Have you ever bought a pickle in Connecticut that didn’t bounce? Have you ever eaten fried chicken with utensils in Georgia? How about throwing a snowball in Topeka, Kansas?
If you have done any of these, you are guilty of breaking state or city law. These rules, like many others across America, are understood to be antiquated, and therefore, no longer enforceable.
Christians can be guilty of viewing God’s commands in a similar light. We see God’s purity laws in the Old Testament and understand they were for a particular people in a particular time. But God’s command for spiritual purity is absolutely still intact. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). But how can sinful people, in a sinful land, have pure hearts?
One of the greatest helps I have found in the pursuit of purity is Thomas Watson’s The Pure in Heart. You can download and read it for free here.
In it, the 17th-century pastor discusses signs of an impure heart (you can read my summary of those here) and signs of a pure heart.
A sincere heart serves God with the whole heart!
Christians are not afforded the liberty to compartmentalize their hearts. Just as a king would not settle for the ability to only governing 99% of his kingdom, God is not content with only 99% of us.
Loving and serving God with our whole hearts is tough work. It requires self-examination and dependence on God to show us areas we have not submitted to Him. The result is a sanctifying cycle. God reveals an area of rebellion, we submit and repent, God reveals a new area of rebellion, we submit and repent. If this sounds hard, that’s because it is. And Watson acknowledges that.
A sincere heart is willing to come under trial.
Watson is not saying Christians should go looking for trials and tribulation. But when we place ourselves under the authority of Scripture, our sins and rebelliousness against God are revealed. At that moment, we have the choice to confess and repent or continue living in rebellion. It is a painful and heart-breaking experience.
However, it is the best type of pain. Like a surgeon who must break a bone to fix it, God will break our hearts to sanctify us. Having that perspective, being willing to put our souls under the trial of Scripture and responding appropriately is a sign of a pure heart.
A man of sincere heart dares not act in the least against his conscience.
Christians should have more courage than anyone. We have already died to this world and are in the hands of God. What is there to fear? But when it comes to following convictions, especially unpopular ones, we can shy away.
Pursuing holiness means wrestling with convictions, being convinced of them, and following them. Just make sure those convictions are drawn from Scripture and are not merely a matter of personal taste.
A sincere heart is a suspicious heart.
I don’t think I can add anything to Watson’s description of this point:
“The hypocrite suspects others of sin but has charitable thoughts of himself! The sincere Christian has charitable thoughts of others and suspects himself of sin.”
A pure heart breathes after purity.
When you lie down at the end of the day and your mind is free to wander, where does it go? Do you dream of being king or queen for a day? Do you think what your life will be like in five years, or how life will be different if this or that happens? Do you replay events and conversations?
What we dwell on reveals our desires. We may desire freedom, authority, or comfort. We may desire to be favored by others. But can we truly say we desire purity? Watson said this should be the prayer of our souls, “Lord, give me a pure heart! Let my heart have this inscription, Holy to the Lord. Let my heart be Your temple for You to dwell in.”
A pure heart abhors all sin.
We can overcome addictions and temptation by sheer willpower. People without the Holy Spirit break their addictions to drugs and alcohol every day. But what sets the Christian apart is that an internal change takes place so that we now hate the sin we once loved and love the holiness of God we once hated.
In fact, Watson says this is a sign of the new nature God births in us. He says the results is that the Christian “fights against [sin] with the ‘sword of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 6:17), as a man who hates a serpent seeks the destruction of it.”
A pure heart performs holy duties in a holy way.
A pure heart anticipates holy things. It looks forward to the gathering of believers where God is worshiped and His Word is taught. It prepares the soil of the soul so God’s truths may be planted deep. Do our hearts yearn to see and participate in holy things?
These are but a few of the points Watson makes throughout The Pure in Heart, and I cannot encourage you enough to read the book for yourself. If you are anything like me, you will see more of yourself in the signs of an impure heart than the pure heart. But do not let this discourage you. Let it bring you to repentance and be joyful that your soul is under trial. Then, by the help and power of God, may you find the words of Christ proved true, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).