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A Pure Hope

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Do I believe in miracles? The question is not merely speculative. Heaven and hell are at stake. Jesus forces this question upon me with his pronouncement, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). This beatitude arouses either pure despair or pure hope. It all depends on whether I believe in miracles.

The Necessity of a Pure Heart

The beatitude echoes Psalm twenty-four:

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  Ps. 24:3-5

Though this psalm accurately describes those who shall see God, it raises serious concerns about who are included in that assembly.

The Natural Heart

You see, man by nature is ignorant of God (1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 4:8), while nonetheless assuming he knows what God is like. Typically, his intuition tells him that God shares many of his own views on life (Ps. 50:21). Though quite convenient for his lifestyle, his intuition is bunk. He lifts up his soul to what is false. The book of Judges, describing an extremely degenerate and licentious period in Israel’s history, bookends that account with this indictment, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 17:6; 21:25). Ignorance is harmful, but ignorance of ignorance is disastrous. “Ignorant minds are impure. There is no going to heaven in the dark” (Thomas Watson).

Yet, a mere knowledge of God’s revelation does not purify the heart. Man by nature has a hard heart. He has a natural bias against the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14). Apart from a miracle of grace, no amount of instruction will soften the heart into loving submission to God.

Furthermore, the human heart is a caldron of evil. Jesus tells us, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). Hence, the great self-help dilemma, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one” (Job 14:4).

Between a Rock and a House of Cards

Here, then, is a spiritual stalemate. If I move from ignorance to knowledge of what God requires and my own obstinance, I am lost, and I know it. If I take refuge in ignorance, distractions, or self-deception, I am lost, and I deny it. Either way I am lost. I am hopeless.

Is that really it? Have I no move? Could I not resolve to reform? I have tried before. I could try again, try harder. But, will I not just add more insult to injury when my flimsy intentions collide with my immovable, stony heart? Telling God, “I will,” only to return back like a dog to lick my vomit (Prov. 26:11)

Is delusion my only hope? Can my hand-tailored god, my imaginary friend, protect me? Must every serious inquiry into the state of my soul be quickly abandoned to protect my house of cards? Am I doomed to be always supposing and fearful of really knowing?

A Pure Hope

Do I believe in miracles? When the impossible drives me to seek refuge in the imaginary, when an endless cycle of broken promises, resolutions, and I wills bring me to shameful despair, God says, “I will”:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." Ezek. 36:25-27

The only hope for a pure heart is for God to give me a new heart. This is the impossible new birth (John 3:3-8), the stone turned to flesh, the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), light shining out of darkness (2 Cor. 4:6). This is the grace that makes the gospel of Jesus Christ effectual:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  Titus 2:11-14

Jesus Christ, alone, entered this fallen world with a pure heart. Yet he bore my sin and uncleanness on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Christ alone, I am justified and have access to God (Rom. 5:1). Furthermore, he promises to purify me till I am fit for glory (2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:20-21). This is the pure hope we find in the gospel, and it is only a prayer away. So, do you believe in miracles?

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