Purity and Power

This year, millions of people worldwide, including over one million in the U.S. alone, will die of heart disease. Doctors are taking corrective measures, monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and issuing directives about diet and exercise. Rightfully, we should be concerned about the health of our hearts. But should we not be even more concerned about the spiritual health of our hearts? Is heart impurity threatening our lives?

In Acts 10, we read about Peter in Joppa receiving instruction from the Lord. As the story continues for several chapters, Peter explains the gospel in various venues, and devout hearers respond with heartfelt faith. This narrative is the account of the birthday of the international Church. Those who experience the purifying, cleansing work of the Spirit and receive his power take the first steps of the Church’s history.

The English words purified (Acts 15:9) and clean (Acts 10:15) are translated from the same Greek root meaning catheter. This cleansing, purifying work of the Holy Spirit happens in hearts. God has been performing “heart catheterizations” in believers long before twentieth-century medicine. He has provided the remedy for the heart problem—the Holy Spirit purifying the heart by faith.

Fullness of the Holy Spirit
In his last words on earth to his followers, our Lord said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). The fullness of the Holy Spirit imparts power to the soul…the power to be like Christ in humility, gentleness, tenderness, brokenness, and the power to abandon self in pursuit of perfect love for God and others. The promised power is the enabling grace for holy living so that God’s purpose in our lives will be achieved. This power is divine energy.

Purity, Power, and Transformation
Purity and power, and in reality the entire Christian life, are about transformation. God works in our hearts to form us more and more into the image of Christ. This transformation takes place both in a moment and in a lifetime journey.

Connecting Purity and Power
Purity and power are always connected. One cannot have the enablement of power without the purity of heart. Both come when we surrender, focus, prioritize, and give individual and complete allegiance to the direction of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, an impure heart is a divided heart. Only when our hearts are pure can we participate in the holy life of God. Only then do we bear the holy marks of God in us. We love people, we stand for justice, we abhor evil, and we speak truth in love as we seek to live out the character of God in us. The power is given through us and not to us, as a channel and not as a reservoir for self.

Power for a Purpose
Power must have an aim. What good is power if we do not channel it for the proper purposes? Holy enabling power is given so that we can be what he wants us to be and to do what he wants us to do, just as Jesus promised in Acts 1:8.

Those simple fishermen (disciples) evidenced this promised power when they were transformed from the unlearned into irresistible evangelists, who, within thirty years, shaped Christianity into an extensive Spirit-led movement. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness and to serve to the point of martyrdom.

God’s power is always available. Only with his power could those disciples dare to witness where God sent them. The same is true with us today. Just as they were, so we also are sent to

  • Jerusalem—to the place of embarrassing failure; to where it seemed Satan won the victory; to work associates, relatives, neighbors, and friends
  • Judea—to the country and area of seeming familiarity, yet a strange culture by its own defining composition
  • Samaria—to the marginalized, the less fortunate, and the oppressed
  • The ends of the earth—to the whole world; to every culture, race, and people group; to evangelize globally In every generation, those empowered by the Spirit are not impeded by discomfort or inconvenience.

They continue to take the gospel to every community wherever people are found.

Pressing on Despite Feeling Powerless
Too often, Christian believers live with a nagging sense of powerlessness. Without the enabling of the Spirit, everything seems too big, too complicated, or too evil. But Jesus put this issue in proper perspective in Acts 1:8. His plan enables ordinary Christians to do his work extraordinarily well. He promises help for every need and every assignment and a divine enablement to be holy as the Father is holy, to love as he loves, and to serve as he serves. As A. M. Hills, an early Church of the Nazarene theologian and college president, explains, “This is what makes weak, ineffective Christians become giants. This is the blessing that enables ordinary people to do exploits and bring things to pass for God.” 

When the experiences of life drain us of spiritual energy, we must remember that we are not cleansed and filled once and for all. There is need for constant renewal, confession, repentance, obedience, and trust. In response, God provides deliverance, purity, boldness, and witnessing. God furnishes the purity and the power resulting in unity, love, and divine energy. Purity and power unite in a dynamic, beautiful fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives…beautiful for what it does in the heart…beautiful for what is accomplished through a life totally yielded to the will of God.

Purity and power transformation

  • cleanses the heart,
  • connects people to God in prayer and worship,
  • equips believers with the ability to witness and make disciples,
  • provides insights into the needs of others,
  • and gives understanding for leadership.

God’s repeated concern in his word is that we serve him in power with a clean heart. Yes, we too are concerned and committed to God’s remedy for the real heart problem. His promise is ours: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8) and be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

(This article was written in partnership with Carmen Ringhiser, who is part of the Church of the Nazarene.)

Dr. Nina G. Gunter is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, the first woman to be honored with the highest office in the church. Prior to this assignment she served for twenty years as general director of Nazarene Missions International.