“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”Matthew 5:8
Purity sounds like such a insult in today’s vernacular. It conjures up images of weakness, insecurity, or naivete. The Greek word katheros used in this sense means to be “clean or free of stains or corruption.” That seems innocent enough on the surface, but what does it take to make something pure that has impurities within it.
Let’s take a rock, but not just any rock. This rock has been underground for centuries. It has been buried under dirt, shaped by pressure and fire, molded by the shifting tectonic plates until it is metallic, with a dull sheen. Over time water erodes the stones by way of a spring that feeds into a stream or creek and pieces of these metallic stones chip away and wash downstream. Along the way, it picks up pieces of grime, dirt, other metals and types of stone. Eventually it is deposited in a stream bed along the northwestern coast of what is now known as Coloma, California.
In 1848, a man by the name of James W. Marshall, a lumber mill foreman, comes along and discovers this shiny piece of metallic rock and brings it to his boss, John Sutter. They put the rock through a series of rudimentary tests to confirm that it was indeed gold. Sutter is excited about the find, but wants to keep the discovery to himself, fearing that a rush of prospectors in the newly won California territory would upset his apple cart dreams of an agricultural empire known as New Helvetia, in what is now downtown Sacramento.
But the rumors spread and a newspaper publisher named Samuel Brannan decided to get the jump on a Gold Rush and set up a store selling prospecting supplies. After the store was set up, he then announced the discovery through the streets of San Francisco. Word reached the New York Herald in August that year and was confirmed by President James Polk. And then the race was on as prospectors from far and wide were descending upon the area hoping to make their fortunes.
But gold itself has no intrinsic value. It’s nothing more than a rock. But humanity places value on gold due to what it can become. It can be shaped into fine jewelry and used to valuate currency. Its value as a commodity is dictated by the scarcity of its supply weighed against the demand for its possession. And the more pure the gold is, the more valuable it is.
In order for gold to reach its highest purity, it must go through a refining process. The stones are placed under intense heat in a crucible to the point that the metallic stones melt. Once melted, the impurities and dirt and other metals rise to the top and are skimmed off and thrown away as worthless. The process is done over and over again until all of the impurities are removed from the gold and it is deemed worthy of the market price.
The same process is true of the believer. We must go through a “refining fire” to have the impurities of our heart stripped away. The blood of Christ cleanses us of those impurities, but we still have to go through a growth period where we learn how to deal with this new heart condition that we now have. A heart that is made more tender to pains of the world around us. A heart that breaks for things that break the heart of God. A heart that is sensitive to the needs of our neighbors. A heart that mourns our own sin in light of the righteousness of our Heavenly Father. Paul describes this refining like this:
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”1 Corinthians 3:11-15
When we turn our hearts towards our Abba, He will test us in the crucible of this life. But this testing is not to tear us down, but rather to purify our hearts and to remove the impurities and get rid of the things that stand in the way of the building of the kingdom in our hearts. His goal is to make you stronger in your faith and your dependence upon Him. It is often a painful process, but it’s always a glorious and worthy process. Because in the end, our Father who earnestly demands the purest of hearts will see to it that we are purified to the highest quality.
In so doing, He declares our value. Not the world. Not your friends. Not your family. They do not do the work of refining that produces the purity in you. They do not skim off the impurities that weigh you down as much as His Spirit does. He’s the Master Jeweler. He’s the one who knows His craft as the Creator. He’s the one who knows what and who you are intended to be. And He will shape you and mold you until you are a perfect jewel, fit for the value He holds and the price He paid to make you His.