WFW: Pure Hearts Part 2

Today, I'm posting a study that I've been conducting over the past week... It's rather LOOOOONG, but I was challenged as well as encouraged, and I hope you will be, too. It's a continuation of last weeks WFW about seeking God with a pure heart. Today, we focus on hardening our hearts...
Ps 81:12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. {unto...: or, to the hardness of their hearts, or, imagination} Rom 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves We can see that one way to harden one's heart is to follow our lusts -- to do things our own way, instead of God's, and this makes us unclean. In this case, God, who is merciful and "not willing that any should perish, but that all should repent and come to the knowledge of the truth," will loose us to our own choice; it's always our choice what we will do with the truth that we hear, but God is always waiting for us to repent. That's why He says in Romans 9:21- 23 " Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" Some try to take this a step further to say that when someone is a vessel of wrath, there's nothing you can do to change it; you're just a vessel of wrath destined for destruction. However, we can see from the context that if the vessel of wrath repents, he can become a vessel of mercy. Don't believe me? Then look at the last verse again: "Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" Who are the "called"? Remember when Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen"? Well, the context of this is that everyone is called, but few are chosen because people try to do things their own way, just like the man in the parable thought he could get in to the wedding without the proper garments; they think they have a better way than God. And we've just seen that when we do this, we are hardening our hearts. Ezekiel 11:19-21 states, And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD. The context of these verses was that Israel had been scattered among other countries, and these countries had pressed them to "Get you far from the LORD." God promised them that He would be a sanctuary for them in all the places which they should come, and He ordered them to get rid of all the abominable things in those places. Then He promises to give them a heart of flesh, instead of stone. Notice that it says, "and will give them an heart of flesh: THAT they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them..." In other words, when our hearts are pure -- When God creates in us a clean heart, and when we have removed the abominable things from our lives -- then we can keep His statutes and ordinances. We also see that if one walks according to the "heart of their detestable things and their abominations," not only does he heap judgment on himself, but he also risks not having God as his God, because he is not keeping His statutes. Romans 2:5 : "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God..." Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." We see here that it is God's Spirit in us that helps us to keep His statutes. Remember Romans 8, where it talks about the flesh verses the spirit? Well, if we are following the lusts of our flesh, hardening our hearts, we are certainly not following the Spirit. Paul says that if we "walk in the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh." So, it takes some effort on our part; we can't just sit back and expect God to give us a clean, pure heart. We have to take the first step to say in all sincerety, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). This takes a great deal of humility, because we often think that we're okay, that there's nothing wrong with us; we get stuck in the status quo. But if we will admit that we're not happy with where we are and that we do need a heart of flesh, a clean heart, then we can be honest with God. God honors sincerety. If we are really sincere, He will cleanse our hearts; we've taken the first step, which is sincerety -- an act of humbling ourselves -- and Scripture promises us that when we "draw near to God, He will draw near to [us]." The full context of that verse is: "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the HUMBLE.' Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. CLEANSE YOUR HANDS, you sinners; and PURIFY YOUR HEARTS, you double-minded" (James 4:6-8). It is a condition; God is saying, "You do these things and I will draw near to you when you draw near to Me." Notice that it mentions humility, which we need in order to seek God. It also mentions submitting to God and resisting the devil; this is also something we need to do if we are going to seek God, because we can't be listening to Satan while we are trying to seek God or we won't hear God when He speaks to us. Then God says to "cleanse your hands and purify your hearts, you doubleminded." Keep in mind that James said in a previous chapter that the doubleminded are those who doubt, comparing them to "a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." He said, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6-8). So the context of the "draw near to God" passage seems to suggest that when we doubt, our hearts are not pure, because immediately before it says "doubleminded" it says, "Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts." This would suggest that the doubleminded won't see God, because he doubts that God will answer Him. This is a Biblical principle, because Matthew 5:8 states, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In other words, the one whose heart is pure doesn't doubt God; he believes that in seeking, he will find, and hence He does see God. Let's look again at the passage that we examined at the beginning: Psalm 81:12 "So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels." When it says, "So I gave them up..." the Greek word means (of many other things), "to forsake." Interestingly, the verse right before Psalme 81:12 says, "But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me." Then it goes on to say that God gave them up. We learned last week that God is always waiting for us to repent. However, if we are stubborn in our hearts, there will come a time when God will just give us up to do whatever we want. We don't want Christ to forsake us. Instead, we want to forsake our wicked ways... Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. The verse before this says, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near." So we see that there will be a day when He may not be found, and I believe that it is the day when we harden our hearts, because Hebrews 3:13 says very much the same thing: Hebrews 3:13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews says to turn around while it is still 'Today,' so that we won't be hardend through "the deceitfulness of sin," while Isaiah says to seek the Lord while He may be found and then lists off some sins to avoid -- "let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts" -- and admonishes us to "return to the Lord..." Is 1:16 exhorts us to "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. 18 'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. [Note: the cross ref is: Psalm 51:7 "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."] 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword'; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." Here, again, we see that man always has a choice. If we "put away the evil of [our] doings" and "learn to do good," we are making ourselves clean. Also notice, that another condition is "if you are willing and obedient." Sometimes, we skip over the bad stuff and focus only on the good. Grant it, God does want to give us good things (all good and perfect things come from Him); however, if we are stubborn in our hearts and disobedient, we are not clean before God, and thus, we will not reap the good benefits that come from serving Him. God is merciful to forgive us, but how can He forgive someone who doesn't believe that they've done wrong or won't admit it, hence there is no need for forgiveness? It takes us humbling ourselves before God, admitting that we're wrong, and then "learning to do good." As we learn to do good, we may stumble sometimes, but God can forgive us because we are truly making an effort to please Him. Here is a Scripture that I think brings out this point perfectly: 2 Choronicles 15:2 "And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." Another good Scripture is Jeremiah 4: 14 -- O Jerusalem, WASH YOUR HEART FROM WICKEDNESS, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you? And Psalm 14:1-3 further supports the fact that when we allow our hearts to become filthy, we are not seeking God: "The fool hath said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Now, most of us know that first verse, but when we stop to consider the rest of the Scripture, we learn three things: 1) It is a matter of our heart-attitudes (Though it specifically mentions the fool at the beginning, the passage broadens to say, "there is none who does good."), 2) God is always looking to see who is seeking Him, and 3) when we become filthy, we are not seeking God. We may as well admit it: when we have a bad attitude, we aren't seeking God, now, are we? And of course, our hearts are not right in the midst of a bad attitude; our thoughts are not right -- we're holding a grudge -- and Jeremiah implied (4:14) that when our thoughts are not right, our hearts are not pure. Even if it that may seem obvious, it certainly is some food for thought, and it certainly shows us that our hearts do need to be right before we can seek God. And this Scripture pretty much sums it up: 1 Choronicles 28:9 "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a LOYAL HEART and with a WILLING mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Ps 139:23 states, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." So, in order to seek the Lord with all of your heart, you need a pure heart. So now, that God has cleansed you, seek Him until you find Him. This is accomplished by prayer and by putting His Word into your heart. Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts [NKJ says, "minds," but this is incorrect; the Gr. means "the center," or the heart], and write it IN THEIR HEARTS; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Prov 4:20-23 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; KEEP THEM IN THE MIDST OF YOUR HEART; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep [Heb. guard, to hedge about as with thorns] your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Prov 6: 20-22 My son, keep your father's command, And do not forsake the law of your mother. BIND THEM CONTINUALLY UPON YOUR HEART; Tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; When you sleep, they will keep you; And when you awake, they will speak with you. Ps 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! If you keep God's Word in your heart, guarding it and clutching it so tight that you won't let go (as these Scriptures imply), there is no way that your heart can become hardened UNLESS YOU LET IT become so. The reason for this is obvious: if you are clinging to God's Word, you will not let any hardening into your heart; that Word is IN your heart, it has taken up residence there, so if any hardening tries to enter, either the hardening uproots the Word because you weren't guarding it well enough in the first place, or the firmly planted Word prevents the hardening from taking root. It's just like the Scripture says about the seed planted among the thorns, "and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Mark 4:19). That seed let the thorns grow up around it and choke the Word out. It could have "nipped" the thorns in the bud, and none of the doubts would have been able to stay; it would have been a fruitful plant. Likewise, with the Word of God, if you "Keep your heart with all diligence", when that stone tries to enter your heart, your heart is so firmly guarded that the "guards" capture the stone, recognize it as an enemy (through the Word, which is hidden in your heart), and throw it out. Therefore, the only way you can harden your heart is if you let your guard down and let sin in. But if that Word is really, truly in your heart, you will not sin against God, because you know Him and you know what He says. I believe this is what John meant when he said, "We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him" (1 John 5:18). Here are a few other Scriptures that deal with sin: Acts 17:26-27, 30 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us... Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent... Romans 6:13-14 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere [ judged by sunlight, i.e. tested as genuine (figuratively):--pure, sincere.] and without offence [faultless, i.e. not led into sin] till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Psalm 18 gives an excellent summary... 20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, And have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all His judgments were before me, And I did not put away His statutes from me. 23 I was also blameless before Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. 24 Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. 25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; 26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. 27 For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks. 28 For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. And this brings me back to 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 where it talks about the veil over our hearts that is taken away in Christ. Even after hearing all of this, some may feel that it is a hopeless cause -- how can anyone get rid of this veil? The Scripture says that Christ removes the veil, but how do we let go of it? "I've tried, but it's too hard." Believe me, I know how it feels, but we don't go by feelings; we walk by faith and not by sight. I've come to realize that the resistance -- the part of us that is holding something back from God -- rests in two places: our minds and our pride. Our minds tell us that it's impossible, and our pride keeps us from being real with God (and we've already seen that these are two of the things that keep us from having a pure heart). First of all, I like what one song says, "Impossible is not a word; it's just a reason for someone not to try." That is so true, because Jesus says, "Nothing is Impossible with God," and "Nothing is impossible to him who believes." Secondly, it can be hard to swallow our pride, so I suggest that if you're having a hard time with that, pray, "God, help me to humble myself in Your sight." God hears our sincere prayers, and He knows that we need His help. And this brings me to the third point: I believe that the key lies in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ, WHO STRENGTHENS me." We can't do it on our own; we need Christ's strength. In other words, since Christ strengthens us, we can humble ourselves, and let go of this veil that is covering and hardening our hearts. If the veil is taken away in Christ, the secrets of our heart are revealed. If the darkness always overpowers the light, then when these secrets are revealed, everything dark in our hearts cannot stay. The Philippians passage above illustrates this point well; the Greek word for sincere means "judged by sunlight, i.e. tested as genuine." If we really want to be genuine, we have to let go of the darkness. So, if Christ has already taken the veil, this "lid" that is covering our hearts, away, what are we doing holding onto it -- or taking it back when we've already given it to Him? The light has already exposed it, so we have no excuse. Isn't it true that if we're holding onto even one part of darkness, Christ doesn't have every part of us, because He doesn't have that dark part of us? So, when we say, "Take every part of me, Lord," we need to leave it at that and not grab onto that sin again. As a friend of mine said, "It's either God or the sin." We can't hold onto both. My friend continued by saying that if we refuse to loose the sin from our lives, we will drift farther an farther away from Christ, because, "He is always moving," so if you're holding onto your sin, you're going to be way back there while He is way up ahead; hence, you aren't abiding in Him. Christ warns us that if we are lukewarm, He will spew us out of His mouth. Wouldn't we rather loose the sin then have Christ loose us from His grip because we refused to obey Him? Here is a beautiful song that really seems to explain what I've been saying; it's a prayer for God to make us new and take away the stone out of our hearts...
In summary, let's look at Ps 119:1-7 --- 1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! 3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. 4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently. 5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! 6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments. 7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments. Jer 24:7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.


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