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  • Renée Coventry

Holiness & the Heart, Pt. 9

Holiness. Just the word itself can be intimidating to people and often threatening. Within that one word, we intuitively recognize that it requires change and not just any change. It carries within it the connotation of divine change, surrender of self and self-will, and that inevitably makes us uncomfortable. We're at ease with ourselves, and yet, if we walk in obedience, then it is a requirement. The Lord tells us, "Be holy, for I am holy" (I Pt. 1:16).

King David wanted to know what holiness required, too. This man, an adulterer and murderer, whom God described as a man after His own heart, asked the hard questions that in today's society we would rather ignore. In Psalm 24:3-4a, David asks, "Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart." I know it continues, but let's unpack this small portion for now. Clean hands. We know that we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21). So, in Christ, the first requirement is clean hands, but what about our hearts? Are they pure?

Jeremiah 17:19-20 states,

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."

So then, our deceitful heart affects both our ways and doings, our character and our actions. The Hebrew word for deceitful can also be translated as sly, insidious, and slippery; desperately wicked can also mean incurably sick. Jeremiah makes it clear that God searches out our inner part and understanding, along with our mind. Interestingly, the phrase "test the mind," is literally "try the reins," meaning God is seeing if we'll allow Him to rein in the seat of our emotions. He searches to see our motives and if they can be brought to heel.

Can they? God promises Israel in Ezekiel 36:25-27 the following,

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness, and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:26 that Christ sanctifies and cleanses us by the Word of God. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul admonishes us to present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy, and that the renewing of our minds transforms us. All that we need to be holy has been appropriated to us by Christ through His death and resurrection.

Let's face it. We've all come in contact with people whose motives we've questioned. What is their endgame? However, we would be doing ourselves a disservice by refusing to examine our hearts and minds. After all, do any of the "good" things we do matter if our motives are wrong? Does volunteering to be seen by others count? What about complimenting another for the sake of self-promotion? This is what Jesus meant when He told us not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing and why Solomon admonished us to keep our hearts with all diligence (Matt. 6:3, Prov. 4:23).

As for God, His motives are always pure. He created us and only ever has our best interests at heart. I am sometimes disturbed by the images that man has come up with to portray God as though He were some heavenly tyrant waiting for us to break His rules so that He could break fellowship with us. These artists don't have a clear understanding of God. No, God's motives don't contain any self-motive. He is perfect and doesn't need "more" of anything. He's the Creator of the Universe! God's motives are selfless in providing boundaries and statutes by which humankind can live. And it is this pure love that came to pay the penalty of our sin by dying in our place.

In Romans 6:2, Paul inquires, "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" The answer is that we should not. In the Gospels, when Jesus healed people, He followed it up with, "Go, and sin no more" (Jn. 5:14, 8:11).

"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." Romans 6:5-12

Sin begins in the heart and mind. If we are to live sinless lives and overthrow its reign, we must deal with our hearts, and that is a work completed only as we submit to the Holy Spirit. The journey to holiness doesn't begin with looking at self. We love to give ourselves attention, don't we? Rather, it starts with inviting God into our time and space, not so that He can look at us. No, He knows us all too well. We invite Him in so that we can gaze upon and commune with Him, and as we do so, allow the Holy Spirit to transform our character into a reflection of His own, and it's holy.

Let's Pray:

Father, forgive me. I know that there have been more than one occasion when my motives have not been pure. I've done good things, witnessed for You, and ministered for You with ungodly motives, to be seen and rewarded by others and seen by You. But You already see all. You examine all, and my heart is sick. Without the transforming power of Your Holy Spirit at work in my heart and mind, I cannot walk in holiness. I cry out, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23). Please help me submit to Your work in my life. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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