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How to Develop a Pure Heart
“Blessed are the pure in heart…”
When we come across the concept of purity, we right away think of abstinence, sobriety or having a clean, sinless life. Though these things can accurately define purity, they are merely external. On the contrary, Jesus says “pure in heart,” which is referring to internal purity, understanding that dealing with internal purity will bring about external purity.
Jesus wants our hearts to genuinely desire things that are pleasing to Him – then, our lives will reflect and produce things that are pleasing to Him. But He also recognizes that a pure heart is more useful for Him to bring about His kingdom on Earth. As we have been studying Christ’s manifesto (see here) as seen in the Beatitude, we see how important purity is.
Golden Goblet or Compost Bucket? The Choice is Ours.
2 Timothy 2:20-22 says, “In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”
Though purity does not determine the level of your value to God, it can determine the level of your usefulness to Him. As we see in the scripture above, purity is the difference between being a golden goblet or, as the Message Bible puts it, a compost bucket. Gold, in its purest form, is pliable, soft and free from corrosion. But rarely is gold found in a pure state. It goes through a refining process that sees it come under the extreme temperature of 1943°F, melting it and removing the dross, before it can be pure.
A pure heart is like pure gold; soft, tender and pliable. And just as the heat must be turned on to purify gold, so also must God turn up the heat in our lives, purifying our hearts, and making us more useful to Him. Here are three areas in our lives that God’s heat is applied to in order to develop a pure heart.
1. Toxic Thoughts
In his 1999 book, A Heart Ablaze, John Bevere writes about how impurities are removed from gold, using a substance called flux: “In the refining process, gold is ground into a powder and mixed with something called flux. The two are then placed into the furnace and melted by intense fire. The impurities are drawn by the flux and rise to the surface. The gold, which is heavier, remains at the bottom.”
In developing a pure heart, so often God needs to deal with our toxic thoughts. And while flux removes the impurities from gold, it is His Word that removes the impurities from our hearts. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to the Word of God.” God’s Word is the flux that brings toxic thought and ‘stinking thinking’ to the surface, allowing you to think His thoughts, and purify your heart.
2. Corrosive Connections
When gold is mixed with other metals (such as copper, iron or nickel), it becomes less pliable and more corrosive. In fact, the higher the percentage of foreign substance in gold, the more susceptible it is to corrosion and corruption. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says bad company can corrupt (or corrode) good character. As such, we must be aware of corrosive connections, that is bad company, that can hinder the heart purity God wants to bring in our lives.
The Canary and the Sparrows
A story is told of a gentleman who had a beautiful singing canary. A friend wanted to try if he could teach his sparrows to sing by keeping the canary with them. He borrowed it, and placed it in the cage with his sparrows. Instead, however, of teaching them to sing, the poor bird got so timid among the strange birds that it stopped singing altogether, and did nothing but chirp like the sparrows. The owner then took it back; but still it would not sing. It then occurred to him to put it beside another canary, which sang well. This had the desired effect, and, regaining the old note, it sang as beautifully as ever.
Just like the canary, we are meant to produce a beautiful song that causes the world to tune in to the love of God. Yet so often, our note can be stifled by the company we choose to keep. Booker T Washington, once said, “Associate yourself with people of good quality. For it better to be alone than in bad company.”
(One of the best decisions you can make right now to associate yourself with people going the same direction is to check out a life group right here!)
3. Bad Behavior
Another effect of impure gold is that it becomes harder. Pure gold is malleable and pliable, the way God would desire each one of us to be for maximum effectiveness and usefulness. On the other hand, the more impure gold is, the harder it becomes.
Hebrews 3:13 says our hearts are hardened by the “deceitfulness of sin.” Sin is the added substance that turns our pure gold into an alloy, hardening our hearts. As such, in order to develop a pure heart, God must turn up the heat on our bad behavior.
In the Bible, we have great examples of men and women who defied all odds to become champions for God. But we also have examples of people who did not finish well and whose times were cut short due to being unable to shake off bad behavior. One of these people was Samson, a Herculean man who was raised up to save His people from the Philistines, but who also had an issue with lust. In the book of Judges, Samson refuses to heed the counsel of his parents in choosing a wife and instead chose Delilah because “she is right in my eyes” (Judges 14:3). He was eventually deceived by her, and unchecked lust caused his life to be cut short.
King David was one who did terrible things, but he cried out to God to save him from “secret sins” (Psalm 19:12), allowed God to turn the heat up on his sins, and he became mightily used by God. In Psalm 139:23, 34, David would say: “Search me, O God, and know my heart… Point out anything in me that offends you…”
It doesn’t matter how you start. It matters how you finish. You may be sensing God turning the heat up on things in your life He wants to purify you from. Like David, you can say the same prayer and allow the flux of His get rid of toxic thoughts and bad behavior. “Search me, O God, and know my heart… Point out anything in me that offends you…”