What the Bible says about
Heart , Pure
(From Forerunner Commentary)
"Blessed are the pure in heart" is a beatitude expressing a standard that is extremely difficult to achieve. Relating strongly to much of what is written in the Old Testament, this standard is something the Pharisees vainly pursued through an obsessive observance of thousands of cultic rules they and others added to God's inspired Word. Their desire to achieve purity before God is commendable, but Jesus clearly demonstrates that they chose to do it the wrong way, leaving their hearts unchanged. In this vein Paul remarks:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart
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
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
This is a strong statement from our Savior! The fundamental question is: "How Christ-like is our speech?" This is just one area out of the whole of our behavior. We will be judged for every word, even the idle ones that we may just toss off in a time of weakness or when joking around with friends. That is a pretty strict judgment.
Jesus speaks here in black-and-white terms. The tree (meaning the person) is either good—producing good fruit—or he is bad and produces bad fruit. Which are we—the good or the bad tree?
In verse 34, He says, "Out of the abundance of the heart we speak"—and we could add, "and act." Jesus says in Matthew 15:17-18 that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him. What comes out of a person will be either good things like service, love, kindness, and other fruits of the spirit, or bad things, the works of the flesh, which He names there.
So, what will it be with us? What is the abundance of our heart?
The picture here is that the heart is a kind of vessel—a bowl—and things are poured into the heart. At a certain point, the vessel will overflow, and an abundance will come out of it. What comes out of our heart—this bowl or vessel—will expose the characteristics of the heart.
When we pour information into our minds, we process it. For a while, it stays in the bowl, as it were, and becomes mixed with what has been put there before. Our minds work on it for a while, and over time, it begins to gel into certain ideas. Once our minds are full, ideas break out in words, plans, and behaviors. Evil thoughts within, evil speech and/or works without. Or, we can put it the other way around—godly, kind, Christ-like thoughts within, godly, kind, Christ-like speech and/or works without.
What breaks out of our hearts? We have to answer that ourselves. Do we have profane minds that spew out profane speech? Or, is it "on [our] tongue is the law of kindness" (Proverbs 31:26) because behind our tongues are pure and kind hearts?
This is vitally important because "by those words" we will either be justified or condemned. Our thoughts are just precursors to our speech and action.
So, where do we stand in relation to this line that Jesus Christ our Savior, our High Priest and Judge, has drawn? Are we a good tree or a bad one?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?
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)
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
The phrase "possess his own vessel" can mean a number of different things.
First, the visual imagery corresponds to the theme of being faithful to a cup—to the marriage commitment we have made. It could be translated, "that each of you should know how to be faithful to his covenant in sanctification and honor."
Second, this phrase refers to self-control, specifically of one's own body. The New International Version translates this verse as, "that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable." Paul, in instructing the entire church—both male and female, married and single—shows it is the duty of all to preserve purity with regard to relationships.
Third, this verse refers to the way one acts with regard to a spouse, present or future. The Revised Standard Version translates this as "that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor." I Peter 3:7 likewise refers to the wife as a weaker vessel to which husbands are commanded to give honor.
Verse 6 includes the curious word "defraud." To get the full understanding of what Paul is teaching here, we have to examine part of the God-plane ideal of the male/female relationship.
God's ideal in this is that there is one (and only one) man for each woman, and one (and only one) woman for each man. It is very clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16); He hates the breaking of that covenant, as well as the emotional pain that accompanies it, the scars that the children will have to bear, etc. As loathsome as divorce is to Him, however, sexual immorality is one of the reasons He gives for allowing divorce. He repeatedly warns against promiscuity, and He is very explicit that sex and everything that it involves are only allowable between two people who have made the commitment to each other for the duration of their physical lives.
Seeing I Thessalonians 4:3-8 in this light, part of our responsibility as Christians is purity within our relationships. We are responsible to control ourselves ("possess his vessel") in an honorable way without lust or wrong desire. We also have to make sure we do not "go beyond"—cross the line—and defraud or cheat anyone in this matter.
The essence of what Paul is saying here is that even before a man is married, he can cheat his future spouse out of something! A man can be cheated out of the experience of completely sharing himself with a woman, who is in turn completely sharing herself with him, in a way neither of them has experienced before. Even if a man is not yet married, in essence he already "belongs" to the woman that he will eventually marry, and vice versa for the woman. Even when not married, we have to conduct ourselves as though we are!
It is clear, then, that a man's body belongs to his spouse—whether current or future. This is the principle behind the many warnings against physical promiscuity. But it can go even further than that:
Imagine a young man who is determined to remain physically pure, and yet shares the rest of himself—his emotions, specifically—with every girl he meets. Every girl in the county knows his hopes, fears, dreams, the innermost workings of his mind. When he marries, he will have shared everything about himself except his body. How would his wife feel, knowing that all the other girls had already "experienced" him in all but the sexual act?
In the same way, imagine a young lady who remains physically pure but shares her emotions with all the young men she meets. She will have shared parts of her innermost being, things that really belong to her future husband. This is one reason why God tells us, "Keep [guard] your heart with all diligence" (Proverbs 4:23)!
It is just as easy to be emotionally promiscuous as physically promiscuous, if not more so. And the dangers are significant: continually forming emotional bonds, only later to break them; make them again with someone else, then break them; make them, break them. It will not take long before emotional calluses begin to develop, and a person is unwilling to share him/herself anymore because of the inevitable pain that results. When these calluses develop, it is very difficult for any future relationship to be anywhere near as fulfilling as what God intends.
I Thessalonians 4:6 begins to take on an even deeper meaning when we consider that a basic definition of the word "defraud" is "to promise something one cannot or does not intend to deliver." Today, many practice flirting. Along the same lines as emotional promiscuity, this kind of defrauding promises—either blatantly guaranteeing or merely appearing to—one's emotions, commitment, affections, etc., without meaning to or being able to follow through. Flirting gives the appearance of interest, or it may even be genuine interest, where one cannot follow through with his "promises."
In the modern game of flirting, for example, a young man may behave in a manner that does not match up with his true intent. If he is demonstrating in his actions that a certain girl is the one (and only one) for him, yet is unprepared or refuses to follow through with that process, the girl has been defrauded or cheated. The man has been "promising" an emotional bond without following through. No wonder the Bible says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing" (Proverbs 31:30)!
If we consider that individually we belong to our present or future spouse (physically and emotionally), we can see that certain actions are far from the ideal. That is, if it is inappropriate for a man to interact with a woman in a certain way if he were married to another, it is most likely still inappropriate even if he is not yet married.
This same principle applies on the spiritual level, and the stakes are much higher. Proverbs 19:14 tells us that a prudent (sensible, understanding) wife is a gift from God. When we apply this to the New Covenant church, it reiterates that it is God that chooses who will be a part of the Bride for His Son. God the Father will be faithful to provide a wife that is prudent, sensible, etc., for His Son.
David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Three)
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