Christians often learn external things they can and can’t do in order to look holy. We spend a lot of time modifying our behavior from the outside with rules and regulations. Motivated by guilt, driven by self-determination, we try with all of our will power at times to be holy. Yet despite the best of external efforts, not even Christians can prevent unholy, impure thoughts and behaviors. That’s what the Pharisees did and why Jesus called them white-washed sepulchers. Holiness starts with a broken and contrite heart. Hence, true purity can only be achieved when God has full sway over our hearts (Psalm 51:10, 16-17). In Matt 15:15-20, Jesus explains why we need more than will power to live holy. According to Jesus:
- Ungodliness comes from your heart because evil thoughts in your heart result in vile imaginations.
- Anger comes from the heart because murderous rage in your heart results in the putting of people and relationships to death.
- Lust comes from the heart because adulteries and fornication in the heart leads to craving for sex outside of God’s ordained parameters.
- Greed comes from the heart because thefts in your heart will result in taking what God has not given you and more than what He designed.
- Deceit comes from the heart because a false witness in your heart will result in living a life of hypocrisy.
- Jealousy comes from the heart because slander in your heart will result in a life of putting others down to push yourself up.
The obvious answer to the problem of sin in the heart is that over a lifetime you must continually give Jesus total access to your whole heart. If you let Jesus transform your heart, then that will impact everything you think, feel, and do.
Purity problems for married couples and singles are really heart problems. What’s in your heart will eventually take over your life. The condition of your heart will determine the moral condition of your life.
The Bible offers general and specific remedies for the heart. The answer is hidden in Jesus’ rebuke “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart are far from Me,” Matt 15:8. His point is that purity is a matter of the heart. Here are three general principles that will help you guard your heart with all diligence, knowing that the stuff of life starts with your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
- Eating a healthy spiritual diet does for our spiritual heart what eating a low cholesterol diet does to help guard your physical heart. For the believer, when we take in a healthy diet of God’s Word, God purifies our heart, makes our conscience work according to His will, and strengthens our faith. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” 1 Tim 1:5. To have a "Pure" cleansed heart is just the opposite of having a heart defiled by sin, Genesis 6:5. The "Heart" is the center of man's spiritual emotions, desires, thinking, and will. The heart is the real you.
- Exercising by serving is to our spiritual hearts what cardio exercise is to strengthening your physical heart. Like Jesus, we are to live a selfless life of humility, considering others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3-8). To do otherwise is to live in self-centered pride, which easily turns to anger, which turns to bitterness, which can turn into an excuse to do all sorts of impure things.
- Confessing is to our spiritual heart, clogged up with sin, what by-pass surgery is to a clogged up physical heart with one main difference. You get a much better Surgeon (1 John 1:9; Psalm 32)! It those with a poor in spirit (Matt 5:3), a broken contrite spirit (Isa 66:2), a broken and a contrite heart (Psa 51:17), whom God blesses with a clean and pure heart (Psa 51:10; Matt 5:8). Humbly acknowledging our great sinfulness (Psa 25:11), and our complete need for Christ, and putting no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3) are prerequisites to receiving from God a pure heart.
Specific ways to combat sin in your heart:
- ungodliness in your heart - Yield to the work of the Spirit through the Word of God to renew your mind with the Word of God, Romans 12:2.
- anger in your heart - Forgive as God has forgiven you. Accept what God sovereignly allows and trust Him to work it out for His glory and your good.
- lust in your heart - learn to be content (Philippians 4:13) and fill up your soul with the things of God which satisfy (Psalm 63).
- greed in your heart - Die daily to the lure of greed by noting that God doesn’t owe you anything. Instead of seeking more and more, become a generous giver and trust God to meet your real needs, Matt 6:33; 2 Cor 9:8.
- deceit in your heart - Speak the truth in honest transparency, Ephesians 4:25. Sin flourishes in the dark shadows cast by deceit.
- jealousy in your heart - Instead of constantly comparing yourself, your life, and your spouse or marital status to other people, learn to thank God that “by the grace of God (you are) what (you are) 1 Cor 15:10. We all have been fearfully and wonderfully made, Psalm 139:14.
- guilt – If the above vices are in your heart, then guilt will be too. The remedy is confession. If and when you discern any of the above sins taking root in your heart, seek God’s mercy and confess them as sins (Psalm 32; 51).