I’m going to need a second coat of paint

When I was about 12 years old, I got a job working for my neighbor who owned some rental properties. I didn’t realize it at that age, but I’m pretty sure this man broke all child labor laws with me. I worked weekends, during the school year, and all summer long for well below minimum wage. I did just about everything—light construction, general maintenance and lawn work.

Most weekends, I would walk to his house and he would drive me to one of his rental properties. There, he would give me some tools and a few instructions before he left me for the rest of the day.  You probably already guessed this by now…my neighbor was a slumlord!

I remember one frustrating weekend in particular. My neighbor put me to work painting in the basement of one of his properties. He gave me a brush and a can of paint and asked me to paint a wall that looked “dirty.” I put my vast 12-year-old experience as a painter to work on this problem wall in the basement. After letting a coat of paint dry, I realized that the walls still looked “dirty.” So, I put a second, and then a third coat of paint on the wall trying to make my boss pleased with my work.

I realize now what I was actually trying to do was paint over mold. During that weekend I learned you can make mold look better temporarily, but eventually the mold is going to make its way through a fresh coat of paint. Mold always makes its way to the surface. The lesson I learned as a 12-year-old in that basement was, if you want the surface of the wall to look good, you’ve got to deal with what’s below the surface first!

Pure Actions

Let’s talk about your personal purity for just a second.  I’m convinced many people walk around with a fresh coat of paint on a moldy soul.  Most people only deal at the action level when it comes to their personal purity. They generally only care about what other people see.

Since we can’t see what’s happening inside somebody’s heart, and we are not able to see with our eyes what’s happening inside someone’s soul, a lot of people try to act pure even though they know their heart is impure.  Jesus addressed this with some of the most religious men of his day in Matthew 23:27-28.

It’s pretty obvious from this passage in the Bible Jesus is furious with these people, but don’t miss to whom he’s talking.  Jesus is criticizing these religious leaders in front of their followers. He is condemning the most religious people in the land for their hearts!  Jesus is saying their hearts are moldy, and they are trying to cover it up with a fresh coat of paint. Obviously, Jesus cares about pure actions, but these verses make it clear he is equally concerned about the motives behind someone’s actions.

Pure Attitudes

God expects purity deeper than just the action level. Which causes us to ask the question, is it good enough with God to be pure at the attitude level? Is that the level of purity that God expects?  Certainly, he expects pure hearts. This is obvious from Matthew 5:8.

God in Heaven has the ability to examine every human heart (Matthew 9:4). God knows whether or not your attitudes are pure even when your actions look holy.  Jesus says that your words aren’t pure if your heart’s attitude isn’t pure also (Matthew 12:34).

Pure actions without pure attitudes are really not pure actions according to Jesus in Matthew 15:8-9.  In these verses, Jesus gives the idea that your actions in worship are unacceptable if your attitude in worship is not pure.  However, we still haven’t answered the question, do pure attitudes satisfy God or does he expect something more?

Pure Thoughts

It may shock you, but Jesus expects purity deeper than your attitudes. Jesus expects purity at the thought level!  Here’s how 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 describes the acceptable level personal purity to God.  The kind of purity that God’s people should be shooting for is pure actions, which come from pure attitudes, which come from pure thoughts.

How do you become pure at the thought level? How do you prevent impure thoughts from coming into your head?  The idea from 2 Corinthians 10:5 is that you examine every thought that comes through your mind.  When you start to get serious about purity at the thought level you refuse to dwell on the kind of thoughts that fly through your head that don’t honor God.  Rather, you only allow the thoughts that honor God to take root in your mind.

Most people would say this kind of purity is radical, and they would be absolutely right! What God is asking of his people is radical purity at every level: action level, attitude level, and thought level.  This kind of radical purity is humanly impossible. It’s going to take supernatural help to have pure thoughts.  That’s why we need to think God’s thoughts. God changes Christians at the thought level when he sends his Holy Spirit to dwell inside them. This is what the Bible describes in Romans 12:2. A renewed mind is one that is being changed by God’s Spirit to think pure thoughts.

I hope this blog has challenged you to get serious about the purity of your heart and your head.  Don’t slap another coat of paint on a moldy soul. Ask the Holy Spirit to clean you up at the soul level.  When the Holy Spirit does his work in your soul, it will impact your head and heart and hands as well!

Further reading