Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

We’ve decided to lay down our tools for building our own personal hill. We’ve decide there really is a hill to climb. But we are still left with the question of who actually gets to climb it. The God who “dwells” on this hill owns everything because He created it all. Surely, not just anyone can make their way into His presence. A similar question was asked in Psalm 15. Almost every bit of that qualification list had to do with the worshipers relationship with others. This list, however, seems to give the other side. This one is mostly about our relationship with God. The four qualifications: 1) Clean hands. 2) Pure heart. 3) Worship God only. 4) Honest; though, considering the list, this is probably more about not profaning God’s name (see Leviticus 19:12). Isaiah seems to have these same principles in mind in the context of Isaiah 59:3. God doesn’t listen to the worship offered by those with defiled hands. Paul makes this same point in 1 Timothy 2:8 when he points out men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger and quarreling. While this statement demonstrates prayer with uplifted hands was a norm for Christians in the New Testament, his main emphasis is those uplifted hands were supposed to be clean. Perhaps the most pointed allusion to this passage is often overlooked by commentators and search engines (maybe because the Greek words aren’t the same as those in the LXX for Psalm 24:4). In James 4:8, James says sinners need to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. But, contextually, this was part of drawing near to God so He will draw near to us. This is part of submitting ourselves to God and resisting the devil. It is part of humbling ourselves before God. And the pure heart actually means to be single-minded, which, of course, means our mind doesn’t go after other masters. We don’t become friends with the world or with false gods. But here is a fantastic principle we need to grasp. The person of Psalm 24:4 is not the sinlessly perfect person who has brought his/her own righteousness to lay out before God. After all, who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). Rather, this person is blessed with “righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:5). If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (James 4:10). In other words, even the clean hands and pure heart are not made that way by our own strength, but are made so by the strength and grace of God as we resist the devil and draw near to the Lord. Who can ascend the Holy Hill? The one who resists the devil and draws near to the Lord. The one who seeks the face of the God of Jacob. Why the God of Jacob? Because Jacob was the one who sought the Lord’s blessing and simply would not let go no matter how much it hurt and how much it cost him until he got it (see Genesis 32:22-32). In other words, we were wrong in the beginning. Anyone can climb this Holy Hill. That is, anyone who really wants God more than he or she wants anything else. What do you want?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

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Pick Christ Over Preconceptions

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

Peter had a preconception. It was actually a pretty good preconception. It was, after all, based on the Law. All kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles were unclean. He wasn’t supposed to “Rise, kill, and eat.” Not only that, Gentiles were unclean. He wasn’t supposed to go eat with them. However, in a threefold vision, Jesus explained the New Covenant had a different perspective on both of those things. The Law had been looking forward to a new kingdom, a new covenant, a new relationship with God based on the death of Jesus Christ, not based on the legal requirements of Moses’s Law. Jesus declared those foods clean. They were. Jesus declared Gentiles could be part of the covenant. They could. Now, Peter has a choice. He can either hang on to his preconceptions, arguing with Jesus (he had been known to do that before). Or he could accept Christ, follow what He said. Of course, Peter sets the right example for us. No matter how good and solidly based our preconceptions are, if they conflict with what Jesus reveals, then we need to choose Christ over our preconceptions. It’s just that simple. It may not be easy. Giving up our preconceptions rarely is. But it is just that simple.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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Give Yourself as Alms

Today’s reading is Luke 11.

Has this ever happened to you? Grab a coffee cup out of the dishwasher indicating “clean,” flip it over without really looking at it, get your coffee carafe, and start to pour. Then you notice. There is junk all inside the cup. What seemed pristine and sparkling on the outside is full of disgusting filth and grime on the inside. YUCK! Jesus said that was the Pharisees. However, Jesus doesn’t simply say, “Clean the inside.” He oddly says, “But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” The word translated “alms” is used nine other times in Luke/Acts. Every time it refers to merciful giving to those in need. In Acts 10, Cornelius’s alms were a memorial before God causing him to receive favor. In Acts 9, the term described Tabitha’s work among the widows of her congregation. In Acts 3, the lame man was asking for alms, but Peter and John healed him instead. With that in mind, Jesus doesn’t simply say, “Clean up your mind, purify your heart, and your behaviors will become clean.” He says, “Give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” The Pharisees were full of greed on the inside. Even if they gave alms externally, they did so with ulterior motives of greed and self-promotion. By contrast, Jesus says our internal things should be given away as alms. That is, if we give our very selves away in the service of others, then not only will we be clean, but everything will be clean for us. Jesus takes us a step beyond merely trying really hard to purify our thinking. We must direct our thinking, praying, mindset, attitude, outlook toward service of others. When we do, we and all we do will become clean.

Next week’s reading is Luke 12.

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Clean

Today’s reading is Luke 5.

I know this is an understatement, but Jesus is truly amazing. According to the Law, when an unclean person touched a clean person, the clean became unclean (see Leviticus 15:1-12). The opposite, however, was not true. When someone or something was sanctified, the cleanliness or holiness was not transferred by touch to other objects or people (see Haggai 2:10-13). Yet, Jesus comes in contact with an unclean leper and an amazing thing happens. Jesus is so holy and clean that, in fact, instead of becoming unclean Himself by the contact, the leper was cleansed. That is how powerful our Savior is. He is not made unclean by contact with us; we are made clean by contact with Him. Praise the Lord! Let’s stick with Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 5.

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He Healed Me!

Today’s reading is Mark 1.

When the leper left Jesus and started talking freely about his healing, what do you think he said? Do you think it sounded like this? “Hey friend, I used to be a leper like you, but I quit being a leper. You need to quit being a leper like me, and then maybe you can be a friend of Jesus like me.” Or do you think it may have been more like this: “I have to tell you about Jesus. I was a leper and He healed me. I would love for you to be healed too. Let’s go see Jesus.” Yeah, I think that second one is much more likely too. Perhaps that should give us some insight in how to make disciples.

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 2.

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