In our current sermon series we have been discussing English four-letter words that help us live as God intends us to live. We’re calling these words, Sacred Four Letter Words. This week our word is PURE.
Now the word “pure” is a tough word to define and to understand, not to mention trying to do it in a biblical context. Let start out with a definition:
1) unmixed with any other matter – pure gold
2) free from dust, dirt, or taint – pure spring water
3) spotless, stainless
Does this sound like anyone you know? Me neither. Everybody I know sins. They’re not spotless. They’re not without any stains. They are human, and they mess up. Every single person I know, without exception!
So why then are we teaching on this word during this series on Sacred Four Letter Words? You might be asking yourself, “Are we even able to become pure? I’ve done a lot of bad stuff; I try really hard, but I just don’t think I can be pure.”
Well, I’m here to tell you, yes you can!
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NIV)
What Christ is saying is there are some people who are pure, and they will one day see the face of God. So, it is possible to be pure, but not for any of us … by ourselves. It takes God, it takes the Holy Spirit, it takes the blood of Jesus Christ all working together, in us and through us.
The psalmist understood this when he wrote:Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51 NIV).
You see, no matter how bad we want or desire to be pure God has to work in us for us to become pure, God has to “create in” us a pure heart.
Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)
In church world we put a lot emphasis on salvation, and we should. Another word used in place of salvation is justification.
Justification means being justified, or made right with God. That is what Christ does for us, he justifies us and makes us right and whole, so we are no longer encumbered by sin.
To me, being pure has more to do with another word, sanctification. Sanctification is a process of purification from sin. It takes a little while to get there but we can all get there. I recently heard it explained this way, “We think of the gospel as something God does for us, but there is more to it than that. It’s what Christ does in us.”
Salvation isn’t where our journey stops, it’s where it starts. And to be justified and sanctified it takes The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all working together.
There are two ways to be pure that I’d like to discuss today:
Purity of Heart
We mentioned earlier that something that is pure is unblended or unmixed. I have to confess that does not describe my heart most of the time. I’ve struggled over the years on how to get my heart where it needs to be (a pure heart). But I believe the way to have a pure heart is to love and obey God with no competing desires.
The founder of our denomination, John Wesley, would call this “Christian perfection.”
Christian Perfection is the process of achieving spiritual maturity or completeness in Christ. The ultimate goal of this process is union with God characterized by a pure love of God and other people.
I heard the phrase “Christian Perfection” years ago and was more than a little intimidated by it. I remembered thinking to myself, “If I have to be perfect, I don’t think I can do this Methodist thing.” But over time I’ve learned that it’s not so much about me as it is about what God is doing in me (sanctification).
If it were just up to me trying to achieve this, I would have given up years ago. But as I’ve already mentioned, sanctification is a process that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit lead us though.
The main take away is that “Christian Perfection” or “purity of heart” is a process that all culminates with this:
Have you ever loved the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? (even for a moment?)
Have you ever loved someone else as much or more than you have loved yourself? (even for a moment?)
Then you have experienced purity of heart. The goal now is to make those moments more frequent and last longer. That’s Christian perfection, that’s what a pure heart looks like, a heart full of love.
Once you have a pure heart, then what? You need to live like it.
Purity of Life
As if I didn’t step on enough toes already, here’s another one: How do you live a pure life?
When I preached this message I was going to say “I have no idea” then drop the mic and leave, but I was concerned I wouldn’t have a job the next day!
I do want to assure you that you can live a pure life. It isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it is attainable.
You might say to me, “How in the world can I live a pure life, Terry? I do this, I did that, I think these thoughts.” It’s true that all of us on some level are tempted by Satan or the things he has placed in our way – sex, money, greed, drugs, power, etc. We can’t do anything about these temptations but by the grace of God we can eliminate these thoughts, or at the very least, through the power of the Holy Spirit refuse to let these thoughts linger.
Do you remember the verse I shared with you at the beginning of the sermon? “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NIV)
Note that the promise doesn’t say that the pure of heart will have no problems, no temptations, no weak moments, and no moments of doing dumb stuff. Jesus said, “The pure in heart … will see God.” No conditions, no special rules, just “the pure in heart.”
You see living a pure life doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. It just means that you are striving for Christian perfection, or spiritual maturity. It means you want to love God and your neighbor more than yourself.
The only way I know to grow closer to purity is to stay in prayer and stay in the Word. Not books about the Word, but the Word – God’s Word.
Here’s what the psalmist wrote about this: How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9 NIV)
This ain’t easy!!!!
Have you ever seen how steel is made? The elements that make steel are heated to an incredibly high temperature, they melt down into what looks like lava that flows out of a volcano. At just the right moment a steel worker reaches in and scoops the molten steel and pours it into what looks like a mold. Then it cools and is sent off the different place to be shaped and formed into what it eventually will become.
That’s a lot like the pure life I’m talking about. The elements that make steel by themselves are not pure, but when they are put in the fire, they come out just as pure as they need to be to create what they were made to become.
God sometimes uses the same process for us. We feel like sometimes it’s just one thing after another. We are in the fire sometimes, so to speak. We may not be pure going in and we may have sinned so badly that it seems like there is no way anyone could ever forgive us. But they can…and God will. You can be cleansed from every sin you have ever committed and loved beyond your wildest dreams.
In this impure world, you CAN become pure. How? As a follower of Christ you know that His blood cleanses you from all sin – past, present, and future. You can have that today.
If you need help or want to talk about what you need to do to accept Jesus into your life, please reach out to me at Terry@mylhumc.net. I would be honored to answer any questions you have, pray with you and encourage you in your faith.
And read what the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians. This is good stuff to think about as you go on with your day, trust me:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things (Philippians 4:8). That’s the first step on the road to being PURE.