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Keeping Your Heart Pure

August 29th, 2018

Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies! (Psalm 141:4 ESV)

As children we would take baths Saturday nights and on Sunday morning when we woke up for breakfast, our parents would tell us to wash our hands before we sat down at the table. “But we just took a bath last night,” we would protest. But they would say to us that our hands had gotten dirty again over night, and needed to be washed again.

This is also true of our hearts. We live in an impure, sinful world and temptations are all around us, and even within us. Even after a wonderful time of worship, or of study of God’s word, our hearts are so easily caught up in something impure again, that we need regular times of confession of sin and soaking before the goodness of the Lord. There is not a man or a woman on this earth, no matter how long they have been a Christian or how much they have served or how deeply devoted they are, that does not still need to search their heart and get rid of the impure thoughts and habits of their lives.

Crying out to the Lord for help

David begins his psalm: “O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me!” (Psalm 141:1) He knew that he could not do this on his own, no doubt he had tried often. His cry is the one we recognize ourselves for we have said the same thing to God – “Oh, God, help me do what I cannot do.” This is not only proper theology, but it is also practical theology. In our prayer we should develop the habit of expressing to God our dependency on Him – and not to do it as merely a habit of expression but to let it come from our own heart.

He specifically cries out about his “heart” and in Hebrew this means his mind, thoughts, or his soul, as we would commonly say. He recognizes his inner thoughts and values are where he needs to experience God’s help. As he wrote elsewhere, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10).

There is a great theological debate about what part of this matter we must depend on God to do and what part we must do ourselves – or how do we express these thoughts in words. Whatever formula of words we have come up with, or percentages of what we do and what God does, one thing must be clear: we cannot do this without God. He is essential in this matter of purity of heart.

Busying our hands with the right things

David also prayed about his “mouth” and his “hands,” practical considerations on words and actions. There is a connection between our thoughts and our actions, and it is a two-way street. Of the two, the heart is more important. Christ said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).

But our actions are also important. The righteous woman is said not to “eat the bread of idleness” (Prov. 31:27). An old Christian discipline has been to busy ourselves with activities for God. It was commonly thought in former times “idle hands are the devil’s playground.” We live in a day where entertainment is a large part of our lives, and, I am afraid, most of it is not godly, or even goodly. In fact, a great deal of it is horribly evil.

Our hearts and our hands and our mouths should all be going in the same direction. We should be wise and discreet about what we do and when we do it. We should consider the command to the former thief: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).

Choose your friends wisely

David also knew that he should choose godly companions, and avoid ungodly people – “men who work iniquity.” Every friendship we make we should be careful about. Compassion is one thing – and we should reach out in compassion to ungodly people – but we should make sure that we are drawing them toward God and that they are not drawing us away from God and godly things. Their “delicacies,” or the things they consider important and valuable, are ungodly, not godly.

If our hearts will be pure then our lives must be different. (1) Cry out to God for His help – which is essential if our thoughts will be right – and take time to meditate on His Word, (2) choose healthy and godly things to do with your hands, (3) choose good people to be your closest friends, and do not abuse your leisure time with ungodly activity. Seek to help others, and you yourself will be blessed in the process.

Psalms