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October 31, 2018, 7:09 AM

Heart Purity

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“He purified their hearts” (Acts 15:9).

Acts 15 records the first church council. Yes, even the Early Church found councils necessary! The church was sharply divided and the issue hotly debated. The agenda: Can Gentiles become Christians without becoming Jews? Must they accept circumcision and the law of Moses? Peter’s speech carried the debate, and a decision was rendered. All persons, Jew and Gentile, are saved “through the grace of our Lord Jesus” and not by the works of the law (vv. 10-11). In the speech Peter made we find some great words concerning God and the heart. It is this we want to focus on now.

1. God knows the heart. Acts 15:8 declares, “God, who knows the heart.” The heart is the inner life, the realm of intention, emotion, and thought. What goes on in another’s heart is not always evident in what we see them do or hear them say. For this reason, we are forbidden to judge by outward appearances (John 7:24). Not only are the hearts of others hidden from us, we do not know our own hearts. “The heart,” said Jeremiah, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (17:9, KJV). The answer to the prophet’s question is, God! God knows the heart. Nothing is hidden from Him. He knows what we are in our private depths. And this faithful God lets us know! He shows us our hearts; He convicts us of sin. He makes known to us every un-Christian aim and attitude that threatens the destruction of life’s center. But he does more than expose sin…

2. God cleanses the heart. According to Acts 15:9, “He purified their hearts.” As man cannot know his heart, neither can he cleanse it. He is powerless before that strength and stain of innate depravity. But God can and will purify the hearts of His people. Both the Old Testament (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:25-27; Mal. 3:1-3) and the New Testament (Matt. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:23-24; 1 John 1:7-9 contain some powerful promises of heart cleansing. Only the power of God is sufficient to realize these promises. David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10, KJV). Only the creative power by which worlds were made can avail for the purifying of our deeply polluted inner lives. Some dramatic external things accompanied Peter’s experience at Pentecost and at Cornelius’s house. But what Peter points out as most significant is what happened internally – God purified their hearts! How?

3. God enters the heart. Acts 15:8 reveals, “Giving the Holy Spirit to them.” God’s Spirit can enter and posses our hearts. As fire can penetrate iron until the iron glows, while each element retains its own identity, so the divine Spirit can enter the human spirit. God remains himself, and we remain ourselves; He is not humanized, we are not deified. But we are changed! The Spirit of God within us is a flame that kindles against sin to destroy it. And He is a power to organize and orient the inner life around the will of God, producing a single-minded devotion to that will. “It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” (15:11). And saving grace includes this marvelous inward deliverance termed heart purity. It is “through… grace.” God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is “by faith.” The Holy Spirit is not a prize to be won, but a gift to be received. It is for all. Jew and Gentile – all followers of Christ without distinction may have this inward cleansing. It is for you!

Let’s pray: Almighty God, who knows my heart, cleanse me, change me, lead me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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