Clean hands, and a pure heart . . . Psalm 24:4
Our entrance into God’s presence must be preceded by cleansing. God’s holiness makes this cleansing protocol mandatory. Habakkuk says that God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil and mischief (see Hab. 1:13). David wrote, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Ps. 24:3–4). Who shall scale the mountain of the self-existent Jehovah? Only those with clean hands and pure hearts.
“Clean” means “innocent,” “spotless,” or “guiltless.” The phrase “clean hands” refers to actions, or deeds. Notice that the text does not say “cleaner than before” or “better than others” or “improved”; it says “clean.” God wants His children separated from all sin. The description “pure heart” refers to our motives and inner attitudes. Samuel Logan Brengle said, “Righteousness is conformity to the divine law, but holiness is conformity to the divine nature.” God calls for truth in our inward beings: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (Ps. 51:6). The requirements to ascend the hill of the Lord are “clean hands” and a “pure heart.” This is the cleansing protocol.
According to the Bible, only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from sin (see 1 John 1:7). As the old song says, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to forgive any sinner of any sin. Whatever sin God’s light reveals the blood can heal. But we must uncover our sins before the blood can cover our sin.
Judicially our sins are blotted out. But if we want fellowship with God, it requires fresh cleansings. I grew up on a tobacco farm in South Central Virginia, and harvesting the crop was a messy business. We plucked the tobacco leaves by hand as we walked between the rows in the hot and humid summer months. After spending ten or more hours in contact with the tobacco plants, our arms were covered with a thick tar as thick and black as asphalt. Cleaning up was a chore. It could take up to thirty minutes of intense scrubbing in the shower with lava soap, grainy pumice, and a scrub net to dislodge the tar from the hair on our arms. But, boy, did it feel good to emerge clean! And it sure is good to feel clean in God’s sight!
Practically speaking, how does a person get cleansed from sin? To get clean, we must come clean. The stain of sin is not removed through fleshly means like the sacraments or attempts at self-improvement. To rid ourselves of contamination, we must confess our sin. Sin must be judged. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). To confess means to agree with God and say the same thing He says about our sin. It is siding with God. Confession is an admission of wrongdoing or wrong being. To confess is to agree with God’s assessment of our guiltiness. It is like taking the witness stand against our own hearts in agreement with God’s verdict. Cleansing happens as we bring our darkness to the light. No hiding. No self-justification. No excuses. Just brutal honesty before the Lord.
Many of us must reconsider the way we confess sin. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is yielding to temptation that constitutes a transgression. We should never confess our inclinations or temptations as sin. Temptation is simply the enticement to satisfy a legitimate desire in an illegitimate way. Adam and Eve were tempted, but they did not sin until they disobeyed. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, yet He committed no sin. It is not a sin to be tempted, but yielding to temptation is. Some of us need to get a new perspective on the concept of allurement to evil. Neither the first couple nor Christ Himself had polluted natures. Both were innocent as regards to evil. Yet to all of them there came a solicitation to satisfy their God-given desires in God-forbidden ways. Adam and Eve capitulated by disobeying God’s command, but Christ, tempted in all points like us, never sinned. We must resist temptation, and we should not condemn ourselves for being tempted. Confession is only necessary when we have yielded to enticement.
We should never let a condemning conscience hinder us from praying. If we have messed up, then we should ’fess up! Once we have confessed, we must bank on the power of Christ’s blood. We should never confess the same sin twice. If we do, then we did not believe that God forgave us the first time! That is unbelief. We should never insult God by insinuating that His Word is untrue. God plainly said that when we confess our sin, He forgives us. If we take responsibility for our wrong actions, reactions, and inaction and confess our wrongness before God, the blood of Christ will immediately cleanse us and restore us to fellowship with the Lord.
We should thank God for His forgiveness at once after we have confessed our sin, launching into the thanksgiving and praise protocols. We can do this regardless of how we feel. We don’t have to feel forgiven to be forgiven. A sense of gratitude is not required to express gratitude. We should thank God when we feel like it; and when we don’t feel like it, we should thank Him anyway.
Remember that Jesus
- bore our sin that we might have His righteousness;
- took our penalty that we might have His pardon;
- took our guilt that we might have His grace;
- took our shame that we might have His smile;
- took our punishment that we might have His peace;
- and took our death that we might have His life.
There is a scriptural path for quick recovery from sin: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Concealing sins equals defeat. This verse contains three vital principles: to confess sin is to admit it; to forsake sin means to quit it; then God’s mercy empowers us to forget it. The Bible way to cleansing and restoration is to admit it, quit it, forget it.
Justification is a legal act made by God that declares us righteous in His sight. It is based on Christ’s atoning work on the cross. But the hard work of sanctification requires a cooperative effort. If we want to live holy lives, we must stop looking for an arbitrary zap from heaven. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus (see Luke 9:23). Peter admonishes us, “Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet. 3:14). Our sin problem finds its remedy in Christ’s provision. As we own up to our wrongs, grace declares us right in God’s sight.
We humans are sinners by nature, by practice, and by choice. Yet God’s grace can cleanse the worst of sins. Aren’t you glad for the cleansing power of Christ’s blood?
- To enter God’s holy presence, we must have “clean hands” and a “pure heart.”
- Temptation is not a sin, but yielding to it is.
- The blood of Jesus is powerful. It cleanses us from all sin: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
- Covering sin paralyzes our spiritual life. Confessing and forsaking sin open up the fountain of blessing.
- Stop asking God to help you do better next time if you need to ask forgiveness for the last time you sinned. Admit any unconfessed sin. Be judgment-day honest—as honest as you will be when you stand before the Lord on judgment day.
- After confession, begin thanking God for His mercy and forgiveness. Admit it. Quit it. Forget it.
- Bask in God’s mercy. Praise the Lord for His powerful, cleansing blood.
- Never forget that “clean hands” and a “pure heart” are God’s requirements for entering His presence.
Taken from “Approaching God‘s Throne: Biblical Protocols for Prayer”. CLICK HERE to order your copy TODAY!