I looked at my watch, 2:30. I was not sure it that was morning or afternoon. I could not tell how long this card game had gone on, but it seemed like days. Getting up from the table I told the dealer, “I will take a pass on the next couple of hands.”
I walked into the next room. There was a bar on one end with a tender sitting watching the TV that was fixed to the wall right above him. I made my way over and sat down. He didn’t seem to notice me at first, but then said, “What you going to have?” Speaking without taking his eyes from the screen. I rubbed my eyes and pointed at the bottle of Canadian whiskey on the second shelf, “Black Velvet and coke.” I replied. Reluctantly he looked away and came to mix. It was an open bar, no cost or at least you didn’t pay at the bar. It was all part of the membership of this card club.
As I sat drinking, the bartender returned to his TV show. I looked into my drink and reflected on my losses. So far, I was down nearly $600.00, an amount I certainly could not afford. I thought to myself, “Son, your debts are stacking up!” I was into the local bookie for over $500.00 and I had about the same amount that my dealer had fronted me. I knew there was about $400.00 in chips still on the table. I knew also that was all the ready money I had in the world.
Since the Nuke Plant had shut down and I had taken a job as a line chef my funds had dwindled. I had stopped paying the weekly support to my ex-wife and she was not happy. I was in debt up to my ears, yet here I was wasting the cash I had believing that some way or another my luck was going to change. Fat chance!
I took a long pull from my drink. I really wanted a line of speed, but my supply of that was low and unless I made a monster drug sale, there would be no more of it coming my way. Shaking my head, I knew there was such a sale waiting for me. I could clear all my debts and be back on top, but it meant selling to a guy even my dealer wouldn’t touch. I would have to sell to a ‘candy man’. This guy sold drugs to kids.
So far, I had stayed away from selling on the street. I had told myself that I would only deal to people who knew better but used anyway. But I wasn’t going to get the money I needed that way. This guy wanted two ‘keys’ and that would help make me right. But it would also make me dirty. I gulped my drink and headed back to the table. Maybe my luck would change.
There is a verse in the Bible that I think describes the human condition graphically and unfortunately accurately. It comes from the prophet Isaiah, “All of us have become unclean, and all our righteousness is like a filthy rag; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our iniquities sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) Some versions called that rag a polluted garment or soiled undergarment. Any way you look at it our righteousness that comes from ourselves is, well… dung. As humans it seems we can never be clean let alone pure and righteous.
Yet Jesus said this, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) It would seem that He saw a way for us to attain a state of being where we would be pure, pure enough to not only see but be in the presence of a Holy God. How could that be?
I think to answer that we need to look closely at what Jesus is saying. First, let’s look at the deeper meaning of the words. The Greek word for ‘pure’ in the verse is, katharos. It does mean ‘clean, blameless and free from guilt’, as we would expect. But interestingly it specifically refers to that which is purified by fire or by pruning. Do those ring a bell? John the Baptist told people that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire in Matthew 3:11. Jesus called Himself the vine and his followers the branches which need to be pruned in John 15:1-17. Our purifying comes as we are ‘fired’ and ‘pruned’. Our old lives melts away as Jesus prunes away all the junk we carry. Only He can clean us, it is called sanctification.
Also, the Greek word for ‘heart’ used is kardeeah. It can mean the physical heart. But is it also referring to the spiritual center of life. That place where all our thoughts, desires, sense of purpose, understanding, and character reside. That place where all the junk is stored. It is here Jesus does His work in us. Cleaning house, removing the dung. But removal is not enough. Replacing all the old with His Word, it is essential. And if we are willing, we will begin to desire not the filth of this world but long for the purity that is our God. Only Jesus can do it!
Our prayer like David in Psalm 51 should be, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me.” (Psalm 51:10) God is the one who can make our heart pure and that happens when we recognize the sanctifying work of Jesus on the cross. “…by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5b) It is a day to day process, but it can start today, just ask. Jesus is waiting.
I didn’t have that belief as I returned to the card game. My life was in the tank and it was about to get worse. I lost big in the next couple of hours and without hope, I made a deal with the devil. Soon I would become a pipeline of drugs for kids. Every day I felt dirty and believed I could never be clean again. Through the grace of God, I was forgiven and by the cross of Jesus, even my junk, my dung, was swept away. No words can express what knowing Jesus love and desire for me to be pure did, all I can say is it changed me. And I pray that by reading this you will see you can never be too dirty for our God to clean, when you are washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. A pure heart is waiting. Personally, made for you by our Savior. That is a deal I pray you will make!