How To Be Happy Inside Out
What immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word “holy?” In his book “The Pursuit of Holiness,” Jerry bridges wrote, “To some minds the very word ‘holiness’ brings images of bunned hair, long skirts, and black stockings. To others the idea is associated with a repugnant ‘holier than thou’ attitude.” Is that your mental image of holiness?
Usually we think of holiness as living a boring life, always wearing a long face. We end up asking, “How come people who are disobedient to God have so much fun?” We feel we are missing out on life. But our Lord Jesus declared, “Blessed are the pure in heart…” The Good News Bible goes like this, “Happy are the pure in heart…” In short, happy are the holy. There can be no true happiness without true holiness. There can be no peace without purity. Because in the Bible, holiness equals happiness. Thus this morning, we will talk about “How To Be Happy Inside Out.” Again, to make it easy for us to remember, I summarize today’s message in the acronym P-U-R-E.
Let us commit our time to the Lord…
“P” stands for PURSUE purity. The word “holy” means separate and set apart. When you go to the wet market and you choose for example a chicken, you are separating it from the rest of the chickens there and you are setting it apart for yourself. In a sense, you made that chicken “holy.” Now, God made us holy and wants us to live holy. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified”. To be sanctified means to be holy. I like how the New Living Translation goes: “God wants you to be holy”. The question is, “Do you want to be holy? Do you want what God wants?” In fact, verse 7 adds: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” God chose us and called us to be separate from sin and set apart for God.
We are warned in verse 8, “Therefore, he who rejects this instruction [on holiness] does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” You may be saying, “Well, I am not really rejecting it. I am just not living it.” But to ignore it is to insult God. If we are not living holy, we are rejecting it. For God is so serious about our holiness that He even gave us His Holy Spirit just to make sure we can live it.
In his book “The Pursuit of Holiness,” Jerry Bridges wrote, “When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives at our salvation, he comes to make us holy in practice. If there is not, then, at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine.” 1 John 3:6 says, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”
Thus, Hebrews 12:14 commands us, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” The phrase “make every effort” is only one word in Greek, which means “to hunt, to follow after, to pursue.” It is in the imperative mood. So, we are commanded to pursue holiness. It is simply not an option. If we are not striving for purity, we are disobeying God. It is also in the present tense, that is, it is not just once in a while or once in a lifetime but it is a continuous effort. That is why we call it a pursuit. Since it is also in the active voice, that means we are to persistently and actively pursue holiness. Note that Hebrews warns us: “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” I will talk more about that later. The question now is, “Are you making every effort to be holy? Do you want to see the Lord?”
Before we move on to the next point, let me add that we are not to pursue holiness on our own. 2 Timothy 2:22 commands us, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” We are to pursue purity together. The New Living Translation goes like this: “enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” That’s why we must join a small group where we are encouraged to live a holy life. We should also check our relationships or friendships. Does it bring us closer or farther from God?
“U” stands for UNDERGO change from inside out. Our Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart…” The heart is “In Biblical language the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought motivations, courage and action”. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” What does it mean to be pure in heart?
First, we need to change INTERNALLY before we can change EXTERNALLY. We need a change of heart before we can change our lives. The Message translation of Proverbs 4:23 go like this, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” Life starts when there’s a change of heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 laments, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We are sinners not just in our conduct but much more also in the very core of our beings. We are dead spiritually.
But God promised in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” When we put our trust in the Lord Jesus as our Savior, He removes our stubborn hearts and gives us obedient hearts.
Again let me quote from “The Pursuit of Holiness,” “Holiness, then, is not necessary as a condition of salvation—that would be salvation by works—but as a part of salvation that is received by faith in Christ… This does not mean the desires for holiness must be a conscious desire at the time a person comes to Christ, but rather that the Holy Spirit who creates within us saving faith also creates within us the desire for holiness.”
That’s why we cannot change the outside without changing the inside first. When we try to change a person’s behavior without changing his heart first, the change will shallow and will not be permanent. But if we change the heart first, then the behavior will change afterwards. The change will then be deep and lasting. Heart change before life change.
Second, we are to obey not only EXTERNALLY but also INTERNALLY. Why we are doing it is as important as what we are doing. The New Living Translation renders Proverbs 4:23 this way, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”
Remember that the verse “Blessed are the pure in heart…” is part of the message that the Lord gave in Matthew chapters 5-7. In the same chapter, we find this: “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder.” So, when God commanded us, “Do not murder,” it’s not limited to sticking a knife at the back of a person or putting a bullet in his head. It involves making sure that your heart is not full of anger or hate. We call that the spirit of the law, that is, the intent or the reason behind the law.
Also, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery is not just going to bed with another person other than your spouse but also harboring lust in your heart whether you intend to commit adultery physically or not.
So we must not only obey the law itself but the intent of the law as well. We must obey and we must do so from the heart. Focus not only on the act but also on the attitude.
That leads us to our next point. “R” stands for REJECT hypocrisy. According to the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “Pure in heart means inner moral purity as opposed to merely external piety… it also means singlemindedness, a heart free from deceit.”
Again, let me remind you that “Blessed are the pure in heart…” is part of a message the Lord gave on a mountain in Matthew 5-7. In the middle of this sermon, the Lord warned us, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” It is not that we are not supposed to be seen by men. The Contemporary English Version goes like this: “When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven.” The problem is when we try to impress people, when we try to please them, when we put on a show.
Hypocrisy is when our conduct does not match our character …when we say one thing and do something else …when we sing “I love you in the love of the Lord” but in our hearts we say, “I can’t stand this person” …when we act like angels in the church but live like demons in our house. In his book “Improving Your Serve,” Charles Swindoll wrote, “this quality [pure in heart] emphasizes the inner man… the motive… the ‘heart.’ It does not refer simply to doing the right things, but doing the right things for the right reason.”
Let us look again at Matthew 5:8. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Like the other side of the coin, Hebrews 12:14 adds this thought: “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” I believe it does not refer to salvation. It is not about entering heaven. Remember that holiness is not a condition for salvation. But it is a part of the salvation we received when we accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior. Thomas Constable wrote, “Seeing God is a synonym for having intimate knowledge of and acquaintance with Him”. Thus, “E” stands for EXPERIENCE God. In short, to see God is to experience Him. That is the reason why happy or blessed is the pure in heart. So, when we live a holy life, we enjoy intimacy or closeness with God.
To be happy inside out, we must
UNDERGO change from inside out.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible!” May we find purity irresistible! May we find holiness a source of happiness! I pray that you would be happy inside out!
Let us pray…
For this message, I owe a lot to Dr. Bruce Wilkinson’s “Personal Holiness in Times of Temptation” and Jerry Bridges’ “The Pursuit of Holiness.” These books immensely shaped my concept of holiness.
Matthew 5:8. All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.
Cleon Rogers Jr. and Cleon Rogers III, “The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament.”
The NIV Study Bible
Matthew 5:21-22, The Message.
Notes on Matthew (2000 Edition).