Probably anyone who has studied microbiology and hygiene understands the value of cleanliness to prevent sickness, but physical cleanliness is not the only kind of cleanliness. Spiritual cleanliness is even more important. Without it, no one can receive the gift of eternal life, but the question is, “How can an impure mind become pure?”
Jesus introduced the sixth step of the spiritual ladder that will lead a person into the kingdom of God in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart and life is developed as a result of living the spiritual experience of the first five beatitudes. The person who first of all recognizes his spiritual poverty and mourns over his sinful condition until God makes him humble or meek, and who has thirsted for a righteousness that he cannot generate and becomes merciful will then be purified from pride, malice, deceit, and other heart-defiling sins. There is no other road to purity of heart than the beatitude road, and the steps need to be taken in that order. This beatitude, like the others, is not introducing something new. It actually is a restatement of a truth that is as old as the plan of salvation.
In Psalm 15, David asks the question Who is going to be saved? “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill” (verse 1)? He answers: “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (verse 2). Upright walking, righteous working and truthful speaking from the heart are the outworking of a pure heart. The person who does these things will be saved.
After David had fallen into sin, he recognized that a divine miracle was needed in his life. Notice what he said in Psalm 51: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (verse 6). Thinking of all the awful things he had done and how he had sinned, David said in verse 5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He understood that he had been conceived and born in sin and because of this understanding, he continues in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David was afraid that because of his grievous sins, he had committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit and that he was lost. He pleads, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (verse 11). I know that my heart is wicked, lustful and impure, but Lord, I want a different heart. I want You to recreate my heart. The Lord heard his prayer and gave him a new heart and a new spirit.
Receiving a new heart and spirit is so important that Jesus said that unless it happens, there is no chance for any of us being saved. Speaking to Nicodemus Jesus said, “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ ” (John 3:3). Notice, a birth represents a new creation, like a new being is coming into the world when a baby is born. And here Jesus is saying that if you haven’t been born again, you won’t be in the kingdom of God. Nicodemus responded in verse 4, “ ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ ”
“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, not just of water, but of the Holy Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. You see, our hearts are impure, wicked, and unholy. The only way we can have a pure heart is by God’s creative power; He makes us a new creature. The apostle Paul talked about this in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he said, “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 mind, and a new spirit. That is what being born again is all about. It is through the Holy Spirit that the heart is made pure. Many people are confused today about the work of the Holy Spirit. They think that the work of the Holy Spirit is the ability to do some kind of magic or miracles, or speaking in tongues, or doing some scientific wonder that unconverted people can’t explain. But the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus, is to give you a new heart and a new spirit and to cause you to be born again. Unless that happens, Jesus said there’s no chance for you to be in 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, all created by the Holy Spirit in that person’s mind. The wise man Solomon said in Proverbs 22:11, “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.” The heart is the emotional center of a person, the fountain of life. The character and conduct are determined by the spiritual condition of a person’s heart.
The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” What a person is in his heart determines the kind of a character he will have. It is for this reason that the wise man counsels us to guard our hearts. Notice what it says in Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Another 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. The chambers of the heart should be most diligently and heavily guarded. Why? Because out of the fountain of the heart flows the stream of character and conduct. Our words and our actions are simply the result of what is in our hearts. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” All the evil in our world has its source in an evil heart. The evil nature of the human heart is a part of our inheritance from Adam and Eve, our first parents.
When the Lord spoke to Noah after the flood He said, “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’ ” (Genesis 8:21). Notice, the Lord said the imagination of a man is evil from his youth. How evil is our imagination? How evil is our heart? Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” During His life on earth, Jesus made it very clear that the heart is the source of all evil. In Mark 7:21–23, Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness [licentiousness], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile the man.”
That was the cause of the terrible wickedness that came on the world in Noah’s time, before the flood, and brought the judgment of a world-wide deluge. The Bible says in Genesis 6:5, “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.” And continuing in verse 11, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
Jesus stated very clearly that this same condition of wickedness would occur in the world before His second coming (Matthew 24). Prophecy explains, to a large extent, the cause of the present tidal wave of crime and iniquity, hatred and lawlessness that is sweeping over all the earth today. The source of it all is the corrupt and unregenerate hearts of mankind.
The patriarch Job asked, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one” (Job 14:4)! No human being can bring a clean heart out of an unclean heart. No one is able to cleanse the heart. The purpose of the gospel is to tell the world that there is one power in the universe that can give you a new heart and spirit and make you a new creation. Jesus is the great purifier and cleanser from sin and that is the genius of the Christian religion. The core of the Christian religion is that when you accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord of your life, the Holy Spirit will recreate your heart and your mind.
All forms of false religion 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 practice. But the gospel will produce purity and holiness, 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.
During His life on this earth, Jesus Christ was the very incarnation of purity. He said in John 8:46, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” They had no response. The Bible says that if we accept Him and hope to meet Him, we will be made pure as He is pure (1 John 3:3).
Only the pure in heart will see God. This purifying process cleanses our motives. When right principles are enthroned in the heart, then we will do what is right because it is right. The pure in heart aren’t controlled by sinful nature, only doing right because of policy or expediency, or to escape punishment, or for hope of reward.
Here is a question that many Christians should ask themselves, and many likely would be shocked by what they discover. Why do I obey God’s law? Is my obedience for the purpose of avoiding punishment, or because of an inborn love of what is good and right? This beatitude says that the pure in heart will see God. If my heart is full of sin, then my vision is beclouded and I cannot see or understand God. The disease of sin produces spiritual blindness and the Bible talks about that in many places (see 2 Peter 1; Revelation 3:17). Sadly, this spiritual blindness leaves you ignorant of your true spiritual condition.
Spiritual blindness is the reason that the majority of the Jews failed to recognize Jesus. Their spiritual blindness prevented them from seeing anything in Him that would lead them to desire Him and this is true with the mass of mankind today. It explains the reason why there are so many modern thinkers or philosophers who see Jesus only as a man. Oh, they may believe He was a very good man, but still 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 just the same as they are. You see, sin dims our vision of God. But when we have a vision of God, sin is revealed and we are given a vision of ourselves and our condition. The Bible says that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). When Job saw the Lord, He said, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). A vision of the Lord’s glory had the very same effect upon other Bible writers: Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Daniel (Daniel 10), Peter (Luke 6), Paul (Acts 26) and the apostle John (Revelation 1).
We can never know the blackness of our sin until we see the purity of the character of Christ. And once we really see that, the contrast awakens us to the realization that we need a complete change in character. We will say with Isaiah, “Lord, I’m all undone.” In response, the Lord says, “I will purge your iniquity and give you a new heart and 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 deceiver or supplanter, and he lived up to that name. But his character was completely changed one night when he wrestled with the Lord Himself (Genesis 32). He was a spiritually bankrupt man, but he was changed into a prince of God. What was the secret of the wonderful transformation that he experienced?
The apostle Paul had that same 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 course of his life. From that day forward, he sought only to behold Jesus and to be changed into His image.
Paul tells us that by beholding we will become changed (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face …” (Genesis 32:30). This is the secret of the wonderful transformation that must be accomplished in our lives.
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 with the eye of faith and then we will see Him in the kingdom of glory, because He has promised to His people, “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17).
But when Jesus comes, only those who are pure in heart and have seen the beauty of His character in the present life will see Him face to face. They have seen God with the eye of faith in this life and they will be blessed with a vision of His immaculate loveliness when He returns and they will have fellowship with Him in the future immortal life. Everyone else will be calling for the rocks and mountains to fall on them (Revelation 6:16) so that they will not have to see Him. They will be destroyed by the brightness and glory of His person.
Friend, are you reading your Bible and studying to understand not just the words, but to see the character of Jesus Christ? How else will you know His character? You must become like Him if you are going to be with Him. The apostle Paul says, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, last part). He says, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (verse 12, first part, KJV). Those who are pure in heart, in whom the Holy Spirit has created a new heart and a new spirit, only these will see Him face to face.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.