Earlier this year I wrote about a season of life where God stripped me of everything I thought defined me (read about it here). And while the experience did humble me before God like I wrote about, humility was only the beginning of God’s work within me. His ultimate goal, the one He has for all of us, is sanctification.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 (ESV)
Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we receive salvation and our sins are forgiven. But then comes the long hard work of sanctification (the purifying of our heart, which forms us into the image of Christ). Charles Spurgeon distinguishes between salvation and sanctification this way:
“Sanctification must not be forgotten or overlaid by justification…It is not by personal holiness that man shall enter heaven, but yet without holiness shall no man see the Lord.”
We are not saved because we are holy; we are made holy because we are saved.
With salvation secured, you may be wondering, why do we need a pure heart? Here is what I know.
3 Reasons to become pure in heart.
1. A pure heart helps us see God.
The Message version of Matthew 5:8 declares: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
When our heart is pure, our lives fall in line with God’s will. And as we walk with God, we recognize His work in our lives and in our world.
2. A pure heart sets us apart and makes us more like Jesus.
Holiness is similar to righteousness; it marks us as a follower of Christ.
“See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and see we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3 (ESV, emphasis added)
Purifying our hearts allows the world to see Jesus within us.
3. A pure heart protects us from the enemy.
Since a pure heart draws us close to God, it also brings confidence in God’s truth so we won’t be easily deceived by the enemy. I love how Priscilla Shirer puts it in her book Fervent:
“ … our purity deflects the enemy. God calls you to purity because He wants your heart protected and at rest, inhospitable to the devil and his intentions. God wants you full of power and confidence and spiritual vitality.”
God requires pure hearts for our benefit—Blessed are the pure in heart…
Now that we have some motivation, let’s look at the purification process (sanctification).
How Sanctification works.
Sanctification occurs in two phases.
1. Putting off of old/sinful self
We cannot be holy while chasing after our sinful desires. The apostle Peter offers these instructions:
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1: 14-16 (ESV)
Turning from your sinful ways may not be easy, in fact, it probably won’t be. The Greek word for pure is katharos; defined: clean or pure, as in “purified by fire” or “like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit.”
Phase one is a literal separating and cutting away the pieces of your life which do not honor God.
2. Putting on everything offered from a holy life of Christ.
Once cleansed, we can receive the gifts of new life in Christ, which comes through abiding in and obeying God’s word:
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not perishable seed but imperishable through the living and abiding word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23 ESV
So what are the gifts of a holy life in Christ?
- Garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)
- The fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Sanctification is more like a cycle than a 2 step process. We must constantly put off sin and put on holiness; for God is always working to shape us into the image of Christ.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
Notice Paul says the work being done within us is God’s work. We cannot become holy on our own. Our job is to seek after God and then God will do the purifying work in our heart.
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