Thank you my dear friend for your good question. As to mercy, a dictionary definition notes that this would be showing compassion or forgiveness to one to whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. In the Bible, the words “mercy” and “grace” might seem to be interchangeable, often seeming to mean the same thing, but there is a difference! You might say that mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin. They are both clearly characteristics of God. God shows mercy in not giving people what we truly deserve, which is judgment and death, for lost, ruined sinners that we are (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). On the other hand, God shows His amazing grace to sinners who put their trust and faith in Jesus by giving us what we do not deserve, which is forgiveness for our sins and eternal life (John 10:28; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; 1 John 4:9,10). Some verses that bring out God’s mercy might include Psalms 136 and 2 Corinthians 1: 3). I am so glad you asked this, because until I was saved 46 years ago, I did not at all understand the meaning of grace, nor the difference between grace and mercy; but these words are at the very heart of our need for, and are the one and only means of our salvation by Christ’s redemptive work for us on Calvary’s cross. My dear friend, are you saved? If so, it is only because of the mercy and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, demonstrated on the cross for sinners, and not by any good works or other human merits that you or anyone might naturally possess. Furthermore, for true Christians, we should manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22,23). Being merciful and gracious should certainly be characteristic of Christians, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Now, as to having “a pure heart”, we find these thoughts in 2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.“ The meaning  of having a pure heart might be best described by the words of Psalms 24:3-4: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” I believe that being pure in heart would describe one who is not deceitful, and not twofaced, in other words, not speaking or acting as selfless and kind, while working against someone for their downfall, or harboring a spirit of hate or indifference towards others, nor especially towards God’s Word. I believe that the Lord Jesus noted a certain purity of heart in one of His soon to be disciples, as we read in John 1:47: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Indeed, there should be no guile or deceit in the hearts of Christians.

Thus, having a pure heart would in essence refer to being free from the marks of our sinful flesh, and instead, manifesting a holy walk in this world. Purity of heart should be desired and valued by believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord Himself values this highly. In His sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew 5:8, the Lord Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

But now, as a final consideration, I’d like to firmly state that mercy, grace, and a pure heart are not natural characteristics of mankind-not part of our fleshly or sin nature. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit does work in the heart of a born again Christian; indeed, He enters the Christian’s heart the moment that person truly believes upon the Lord Jesus for salvation. As you might already know, the Holy Spirit is the One who opens the heart to the Gospel, bringing new life; but though He actually comes to dwell in the heart of believers, the old sinful nature continues to act within us while we are yet in this fallen world, and this old nature would act to pull us back to our old, worldly behaviors (Romans 7:17-25). Happily, the Spirit works overtime, and in conjunction with the Word of God, conforming us to the very image of Christ Jesus (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). This “…washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…” in Titus 3:5 speaks to the cleansing effect of the Word of God, and to the work of the Holy Spirit in our regeneration. Thus, while salvation occurs in a moment through God’s Word and the work of the Spirit, being conformed to the image of Christ is an ongoing work in our lives, again through the cleansing action of the Word coupled with the action of God’s Spirit in our lives, day by day, throughout our lifespan. So, while it may be true that a born-again Christian might not always demonstrate those godly characteristics we have been speaking of because of the flesh acting within us, we are being changed or transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit as we carefully study the Bible (II Peter 3:18). In Romans 12:2 we read: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  (SF)  (549.4)