"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." - Philippians 4:8, ESV
I've been trying to think this week about what is pure, so last night I made a cup of "Pure Camomile" tea to relax and inspire me... On the package, it says it uses "'only 100% pure camomile blossoms," and since Twinings has been a faithful companion of mine for many years, I believed it. I trust that the tea I brew from this bag will be full of one thing - camomile - with no additives or artificial flavoring. And it got me thinking...
Scientifically speaking, there are chemical compounds that are pure, such as salt, water, and sugar. But these compounds can be broken down even further to their purest state. All the chemical elements we know of are pure, because they are in their most basic form - tin, sulfur, oxygen, and gold...
In the Old Testament, a word that is most frequently paired with the word "pure" is "gold," and this phrase - "pure gold" - is most often used to describe the temple of God, and more particularly, the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God rested. Pure gold became a way for people to understand the character of God himself - completely pure and glorious. And in realizing that purity, people were hesitant and even fearful to stand in his presence. By definition, a pure thing is completely free of anything impure... and we, who are all born into sin and are by nature objects of wrath, are grossly impure. Because of this, we cannot come into contact with the purity, perfection, and righteousness of God. Thus, eternal separation.
But God loves us and longs for reconciliation. That is why he sent Jesus as a sacrifice to atone for our sin. "...though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow..." (Isaiah 1:18) And all we have to do to receive it is admit our need for it: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [impurities]" (1 John 1:9).
Jesus calls us blessed if we are pure in heart, and promises that we will see God (Matthew 5:8), and it's no wonder, because the only way any of us become pure in heart is by trusting in Him.
And we are called to keep our hearts pure by living according to the Word of God (Psalm 119:9) and not lifting our souls to any other god (Psalm 24:4) - to be completely and totally given to Him.
Purification is a process of cleaning and refining, removing what isn't true and what doesn't belong. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, once we have been rescued out of the bondage of sin. He spends the rest of our life on earth purifying us... making us more and more truly who we were created to be... burning and chiseling and threshing and sifting out every grain of us that isn't true to the image of God - our original identity, redeemed in Christ Jesus.
I think John the Baptist understood the necessity of this process, when he declared: "He must increase, but I must decrease." Sometimes it is painful and difficult to decrease. But as I surrender more and more of my old, wretched, sinful self to God, he is able to refine me and cleanse me, until he becomes the Element that makes up my pure identity. Oh Lord, please get rid of everything in me that is not of you, and replace it with evermore of you.
Whatever is pure... think about these things.