Last Friday, my wife Becky and I enjoyed a “Netflix” night together and watched a movie from our childhood, E. T. This was, perhaps, the greatest movie of the 1980’s and held the record for gross amount of box-office revenue for over a decade. It had been at least 25, maybe 30 years since I last watched it. While I remembered the main plot, there were many details from the movie I had forgotten. As I watched, I found myself moved with nostalgia. I remember watching the movie at the old RITZ theater in my hometown of Malvern, AR sometime in 1982 with my grandparents and mom and dad. (It’s the only time I remember Poppa and Doll going to the movies. They’re both gone now and I do miss them.)
E.T. was filmed in the fall of 1981 and it seems like a much simpler time. In the shots of Elliot’s room, I paid close attention. I had some of those same toys in my room. There was a complete absence of electronics in his room. There were no cellphones. Kids played outside and rode bikes around the neighborhood. Eliot’s older brother Mike and his teenage friends sat around a table on a Friday night playing board games. And as I watched, I kept thinking that if this movie were made in 2017, instead of 1981, the plot would not have had such a family-friendly theme. In our modern sophistication, a director would feel compelled to spice up the language with four-letter words, include a revealing love scene, bring in a gay character, pursue some item promoting the leftist social/political agenda, or have turned E. T. into a sick, twisted alien who has some kind of perverted behavior.
As I went to bed, I’m not sure if it was just the memories of my childhood or something else, but I found myself sorely missing simpler times and less provocative entertainment. (This is not to say that the 80’s were morally perfect, but we have drifted far, far away from where we were 35 years ago.) There’s a part of me that wishes we could, somehow, go back.
At the Kettering Church, we’ve recently been studying the beatitudes in Matthew 5. Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, Matthew 5.8. I don’t know about you, but as I move forward in life, more and more I look forward to an eternity that is free from the cares of this life. I long to be free from temptation and perversion. I long to be in a place completely free from sin.
Did you see the glorious promise at the end of verse 8? Those who are pure in heart will see God. So, how can I make sure I’m living with a pure heart? It begins with a commitment trust in God’s power to save. Titus 2.11-14 teaches that He has set us apart from sin so that we can live exclusively for Him. But there’s more. Purity in heart happens when we commit to resisting evil and serve God. I once read that holiness is both a state of existence and a commitment to action. I like that. It’s following through on the application of passages like 1 Peter 1.13-16. It’s living with a sense of profound reverence. Your sin has been paid for with Jesus’ precious blood, 1 Peter 1.18-19.
Keeping a pure heart does not happen by accident. It’s not always convenient, nor is it easy. It is a call to sacrifice and will not be pain or struggle free.
As much as we might like, we can’t get into a time machine and go back to the days of our childhood, the time when life seemed simpler. But we can, even in this day and age, live with a pure heart and total trust that one sweet day we’ll be free from every trapping this world offers.
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name, Psalm 86.11