Developing a Pure Heart

Spending Time With God (Part 2)

How to Develop a Pure Heart Through Time Spent With God
Spending Time With God by Danny Hodges. Image: © Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg

Continue with Part 2 of the booklet Spending Time With God by Pastor Danny Hodges of Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg in Florida.

What is needed for successful times with God?

A Pure Heart

A pure heart is a cleansed heart. As a Christian, I have been forgiven by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His blood has cleansed me of all my sins. But a pure heart also means a single-minded heart.

The best example I've heard to illustrate this point is a particular brand of soap. I loved it as a kid. It's the soap that floats—IVORY SOAP. They say it's "99-44/100% Pure®." In other words, it has no added ingredients to make you smell better or sweat less. It's just plain soap. Now, you can use Irish Spring to make you smell better. You can use Dial to keep your sweat in check. But Ivory is just pure soap with no additives. The additional ingredients of others soaps aren't necessarily bad, but they do add to the soap.

Like Ivory Soap, a pure heart is one without added ingredients. It's a single-minded heart, a single-minded life. It means your number one ambition in life is the same as that of the Apostle Paul, who said in Philippians 3:8, "...I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (NIV) And by the way, that's the definition of eternal life.

Jesus said in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (NIV)

Eternal life is not something you have to wait for until you get to heaven. You can experience it now. It's knowing the living God, and the Savior, Jesus, whom He has sent.

As someone has wisely observed, knowing God and fellowshipping with Him on a personal basis is the privilege of all and the unceasing experience of but a few.

We have the privilege of getting to know God. He already knows us—backwards, forwards, and inside out. Now we have the privilege of knowing Him. But we must make it our life's number one ambition.

A Circumcised Heart

A pure heart has one aim in life—to know God. So what is a circumcised heart? Circumcision means "a cutting away." A circumcised heart is a heart that is willing to cut away even the good but unnecessary things that crowd out God.

Ivory Soap has no additives, but soaps like Irish Spring do. Now, as I've mentioned, there's nothing wrong with the added ingredients in Irish Spring. But if you're looking for pure soap, Irish Spring won't satisfy. The point is some things that are not evil in and of themselves may have an evil influence if they crowd God out of our lives.

Scuba diving is not evil. If it is, I'm in real trouble, because I love to dive. Playing basketball is not evil. Enjoying sports in general isn't morally wrong. Going to amusement parks is not necessarily evil, and having fun won't damage us spiritually.

But these "good" things (and other normal activities in life) will crowd God out of our lives if we let them.

We must make time with the Lord our number one priority. There are lots of choices in life, and those choices will determine the priorities in our lives. So, we must be careful or the "busyness" and simple pleasures of life may crowd out our time with the Lord.

Here are two examples of this potential dilemma:

The Demands of Ministry

This is one of the first things I think of as a pastor. I get paid to be a full-time minister, to study, pray, teach, and "shepherd the flock." Ministry is very demanding.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon, and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
(Mark 1:35-37, NIV)

People were always looking for Jesus. Many times He would take His disciples and try to get away to a lonely place; yet, the people would find Him, and they would crowd Him. Why? Because He ministered to them. He met their needs. He helped them. As a result, everyone wanted His time. But in spite of the demands on His time, Jesus made it a priority to get away and spend time with the Father.

It is my conviction and my experience that the most important meeting of the church is not on Sunday morning. The Sunday church service is a vital gathering, but I don't believe it's the most important encounter we can have as Christians. The most essential meeting is our own personal time with the Lord.

In Luke 5, Jesus healed a man of leprosy and then instructed him not to tell anyone. And of course, like so many others Jesus touched, he went out and started telling people. It says in verse 15, "Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses." (NIV) It became even more difficult for Jesus to find a lonely, solitary place. The very next verse says, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
(Luke 5:16, NIV)

In his book, Victorious Christian Living, Pastor Alan Redpath stresses the necessity of being alone with God:

If a man would walk with God, if a man would live a holy life, if a man would assume authority and hold it down, because God holds him down, he has to know what it is to pay the price of a closed door - sometimes even his family are on the other side-for no Christian leader is more effective in his leadership than when he is alone with God, on his knees... For the greatest transactions of a man's experience are made, not in a church, but behind closed doors.

The late Dr. Andrew A. Bonar, noted Scottish author, reiterates this truth:

In order to grow in grace we must be much alone. It is not in society that the soul grows most vigorously. In one single, quiet hour of prayer it will often make more progress than in days of company with others. It is in the desert that the dew falls freshest and the air is purest.

How true that is. We must make time for God. Ministry is a good thing. Each of us ought to be involved in serving the Lord. We're all called to be His ministers. But sometimes even ministry can get in the way of the most important thing—God Himself.

A tremendous practical example of this is found in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus and His disciples were in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha was busily making preparations to serve the Lord and the other guests. You might say she was very involved in ministry, meeting the needs of the Lord and His church, especially the leadership in the church. But Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet listening to Him speak.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

Jesus answered, "Martha, Martha ... you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Martha is the picture of a person who is involved. She's busy. She's doing a lot of stuff, but she doesn't reflect a life filled to overflowing with the peace of God and the life of God. Unlike Mary, she's anxiously and busily doing things for God. She's not really taking the time to sit and listen, to fellowship and get to know the Lord.

The "Things" of Life

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things in life that aren't evil in themselves, but they can potentially get in the way of our fellowship with God. I love scuba diving, but I have to be careful. That's an important thing in my life. It's about the only recreation I get. Yet, I have to make sure that it doesn't consume too much of my time.

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15), Jesus said some people hear the Word and receive it with great joy. At first, they're excited and growing, but after a while "life's worries, riches and pleasures" come in and choke out the Word, making it unfruitful (Luke 8:14).

Life's worries—they are many! Even today as I'm working on this booklet, I've just left my truck with a mechanic for a major repair—a blown head gasket. It was only last week that I picked it up after having the crankshaft seal repaired. At the same time, the rack and pinion unit had to be replaced on our family van! Believe me; I know what it is to be challenged by the worries of everyday living. To beat it all, it's now one week before Christmas, and I'll have to spend several hundred dollars on auto repairs. If it were not for the Lord and my fellowship with Him during this time, I would in no way have the Christmas spirit.

I once read that it takes 60 trillion droplets of fog to cover seven city blocks. Those 60 trillion droplets or seven city blocks worth of fog can close down airports and tie up cities. Yet, if you condensed those 60 trillion fog droplets you would end up with only half a glass of water! That's a good picture of what worry is like. You begin with something little, only half a glass of water. But you start thinking about it, wrestling with it, wondering how it's going to work out and how you're going to handle it. Pretty soon, you can't see straight, and your airport is shut down. You're not hearing from the Lord, and you're not soaring with Him like you once did, because you're all fogged in. Spending time with God is the one thing that will clear the fog.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25, "… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" He also said in Matthew 4:4, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "

There will always be things to worry about. But as we make time for the Lord and His Word, worry is replaced by faith, peace, and the assurance that God knows our needs even before we ask.

Then there are riches. Many people spend all of their time working to make more money to buy more things, and then suddenly life comes to an end. Fortunately, some realize that all the work and all the things are not what real life is all about. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

"Riches," however, doesn't just mean money. One could be rich in good looks, popularity, or intelligence. These things could involve tremendous amounts of time—time spent attending social events or parties, time studying (not the Bible, but school textbooks), or time surfing the Internet. "Riches" in many areas of life can tend to pull us away from the most important thing in life—our relationship with God.

Finally, there are pleasures. Some of life's pleasures could be included in the "riches" I've just mentioned. But the word "pleasures" that Jesus used here in Luke 8:14 is the Greek word hedone. From it we get our English term hedonism. It has to do with sensual delight and lust. It means desiring things that God forbids—unholy things. The concept includes sexual immorality. God created sexual pleasure for man's enjoyment, but when man seeks it apart from the bonds of marriage, it becomes lust and will lead him away from any real relationship with God.

Spending time with God involves discipline. It is not something we will always feel like doing. If a person lives life just for pleasure, he will never have a vibrant relationship with the Lord. It was a sacrifice for Jesus to rise early and spend time with His heavenly Father. His body didn't welcome losing sleep, but His spirit soared after the sacrifice was made. It will be the same with us. We must make whatever sacrifice is necessary to feed our souls.

Time

We won't find time to spend with God, we have to make time. Have you ever noticed how we can always find time to do the things we really want to do—the things that are important to us? We find time to read the newspaper. We find time to watch television. We find time to exercise or play sports. We find time to eat and sleep and do countless other things. But, if our goal is to know God, we must make time to spend with Him. If it's not our top priority, it won't happen. Set aside a specific time each day to spend with the Lord. Make it part of your daily routine. If necessary, write it in your calendar or daily planner. However you do it, make certain you "JUST DO IT!"

Perseverance

We also need to stick with it. Dieting one day a week won't help us lose weight. Working out occasionally won't give us strong, firm muscles. Good results require time and effort. We have to persevere, and the motivation for that perseverance has to be our love for God, not our "performance" in Christian life or ministry.

Oswald Chambers reveals why the motivation for our steadfastness in spending time with God is so vital.

From My Utmost for His Highest, February 23:

The mainspring of Paul's service is not love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and brokenhearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is to love God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men.

Love is the key motivation for continuing in our regular time alone with God. Zondervan's Student Bible provides an excellent illustration of this point:

Brad Lauwers was in the locker room, showering after a grueling football workout, when he first noticed the lump. He bent down and fingered his ankle gently, cupping his hand around the swelling. He felt no pain or stiffness. Perhaps it's just some sort of fluid, he thought. It will disappear in a few days.

 

But the swelling didn't disappear, and a month later Brad lay in a hospital bed awaiting amputation of his left leg. The lump turned out to be a malignant tumor that was sending runners out in several directions in Brad's foot. The next day, a surgeon removed Brad's leg just inches below the knee.

Of all the adjustments to his new life - including one-legged jokes, the awkward reactions of friends, and learning to walk on an artificial leg - Brad most feared the loss of athletics, his main love in life. He had been a standout on his high school basketball and football teams in Alaska, a sports-crazy state. His doctor, also an amputee (from a war injury), tried to be encouraging: "Remember, Brad, there's nothing you cannot do."

Four months later, Brad visited UCLA for a prosthetic leg fitting. Even before fully learning to walk on his artificial leg, he sought out a basketball backboard and began tossing up reverse layups. The designers had warned him against subjecting the leg to the jarring stops and turns of basketball and had vetoed football outright, suggesting he take up swimming or water-skiing instead. But Brad never gave up his dream of returning to his two favorite sports.

As he trained, his artificial limb rubbed his leg stump raw and covered it with blisters. Undaunted, he ran until the blisters hardened into calluses. Then he began working on jumps and pivots.

Incredibly, in August, less than one year after the amputation, Brad played his first game as a one-legged quarterback for Dimond High School. Some thought his appearance was a mere sentimental gesture. They were wrong: Brad ended the year leading the state in passing! He completed 58 percent of his passes and racked up 662 yards in seven games as a part-time quarterback on the state championship squad. After football season, he started on Dimond's basketball team. From there, he went on to major in physical education at Washington State University.

When asked about his exploits, Brad shrugs and mentions two factors in his extraordinary achievement: gritty determination and long hours of often painful training.

So, understand this—to be successful, you must persevere. Paul understood this when he wrote 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, "… train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

<Back to Part 1 - Go to Part 3>