The Importance Of Keeping A Pure Heart

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

What does it mean to keep your heart?

It means to guard your heart. It means to not have issue in your heart – with God or with your fellow man or brother. We have a problem with God when we sin against Him and more so when we are unable to humble ourselves and repent. It is the same with people. We are not to harbor anything in our hearts against anyone even if they have wronged us. And if something arises between me and another person which thing threatens to pollute my heart, I am to quickly let that thing go the way I would drop a hot coal from my hands.

Personally, I have come to realize that whenever I have an issue with someone (or with God), mortal fear strikes my heart. I never realized the reason for this until I read and understood this scripture. Then it was that I knew that as long as my heart is not right with God or with my fellow man, death, and not life, reigns within me. The fear that I feel is God’s way of warning me; it is God’s warning bell. He is telling me, “Step back!”

At that particular moment that I am nursing that state of heart, I am a dead man. Dead in my spirit. Were I to die physically at that particular moment, I probably would go straight to hell. I say “probably” because the grace of God is beyond my understanding in this regard. Probably God just might ask the doorkeeper to let me into heaven. But… even if I were to make it to heaven in that state of heart, I would never have the courage to lift up my eyes and look my Lord Jesus Christ in the face. How could I, one who had failed to guard my heart, look at the One who fully paid the price.

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Heb. 12:3)

And that is forever.

No wonder the Apostle Paul writes:

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11)

How so grateful we ought to be to God! The Bible gives us an opportunity, right now while we are here on earth, to do all in our might to pay the price and follow Christ in denying ourselves and keeping that all-important pure heart)

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Mat. 5:8)

Do you want to see God when you get to heaven? Guard your heart and keep it pure. If something arises between you and a brother/sister, anyone, deal with it instantly.

When it comes to it being between husband and wife – which is all too common – the Bible specifically speaks to men thus:

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Col. 3:19)

Is that not all too common with we husbands? Is it not all too common for us to be bitter with our wives? But we are to quickly let go the minute we feel that bitterness beginning to creep up on us. We are to quickly cry to God and make sure – make sure – our hearts remain open, pure, forgiving and loving. That is the cost we have been called to pay. It is the cost for our high calling as children of God.

And to the wives:

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet. 3:1-6)

Wives are quick to learn the weak points in their husbands. If the wife is not a spiritual woman, she will regard her husband’s weaknesses and despise him in her heart instead of honoring him.

But the wife should take note that she has been called to obey and be in subjection to her husband. In fact, Ephesians tells the wives to be subject to their husbands

“in every thing” (Eph. 5:24).

Are these things just too hard for us? But it is the reason we have been given God’s Holy Spirit. He is our Helper.

And this condition of heart is commanded for every child of God in every situation. If we have any hopes of beholding the face of God in His eternal Kingdom, Rule No. 1 is to guard your heart.

[We are to pay the cost to keep our hearts pure at all times]

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Keep Your Heart Pure!

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

In the Swahili translation, the first part of this scripture reads: “Guard your heart above everything else…”

In other words, there are other things that we should guard; but it is the heart that we are to guard above everything else.

I believe there is much to this scripture than I dare try to expound here. But there is a small light that has been shining in my heart with regard to this scripture, which is what I want to share with you this morning. And it has to do with what I have just explained concerning what it says in the Swahili translation.

There are many areas in our Christian life where we can mess up; but it should never be with the purity of our hearts. We can “blow it” in may areas of our lives; but it never should be with the heart.

Let me illustrate this to try and bring out the light that I have seen in this scripture. Let’s say you and your wife have a disagreement over something. A disagreement often leads to some form of altercation. Unfortunately, this occurs quite often between married couples. But this is not the real problem. The problem, as far as God is concerned, is when we come away from such a situation with bitterness in our hearts. Bitterness causes us to close our hearts to the people who have hurt us. On the other hand, we can walk away from such a situation with a pure heart.

The Corinthian church hurt Paul deeply. He had paid such a big price to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them but the minute he turned his back, they reverted back to the flesh in a big way. When Paul heard the news, he was deeply distressed. But he did not close his heart. In other words, Paul guarded his heart to the extent that he did not allow any bitterness to seep in. And hence he was able to write them:

“11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” (2 Cor. 6:11-12)

Paul had such grace that, the more they sinned against (him) the more his heart became enlarged towards them. That is the heart of grace that the Bible talks of and that we should always carry in us.

It is not okay for us to arrive at disagreements, but that is the lesser of the problems that God sees in us. The disagreement or the altercation is not the problem; with God the problem is the condition of our hearts.

In Matthew 5:8 we read:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

You can do everything well and be blessed; but in order to behold God’s face – in order to get up close to God – you have to take care of the condition of your heart. But, pray, what does it mean to “see God”?

I believe we can find the answer in 1 Peter 3:7

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Here the Apostle Peter says that if husbands play it roughshod over their wives, God will not grant them an audience. He will not hear or answer their prayers. In other words, such husbands will not be able to “see” God. On the other hand, when we guard our hearts and maintain patient and loving hearts towards our wives, God is pleased with us. He gives an ear to and answers our prayers.

This is as it should be for in Isaiah 57:15 it says,

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

It is in the same spirit that Jesus taught about forgiveness.

“6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mat. 6:14-15)

Forgiving requires a denial of self. Ultimately, therefore, we have to come back to the cross to be able to keep pure hearts. Only a man or woman who has crucified their lives with Christ can keep and maintain a pure heart in a world that waiting is to defile our hearts every waking moment of our lives. The Bible says that a man’s enemies are those of his own house (Mat. 10:36). That means that it is the things that are closest to us that easily defile our hearts. And what could be closer to us than our own selves. It is when we are unable to rein in our carnal nature that we get defiled in our hearts.

Personally, I can say that in my married life it was my wife who became the biggest thorn in my flesh. Presumably. I had never heard the cross taught as the Apostle Paul expressed it, and I therefore always had something to be bitter towards her. It took me a painfully long time to realize that the key to unlocking the victory over the bitterness lay in my heart. But today, by the grace of God, it is no longer so. Whatever may come between me and my wife, I am glad (and greatly surprised) to see that there is no aftertaste of bitterness after all is ended.

I believe that is one of the true victories that we can claim in the Spirit. But the price we have to pay for such a victory is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

Above all things, may we keep a pure heart.

[Called upon to keep and maintain a pure heart]

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David’s Generous Heart – Part 1

20 And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave before those other cattle, and said, This is David’s spoil.

21 And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them.

22 Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart.

23 Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.

24 For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.

25 And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.

26 And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD;

27 To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir,

28 And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa,

29 And to them which were in Rachal, and to them which were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to them which were in the cities of the Kenites,

30 And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach,

31 And to them which were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt. 1 Sam. 30:20-31

I am aware that somewhere in this blog I have written a post on this very scripture, but the subject matter is so beautiful I just have to write on it again. No matter I might end up repeating my earlier post word for word, but still I will write on it again. This portion of scripture is epicly delightful. It sings like an ode – an ode of God’s love for His people. It is not for nothing that David is one of the most 1) loved, 2) admired, and 3)written-about characters in the Bible. And it is not for nothing that God called David:

“… a man after mine own heart (Acts 13:22).

Notice in our key scripture above that it says of the spoil that David and his men seized from the Amalekites, that it was

“…David’s spoil.”

It was his and he was free to do with it as he pleased. But what David did with his spoil draws us to simply love this man of the Spirit.

In the first place, this pursuit against the Amalekite invaders had been incredibly exerting, to the extent that two hundred of David’s men – tested men of war – had fainted and had been forced to remain behind, by a certain brook called Besor. David and four hundred of his men had forged on ahead. They finally caught up with the Amalekites and, for two whole days, they routed them and killed off every one of them.

The Bible proceeds to tell us what followed next.

“20 And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave before those other cattle, and said, This is David’s spoil. 21 And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them.” (v. 20-21)

The men whom David had left behind went to welcome back their leader, their comrades-in-arms, and to hug their wives and children. They were excited and happy.

And David came up to them and saluted them. David saluted the men who had been left behind! And ‘saluting’ here probably means that he came up to them and hugged them. And he said to them, “Gentlemen, how have you fared? I hope you had a wonderful rest.”

I love this. I love it with all my heart. David did not come up to these men with a twisted heart. He came up to them with the love of God in his heart.

But David’s actions did not go down well with some of the men who had gone on with David to the battle. David being pleasant to these men who had not participated in battle was not rubbing off some of his men. But the reason for their antagonism was because they feared what would follow with David being so nice to the stragglers. It was a certain fear running deep down within them that drove these men to do what they did next.

These men got together and came up with a plan. They declared that those who had not gone to battle would be sent away with only their wives and children, but otherwise empty-handed. They would not be allowed to share in the spoils that had been brought back.

But these men were selfish and did not have the love of God in their hearts. It was the fear of losing that was eating at them. And the Bible calls them

“wicked men and men of Belial” (v.22)

They were children of the devil. When we fear to lose we become children of the devil.

I cannot imagine at this stage the condition of the hearts of the men who were so addressed. Their hearts must have fainted within them. They had tried their best, and their best had taken them only up to the brook Besor. And, apparently, their best was not good enough for some of their fellows.

But notice David’s heart.

“23 Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. 24 For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.” (v. 23-24)

And the conclusion:

“And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.” (v. 25)

The heart of God was in David. He not only attributed he and his troop’s victory to God, but he also had compassion upon the weak. And upon realizing that there were “men of Belial” within the ranks of Israel, David immediately instituted an ordinance that would forever rule over Israel:

“… as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.”

That is God’s heart for His children. As children of God, it also ought to be our heart towards one another.

A God-fearing Heart

My wife is easily one of the most beautiful women in the world. If she ever thought of entering the fashion world, fashion history would be re-written. Subsequent to this, of course, is the sad fact that this blog would cease to exist. With the kind of money my wife would be getting as a top model, I would not be sitting here wearing out my fingers on this blog. I would be in Hawaii or some such place, learning to surf.

Those who know me for the vain, pompous fellow that I am will naturally assume that I must have traversed the world looking for this beauty of a woman. Fortunately, no; I did nothing of the sort. In fact, I did nothing at all. I neither raised a finger “nor”, as Captain Hook would say, “a hook” in securing my lovely Flo. I did not even send anyone to go searching for such a woman as her. She just happened to be passing by our town and Pastor Amas got wind of it and the next day he burst into my office and exclaimed quietly, “Mwita, I got someone for you!”

Unfortunately, those were the days when girls in church did not think much about a born-again fellow who wanted to get married. Their thoughts were all on serving the Lord!

After close to 20 years in being married to her, today I appreciate my wife’s beauty more than ever. And yet… a time arrived when I began to wonder whether there was not something else apart from her physical beauty that caused my interest in my wife to remain so unfazed despite the passing of time. You see, the Bible says in Proverbs 31:30 that “beauty is vain”, which means it fades away with the passage of time. Which therefore means there must be something beyond physical beauty that would sustain a relationship for any length of time.

I came to realize there was. Her heart! That was it! I discovered that my wife had a golden heart (a heart that fears the Lord) and that this was what attracted me to her like a fly to a spider’s web.

There is something about the human heart that is beyond the physical aspects that we see about a person. The Bible concludes it this way: “but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”

It is amazing that God, the Creator of all things, looks only upon our hearts. It is presumptuous for us to want to look at anything else in a person besides their heart. I am glad I am satisfied with my wife’s heart. She may not be an angel flying about on golden wings, but she has the kind of heart that makes me want to praise her.

The heart is the most beautiful thing in a man. The Devil knows this also, hence the heart is the place where he wages his most dangerous warfare. He corrupts the heart. Christ came to cleanse our hearts.

The True Gospel of Jesus Christ

Joh 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1Co 9:27  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

This is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that crucifies the flesh. This is the revelation that the Apostle Paul received from Jesus and it is the gospel that he and the early Apostles preached.

The following account is the fictitious story of two fictitious Pentecostal churches in a fictitious country. The two initially started off as one church in the early years when Pentecostalism was taking root in that country. Indeed, this church was the first and biggest Pentecostal church in the land. One day the top bishop convened an impromptu council meeting in which he announced that there would be some leadership restructuring involving some of his subordinates. Unfortunately, the move was perceived by a section of the leadership to have not been made in good faith. The brother who was affected by the reshuffle had a lot of influence and he stood his ground and refused to surrender his position. The leader, on the other hand, declared that this brother would have to move. A deadlock ensued and the outcome was that this second brother and his supporters broke away and started another church, under a different name.

Many years passed and both these denominations grew and became powerful and had large followings. They were the vanguard of the Pentecostal movement and they were easily the two biggest Pentecostal denominations in that country. The two leaders of these churches became not only powerful bishops, but God gave them much grace and both were endowed with much spiritual power and they had miracles, signs and wonders evident in their ministries. The bishop who broke away had the more powerful ministry and one trademark of his ministry was that during his evangelistic crusades he would simply breathe into the microphone and demons would begin popping out of people. The whole country was filled with the knowledge of them as the two most powerful Pentecostal preachers. More importantly, they were recognized the world over as great men of God, men who had birthed and nurtured the Pentecostal movement in their part of the world.

During the years that followed the signs of bad blood that flowed between these two leaders showed in the many battles that they fought in courts of law over buildings and many other things. In the natural course of events, many other ministers broke off from these two big denominations and started their own churches. These young ministers, aware of the inner struggles that these two leaders were engaged in, tried to bring them to reconcile. One such occasion was done on such a huge national platform that it was reported even in the nation’s media. They shook hands in public and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, confident that these men of God had at last settled their differences.

The years went by and our two leaders had become old. Then, one day, the bishop who started the second denomination died. There was a large, national mourning for him because many prominent people had passed under his ministry. A number of government officials had got born-again under his ministry. Even the president of the country announced he would be attending the bishop’s funeral.

But, alas! just a day before the funeral of this bishop was to take place, the other church, from which he had broken off, moved to court to block his burial because news had transpired that this bishop was to be buried at the grounds of one of the churches where there was still a case in the courts regarding the ownership of that property!

The judge who was to preside over the new case realized that a scandal was looming because the burial had already been announced and the president was to attend. He therefore called the two parties together and, using some diplomacy, he allowed the burial to proceed while he promised to handle the matter later on. The upshot of it all was that the bishop of the first church failed to attend his compatriot’s funeral!

This unbelievable state of affairs had gone on for over 40 years. End of story.

This account might seem far-fetched and it could be fictional indeed, but there are many such stories in real life. Preachers and Christians alike appear to be okay on the outside – powerfully proclaiming  the gospel – but in their hearts they harbor every kind of unpleasantness towards one another. We are like the graves that Jesus talked about in Luke 11:44 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”

We need to make sure that everything is okay on the inside – in our hearts – while we still have the opportunity here on earth. God is not interested in our ministries. Nor is He concerned with outer appearance and all our ‘busy-ness’ on His behalf. Not, certainly, as much as He is in the condition of our hearts. That is why we need to hear the gospel that is founded on the apostolic foundation, which is the only gospel that can confront our carnal natures. It is the only gospel that can renew us from the inside. I thank God there is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ! We need to humble ourselves and allow God’s hand to deal with our hearts. Otherwise, we risk being rejected by God on the last Day, even if we were effective ministers or Christians here on earth. We need to hear the gospel where the Cross of Christ is preached in its fullness. There alone will we learn to walk with a pure and humble heart, gladly turning the other cheek; losing our lives and our rights; patiently giving our lives to one another and showing forth the example of love that Jesus left us to follow.