(Article for publication week of 3-21-2012 AD)
“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” (Psalm 24:3-4a). In this Psalm the question is asked, “who is going to heaven?” The answer we are given is, “only those with a perfect record and a pure heart.” God will not allow anyone into heaven tainted by sin. In order to dwell in the presence of God you must be as righteous as God! Now you let that sink in neighbour. Only those with clean hands, and pure hearts will be allowed into God’s heaven.
It will not do you any good to tell God that your hands are not as dirty as your neighbor’s. It will not do you any good to claim that you have tried your best. You must have clean hands, that is a perfect record of righteousness by God’s standards. And you must have a pure heart, that is a holy nature. God requires perfection! That is His standard, and that is the only one that counts.
Now, the fact is that none of us can by our own doings attain to the standard that God requires. We all have a bad record and a bad heart. We have a bad record first of all because we were born into a fallen family, that is the family of Adam. By Adam’s disobedience all of us are constituted as sinners (Romans 5:19). The Adam family (of which we are all members) has a bad record with God. Adam is our federal head, and we all sinned representatively in him. Further, we inherited a fallen nature from Adam, and we begin to act according to that nature as soon as we have life. Unless our record is cleared, and our nature changed, we will never enter the gates of heaven and see God in peace. Friend, it looks bad for us if we have to change our own nature and clear our own record.
Thanks be unto God, He has devised means whereby His banished be not expelled! God Himself has undertaken to save rebellious man! God does two great things in fitting sinners to ascend into His holy hill. He takes care of our bad record by justification, and He takes care of our bad nature by sanctification. By His sovereign grace, God gives believers a good record (clean hands), and a good nature (pure heart). God justifies His elect, and He sanctifies His elect. These two great actions of God are to be distinguished, but never separated. Those who are justified, are further sanctified. Justification is an act of God’s free grace whereby He absolves believers of their sins for Christ’s sake alone. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace whereby He imparts a new nature to the believer. For the next several weeks we will be plumbing the depths of the first of these, that is justification. But I want you to keep in mind that sanctification always follows justification. As we take up justification, we will be focusing on how the record is cleared for believers, and that must not be confused with the impartation of the new nature. That we will take up when we come to sanctification, which I plan, Lord willing to take up after we finish justification.
Now, I don’t want some trembling soul to have to wait for all of these articles that we are planning to see how they may have a good record with God, and a pure heart. There is One Who has clean hands and a pure heart. Christ, the God-Man has a perfect record of having met God’s righteous standard. He Alone truly has a pure heart. His record is imputed to all who believe in Him. He imparts a new nature to all His people. So God, Who is rich in mercy, cleans the hands, and purifies the hearts of all who believe in His Son. But stay with me, because we will have more wonderful details!