By John J. Blanchard
December 9, 2006
We have had our first major snow storm here in the Upper Peninsula in the last week or so, and it transformed the world. The world looks so beautiful, so bright and so clean. It is a transformation from the dull, dreary doldrums with the dead leaves and decaying vegetation and the mud. Now it is a beautiful world covered in white snow.
Purity is something very special to God. Purity is the result of repentance and cleansing that God often compares to being as pure as snow, if you were to look in the scriptures. I want to turn to a couple of scriptures at the start to talk about cleansing and to talk about becoming pure. Let’s turn to Psalm 51. It is the famous Psalm of David’s repentance. We will read part of that.
Read Psalm 51:1-11. David was repenting from the bottom of his heart and asking to be cleansed. He was asking to be made as white as snow and have his sins removed. This was a spiritual cleansing, of course, but spiritual cleansing is much like physical cleansing and washing ourselves. When we get dirty and filthy, we wash up so we do not have germs upon us. We do not want to have disease-carrying particles on us. We look presentable and smell fresh and clean. We look bright and healthy. We wash up.
Spiritually we must be cleansed, because often times as we go through life we pick up dirt. We have to be cleaned up. Turn to Hebrews chapter 10. Hebrews 10, verse 10: “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, and every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, [Jesus Christ] after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.”
Jesus Christ’s job is to cleanse us of sin. If you were to read more of Hebrews chapters 4 through 8 you would find the job of Jesus Christ, as High Priest, and His sacrifice was to cleanse us of sin. The process started at baptism when we took on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and when we took on His blood.
Turn to Revelation chapter 1, please. Revelation 1, verse 4: “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”
The job (the sacrifice) that Jesus had to do as our High Priest was to die and shed His blood so that we can be washed thoroughly with that blood from our sins. That process started at baptism. From that point forward it is our responsibility to stay clean, and if we fall in some way with sin, to get clean. We do this by a constant process of trying to overcome ourselves, Satan’s temptations and the world.
If you would, turn now a few pages over to Revelation chapter 12. Verse 10: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him, by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.’”
It is by the blood of the Lamb, our High Priest, that we are initially cleansed, but then we keep going to that blood as we overcome sin in our life. It is our responsibility after baptism to continue to bathe, to continue to be cleansed.
Turn back to Ephesians chapter 5. While discussing the mystery of marriage and family, embedded in this set of scriptures are verses 25 and 26. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.”
To become part of the Church, we need to be baptized. That is that initial acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ (the acceptance of that blood to cover our sins). While part of the body of Christ, we must continue to be washed by the water of the word, as well as asking for the blood to continue to cover the sins that we take on. We are constantly washed by the water of the word. We need to study the word, and use it to become cleaner as time goes on. We need to cleanse ourselves.
This is a process that God created because there was a need. All mankind was filthy to the point that they must die, for the wages of sin is death. It would be permanent if there was no way to get cleaned. So God knew there was a process to get cleaned up, and then a process to stay clean (to bathe) in order to continue to deal with sin.
Sin, of course, should be the occasional mistake that we make. It should be just occasionally doing something wrong. It should get fewer and farther between as time goes on. Or it should be something like brushing up against a dirty car with your suit on. It is something you pick up through life almost by accident. These things just happen by where you end up. You end up in a bad spot and in a situation where sin is taking place all around you, and it gets on you. This happens in a variety of ways, but it is the occasional sort of thing.
BECOME PURE INSIDE
Ideally, we are continuing to get cleaner through our Christian lives. The problem arises when we keep throwing dirt on ourselves. This is when things get tricky. We have a problem on our hands when we throw the dirt on ourselves, which we all do at one point or another. But if we do not break the habit of making ourselves dirty, it is a very serious habit to have, because getting cleaned up means become purer like the snow we were talking about at the beginning. We are becoming purer as we stay clean. Dirt is different when you are talking about purifying and when you are talking about cleaning.
You can wash your hands from being dirty, and then they will look clean. That does not mean you are pure. You can have an infection within your body, and have perfectly clean hands. That is the difference between being clean and being pure. If you wash something up that has dirt within it (embedded within it), that dirt keeps resurfacing. It is like an ink spot or stain and you wash the stain. It comes back because there is residual ink underneath the cloth.
Another way of putting it is like a spot that works its way out from the inside. An infection can work its way out from the inside. Being in the building trades, it is like drywall. When you put drywall on the wall, you never mark your areas with ink because that ink will bleed through later when you paint that drywall. It is a chemical reaction, and it is going to keep coming through. You need to use pencil. If you are not careful and you use the wrong product on the wall, it is going to bleed through. Or like rust under paint, you can put fresh paint over rusty metal, and before you know it three months later there is the rust. It is because it was underneath, and it is working its way back out to the surface.
An impure object is an object that is holding dirt within. It is part of it. The main source in human beings for dirt within, that works its way out, is our habits. These are the habits we have formed over life. There is an old Spanish proverb that states habits are at first cobwebs, then they are cables. That is very, very true. The first time you do something, you have to work at it. It would be an easy habit to break. After the first cigarette someone smokes, if they decided they did not like smoking, it would be very easy to stop. After a hundred cigarettes, it is a little harder. After fifty thousand cigarettes, it is a very hard habit to break. It is like that with anything.
Conversely, a good habit is the same way. We can learn a good habit like tying our shoes. When we were little, our parents had to teach us how to tie our shoes, and it was hard to pick up on at first. We could easily forget how to tie that knot. But after you have done it for a year or two, it comes like nothing at all. Then for the rest of your life, you know how to tie your shoes. You can do it blindfolded or in the dark, because it is a habit. Those are good habits. Good habits help hold us straight and tall and make us better people, where bad habits tears us down. They form the dirt that comes out in our character. Even when we are washing and cleaning, we have that dirt within that keeps coming out.
What we are habitually doing becomes either the purer part of our character or the dirty part. It has to be one of only several things. It is what we think, what we say, what we see, what we hear and what we do. The impurities within us are going to come in and come back out one of these ways. We are limited as physical human beings. It is really quite simple. If we think nasty thoughts, we have them within us. They are going to keep coming out. We can shower up for Sabbath services and put on a suit or a dress, but if they are in there, they are going to keep coming out. If we say nasty things all the time (mean, harsh or whatever), they are going to eventually come out if we do not clean that up. If we are seeing nasty things all the time, we are embedding images in our mind. It is the same for what we listen to. If we are listening to bad music, listening to false doctrines, listening to hateful speech, those things come into us. If they stay in there and are not dealt with, they become the dirt on the inside that works its way out. The things that we do that break God’s laws are the result of the things that we have allowed in our character. It is very simple.
Any one or a combination of these five things will impact us negatively if they are bad habits. The sad thing is they also work synergistically. That means they have a compounding effect on one another. An example would be listening to bad music in addition to watching immoral or violent television and movies. This will lead to a combination of bad thoughts, lousy attitudes, bad actions and often harmful communication.
I saw an interesting study on the news. With the scientific advances that we have today of measuring brain activity, there has been study after study done that shows if children watch violent television, they are much more likely to be violent toward one another. There has been study after study. A lot of adults say that when you get old enough, it does not matter. You can watch all the bad television you want, because you are mature enough to handle that. The proof has now come out that that is not true.
They played violent video games with teens and young adults (older people that should know better regarding violence), and they put electrodes on the skull. They can measure brain activity, and then it becomes an image on a TV screen. They can watch the brain and how the electrical impulses in the brain are firing here and there. They know now what areas of the brain evoke emotions like love, kindness, compassion, communication, anger and hostility. They have all of these things mapped out for the brain. Man has learned a lot in the last hundred years.
When they put the electrodes on and had people play violent games, they compared the thinking of the same person when they were watching something gentle and nice. Then they played violent games or watched violent television and they watched what areas of the brain were firing up. It was different. They now know that, without a doubt, watching violence or watching immoral behavior fires different things in the brain. They also know that the more you do something, it makes nerve pathways in your brain so that your brain goes there (much like tying your shoes). When you form that habit to learn how to tie your shoes, what eventually is happening is you have formed a neuro-pathway in your brain that will remember how to tie shoes for the rest of your life. You do not always have to keep relearning everything. Wouldn’t it be terrible if every day you had to relearn what two times two was or relearn your name? You don’t have to do these things because your brain forms neuro-pathways, and they essentially are what we call habits. Your brain will go there.
They know if you keep watching violent or immoral programs, you are training your brain to go there. Now you have a heart problem, and I do not mean from a heart attack or physical problem. You have a problem with compassion. You have a cold heart, because you have watched so many people die. Or you have an immoral heart, because you have watched too many lurid things on television or in the movies. You have trained your mind to give you this problem which becomes the dirt inside of us that keeps coming out. We can clean up the outside and look great and be carrying around horrible things inside. It is interesting how science has actually started to prove this now. If they would put it together with their Bible, they could really help people, but that is coming.
What are we to do about this situation? Are we to just keep carrying these things around and keep washing up? No. We need to get pure. You see the difference between washing up and being pure. There is a huge difference. Matthew chapter 23 deals with this issue.
Turn to Matthew 23 and read verses 24-28. This is Jesus Christ speaking to the scribes and Pharisees. Sometime when you have time, you can read the whole chapter, because it goes into more details. Christ is giving us a very valuable lesson here. I am focusing on the specific part that pertains to the sermon.
This was not just a problem for the scribes and Pharisees. It is a problem for us today, because we can look religious. We can look righteous. We can look physically clean and pleasing and inside be full of uncleanness and be filthy. There are Biblical solutions for becoming purer.
Turn, if you would, to Philippians 4:4. “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We are talking about guarding our hearts and minds.
Continuing in verse 8 of Philippians chapter 4: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. [Think of these things.] The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” We are to think of the good things. Fill our minds with good music, pure thoughts, good images and wholesome images. If we do, we are working towards being pure.
Isaiah 33 gives us some more specifics. Turn back to Isaiah 33:14. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? [That, of course, is the Holy Spirit.] Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil.” These are the people who are going to continue to dwell with the Holy Spirit. Like David said, please, God, do not take your Holy Spirit away from me. But instead give me a clean heart, and make me as white as snow.
We need to learn and train ourselves by habit. We need to speak uprightly. We need to stop our hears from hearing bad things, and avert our eyes from seeing violence and bloodshed. We need to think purely. We need to build new habits, which science has determined takes as little as thirty days of concentrated effort. That is about how long it would take if you had to learn something like tying your shoes. It takes about thirty days of concentrated effort to build a new habit, and the longer you do it, the more it becomes an engrained part of your character. The benefits of this type of training within our lives are wonderful, and they will make us better persons. They will make us purer from the inside out. We can never get pure from the outside in, we can only get clean and not pure.
Turn to Titus chapter 1. Verse 15: “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” What does this mean, “to the pure all things are pure?” I will give you a few examples.
We can appreciate a good knife. We could purchase ourselves a good knife. It could be a hunting knife or to cut steak at home or trim vegetables. We could says this is a wonderful knife. That is a pure thought. An individual can just as likely pick up that knife and say, “With this I could easily kill somebody. I could easily maim. I could easily fight.” And it is the same knife. To the one person they have pure thoughts. To the other, they do not. They are dirty and filthy thoughts.
It is like that with language. There are certain words that we can hear and say that is nice. “We had a gay old time the other day!” Or we can have an impure mind and twist those words into something not so pure. We can listen to uplifting, good music, or we can listen to music that pulls us down. We can watch peaceful, beautiful images in movies on television that make us feel good about life, or we can watch images of violence and immorality, coarse jokes and coarse jesting. Either one is going to have an effect upon our character and put things inside that have to be dealt with.
When we receive money, we can see a tool for doing good. It can be a paycheck, gift or whatever. It can be something we can share with someone in need or maybe help spread this good news of the gospel of the kingdom. Or we can look at that money and be very materialistic. We can think now I can “get” this or I can “get” that. It is not always bad to get, but you know what I am talking about. Money can be a source of greedy habits, or it can be a source of philanthropy and love toward our fellow man.
Turn to Proverbs chapter 23. It is all in how we look at things, brethren. If we have a pure heart, it is easier to look at things purely. But if we have filth or uncleanness inside, it is hard to walk through life and see the beauty and appreciate the wonder in what God has in the world around us. Proverbs 23, verse 6: “Do not eat the bread of a miser, nor desire his delicacies; for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”
Have you ever seen someone who very reluctantly wants to share something that they have? They are a miser and very tight. You don’t even want to take it. You do not even feel good about accepting it. The problem is that it is not the miserliness, it is that it is inside that person. They are that greedy with what they have been given. It is an example because to receive a gift from someone who is enjoying giving it to you, you would feel badly not taking it. I have been in that position, too. I can see someone is so happy to give me something, I will take it whether I like it or not, just to see how happy they are. It is all a matter of the point of view of the person. What is inside that person or not and how they view life is what makes the difference.
PURITY OF HEART
Turn just a page over to Proverbs 22:11. “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.” I am sure that was true in physical kingdoms, but it is very true with the King of the universe. If we love a pure heart and we say nice things to people or are a pleasure for people to be around, our King will love that in us. He will be our friend, because then we are acting like Him.
We need to make every effort to become purer, brethren, and not just clean. We need to become purer from the inside out. The last thing we want to hear when Jesus Christ returns is the same thing He told the scribes and the Pharisees. You hypocrites! You guys look great on the Sabbath and you were so nice and clean, but inside you were full of uncleanness. We need to work on the inside, brethren.
Our final scripture is Isaiah chapter 1. God speaks to us in verse 18 saying: “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, [God wants to talk to us about this through His word.] ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword;’ [that is the word of God] for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
We need to not only be cleansing with the water of the word and going to the blood of Christ, but we need to be obedient. We need to be working on the habits that will make us pure. If we continue to work on these things, to God who looks down from the heavens above it will look like our land, the bodies that we have, our homes, are as pure as the white driven snow that we see outside today.