Clean Hands and Pure Hearts, Part I

We, in historic Adventism, have been involved in a spiritual war. The most painful thing about this war is that it involves our own brethren. It involves people who we have loved so dearly, those who we just cannot bear to fight, and yet we must because of the apostasy. We have been fighting, not because we enjoy it, but because a war is going on, and we must fight in order to have a clear conscience. We must proclaim the truth to have a clear conscience.

Ministers have been teaching in Seventh-day Adventist churches that all one must do to be saved is just believe in Jesus—one can go on sinning and be saved anyway. There are ministers who are telling people that they will sin until Jesus comes, and then they will go to heaven.

That is not what the Bible says, and that is not what the Spirit of Prophecy says.

Because people will go to hell as a result of what they have been taught and believed, historic Seventh-day Adventist preachers have said, “We have to tell people the truth, and we have to engage in a war with this false doctrine.” That is what we have been doing.

When you attend historic Seventh-day Adventist meetings, you will hear about the New Testament doctrine of perfection. You will hear about the necessity of overcoming sin. I have been studying Psalm 24 for quite some time and investigating the Spirit of Prophecy on the subject of clean hands and pure hearts. There are many Spirit of Prophecy quotations on this subject. There are also many Bible verses that apply to this study. Jesus is coming to take a people, and these people are going to have clean hands and pure hearts, without one spot or blemish. While all of this is true, I want to give you a word of encouragement.

All Things Are Possible

Sometimes people become discouraged. They are presented the standard, and they begin to weep. They become depressed, and they feel discouraged. They think they will never make it and believe they are stuck. If that is how you feel, consider what happened the morning after the transfiguration of Jesus.

The record of the transfiguration of Jesus is recorded in Mark 9:2–13. Jesus and the three disciples—Peter, James, and John—are coming down from the mountain, and it says, in verses 14–23, “Coming to the disciples [that is the rest of the disciples] they saw a great crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. And immediately the crowd, seeing him, was greatly amazed, and running towards him they greeted him. And he said to them, ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ And a certain one answered him, out of the crowd, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you having a dumb spirit [that is, he could not speak]; And wherever he seizes him it dashes him and he foams at the mouth and he gnashes his teeth and he wastes away. And I brought him to your disciples that they might cast it out, but they were not able.’ And answering, he says to them, ‘Oh faithless generation, how long am I going to be with you? how long am I going to endure you? bring him to me.’ And they brought him to him; and seeing him, the spirit immediately convulsed him and falling upon the earth he wallowed, foaming, and Jesus questioned the father saying, ‘How long a time is this that he has been like this?’ And he said, ‘Since childhood. And often times he has cast him into the fire and into the water that he might destroy him. And if you are able to do anything, please help us and have compassion on us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able, all things are possible to the one who believes.’ ”

This is a man whose son has had a problem since childhood that he cannot overcome. Have you ever met somebody who has a besetting sin in his or her life that they cannot overcome, and that person declares, “I am going to quit”? Mark Twain said, “It is not hard to quit smoking; I have quit a thousand times.” So the individual quits the sin for a week; then the habit overcomes them again. Or maybe they are more successful than that. Maybe they quit for a month; then it overcomes them again. Maybe they quit for three months, and then it overpowers them again. They quit; they start again—repeatedly. Friend, this is the real world. I am not talking about something imaginary. I talk with such people. I visit with them in their homes and in the hospitals. After this pattern has been repeated over and over again, people sometimes become discouraged.

Envy and Jealousy

That is what happened to the father in Mark 9. He had already brought this boy to the leaders of the Christian church. I do not know if you have ever been in a situation where you have dealt with someone who has been possessed of an evil spirit. I have. Surely there is no situation where a human being feels more helpless. The elders of the church gather around, and when the evil spirit takes control of the person, the church leaders begin to pray, because they know that they cannot cast that evil spirit out; there is no human power that can take an evil spirit out of somebody.

If you are a minister, an elder, or a teacher, study what Ellen White says in The Desire of Ages concerning those nine disciples who were at the base of the mountain and why they could not cast out the devil.

These nine disciples had a real problem with feelings of envy and jealousy, because three of the disciples were given certain privileges that these nine did not have. Can you see how easy that would be? Let’s say you are a disciple; Jesus calls Peter, James, and John and takes them off separately for a special trip, and you are not asked to go. That happened quite a few times, did it not? It certainly did.

Because the nine disciples had feelings of envy and jealousy in their hearts, when they tried to cast out the evil spirit, the spirit just mocked them.

My dear friend, there is a reason. When people possessed of evil spirits call upon Seventh-day Adventist ministers, elders, and deacons to pray for them to cast out the demons, there is a reason why they are not successful. It is a reason for which every one of us who is a minister or an elder or a deacon in the church needs to go to the Lord. We need to pray, “Lord, are there any feelings or thoughts in my heart, in my mind, or in my life—are there any sinful thoughts, any sinful feelings, any sinful words, or any sinful actions in my life—that prevent You from working through me?”


You see, if we go to meet these situations in our own natural temperaments, we are in this situation. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” The next Hebrew word in this text is a very interesting one. It is the word ‘anash, which means incurable. What does the Bible say about the heart of man? It says that it is deceitful above all things and is incurable. That is the way the Bible describes your heart and my heart.

What hope is there, if it is incurable? The text continues, “Who can know it?” Well, who can know it? Ellen White states that one of our problems is that “the vileness of the human heart is not understood.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 295. So when humans, with hearts like this, come into contact with an evil spirit, it is just going to mock them, even if it is more evil than they are.

Our only hope is that there is a Divine Physician that specializes in incurable diseases. The Bible says, in both the Old and New Testaments, that the natural man has to be crucified and has to die. It is so bad that you cannot improve it. You just have to get rid of it and get a new heart, because it says, “the heart of man is deceitful above all things;” it is incurable.

David’s Prayer

That is what David was praying about in Psalm 51. David’s experience has been a stumbling block to Christians ever since that time. It has been difficult for a lot of people to understand. You see, there will be people on the outside of the Holy City who are lost and who will burn up in hellfire that never killed a man and took his wife. Yet, what David did has been used as an excuse. The Lord told him that from then on the wicked would blaspheme his name because of what he had done. He also told him that the sword would never leave his house. It is true to this present day. But if the Holy Spirit ever reveals to you how incurable and deceitful your own heart is, then the story of David will take on a new meaning, because you will discover that as sinful as you are, you can be saved.

One of the reasons people become discouraged is because the Holy Spirit has been speaking to their hearts. The first thing the Holy Spirit does, if there is sin in your heart, is to point out the sin. John 16 teaches that. And people, when they begin to get just a little inkling of how vile they are, say, “There is no hope for somebody this bad.” That would be true for all of us, if there was not Someone that specializes in people who have hearts that are incurable and desperately wicked.

A Pure Heart

Psalm 51 is the Psalm that David prayed after Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had been with Bathsheba. (See 11 Samuel 11:2, 3.) In verse 10, he says, “Create in me, Oh God, a pure heart.” He knew he did not have one. It is a very interesting word he used here, bara’. It is the very same word that is used in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created [bara’] the heavens and the earth.” How did He create it? He spoke it. Psalm 33:9 says: “He spoke and it was.” (See also verse 6.) There was nothing there before, but He spoke and then it was. David used the same word. He knew that his heart was so bad it could not be improved, so he said, “I need You to create a pure heart for me, because I need a new one.”

Friend, you and I need new hearts too. We need pure hearts. Maybe God has allowed you to become discouraged so you would realize what you needed. You need what David needed. You need a new heart, a pure heart, and the only way that you are going to get one is if God creates one, because the natural one you were given in your first birth is not pure. It is “deceitful above all things,” and it is incurable.

You can pray the same prayer as David prayed. God will hear the prayer, because you are praying it right out of His Word. It says, “Create,” and that means speak. Create something out of nothing. Ask God to create a new heart for you. Tell Him that the one you have is deceitful and incurable, and you need a new one. David said, “Create in me a pure heart.” That is the kind of heart you must have to go to heaven. Nobody with a deceitful heart can go to heaven. Nobody with a wicked heart can go to heaven. But you cannot change your heart. Only Someone else can create in you a pure heart.

Humble Spirit

David had been in the true church for a long time when he had become involved with Bathsheba. He was so scared when he realized how bad he really was. He was afraid that he had committed the unpardonable sin. He was afraid that the Lord would take the Holy Spirit from him, and he would be lost. He said, “Lord, Lord, please help me. If You want me to give You sacrifices, I will, but I know that will not help. That is not what You want.” You see, David was a rich man. It would not have been any problem for him to give a great number of sacrifices. He was the king. But he knew the Lord desired someone with a humble and broken spirit. My friend, if you are willing to study this prayer and if you are willing to humble your spirit and if your spirit is broken because the Holy Spirit has revealed to you how bad you are, ask God to create in you a pure heart.

Steadfast Spirit

David prayed, “And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. That word steadfast means to stand firm, to be established, to be faithful, to be fixed—a spirit that cannot be moved. He had not had a steadfast spirit. He knew he needed a new spirit; he needed a pure heart, and he asked the Lord to give it to him.

Speech Changed

Friend, if you and I have received new hearts, pure hearts, our speech is going to change. We do not know our hearts. We do not know, many of us, whether we have the old, deceitful, incurable heart or whether we have the new heart, so the Lord, in His inspired writings, gives us some clues. We cannot read other people’s hearts; we cannot even read our own hearts. They are so desperately wicked; they deceive us with self-deceit, and we do not even know what is the condition of our hearts. The Lord gives us some pointers so we can begin to understand our hearts by what is on the outside.

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34. If you start praying about this and begin evaluating your speech, it will reveal whether or not your heart has been changed. If David’s heart had been changed, he would rather have died than to take another man’s wife. The way you can know if your heart has been changed is to monitor how you talk about your neighbor.

If you do anything to diminish your neighbor’s reputation, you do not have a new heart—yet. You still have the old, deceitful heart that is incurable. If you see that I have a problem and you do not come talk to me about it but go tell somebody else, that is proof you do not yet have a new heart. Not yet. When you have the new heart, you will love your neighbor as yourself, and you will never do anything to hurt them, even if they sin. Oh, you may say that it will hurt them if you go and talk to them about the problem. Yes. That is the same as getting a thorn in your finger when you were a child and going to your mother and asking her to remove the thorn, even though you knew that it would hurt to get it out. Why? It was going to hurt less to get it out at the time than to leave it in there. For sure, it is going to hurt if you go talk to somebody because they have a sin problem in their life, but it is going to hurt less than if you do not go to them.

What is going to have to happen? Oh friend, I long to see the day when, among God’s people, we have pure hearts and clean hands. We will be filled with the Holy Spirit as a result! We will have unity and harmony like we have never before seen. And when we come into contact with people who are possessed with evil spirits, we will be just like the apostles. When the apostle Paul came into contact with that girl who was possessed with an evil spirit, Scripture says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he turned around and commanded the spirit to leave, and it left. (Acts 16:16–18.)

We are not like that today. There is a reason for it. We are just like those nine disciples. We gather around and pray, and may the Lord be praised, and may we be gracious and thankful for His mercy, but I can tell you, friend, we do not have the power the apostles had. We do not have it. We might as well recognize that we do not have it. We need to pray that we will come into a condition that we can have it, like they had it. There will be a time before probation closes when there will be a primitive godliness amongst God’s people that has not been since apostolic times. And friend, I am willing to be the doorkeeper, to perform any lowly office, as long as I can be part of it.

A Way Out

The nine disciples could not cast out the demon, because they had the wrong spirit. They were jealous and envious of the privileged three. That was the same problem the devil had in heaven. He was jealous of Christ.

The devil goes around trying to get all of us. No matter who you are, the devil can find somebody of whom you can be jealous. That was their problem, and they could not cast out the evil spirit.

The father was discouraged. His son had a problem that they could not overcome. No matter what they did, it came back. This is like the person who has a besetting sin that he cannot overcome. He may quit it for a month, but then it comes back. Maybe he quits it for three months, but it comes back, until finally he is so discouraged that, like this father, he says to Jesus, “Lord, if you can do anything, please have compassion on me, and help me.” Jesus promised, “If you are able to believe, all things are possible to the one who believes.” Mark 9:23. All things are possible.

Does that include the drug addict? Yes. I work with drug addicts. Does it include the alcoholic? Yes. Does it include the prostitute? Yes. Actually, as bad as that is, I am not as concerned for their eternal salvation. A lot of prostitutes have been saved in Jesus’ time and our time. I am not as concerned about the prostitutes as the people who go to the prostitutes.

Oh friend, where are you? Somebody needs a word of encouragement, because the devil has you in a situation where you think there is no way out. That is where this father was. He was in a situation where he thought there was no way out. But if you come to Jesus, there is a way out, because He is the way out. And He said, “If you are able, all things are possible to the one who believes.”

To be continued . . .