The one thing that other people cannot see is the one thing that betrays us and will cause other people to label us a failure! I am speaking of our hearts, the "throne" of our lives while in these corrupt bodies of flesh and blood!
Here are some things that Jesus has to say about our hearts (I'll let you look up the Scriptures but the passages below are from the NKJV)...
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things."
"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
"For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
"These are the things which defile a man ..."
Hopefully you begin to get the picture ... while only God can look upon our hearts, we are not only able but responsible to pay attention to the symptoms which indicate that impurities exist at dangerous levels in our hearts - and then take correct action to remedy the problem!
The best way to determine the conditions of our hearts is to pay attention to both the words and thoughts that emanate therefrom!
- - According to a ChristiaNet survey, 50 percent of Christian men are addicted to pornography. And it’s not just a “guy-thing;” 20 percent of Christian women are addicted to pornography, and 60 percent of Christian women admitted to significantly struggling with lust.
I was speaking with a close friend of mine this week about this and shared with him that I recall having had an immoral dream one time and woke up repenting and asking forgiveness for the contents of the dream ... and then I asked God, "where did that come from?"
Many times we think that the condition of our hearts are just fine but the words we speak and the thoughts we have betray the fact that our hearts may be in a state of impurity that needs to be dealt with!
Often, because of the words we speak, others may sense or fully realize that we are in spiritual trouble and draw back from following our leadership due to what is obvious to them - - our hearts have some area of uncleanness in them and our leadership can't be trusted right now!
Yet, when someone tries to speak to us about what they sense or see, we are blind to the problem and deny what they are saying! We may resent their questioning our moral integrity and spiritual condition because after all, our hearts are just fine - especially if we are in the position of ministry leadership! Sadly, being in leadership can compound our resistance to remedy because to admit to a problem could jeopardize our position in the church!
I once had a close friend who lost his position as Pastor of a congregation because of this very thing. When I spoke to him about the matter of his words and thoughts, even his dreams while he slept (which he had shared with me) I asked him if he saw that his heart was in a state of impurity.
While his response was not in anger, he reacted in denial all the same. He told me that he was certain that his heart was fine and that there were no problems with the condition of his heart. He took great exception that some on his board of directors had said that, because of certain inappropriate things he had said to a female church member, he was in a state of moral failure.
Because he was in denial, the only thing I could say to him was to challenge him to ask God to show him just where did these thoughts and words come from, what was their source? I don't know if he ever did because I haven't heard from him since that incident.
Here is one more thing that God tells us about our hearts...
"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, and according to the fruit of his doings."
God takes the condition of our hearts very seriously. If we insist that our hearts are clean and we refuse to examine our heart's condition by the words we speak and the thoughts we have then we keep ourselves blind to a very hazardous condition which can both be the undoing of ourselves and others as well!
If we refuse to deal with symptomatic impurities in our hearts then God will! God knows that if our hearts are not clean, we are not fit for service or duty because the devil has great advantage against us in such a condition!
If our hearts are unclean and impure to the point of producing symptoms, then not only are we prime targets for satanically orchestrated defeat, those who follow us also become prime targets for the same fate!
Why is this the case?
Because what we (leaders) allow in our own hearts and lives will be seen as spiritually acceptable by those who follow us which makes it all the more difficult for them to see the very peril this places their lives in!
Can God allow that? Will God allow that? Not in the lives of those who are truly His children!
Why? Because our minds are to be transformed - and our lives are to be conformed into the spiritual likeness of Jesus as a witness for the positive life changing love of God!
Sadly too, sometimes we know we have specific impurities in our hearts but don't know who we can trust to help us. The more important our role of leadership the more difficulty we have in confiding in someone else for spiritual assistance - yet if we don't deal with those impurities they may well become our downfall!
God is faithful! He is faithful to provide a way of cleansing and purifying our hearts if we will but turn to Him in total honesty and lay ourselves open to Him!
Remember that Jesus declared that the Church "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Removing impurities requires that we use the keys that are available to us from the Lord’s key ring, but we must use the correct keys or our efforts will fail, impurities will remain and we shall remain in bondage to the bitter sins produced by them!
It is also absolutely imperative to understand that in order to be loosed from impurities they must be bound – as in gathering and binding them up (like a bale of straw) in order to cast them out! Beloved, just saying “(So and so impurity) I bind you in the name of Jesus and cast you out …” will fall pitifully short of what needs to be done! Binding impurities is a work that needs to be done because while it is a spiritual battle it is against our own flesh and flesh needs to be crucified – not cast out!
Key One - - God’s Word
“If you continue in My Word then you shall be My disciples indeed and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free!”
The very first key to removing impurities from our lives is to not only turn to God’s Word – but to CONTINUE in all that Christ teaches, instructs AND COMMANDS! (Remember that the Word of God IS Christ – see: John 1:14)
To continue – actually the word used in the KJV is more correctly translated “abide” or to make your dwelling place – not just visit on Sundays or when you hear a motivating message on radio or T.V. – but to make the Word of Christ your mainstay, the FOUNDATION FOR YOUR LIFE! The standard by which all things are measured, the answer to all your questions, the solution to all your issues, the key that unlocks the shackles which bind you captive!
God’s Word is pertinent! The Bible is relevant to our struggles with purity not only because it bears witness to the long struggle over and in man to secure physical, mental, and moral cleanliness - - it also shows that the various areas and forms of purity have relation to each other and how to deal with them.
What does this mean? It means that if - for example - you are a faithful steward in your finances but are committing adultery the moral impurity be tremendously disruptive to the blessings you should receive from your financial faithfulness!
I can tell you of more than one Pastor who had sexual impurities that controlled their conduct and behavior and their financial blessings were disrupted because the membership of the congregations began to shrink resulting in of course shrinking tithes and offerings leaving the assembly not being able to meet its budget, meaning that the Pastor’s finances were disrupted … you should be able to see the obvious results.
In more than one instance, the affected congregations disbanded and a local body of believers was murdered! Not by the devil, but because the Pastor’s immorality caused the demise of the financial ability for the congregation to exist!
Although extreme, this in an example of how the various areas of purity are connected and affect the inter-related areas of our lives and why we must be willing to admit to ourselves and to God any area of impurity in our lives!
When struggling with areas of impurity, we must turn to God’s Word – prayerfully seeking both revelation and cleansing of not only problems we are experiencing but the causes of those problems!
Problems are quite often symptoms of impurities in our hearts and minds! Many times it is only by God’s Word that impurities are revealed as the source of problems we are having!
- - For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
Continuing/abiding in God’s Word means something else also … it means that we should not only turn to God’s Word first but ONLY!
To explain: Abiding IN God’s Word means that we don’t step outside the “house” to seek “outside” help – in other words, we don’t turn to the ways of the world to deal with the spiritual issue of purity. God has not only given us His Word, but He has risen up many Godly men and women who He equipped to help you find the Godly answers you need! Turning to such things as hypnosis, positive thinking, positive imaging, listening to tapes while you sleep and the like are not Biblical and to turn to these things is to leave the abiding place prescribed by Jesus our Lord!
Sadly, there are many “celebrity” ministers who prescribe exactly what I just warned against and because they are celebrities with huge ministries and great followings these things are used as the basis for acceptance rather than what God’s Word says!
So then, not only the issues of impurity but the resources of remedy must all be examined through Scripture in order to be assured of receiving what only will truly help! Why would a person substitute one form of impurity for another?
- - “Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess. 5:21-22 NKJV
Quite often, the “self-help” techniques use “principles” found in the Bible but do not direct the “client” to turn to The One Who holds the keys to your freedom! And so if the techniques prove “successful”, you become dependent upon their power for “success” but so subtly yet quite literally separate yourself from dependence upon our Heavenly Father because you have replaced Him with something else!
This then leaves you wide open prey for satan’s seductions into further darkness and greater impurities than you dealt with before! Why? Well think about it, what is it called again? SELF-help! And SELF is the problem in the first place! All impurity is, at the root level, "selfflesh" (not a typo) desire for satisfaction!
Nothing should replace God’s Word as the first key to freedom from issues of impurity in your life.
Key Two – Prayer
It is at this point that many of us get into difficulty in the cleansing process - - we jump to Key #2 (Prayer) before utilizing (and often we totally neglect) Key #1 (God’s Word) and then nothing much happens - - except that our struggles continue or even worsen!
Many folks mistakenly think that we should pray about our issues before we go to God’s Word, thinking that it is by prayer that we will come to understand what we are struggling with and then we should go to God’s Word to find the answers. This is really just backwards! We have to understand that God’s Word is THE FOUNDATION for everything in our lives, including prayer!
Prayer should be our response to what God tells us and God always tells us according to what He has set forth in His Word!
Those of you who have spent time in God’s Word can attest to what I am about to say. When confronted with an issue that we must deal with, IF we have already made God’s Word our dwelling place then often times the Holy Spirit will speak through our spirits into our minds what of God’s Word applies to the issue confronting or challenging us. So even when we pray something like, “Lord, what do I do?” and He answers with some portion of God’s Word that we have taken in, His first directive is to hear His Word by way of the fact that this is what The Holy Spirit speaks to us!
In fact, in times of real crisis, we may not have learned what God’s Word says and the Holy Spirit will still speak what God’s Word says! For example:
I was newly born again, not even two weeks old in Christ when at my place of employment a “Holiness” church person came up to me and wagging his finger in my face told me that if I wasn’t careful I would mess things up and get back into sin and still split hell wide open!
Being tormented all day I went home after work and prayed to Jesus “Lord if I can lose this thing so easily by messing up then I call it quits right now because I know for a fact that I will mess things up!” Immediately the Spirit spoke to me what I had not yet read in the Bible (I wasn’t a Christian long enough to have read this much yet) “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” (Heb. 13:5)
This motivated me to search the Scriptures to see if this was so and I talked to my Pastor who led me to the book of Hebrews where I found what the Spirit had spoken to me!
My point is this: It is not error to prayerfully appeal to God for an answer, but the answer He will give is always based in His Word! What is in error is to only pray without going to God’s Word for the needed remedy!
Again, in the matter of cleansing (and most other matters) prayer is our response to what God tells us in His Word! If we have a problem with lust of the eyes, we need to know what God says in order that we may pray in agreement with God’s Word and Will!
The first area of prayer that we need to deal with is confession and repentance!
Many people make the mistake of quoting 1 John 1:9 to the neglect of the balance of Scripture. In doing this they are left with the issue unresolved and imbalanced, the struggle goes on and they continue in defeat!
Yes, “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins …” and sadly this is where most saints leave it: “I have confessed and so I am forgiven!”
The problem is that forgiven is not the same as freed! You can be forgiven countless times, but once you are freed, you very likely won’t need forgiveness for that problem again - - - - because you have been set free from it! When you are free from a thing, that thing no longer controls your life!
KEY THREE - REPENTANCE
This brings us to the repentance part of praying. The rest of 1 John 1:9 says “… and cleanses us from all unrighteousness!”
What does God do that brings about cleansing? Go to Hebrews 12 and you will find it: Chastening or scouring out that which is impure! God will chasten us to bring us to the point that we no longer want “it” to be a part of our life! It is at that point that we repent; we change our minds about tolerating the impurity, about participating in the impurity, about making room for the impurity being dealt with!
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11
Prayer for cleansing must include repentance. In prayer, repentance is a declaration of changing your mind, thought, purpose and views about a thing. Repentance is to have another mind about a matter. Before repentance is a manifestation, declaring repentance to God in prayer establishes the reality to be manifested. In other words, before a changed reality can take place, the words of your lips must establish your will to be in agreement with God for this change to take place!
Notice also that repentance is required for “clearing yourselves” to take place! Before a vehement, zealous desire for righteousness that replaces the impurity can develop within your heart, repentance must take place! Prayerful repentance is declaring a willful decision to God that your choice is to cease and desist moving in a sinful direction (or the doing of thing(s) sinful) and to go in God’s direction and do God’s thing(s) and asking His help to accomplish it! Just as the Disciples said, “Lord we believe, help our unbelief!”
Repentance comes from a godly sorrow. When you are finally sick of the impurity, you will repent. Until then, you won’t. It is just that simple. Now then, what will make you “sick” of any given impurity? When you see the reality of what it does to or against God - Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Remember when our moms used to tell us, “God is watching what you do even when I can’t see what you are doing”? There is so much more truth to that than we know!
See Isaiah 43:24. When you realize what your sin forces upon God you will want to repent!
Repentance is the result of two things: 1) God’s conviction process that brings us to the point of 2) being sick and tired of some iniquity (force of sin) dominating our life!
Instead of “sick and tired”, perhaps I should have said, being appalled and horrified at how we have given some aspect of authority over our lives which belongs only to Jesus Christ our Lord to other some power!
This really hit home with me in 2002. For years I had wanted not only to quit smoking but to be free of tobacco altogether. I had quit several times before only to return to that addiction time and time again and each time I could explain the circumstances of my resuming smoking cigarettes but I could not explain why I was willing to do so! Finally – in 2002 – upon hearing a sermon by a TV preacher one day, I realized that I had given to those cigarettes a realm of authority that in truth belonged only to Jesus Christ! For years I had prayed and prayed and prayed about wanting to quit smoking.
But it was only when I heard God’s Word in a sermon about being obedient to God’s directives to rid my life of all enemies to His authority was I able to pray in response to His Word and humble myself to surrender my rights and change my thinking on the matter.
It happened so rapidly that an onlooker would likely miss the process that took place in the span of some 15 minutes that day. First of all; the keys to the kingdom manifested in proper sequence. I heard God’s Word THEN I prayed in response to what God’s Word said.
Then I went through a conviction process (or perhaps I should say that the conviction process was completed) whereby God brought me to the place that I was literally horrified at what I had been doing - - stealing from Him the authority over my life that belonged only to Him and giving that portion of authority over my life to some other power – tobacco!
At the point that I was appalled at what I was doing, my choice was simple and easy, I prayerfully returned that authority to Christ Jesus and stated that if I ever wanted a cigarette again I would ask Him first! From the moment I repented and transferred that realm of authority back to Lord Jesus until this moment nearly 10 years later I have been free from cigarettes and all tobacco! I had not one craving or “nicotine fit” nor have I so much as reached for my shirt pocket to grab a smoke! Not only that, but in my mind as well as in my body it was as if I had never even been a smoker – ever! In other words, I not only was enabled to quit, I was set free!
But this would never have happened if I had not repented! Repentance is crucial in purifying our hearts!
When we are made clean, we are then free of what once made us captive to “that” sin! To be truly clean means to be absent any contaminants and if the contaminants are gone there is nothing left to induce us to sin in that given area!
- - For example: If a man’s heart is cleansed from sexual lust he will have control of his eyes! He will speak entirely differently about sexual conduct and he will also speak entirely differently about women altogether! Discretion will be in control of his thoughts and words so that the fruit of his lips and the fruit of his conduct are pure, showing forth a clean heart and a clean conscience!
Now while there may be more to deal with in any given situation of impurities in the heart, if a saint will apply these three “keys of the kingdom” he or she will find that their path to moral/spiritual purity and freedom are become unlocked and opened up to them! What more may be needed in any given case will be revealed by the Holy Spirit as you are faithful to apply these three basic “kingdom keys”.
Read more articles by Dr. Timothy Hoflund or search for articles on the same topic or others.