The Pure Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” Jesus shares from the Mount of Beatitudes (Matt. 5:8).  In this profound thought, Jesus is urging His listeners to remain pure in their heart and mind, for only in that condition will one be able to see, hear, and truly know God. The psalmists of old cry out in similar fashion, “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever” (Psalm 19:9) and “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior” (Psalm 24: 4,5).

One of the purest stories in the biblical text is revealed between Elizabeth and Mary, as they are both carrying children in their womb who would later enter and envelop the world who longed for their coming. Classic Advent texts, we read in Luke 1 about Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (vs. 41,42). Mary’s reply is one of worship and adoration, giving homage to her God, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for his has been mindful of the humble state of his servant…the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name…His mercy extends to those who fear him…He has performed mighty deeds…He has scattered the proud…He has filled the hungry with good things.” (Luke 1: 46-55).

Two mothers with pure hearts, ready and available to God’s Spirit and responsive to angelic visitations that pronounced to them how God wanted to use them for His glory. Because of their upright hearts, responsive and receptive to the movement of God’s Spirit, the Lord saw fit to have them be the mothers of John the Baptist and his cousin the Lord Jesus. Mothers with strong maternal instincts, we know them both as pure vessels of God, living fully their privileged status as faithful servants of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Their hearts were kept pure by the Spirit who empowered them and by the Lord who lavished love upon them.

Purity of heart is a gift that only comes from the movement of God’s Spirit, as He calls, convicts, purifies, equips, and empowers us as Christ followers into life in all its abundance.  For Mary and Elizabeth, their pure hearts were blessed mightily by God (King David echoes this sentiment, “to the pure you show yourself pure” in 2 Sam. 22:27). But for most others, a purified heart is one that experiences the purifying process in the furnace of transformation, which ultimately leads the faithful to a distinct unity with God. Like King David after coming clean from his free-fall into lying, adultery and murder, he finally cries out to God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51: 10).

Keeping ourselves pure is not simply a human effort (which is a must!), but is most significantly a work of God’s Spirit who leads us into and empowers us with self-control so that we can maintain purity of heart. No one can claim purity of heart for oneself…and the one who does is living in self-deceit. As children of God, we put our hope in the love of the Father, who calls us children of God…and therefore “everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).  Choosing to have our hearts purified by the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel of Christ, we make ourselves fully available to the Lord by offering our lives as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Rom. 12: 1).

The worship song, “Purify My Heart” invites the Refiner’s fire to purify the heart, letting it be as gold, pure gold…to be holy; set apart for the Lord; set apart for the Master, ready to do His will. But in order for that to occur, the heat of the fire is there to cleanse the believer from deep within the heart and soul. Cleansing, forgiving, restoring, and renewing the life of the faithful one is what God desires – and ultimately delivers to those who enter this life–changing process of sanctification. If this is the longing of your heart, then I invite you to pray, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51: 7-12).