Tag Archives: Purity

Inside Out

Can you control your thoughts?  Don’t think about a red door.  Can you do that?  How about things you really wish you didn’t think?  How can you control those?  Not by willpower, right?  You can’t tell yourself, “I won’t think that…”

Bruce Cockburn had a great line about that: “When thoughts you tried to leave behind keep sniping from the dark…” (from “Southland of the Heart”).   You’ve probably seen things you can’t “un-see.”  Thought things you wish you didn’t.  How can we get rid of those?  It’s not by telling ourselves to be nice, to follow the rules.  You can’t do it from the “outside in.”  It has to happen from the “inside out.”

“Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ”” (Matthew 15:10-11)

““Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ”” (Matthew 15:17-20)

In that culture, part of how you became righteous was by strictly following the rules of what and what not to eat.  Jesus said eating pork doesn’t show you to be morally defiled, your words do, since they reflect the condition of your heart.  How about you; how is your heart?  Have you ever entertained or expressed any of the thoughts in Jesus’ short list of examples?  Me too.  We cannot control our hearts and thoughts.  We cannot cleanse ourselves from the inside out.

But Jesus offers to do just that:

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive…” (John 7:37-39a)

He was making good on this promise from God:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

If you open up a spring into a muddy pond, eventually the water in that pond will become pure.  When Jesus gives a believer His Spirit, He changes that person’s heart, from the inside out.  We become “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Rinse Cycle

Babies lie.  They learn very early that it pays off to deceive.  You’ve seen it – the fake crying, the pretending to be hurt, followed by furtive glances to see who is paying attention.  It’s not long before babies learn to covet.  And steal.

Which, of course, means that before we are out of diapers, we are already breaking the 10 commandments in pretty routine way.  I said “we” because those babies grow up to be us, complete with twisted spaghetti strands of mixed motives, woven through our hearts.  The most prolific writer of the New Testament called himself the worst of all sinners, and said even in his best moments, sin was right there with him, messing everything up.

But Jesus said,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  (Matthew 5:8)

Not, the pretty good,” but the pure.”  How you doin’?  Me?  I’ve got a long way to go before “pure” is even on the horizon.  So what does this mean for us?  How is this teaching supposed to encourage us?

If you have been following these posts about the Sermon on the Mount (They start HERE), you won’t be surprised to know that, again, this teaching points us to the gift Jesus gives to those who trust Him – the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Here’s how He describes the impact of receiving the Spirit:

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  (John 7:38)

Years ago, a woodsman took me on a hike and showed me how to find a spring.  When he found a likely place, he cleared away the twigs and rotting leaves, digging down into the dirt and mud, until a small trickle of water emerged.  He said, “Now we have to wait and keep cleaning out this pool.”  As the water continued to flow, the small pool he’d dug began to change from dark, thick mud, to  muddy water, eventually looking much clearer.  It became like a fine lens, allowing us to clearly see the pebbles below.  And still we waited.  And waited.  But the time came when we submerged our faces into the pool and drank deeply.  The water was clean and cool.  It was refreshing.  It was pure.

It takes a lifetime, but that is what happens to the heart of the one who surrenders to Jesus.  The Spirit flows through them, gradually transforming them and cleansing them.  The day is coming when our hearts will be pure, the day when we will see God.