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Bible verses about Deceitfulness of Heart
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:16

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" has very far-reaching spiritual applications. Bear means "to spread, carry, render, or give." At first glance, the commandment appears to involve only lying in a court of law, and this might be true if the words in the commandment were to be taken only at face value. Jesus clearly shows that there is a "spirit," an intent, to God's laws in addition to the letter that carries their application far beyond mere face-value judgments.

Many scriptures show that the commandment covers lying under any circumstance, including hypocrisy and self-deception. That is, it covers any wrongful word or example that would tend to injure. The ninth commandment is in a similar position in man's relationship to other men as the third commandment is in man's relationship to God. This commandment directly involves faithfulness and loyalty in our speech and in our witness for God before men.

Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold." The Soncino Commentary remarks that a person's good reputation, his name, is his most valuable asset. Indeed, the Bible shows that God guards and protects His name very jealously. This is because His name represents what He is.

So it is with us. But why do so many lie, sowing the seeds for the destruction of their reputation? It is the desire for the approval of others that leads them to twist a story or to deliberately exaggerate or diminish their parts in it in the retelling.

When we hear a name, images of that person and what he or she is immediately spring to mind. What we are and how others perceive us has everything to do with what we believe and practice. So, is what we believe and practice true? If we want to have a good name (reputation) in the eyes of both God and man, we, too, have to recognize truth—wherever and whenever it arises in daily life—understand it, and submit to it. This process produces faithfulness.

This is where truth in a person's witness begins. If truth does not form the foundation of a person's life, he is already behind the eight-ball to some extent. The urge to lie must be met and overcome. At the base of this problem is a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) that continually lays traps to make lying an appealing course to follow. Besides lying before men, some of us keep lying to ourselves, and thus our name before God is not good. Faithlessness is the result. In order to have a good name, we, as God's children, must face up to our vanities and quit deceiving ourselves that God will just have to take us as we are.

We need to stop blaming our failures, problems, and shortcomings on others, which tendency provides us with justifications for what we are and what we do. Within the family, Mom and Dad are frequent targets of this. They are usually guilty to some extent, but God puts the pressure on us to change. Change will not occur in this way of life until we face up to the truth that we are responsible for what we are. We also bear much of the responsibility of becoming what we hope to be. Nobody can do this for us.

This is the day-to-day "stuff" on which trustworthiness and righteous reputations are formed. They are built on the witness of what we do before others. God wants our reputation before men to be built, first, on His truth and then on truth in general. Are we honestly doing this as well as we could be?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Job 9:32-35

As early as Job 9:32-35, though, Job complains that what he is enduring is completely and totally unfair and that God is wrong in permitting it to occur. The Revised English Bible clearly exposes at least an irritation against God, showing that Job, despite admitting that God is far greater, feels a measure of equality with Him!

God is not as I am, not someone I can challenge, and say, "Let us confront one another in court." If only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take his rod from my back, and terror of him might not come on me suddenly. I should then speak out without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be.

Despite being aware that a vast difference exists between God and man, Job is nonetheless unaware of how immeasurably different the reality is, shown in his willingness to stand with God before an umpire who would hear both sides of the case! He wants to be heard, not realizing he has no case to argue at all! He truly deserves nothing but death. At this point, Job is not yet overly concerned about God's right to do with him as He sees fit, but rather he is disturbed that God has not intervened and vindicated him before his accusing friends.

Job's complaint also reveals that he thought of sin merely in terms of an unrighteous act. He does not yet grasp that sin is more than a transgression of a code; it is a breaking of our covenant relationship with God that distorts life itself. Sin is the distortion, and whether it is an act visible on the outside or one of heart and motivation, the relationship with God is damaged because all sin is against Him. Jeremiah 17:9 reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

To speak or act of sin as though it is of no account to God, as though He is indifferent to it, to disclaim responsibility, strikes at the very core of our relationship with Him. This is what Job was doing in claiming that God did not care about him. The reality is that God was putting Job through this rigorous trial because He did care and did not want to lose the relationship with him.

Job's trial thus becomes a witness to us of the vast difference between God and us. Besides God's being eternal spirit and our being flesh, the greatest difference between Him and us is in our hearts. Jesus points out in Matthew 15:18-20 that sin begins in the heart. It is man's heart that needs changing. For one thing, its pride needs to be wrung from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

Job 31:33

Job makes this statement because he has been accused of being a hypocrite, so he is defending his integrity. "Adam" represents mankind in general. Unlike mankind in general—though it is the natural thing to do—Job does not hide himself from the deceit of his heart, showing both his conversion and his wisdom. Sir Walter Scott wrote, "Oh what tangled webs we weave/ When first we practice to deceive." Job understood that either lying with the tongue or presenting a visible hypocrisy creates problems, not solve them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Psalm 15:1-5

It was surprising to discover two new things in this passage. The first is that while Christians usually choose Psalm 23 as their favorite psalm, Jews often choose Psalm 15. The second is that the Hebrew of the phrase "who shall dwell" does not suggest "living in," but rather "visiting with"—that is, being acceptable to come into God's presence. In other words, the psalm has at least an equally strong present tense application as it does a future one.

It is essential, therefore, for us to consider whether God allows us to visit Him, and thus whether He hears our prayers. The person who has these qualifications most certainly will be heard. In him is no false way at all, no pretense, no deceit, no gossip, no guile, and no hypocrisy. He has no hollow friendships, nor does He give vain compliments. His heart, hand, and tongue are in unison in believing and doing truth. This is a model for all of us to strive to reach.

Proverbs 25:19 instructs us, "Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint." Faithfulness always indicates a person who deals truthfully; he can be trusted. Yet, dealing with unfaithful people is usually painful because one never knows whether they will come through. Thus, our evaluation of ourselves comes down to this question: How can God trust us if we are not striving to be honest now?

II Corinthians 4:1-2 sets a standard:

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Paul's proclamation fits right into the description of the acceptable person in Psalm 15. Our responsibility is to manifest truth. We must make honest and diligent use of God's gracious gifts without craftiness. Is our way Christ's way and therefore acceptable to God? Can we say that we have nothing to do with hidden and shameful methods?

Paul is not saying that we act with unscrupulous cleverness, but that we do not adulterate truth in any form at all. By making truth clear, whether in word or deed, we commend ourselves both to human conscience in the sight of God and please Him at the same time. We should be childlike and open, leaving as little room as possible for people to misinterpret our motives, misunderstand our actions, or twist our words out of their real meaning.

Does it make any difference what people think of us? Some take the approach that "I'm going to do what I want to do, and what others think doesn't matter." However, it matters very much to God. If it did not, He would not show such concern in His Word regarding being a good witness for Him. Nor would He warn us about protecting our reputation—or His—because much of our effectiveness in witnessing depends on our being trustworthy.

Keeping the ninth commandment begins with not letting our deceitful heart trick us into doing anything less than what is honest and true in God's sight, regardless of what we think men might discern from what we say or do. To do this, we may have to override strong internal drives to make ourselves look good, but doing what is right is something that must be done to remain pure and glorify God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Psalm 19:12-14

David showed no hostility toward God, and he tried hard to change whenever he could see that he was wrong. However, he could not always see it. For instance, David stole Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and she became pregnant. After conniving and cheating in an attempt to avoid the consequences, David intentionally arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle.

Incredible as it may seem, David did not see how terribly wrong his sexual immorality in both his thoughts and actions was. He broke both the spirit and letter of the law. Not until the prophet Nathan brought him to his senses did spiritually blind David realize his sinful behavior.

Nevertheless, we cannot judge David too harshly, since our vision is likewise clouded regarding many of our problems. It is hard enough to recognize and admit the problems we can see, much less the ones we cannot. Rather than judge him, we can actually identify with David.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Psalm 24:3-4

These two brief verses broadly cover conduct, motivation, attitude, and prioritizing one's life. To meet these qualifications requires "truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). A deceitful heart will never meet the standards because it does not operate from a foundation of godly integrity. David says in verse 5 that, humanly, he was shaped in iniquity. God, with our cooperation through faith, is ultimately the Creator of a pure heart in us, but it is a protracted process achieved by imparting a holy nature by His Spirit. This unites us with a holy Christ, with whom we fellowship, washing us in the blood of the Lamb so that with His aid we can mortify the flesh and live toward God, giving Him first priority in everything.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Proverbs 4:23

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep—that is, guard, preserve, and maintain—our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits. In stark reality, Romans 8:7 and Jeremiah 17:9 show why: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God's holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Jeremiah 17:5-6

The subject in which Jeremiah 17:9 appears is faith. God is pointing out why we allow our deceitful heart to get away with evading truth. It is a matter of faith—trust. Verse 6 shows that the person who does not live by faith will not grow. He will be like a shrub in the desert that only receives water every so often, not near often enough to grow.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 17:6-9

It is the heart that motivates us to break faith with God's Word. It does it by weakening our trust in what God says is really true. Is that not what happened in the Garden of Eden? Is that not why Adam and Eve sinned, because their trust in God's Word was broken by the arguments, by the reasons, by the convoluted ideas and justifications that Satan came up with?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 17:9

A person breaks the second commandment when he exalts himself against God by trusting in his own or another's reasoning and lives that way rather than the way God ordained and commanded. Too often, the heart is easily led to satisfy its own desires rather than follow revealed knowledge. But God faithfully searches and tests our hearts to rid us of all idolatries so we will follow His way as closely as possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Jeremiah 17:9

When the scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," its ramifications to life are profound. It becomes clearer when we add synonyms: Human nature is dishonest, underhanded, untrustworthy, misleading, crooked, and insincere besides. To appease an appetite or receive instant gratification, it craftily tricks us into discounting plain truths as unworthy or unnecessary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Six)


 

Jeremiah 17:9

Human nature will try to reassert its dominance in a converted person's life. The word that is translated from Hebrew into the English word "deceitful" means "tortuous, twisted, convoluted." That is the way human nature is—tortuous, twisted, and convoluted in its thinking and reasoning. God is referring to the kind of justifications or rationalizations that it will make to convince a person that it is okay to sin, not to pay attention to the law of God, to say to the self, "It really does not matter. I am only one person."

Note this frank quote from Aldus Huxley, which appears in his book Ends And Means (p. 270):

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find gratifying reasons for this assumption.

Convoluted, tortuous, twisted. Looking for rationalizations and justifications. Continuing on page 273:

Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don't know because we don't want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. . . . Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because for one reason or another it suits their books that the world should be meaningless. . . . We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

This is how human nature works—the heart twists the truth of God and deceives itself into thinking that, "Well, let us make the assumption that the world and life have no meaning, therefore we can do what we want to do." This is from a highly intelligent human being.

We know that for us to acknowledge and yield to truth will be personally costly, and we often do not want to pay the price, so we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking it really does not matter if we yield to the wrong thing this time. We will fight the battle the next time it comes up.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 17:9

This verse is among the best known of all verses in the Bible. Though we know the words, could we perhaps not grasp some of the depth of what Jeremiah is trying to convey, particularly its practical, everyday application?

It is interesting that the Hebrew word translated "deceitful" (Strong's #6121) comes from exactly the same root as the name "Jacob" (which gives a bit of insight into the mindset of that famous Bible character in his pre-conversion days - God has a habit of naming things what they are). This word is used only three times in the Old Testament. It indicates "a swelling," "a humping up," and thus a knoll or small hill.

When used in relation to traits of human personality, it describes an inflated, prideful vanity, a characteristic that is distastefully useless, corrupting, and intensely self-serving. According to Strong's, it also indicates something fraudulent or crooked. In other words, it suggests an intentional perversion of truth intended to induce another to surrender or give up something of value. What Jacob twice did to Esau gives a good idea of its practical meaning.

Today, we might say our heart is always attempting to "con" us into something that is not good for us in any way. Its inducements may indeed appear attractive on the surface, but further examination would reveal that its appeals are fraudulent and risky. In fact, its appeals are not only downright dangerous, it is incurably set in this way.

In Jeremiah 17:9, the Hebrew word is translated "deceitful," but in the other two usages, it is translated "corrupted" and "polluted." This word should give us a clear indication of what God thinks of this mind that is generating our slippery, self-serving conduct and attitudes. In His judgment, it is foul in every sense, to be considered as belonging in a moral sewer or septic tank.

The King James translators chose to use "deceitful," and since it is a good synonym, just about every modern translation has followed its lead. Deceit is a cognate of deceive, which means "to mislead," "to cheat," "to give a false appearance or impression," "to lead astray," "to impose a false idea," and finally, "to obscure the truth." "Deceitful" thus indicates the heart to be brim-full of these horrible activities.

The term "desperately" (Strong's #605) also needs definition. It indicates something so weak, feeble, and frail as to be at the point of death. Thus, most modern translations, including the KJV margin, have opted for "incurable." Elsewhere, God calls it "a heart of stone," as if rigor mortis has already set in despite it still being alive. In other words, nothing can be done about it, as it is set in a pattern of influence that cannot be changed for the better. God promises, then, that He will give those He calls a new heart, a heart of flesh, one that will yield to Him and His way of life.

It is good to understand all these descriptors, but they only give us what amounts to book-learning on this vital topic. It is what its problems are in everday, practical situations that makes God so dead set against it that He declares it "incurable." It cannot be fixed to His satisfaction and is therefore unacceptable for His Family Kingdom.

We can understand why from this brief illustration: What are the two great commandments of the law? First: We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38). In other words, we are to love Him above all other things. We are to respond to God's wonderful, generous love toward us with a love that employs all of our faculties to match His love toward us.

Jesus says in Luke 14:26, "If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Do we grasp the practical application of this? He means that we are to make whatever sacrifice is necessary, even to giving up our lives, to submit in obedience to any, even the least, of God's commands. If at any time we put ourselves on equal footing to Him, we have actually elevated ourselves over Him and have committed idolatry.

The second great commandment is to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Though not quite as stringent as the first, it still is a very high standard. Jesus says that on these two commandments everything else in our response to God hangs (verse 40). Love and law are inextricably bound together in our relationship with God.

Yet, herein lies the problem. Keeping them is impossible for man as he now is, encumbered with this deceitful heart. Our heart will not permit us to do this because it is so self-centered it absolutely cannot consistently obey either of these commandments. Thus, no character of any value to God's Kingdom can be created in one with a heart as deceitful and out of control as an unconverted person. It is incurably self-centered, self-absorbed, and narcissistic in its concerns about life's activities.

This deceit has many avenues of expression, but none is more effective than to convince us we are far better than we actually are - but far better as compared to what or whom? Our hearts have an incredible ability to hide us from the reality of what we are spiritually and morally. It does this so effectively that it can harden us to the extent that we can be blinded to any and every failing in our character! It lures us into sin, hiding its seriousness from us and making us believe it to be a rather minor affair. It convinces us that "nobody got hurt" or "everybody's doing it."

In Hebrews 3:12-13, Paul issues a warning just as applicable today as it was in the first century: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.'" Sin promises more than it can deliver. It assures us of pleasures it never imparts. Sometimes it does deliver some pleasure, but it conceals the boomerang effect that will surely come. It also obscures its addictive power, invariably leading us beyond our original limits. When we first sin a specific sin, we are under delusion, and it will lead us step by step until we are enslaved to it.

It can put on plausible appearances, even the mantle of virtue, convincing us we are doing ourselves and others a favor. Sin deludes us with hope of happiness, but what does the gambler feel when he loses his bankroll, or the drunkard after he is burdened with a death caused by his drunk driving, or the fornicator who discovers he has AIDS, or the adulterer who must live with the fact that he has destroyed a marriage and family?

Human nature will generate any number of excuses - self-justifications, really - to avoid any sacrifice, no matter how small, or to admit any guilt that might damage its self-assessment of its value. It sometimes manages to produce narcissism so strong that all activity must have it as the center of the universe, and it will work hard to make sure it controls virtually everything. Pride and self-gratification are its driving impulses.

By insisting on "tolerance" over the last several decades, human nature has deceitfully managed to produce an open-minded acceptance of what was once commonly known to be sinful behavior. It has succeeded by maintaining that no absolutes exist regarding conduct, thus one morality is just as good as another. The nation has been bulldozed into accepting this deceitful concept by cooperative media, good-looking celebrities, savvy politicians, and liberal judges.

Thus, a polite, secular paganism has overtaken our nation, and many have become convinced that the gods and ways of the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, occultists, or whatever religionists are all the same. In one way, they are correct. They all do have the same god, but it is not the God of the true Christian religion and the Bible, One who adamantly insists on purity, chastity, and integrity of life in harmony with His commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 17:11-13

"Written in the earth" - written in dust. What happens to anything written in the dust? The wind comes along, and it blows away. Those who do not trust God, who depart from the Lord, who allow their heart to deceive them into not properly responding to the truth of God—their names are just going to blow away like something written in the dust.

Do we really believe Him enough to live by faith? The person who lives by faith is one who believes God's truth and responds in obedience to it. The person who does not departs from His truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Ezekiel 20:16

In this passage, God consistently uses a word translated in the King James as "polluted" and in the New King James as "profaned." Pollute means "to defile." Polluted air and water are, to some degree, defiled, stained, poisoned, contaminated, foul. It can imply desecrated, violated, and profaned. Profane means "to treat with irreverence and disrespect." It means "to treat as common": Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are common days of the week, whereas the Sabbath is holy. It is special, set apart.

So, what motivated these people to despise and to pollute His Sabbaths?

Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Jesus updates this in Matthew 15:19: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, . . ." and about half a dozen other sins. Yet, just as surely as these evil things come out of the heart, so do good things.

God says through Ezekiel that the Israelites broke the Sabbath because their hearts went after their idols. Spiritually, an idol can be anything to which we give our time or attention to the detriment of our relationship with God. However, we must understand that idolatry forces a person to do its will rather than God's. If the heart goes after an idol, the rest of the body will follow the heart. The heart—the thinking and emotional processes—imposes its will on the hands, the eyes, the ears, the mouth, etc., and they just follow what the heart wills to do. If our hearts follow an idol, God says we will surely break the Sabbath.

The idol does not have to be the same for each person, but in relation to the Sabbath, the result is always the same: All or some part of the Sabbath day will be used as one pleases—pursuing one's own interests—rather than what God intends. This is why God says in Isaiah 58:13 that we should not speak our own words on the Sabbath. When we are speaking our own words, our tongue is following after the idol. Undoubtedly, we sometimes do this ignorantly. For most of us, we know better, but our hearts are still going after our idols.

So we can reach a conclusion directly from God's own Word: Idolatry is at the foundation of Sabbath-breaking.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Malachi 1:11-14

Israel profaned God's name by giving offerings in a lying and deceitful attitude, as Ananias and Sapphira did (Acts 5:1-11). They kept the best animals for themselves while offering blemished ones to God. We fear God's name, not only by keeping all of God's law—including the statutes and judgments (Deuteronomy 28:58)—but also by giving God our best effort in doing His will.

Martin G. Collins
The Third Commandment


 

Matthew 5:8

The heart is central to this because in the Bible the heart stands for the seat, source, reservoir, and instigator of our thoughts, attitudes, desires, character, and motivation. It is synonymous with our modern use of "mind," since the mind is where we hold knowledge, attitudes, motivations, affections, desires, likes, and dislikes.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Obviously, the quality of the heart is the issue in this beatitude. Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Our Father directly addresses the book of Proverbs to His sons (Proverbs 1:7). It assumes our hearts have been purified by His initial cleansing, that we have received His Spirit, and are in the process of sanctification and going on to perfection. Ezekiel explains this process:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

This does not all take place in an instant. It is a process, and as we have all discovered from Scripture and our own experience since baptism, human nature is still very much alive within us (Romans 7:13-25). Paul confirms this in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish."

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep—that is, guard, preserve, and maintain—our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits. In stark reality, Romans 8:7 and Jeremiah 17:9 show why: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God's holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

Jesus preaches on this in Matthew 15:16-20:

So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

It is sin that defiles holiness. In terms of character, of being in the image of God, sin defiles, pollutes, contaminates, or blurs the reflection of God in us. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 5:8

Purity of heart is a work in progress in which both God and man share responsibility. Many scriptures show that God will cleanse by pardoning sin. But our responsibility in cleansing is very important and frequently mentioned along with what we must do to be cleansed. Notice how clearly James shows purifying is our responsibility: "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).

How is this purifying done? I Peter 1:22 makes a summary statement: "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart." Obedience to the truth through the Spirit purifies our character by inculcating right habits within it.

After commanding us to clean ourselves up, Isaiah adds, "Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-17). Likewise, after admonishing us to guard our heart, our Father says:

Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:24-27)

Jeremiah 4:14 adds, "O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?"

Psalm 24:3-4 asks a searching question and gives a clear and important answer to all of us: "Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully." These two brief verses broadly cover conduct, motivation, attitude, and prioritizing one's life.

To meet these qualifications requires "truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). A deceitful heart will never meet the standards because it does not operate from a foundation of godly integrity. David says in verse 5 that, humanly, he was shaped in iniquity. God, with our cooperation through faith, is ultimately the Creator of a pure heart in us, but it is a protracted process achieved by imparting a holy nature by His Spirit. This unites us with a holy Christ, with whom we fellowship, washing us in the blood of the Lamb so that with His aid we can mortify the flesh and live toward God, giving Him first priority in everything.

We will never be pure as God is pure in this life. Our purity is at best only in part. We are partly purified from our former darkness; our will is partly purified from its rebellion; our desires are partly purified from desires, avarice and pride. But the work of cleansing has begun, and God is faithful to finish what He starts (Philippians 1:6).

Interestingly, when Peter refers to God's calling of Gentiles in Acts 15:9, he says God "made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." He uses "purifying" in the sense of a continuous experience. In Titus 3:5, Paul also uses "renewing of the Holy Spirit" in the same ongoing sense. We must see purity of heart in this sense because as James 3:2, 8 states, "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. . . . But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." By daily denying the self, sincerely confessing and wholehearted obedience, we work toward purity.

However, it is not enough to be pure in words and outward conduct. Purity of desires, motives, and intents should characterize the child of God. We need to examine ourselves, searching diligently whether we have freed ourselves from the dominion of hypocrisy. Are our affections set on things above? Has the fear of the Lord grown strong enough that we love what He loves and hate what He hates? Are we conscious of and do we deeply grieve over the filth we yet find within ourselves? Are we conscious of our foul thoughts, vile imaginations, evil desires? Do we mourn over our pride? Perhaps the heaviest burden of a pure heart is seeing the ocean of unclean things still in him, casting its filth into his life and fouling what he does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 7:1-5

God will often see to it that we are treated the same way we treat others.

Jacob was a talented young man with great ability, but he had a serious fault: As a young man, he would lie, connive, and scheme to get his own way, without a thought for other people's feelings. He deceived his father Isaac into blessing him, instead of his brother Esau, with the birthright, an incident that split the family and caused much suffering and ill will, as Genesis 27 records.

God, of course, fully intended Jacob to have the birthright and could have worked it out in a way in which nobody got hurt. But this was not the first time that Jacob had used shrewdness to get his own way. Earlier, when Esau was about to collapse from lack of nourishment, Jacob gave Esau bread, a stew of lentils, and a drink in exchange for his birthright. Jacob had a secret sin and needed to be taught a lesson. He could not look at himself and see that he had this sin. He probably looked at himself as many today in business look at themselves; he probably thought he was being clever and wise.

During the next few years, Jacob reaped what he had sowed. His employer and future father-in-law, Laban, tricked him out of his wages and the wife for whom he had labored seven years. In addition, toward the end of his life, Jacob was also deceived by the use of a dead goat, just as he had deceived his father Isaac. Jacob's sons dipped Joseph's coat of many colors in the blood of a goat to convince their father that his favorite son, whom they had sold, was dead. Jacob spent many years in grief, deceived as he had deceived others.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Matthew 15:18-20

The heart symbolizes our innermost being, the source of our words and actions. Today we call it the mind. When God awakens us to some of His great truths, when we at last begin to realize the vital importance of righteousness, there is a blush of first love, and we begin to hunger to apply them in our lives. But what is already in the heart fights almost desperately not to be displaced by the new nature in hope of wearing down our enthusiasm for the truth. Paul illustrates this resistance in Galatians 5:17:

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Why do we not do the things we wish? The answer lies in the extraordinary power of ingrained habits. They are most difficult to break because they have had free sway for so long one unconsciously does what they incite. Paul speaks of this using a different metaphor in Romans 7:23: "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."

The almost constant persistence of these habits can be depressing. If we seem to be making no progress, life can become downright discouraging. But we must not give in to discouragement. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose except that which is of no value for the Kingdom of God anyway. Discouragement that feeds frustration only makes Satan's work that much easier for him.

There are things we can do to enhance the initial hunger God gives to us. If we were physically hungry or thirsty, we would give every last ounce of strength we had to find food and water or die in the effort. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to make progress in our quest for God's righteousness.

As adolescents, we were unaware that growth was taking place until someone who had not seen us for a while brought it to our attention. Even though we were not aware we were growing, we still made efforts to grow by eating and drinking the things that promote growth. In the same way, spiritual growth may also seem so slow that we think it is not happening. But we should not let that stop us! We must keep on making the spiritual efforts even as we did the physical, and growth will occur. Keep on praying for others, thanking God for His goodness and mercy, asking for wisdom, love, and faith. Keep studying God's Word, filling the mind with

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Luke 8:14-15

Growth requires an honest and noble heart. We deceive ourselves through rationalizations and justifications, allowing our appetites to overwhelm what we know is true. Sin engulfs the mind with a cloud of alibis and cover-ups to hide from ourselves the wrongness of what we do. Sin promotes twisting and distorting of truth. We reason, "This isn't so bad"; "I'll do it just one more time"; "I'm too weak. God will just have to take me as I am"; "God will just have to do it for me." We have all reasoned ourselves into transgressing.

Have we been deceived into thinking of sin only in the sense of breaking one of the Ten Commandments? While sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), its biblical usage is much broader. When we fail to think of sin in its broader sense, we stumble into a trap. It is far better to think of sin as falling short of the glory of God. The central concept of sin is failure—failure to live up to a standard, God Himself. The glory of God includes His attitudes, intents, and His very thinking processes, all of which produce the way He lives. For us to fall short in any of these areas is missing the mark—sin.

We are deceived, lured into actually transgressing, through neglect, carelessness, laziness, irresponsibility, ignorance, bull-headedness, fear, shortsightedness, and ingratitude for forgiveness and the awesome potential that God has freely and graciously handed to us on a golden platter of grace. We are detoured from progress to holiness and are enticed into sin by failing to see God and by not considering seriously the subtle influences on the fringes of actual transgression of the law. At the foundation of both spiritual and physical health is how we think and what we think about.

James 1:13-16 confirms this:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

The way to stop sin, as well as to improve health, is to change our thinking. Between what God does and what we should do, we can do it. This is real conversion!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

Acts 5:1-11

God frowns upon poor-quality offerings. In Genesis 4, Cain gives a poor-quality offering and pays the penalty. The quality of an offering does not necessarily depend on the monetary amount. The poor widow of Luke 21:1-4 will be eternally remembered for her tiny offering, whereas Ananias and Sapphira, although giving a sizable amount from the proceeds of a real estate sale, offer it in a lying attitude and become immortalized as negative examples.

The number of dollars is not important. What is important are the attitude, thought, effort, and preparation that go into our offerings. As Peter says, Ananias and Sapphira had total control over how much of the proceeds of the sale of their land went to the church. Their sin lay in misrepresenting to both God and the apostles that they were giving the entire amount. They wanted everyone to think they were sacrificing when, in truth, they were not.

Staff
Quality Holy Day Offerings


 

Acts 5:1-10

We can perceive a mixed bag of Ananias and Sapphira's sins involved in this tragedy. Acts 4:36-37 informs us of Barnabas' sacrificial gift for the well-being of the newly formed church. Pride and desire for acclaim motivated the couple to give a gift but without the honesty or sacrifice exhibited by Barnabas and others.

"Why has Satan filled your heart" (verse 3) is the equivalent of "Why have you dared?" They were free to give whatever percentage they set, for Peter says that the entire property sale price was under their control. Their sin lay in deceitfully alleging that the amount they gave was the whole of the sale price, when it was actually only a part. They deviously exaggerated their offering.

Some think this judgment was harsh, but Peter did not. He spoke of the sin as inspired of Satan, and the passage makes clear that both Ananias and Sapphira were fully aware of what they were doing (verses 2, 9). Conscious deceit is spiritually disastrous because trust is completely violated. They should have known better.

God interpreted their action as tempting Him, seeing how much they could get away with. Their way of reaching their goals is so opposed to the gospel that God could not allow it to go unchallenged; it would have set the whole mission of the church off course. Honesty and integrity are the standard of God's way of life. Sin is no light thing with God.

These people were living behind a deceptive façade, one similar to the idea that, if one keeps the front windows clean, it does not matter how dirty the back ones are. They allowed themselves to become tools working to destroy the family relationship of trust within the church. God forcibly reminded them and us that He will not abide that.

We must treat one another with fairness and loving kindness, or we will not be in His Family. Ananias and Sapphira are shocking reminders to us that we will not get away with deceitfully cheating or taking advantage of our brethren. God may not appear to be in the picture, but only the faithless have this blindness. The penalty will be paid—unless repented of, it is only a matter of time. Ananias and Sapphira paid quickly as a lesson to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

2 Corinthians 3:12-16

The veil Paul speaks of is the carnality of a deceived mind formed and shaped in the world's Satan-manipulated cultures. It is so antagonistic to the true God and His Word (Romans 8:7) that it fights the very approach of God to heal them through a great, freely given gift, just as the first-century Jews opposed and rejected Christ.

However, be aware that the miraculous removal of this veil of blindness by God, through the wonderful gifts of His Spirit and of a great hope, also places an obligation on us. With the blindness gone, we are granted the ability to choose between God's way and the world's way for the first time in our lives. Choosing to submit to God provides our witness of God, as well as being the means of building the character God greatly desires to create within us.

However, the effects of the self-centered way of life we have absorbed through the course of this world remain in our attitudes and characters, becoming what must be overcome. It will dog us all our converted lives as a means of testing our determination to be in God's Kingdom, as well as our love and loyalty to our God and Savior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)


 

2 Corinthians 4:1-2

In these verses, the apostle clearly states our responsibility to God regarding the ninth commandment. We should manifest truth in every part of our life, making honest and diligent use of God's gracious gifts without craftiness.

Is our way Christ's? Can we say we have nothing to do with hidden and shameful methods and speech? He is not talking about acting with unscrupulous cleverness, but how we handle God's Word. Do we adulterate the Word that God gave us to live by and teach? Our lives should demonstrate that we present ourselves to human conscience in the sight of God. We should live our lives in the fear of God, knowing He is watching and judging our conduct.

We should be childlike and open to leave as little room as possible for people to misinterpret our motives, misunderstand our actions, or twist our words from their real meaning. Does it make any difference what people think of us? Some take the approach, "I will do what I want to do, and what others think doesn't matter." This at times has the appearance of wisdom, but it matters to God. If He did not care, He would not show so much concern in His Word about being a good witness for Him and protecting our reputations or His. Much of our effectiveness as a witness depends on being trustworthy through honesty.

Keeping the ninth commandment begins with not letting our deceitful heart trick us into doing or saying anything less than what is honest and true in God's sight. We must demonstrate a true witness regardless of what men may discern from what we say or do, or what painful harm the truth may do to our vanity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Perilous suggests "difficult," "threatening," and "dangerous." The term "last days" does not specifically mean the times we are living in at this moment, as Paul believed he was living in the last days. He expected Christ's return to be imminent, certainly during his lifetime, as many verses relate. Thus, he meant his instruction to Timothy to apply immediately. If this were not so, why would he tell Timothy in verse 5 to withdraw from the people he just described?

When combined with Paul's thought in verse 13, the Greek grammar gives the sense of conditions or expressions of human nature that ebb and flow like waves of the sea rather than a constant state of affairs. However, when combined with the idea of things growing "worse and worse" and Jesus' comments about the days of Noah, we can understand the situation will be especially intense in our time.

In addition, Paul did not intend us to suppose that everyone would express all of these traits all the time. Rather, all of them would indeed exist in each person since he is describing the elements of every human's deceitful heart, but the intensity of their expression would vary from person to person.

The peril to church members is not to being injured or killed but to being drawn into expressing the same sinful attitudes and conduct that everybody else is! Paul's warning is not to mix with people dominated by these characteristics. This helps us to understand that the potential to commit these sins is right in the church! Why? It exists in the church because we have all come out of the world where these things are nurtured, and none of us have overcome all these characteristics yet. In other words, despite conversion, we are still capable of expressing these sins. We must be on guard!

The first characteristic Paul lists is "men will be lovers of themselves," the wellspring of all eighteen subsequent traits. The wellspring remains in us, as Paul graphically explains in Romans 7. About this verse, William Barclay says in the Daily Bible Study Commentary:

Love of self is the basic sin, from which all others flow. The moment a man makes his own will the centre of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed, obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible. The essence of Christianity is not the enthronement but the obliteration of self.

New "religions" calling themselves "Christian" and having self-love as their very essence are popping up everywhere. These churches are quite popular, and their congregations tend to be large. In them, tolerance is a key concept, and the facts about the vileness of sin and man's vital need of repentance are smoothed over. Additionally, they will not teach several true Christian doctrines, ones essential to salvation, because of their belief that they are "divisive."

Truly, those doctrines do divide! They divide Christians away from the world yet unite them with God. These new religious groups are ignoring essential doctrines for the sake of so-called unity. Which is more important: unity with God or men? Men are easily deceived by their deceitful heart and blinded to their real state, believing all is well because everybody in the congregation is so "friendly," because the "gospel" music is entertaining, because the slide program is informative, and because the church is growing so large. With all these "good" proofs, they reason, surely God must be blessing their "church"!

They are deceived. None of these things is necessary to salvation and a good relationship with God. They are not proofs of God's blessing. Christ gives no indication His church would grow large. In fact He calls it a "little flock" (Luke 12:32). These churches may appear successful on the surface, but the fact remains that they are not teaching essential doctrines. They might as well be a weekly social center that also teaches some religious principles. Strong, detailed preaching about sin, repentance, and glorifying God through the works He demands must be part of Christian instruction, or the members will not grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).

The preachers promoting this agenda are cheating people through their smooth words, convincing them that sin is not nearly as bad as the Bible makes it out to be. Sadly, church members do not sufficiently realize the extreme subtlety of our heart's disease. It does not come at us loudly proclaiming to be our deadly enemy, saying, "I want to ruin you in the Lake of Fire!" Sin comes like Judas, with a kiss, and like Joab, with his hand extended in friendship and his tongue uttering flattering words.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Two)


 

2 Peter 2:20-22

No matter how clean we are on the outside, if the inside, the nature, the heart, remains unchanged, or if we resort again to habitual sin, we will return to what we came from and once more be filthy both inside and out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

 




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