Hope for the Christian Who Feels She Can Never Walk in Purity
The definition of the word purity is the "freedom from contamination or adulteration." In the biblical sense of the word, the contamination that keeps a person from purity is sin or unrighteousness. It is normal for us to struggle to be pure in heart because purity does not come naturally to humanity. In fact, we curve in the opposite direction. Jeremiah pulls no punches when letting Israel know the true state of their hearts. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) In stark contrast, 1 Samuel 2:2 says "There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God." In these two verses, we find the greatest issue for humanity: human depravity and the holiness of the Lord. God is pure, holy, and good. We are desperately evil and sick. This can be a truly disheartening reality because of the gigantic chasm that lies between us and God. Sometimes holiness feels like an impossible standard to accomplish. But we have great hope.
The Misconception of Purity
One of the major struggles Christians have with remaining pure is the proper understanding of what it means to have a pure heart. If we recognize with David in Psalm 51:10 ""Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" that our hearts are what must be changed, then we know that purity is not just a matter of what we do with our physical bodies, but more importantly, the posture of our hearts. In Christian communities we often stress the pureness of our bodies, (which is a major part of purity), but do not stress where the true problem lies within us.
If we abstain from physical impurity we are expressing outward obedience, but that is not always indicative of our heart. If we do not look at the state of our souls in that abstinence, then we are missing the true purpose of the purity God calls us to.
What Does It Mean To Be Pure in Heart?
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus tells the disciples "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The word Jesus uses in this verse for pure refers to clean or blameless. How can we ever be clean or blameless? By the blood of Christ. The only way our hearts are pure is by our salvation and repentance through our Savior. That is the great hope! Our ultimate purity, the pureness that is our salvation, only comes from Christ.
But there is still biblical evidence of human responsibility in the fight for purity. This is where the distinction between justification and sanctification is helpful. Justificationis our standing before God where we are declared judicially righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness and sacrifice on our behalf. Sanctificationis the process by which Christians become more like Christ over their lifetime. The hope in sanctification is that there is a steady progress of becoming more holy throughout our Christian walk. As believers, our purity rests in our justification, but we are still called to sanctification, seeking a pure heart as we are commanded.
For example, Titus 2:5 tells women they are to be "self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." In this case, being pure is grouped in with other action words. This tells us that being pure is not only a state we stay in because of Christ's sacrifice (justification), but also something we are active in doing (sanctification).
How Are We To Be Pure in Heart?
Thankfully, the Bible offers a helpful guide for the action of being pure in heart. "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart." (1 Peter 1:22) This verse from 1 Peter indicates that we purify our hearts through obedience to the truth, God's Word, and that this obedience allows us to love our brothers sincerely. What joy!
Additionally, Psalm 119:9 says "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word." Again, we see that a pure heart extends from obedience to and knowledge of God's Word. Therefore our purity is not based merely on action, but rather on the posture of our heart. Begrudging obedience is still obedience, but it is not pureness of heart. We must be pure in both action and spirit.
Why Should We Be Pure in Heart?
First, because God commands it. The Lord tells us over and over throughout the Bible to be pure in heart. We see Paul reiterating this command to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22, "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." The Bible is also very clear that those who love the Lord walk in obedience and pursue purity. "Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."(John 14:23) Keeping God's Word means being obedient to His commands. There are also promises of great reward for those who are pure in heart. Jesus said so in His Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."(Matthew 5:8) What could be better than seeing God? Proverbs also speaks of reward for the pure in heart, "He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend." (Proverbs 22:11) Scripture is full of reasons to be pure in heart, but the greatest motivation is found in our love for the Lord. We are to be holy as He is holy and walk in obedience due to His sacrifice on our behalf.
Ask For A Clean Heart
We are not completely in charge of the purity of our hearts. As I mentioned above, salvation is an essential precursor to purity. We cannot be pure if we do not know the Lord and do not have salvation through Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. With the assurance that we do in fact possess salvation, there is unequivocal action that we are responsible for, but scripture abundantly expresses that we should be begging the Lord to make us people that are marked by pure hearts. Psalm 51:10 says "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." We should be in consistent prayer that the Lord would do the great work of renewing our purity and cleansing our souls. He has the ultimate power to purify hearts, we must only ask.