"Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you." Psalms 86:11 (NLT)
The Psalmist clearly understands that "purity of heart" is a requirement for honoring God. But, even more important, he understands that purity of heart is not within his ability without God’s power working in him. He states, "grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you."
As I’m sure you noticed in the title of this post, my main point is related to purity of heart, but before we dig too deep into that, let me say, I believe God is pleased when we desire to honor him. I believe that is one of the main reasons God says, David is a man after his own heart, because deep in his heart David truly desires to honor God with his life. Even when he fails miserably, David returns to God, in humility, and truly wants to honor God. His desire to honor God is already pure. But because of his human nature he lacks the ability to honor God in his actions. In this verse, he is asking God to help him make his desire a reality.
The key is "purity of heart." Purity of heart means our thoughts, our desires, and our attitudes must be focused on doing God’s will instead of our will. The ONLY way we can be truly pure of heart is through the incredible power of God, and this, only through the spilling of Jesus’ blood at his sacrificial death on the cross and the promise of eternal life we have through his resurrection.
David knew his sinfullness and the limits of his human frailty, but, he also knew the amazing mercy and love of God. He understood his need for purity so he might honor God and he also knew purity was only possible through God’s work in him. This reminds me of what Isaiah says in Isaiah 61:3 (NLT):
"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory."
"He will give beauty for ashes..." We come into the relationship with God with nothing of value that would bring honor and glory to the name of God. Even our best attempts to be pure are pitiful and worthless efforts. It is impossible to please God in my human nature alone. Paul makes this very clear in his letter to the Romans.
"For the mind controlled by the old nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God's Torah [God’s Law] —indeed, it cannot. Thus, those who identify with their old nature cannot please God." Romans 8:7–8 CJB (The Complete Jewish Bible)
But, the good news is, we are not left in this pitiful condition. Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the ability to ask God to help us just as David does in this Psalm. When we asked him to, he takes our ashes, our worthlessness, and gives beauty in return. He removes the dirt and filth and makes us beautiful. He gives us worth. We are able to have pure thoughts and motives, when we humble ourselves and allow God to work in us and through us. Because of our old nature we often find ourselves needing to renew our desire and our request for purity, but God is merciful and faithful and he welcomes us when we approach him in humility. If we ask, he will remove our ashes and leave beauty in our lives.
Honoring God as a process, it is not an event. It is a journey that begins with our desire to please God and approaching him in humility to request his help in making our hearts pure. As with any journey, you must pay attention to where you are and where you are going. When you find yourself straying from the path you must backtrack and find your way back to your true path.
We honor God when we desire to do his will and let him work in us to give us purity of heart and the ability to live a life that pleases him.