The other day I was praying about something I had been struggling with. After I had prayed, I cleared my mind and waited for the Lord to speak. The eyes of my understanding were then opened and I saw myself holding my heart and placing it on a stone altar. I took a mallet and smashed the heart. I then saw Christ's hands holding a new heart which He gave to me.
Later as I reflected on what God had shown me, this scripture came to mind:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Sanctification is the means whereby we obtain the heart God desires. Sanctification requires repentance. Sanctification involves becoming holy, without spot or sin (Moroni 10:33). In fact, sin is no longer appealing to us. Instead it is repulsive and abhorrent (Alma 13:12). If we still sin, we are not yet pure and holy. We are not yet sanctified.
Sanctification always entails turning ourselves to God and living by every worth that proceeds from His mouth (John 17:17,19). His word to us most often comes through revelation, where God tells us the things we need to change and give up.
7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God. 8 And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you. (Leviticus 20:7-8)In these verses in Leviticus, sanctification involves both us and the Lord. It is a combination of our giving up our unclean, impure hearts full of sin, after which the Lord gives us back a new heart, which is pure and sinless. This parallels what the Lord showed me as I was giving up my impure heart in return for a pure one.
An interesting example is that of King Benjamin's people. After King Benjamin had spoken, he looked around the crowd of people:
And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. (Mosiah 4:2)King Benjamin's words had led this people to give up their sins. They desired to repent. They then begged the Lord to purify their hearts. Later, after King Benjamin had spoken more, he asked the people what they thought of his words.
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:2)The Holy Ghost had given them a new heart which no longer desired evil. They were sanctified to a degree, based on their repentance and the laws they now committed to live.
As we forsake our sins and turn our hearts to the Lord, we can become pure. We no longer feel envy, jealous, spiteful, pride, unforgiveness, unbelief, and so on. We simply love others, despite their flaws and how they may treat us.
In other words, we put everything on the altar: our sins, our impure hearts, our pride, our worldly desires, and our idols. We give it all up because these things stand between us and the Lord. They prevent us from becoming like Him and knowing Him. As we put these things on the altar, God gives us a new heart, filled with charity and compassion.
This "crucifying" of the flesh (Galatians 5:24), however, takes a lot of time and patience. It takes much seeking the Lord. My journey to become sanctified and have a pure heart has taken a long time. I still have sins and weaknesses to overcome. But, due to the difficulty of the experience, I have turned more to God. My prayers are more sincere. My faith has grown and I feel greater love for the Lord. I feel a greater connection to Him than ever before. In addition, the gifts God has given me as a result of my repentance to this point far outweigh my experience as a result of passively living the Gospel without sanctifying myself.
When we have removed all the things that stand between us and God and we have received a new heart, we may see Jesus face to face, an experience worth every agony and pain that results in putting our heart on the altar. I know that one day as I continue on this path, I will see the Lord.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)This experience of seeing the Lord enables us to know Him far more intimately. This knowledge then helps us become even more like Him. This is then the knowledge that leads to eternal life (John 17:3). But, it all begins with giving up our impure hearts.