During lent this year, we used C.J. Mahaney’s The Cross Centered Life in our growth groups. The book is brilliantly simple at uncovering legalism, condemnation and a subjective faith. It then takes those who suffer such things (like me) back to the cross and gives helpful ways of keeping the cross central.
One obvious symptom of legalism, condemnation or a subjective faith is a corrupt and impure heart (conscience). Thomas Watson provides some great tools for diagnosing whether our heart is pure or not. I found the third point particularly helpful. Watson shows that the avoidance of sin can stem from motives other than the pure heart which results from a proper grasp of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
Watson’s work needs to be set in the light of the work of Christ, so:
Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:21-22). To the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15).
I shall next show you the signs of a pure heart.
1 A sincere heart is a pure heart: ‘In whose spirit there is no guile’ (Psalm 32:2). There are four characters of a sincere-hearted Christian.
(i) A sincere heart serves God with the whole heart.
(ii) A sincere heart is willing to come under a trial. ‘Search me, O God, and try me’ (Psalm 139: 23).
(iii) a man of sincere heart dares not act in the least against his conscience.
(iv) a sincere heart is a suspicious heart. The hypocrite suspects others and has charitable thoughts of himself. The sincere Christian has charitable thoughts of others and suspects himself.
2 A pure heart breathes after purity. A gracious soul is so in love with purity that he prizes a pure heart above all blessings.
(i) Above riches.
(ii) Above gifts.
3 A pure heart abhors all sin. A man may forbear and forsake sin, yet not have a pure heart.
(i) He may forbear sin as one may hold his breath while he dives under water, and then take breath again.
(ii) He may forbear sin for fear of the penalty.
(iii) He may forbear sin out of a design. He has a plot in hand and his sin might spoil his plot.
4. Again, a man may forsake sin yet not have a pure heart. Sin may be forsaken upon wrong principles.
(i) From morality: moral arguments may suppress sin.
(ii) From policy: a man may forsake sin, not out of respect to God’s glory, but his own credit.
(iii) From necessity. Perhaps he can now follow the trade of sin no longer. The adulterer is grown old, the drunkard poor.
5. But he is pure in God’s eye who abhors sin. ‘I hate every false way’ (Psalm 119: 104).