, his goal was to behold and see that person. He said, by beholding we will become changed (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Have you beheld the purity of Christ? The spiritual vision of God must eventually involve seeing Him face to face. We must see Him now by the eye of faith and then we will see Him in the kingdom of glory, because He has promised His people that they are going to see the king in His beauty (Isaiah 33:17).
The only people that will see Him in His beauty, then, are the people who have seen the beauty of His character in the present life. Everybody else, when they see Him, will be calling for the rocks and mountains to fall on them as stated in Revelation 6:16. They are destroyed by the brightness and glory of his person. The only people that will see God face to face and be preserved are those who are pure in heart. They have seen God by the eye of faith in this life and they will be blessed with a vision of His immaculate loveliness when He returns. Because they have lived as in the visible presence of God in this life, they will have fellowship with Him in the future immortal life.
Friend, are you reading your Bible and studying to understand, not just the words, but to see the character of Jesus Christ, what kind of a person He is? You must become like Him if you are going to be with Him. For those who become like Him, the apostle Paul says, the time is coming when, even though now we only know in part, we are going to know as we are known. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then, we will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). Who will do that? It is those who are pure in heart. How can that happen? It can only happen if the Holy Spirit creates in you and in me a new heart, a new spirit, when we yield to the working of the divine agencies.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.