Can I Do Anything With Completely Pure Motives?

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” —Titus 1:15

Much of what we do in life comes down to our motives. A person with a pure heart does all things—even difficult things—with the motive of glorifying God and loving others. A person with a defiled heart does all things—even seemingly good things—with selfish motives. True goodness, then, is not merely a matter of outward behavior, but inward disposition.

Often the primary difference between the two people contrasted in Titus 1:15 (the pure person and the defiled person) is not what they do, but why they do it. Both may wake up, go to work, interact with coworkers, come home, eat dinner, watch a TV show, and go to bed. Yet for one person, all these activities are pure, while for the other, none are pure. How can this be? More importantly, how can we know which person describes us?

Without faith it is impossible to please God

“To the pure, all things are pure” does not mean that some people never sin or that their sins don’t count. Rather, it means all the efforts and day-to-day activities of the pure-hearted are uniquely pleasing to God.1 The writer of Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6; cf. Romans 8:7–8). Yet with faith, every act of obedience is not only acceptable to God, but actually becomes “an ingredient in the divine happiness,” to quote C. S. Lewis.

Because the pure-hearted person seeks to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 5:9)—even things as seemingly mundane as cooking, paying bills, and folding laundry—each moment of her life brims with eternal significance (Matthew 6:3–4; 1 Cor. 3:11–14; Colossians 3:23–24).

Indeed, the believer’s very life pleases God (Psalm 149:4). Sanctified perfectly by Christ’s blood, day-to-day activities such as eating, drinking, sleeping, working, walking, talking, playing, and breathing all glorify God and delight his heart, as this is what he created his children to do! Like an earthly father smiling watching his newborn sleep, eat, and breathe, God delights in the very lives of his children.2

But is anything I do truly pure?

I have wrestled with this question ever since I became a Christian. The more I perceive the extent of my sinfulness, the more I am convinced I cannot fully overthrow my sinful nature for even a second in this life. I simply cannot do anything without a stray molecule of selfishness or impurity tainting my volition. I relate deeply to Tim Keller’s words: “If you wait until your motives are pure and unselfish before you do something, you will wait forever.”

Here’s the good news: Jesus shed his blood not only for our evil acts, but also for our good (but not perfectly pure) acts, to make them pure and acceptable in God’s sight (Ephesians 5:25–27; Revelation 19:7–8). For the believer, every genuine effort to glorify God is purified by the blood of Christ and presented to God in splendor, truly pleasing to him, as if Christ himself had done it perfectly (cf. John 8:29; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25–27). This includes our distracted prayers, imperfect obedience, partially selfish service, worship that could’ve been more affectionate, and mundane, everyday tasks.

God is not waiting for you to offer flawless service to him before he is pleased by you. If that were the case, none of us would be able to please God until heaven. God delights in each of his children now—even while they’re still riddled with sin (cf. Romans 5:6–8)—because the blood of Christ purifies their lives and works completely. Yet God doesn’t sanctify his children in order to love them; he sanctifies them because he loves them. God’s love comes before, even initiates, his purification.

We can (and should) pursue growth in holiness with confidence and hope, knowing that God intends to purify our hearts more and more as we walk with him (Titus 2:11–14), and obedience is the path to life (Proverbs 12:28). Yet we can also rest knowing all our acts of faith—though still riddled with imperfect motives—are acceptable and pleasing to God, even now, through the blood of Christ.

Freedom by the blood

As sinners, we are all by nature Person #2 in Titus 1:15 (the one with a defiled and unbelieving heart). Fortunately, Jesus is in the business of purifying hearts and cleansing consciences (Titus 2:11–14). He intends to remake us, right our desires, absolve our guilt, and lead us on paths of righteousness. Through Christ, we become pure in heart (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:3). This happens as we live in continual repentance and communion with Christ through the means of grace (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:9).

So rejoice, believer, in both your repentance and obedience, knowing your entire being—body and soul—is fully submerged in the cleansing blood of Christ. Your evil works are forgiven by the blood, your good works are purified by the blood, and your entire life is sanctified by the blood. Your very existence is an ingredient in God’s happiness, and one day you will be presented to Christ in splendor, without spot or blemish (Ephesians 5:25–27; Revelation 19:7–8).

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for the precious blood of Christ, which I need today and every day. Forgive me for my impure thoughts and motives. Sanctify my heart by your Word and Spirit. Help me to embody the purity, love, and obedience of Christ today, for your glory and the good of all. I love you, Lord. Amen.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings—here and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “With Us in the Wilderness” (sermon) here.

Read “That Decompressing Exhale For Which Our Souls Long” here.

Read “Do You Want to be Healed?” here.

Read “Five Habits That Kill Contentment” here.

Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.

Footnotes

God’s Heart in Hosea

“What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance, and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?” — J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Hosea is a gem. Tucked between Daniel and Joel, Hosea is a multifaceted exploration of the character of God in a judgment-fraught book.

From a bird’s eye view, Hosea looks like a hopeless minor prophet, full of faithless people and pending doom. And I’ll admit, Hosea does have these elements in plenty. However, a deeper dive reveals glorious truths about God’s heart for His people—truths we desperately need to hear as sinners and sufferers living in a world that can often feel hopeless.

During a recent study of this book, three precious truths about God’s character struck me in new and acute ways: God is a passionate husband, a kind father, and a zealous king to those He calls His own.

1. God is a Passionate Husband – He Relentlessly Pursues His People

Hosea begins with a startling command. God instructs Hosea to take a wife of prostitution—one who would be unfaithful to him—and He calls Hosea to love her relentlessly (Hos. 1:2). This mandate served as a picture of God’s relationship with His bride, the Israelites. Although the “land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hos. 1:2), God pursues them anyway. Hosea was to model this faithful love.

Consider how remarkable Hosea’s response must have seemed to his wife. Rather than cutting her off in anger or rejecting her—the typical response of a forsaken husband—Hosea woos his wife with tenderness and compassion. He redeems her and brings her home (Hos. 3).

Here we get a glimpse into one of the most dazzling aspects of the character of God: The Lord pursues His people with kindness and tenderness, ready ­and even plotting in advance to shower mercy on repentant hearts.

The Lord pursues His people with kindness and tenderness, ready ­and even plotting in advance to shower mercy on repentant hearts.

Notice how God describes His merciful plans for His bride in chapter 2:

“And in that day I will answer declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people;’ and he shall say, ‘You are my God’” (Hos. 2:21-23, emphasis mine).

And again, in the last chapter of Hosea:

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon” (Hos. 14:4-7, emphasis mine).

God is relentlessly committed to the good of His bride, and He will pursue her with His love not only until she is safe, but flourishing (Hos. 14:7).

2. God is a Kind Father – He IS the Good of His People

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1).

God’s love for His people is not only that of a passionate husband but also that of a kind father who loves His children, more profoundly and completely than any earthly example.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (Hos. 11:3-4, emphasis mine).

This is the heartbeat of God’s pursuit of His wayward people. Because He is their only good, He longs to draw them back to Himself. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?” (Hos. 6:4). God’s appeal to His people is that of a heartbroken father.

This is the heartbeat of God’s pursuit of His wayward people. Because He is their only good, He longs to draw them back to Himself.

The Israelites were charging down a destructive path, a path that seemed prosperous and advantageous from their perspective. The nation declared: “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (Hos. 2:5). In other words, they were seeking good apart from God. The people did not know that it was He who provided the grain, the wine, the oil, the silver, and the gold in the past (Hos. 2:8), and He alone would provide good in the future.

How often I find myself in the Israelites’ shoes, sprinting eagerly toward idols promising life, pleasure, and good things, only to realize these idols are liars moonlighting as joy. Oh Lord, forgive us for this foolishness! As a testimony to the ludicrousness of idol worship, Hosea writes, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles” (Hos. 4:12).

Ultimately, true joy and life cannot be found apart from Christ. Throughout Hosea, God uses the prophet to plead with His people to turn from life-draining idol worship to life-giving Himself worship.

In their song, “In Christ Alone,” Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty touch profoundly on the all-encompassing spring of life that can only be found in Christ.

In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song;

This cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.

3. God is a Zealous King – He Makes Himself Known to His People

After much patient pleading, still Israel strayed from God, going about the motions of religious duties with hearts positioned toward false gods. Ultimately, unrepented sin will lead to discipline (Hos. 5 and 6), although God takes no pleasure in it.

Hosea ends with a final plea to the Israelites to return to the Lord, but the rebelling nation turns a hardened heart and closed ears. In 722 B.C., they fell into the hands of captors.

Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God refused to forsake His bride. While sin temporarily blinded Israel and promised false safety, ultimately, captivity would serve as an effective and much needed wake-up call. Here we are reminded that God often uses unpleasant, uncomfortable circumstances to bring us back to Himself and help us know Him better.

With repentant, softened hearts, God’s people could finally say:

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hos. 6:1-3, emphasis mine).

Praise God that He passionately pursues each of His children, despite our unfaithfulness. Let us press on to know Him more!

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Johnna Wahrman is a guest contributor for this website. She is the happy wife of Andrew and mother of Anberlyn. She is passionate about writing, music, great books, and Jesus.

Read “Repentance That Leads To Death” here.

Read “Am I Sinning? Six Questions To Help You Navigate Gray Areas” here.

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