Wisdom manifests itself by realizing that man is sinful. That premise is rejected in most of today's society - especially among the elites who rule over the educational establishment and the world of counseling and psychiatry. The fact that they reject that man is by nature a sinner and is selfish and self-centered - dooms much of their efforts to educate and to help people deal with problems in their lives. Now that is a very bold statement - but also very true. One of the problems with modern Christianity is that we no longer feel the need in our postmodern society to have our worldview based upon the clear teaching of the Scriptures. One of the places that this is seen the clearest is in the area of the sinfulness of man and the ramifications of it in government, in education, in counseling, and in how we deal with people in our world.
The proverb here asks the simple question, "Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'" There are several assertions that are made here. First is that of the ability to cleanse ourselves from our sin. "I have cleansed my heart." This is the belief that by our own works we can change our own hearts. Unless we begin with the sinful, selfish natural tendencies of mankind, we will think that by our education and by our laws and codes we can change a man's heart. Such an assertion is the height of foolishness and pride. We cannot cleanse our own hearts from our sinfulness. But an educational system based upon humanistic assertions will think that we can change our hearts by being better educated. But honestly, that only produces smarter sinners. The issues of the human heart will only be solved by the gospel of Jesus Christ whereby a heart can be redeemed and men can be regenerated.
The second question is whether a man can say he is pure from his sin. Religions around the globe seek to do this through a myriad of different plans. Some want to try to mortify their own evil desires - while others try to abolish the concept of evil and sin altogether. Purifying ourselves assumes impurity though - and thus religious efforts to do this may involve confession and absolution of some kind. Roman Catholicism tries to answer this question through their system of confession and penance, which involves first admitting your sin to a confessor/priest. After your confession they grant forgiveness. The final step is that the priest commands penance in the form of some kind of repeated religious activity, like saying a religious phrase such as the Hail Mary or Rosary. Some times there is also the request to do a good work of some kind, which with the confession earns forgiveness. In the end, whether it is through this system - or through a Hindu or Islamic system of obtaining forgiveness - it all boils down to a works mentality. We can earn our forgiveness through doing something for God.
Biblical Christianity paints a much different picture of the process of forgiveness. The Law was give to restrict sin - but more importantly to show us how impossible it is to obey it - because we are rebellious sinners. The very fact that we cannot be made righteous or pure by the Law - sends us running into the arms of Christ. We learn that it is only through what He did in his death, burial, and resurrection that we can be made pure in God's sight. He paid the price for our sin - and now offers to us His own righteousness - so that we can stand before God. Therefore the answer to these two questions here in Proverbs is given by the gospel. First of all - none of us can say that we have cleansed our own hearts. The only cleansing that will matter is the one given when we receive it by faith. That cleansing comes when we look to Jesus Christ - and admit that only He can purify our hearts and change them to be godly. The second question is answered as well by the gospel. No one can say, "I am pure from my sin," without that purity coming as a gift from God as He makes us righteous with the righteousness and purity of His Son.
Wisdom rejects a man-centered, works-centered salvation. Only a fool would think that man can solve his own problems with God - without a direct intervention by God Himself. Any education or counseling or governmental system that is based upon that wrong assertion will fail and be crushed under the weight of man's sinfulness. Without checks and balances designed to expose and correct the selfish and self-centered tendencies of the human heart, sin will run rampant in a society that hides its eyes and pretends that sin does not exist. In such a world sin will be redefined again and again to cover-up the real problem - which is a wicked and sinful heart in men. In answer to the question posed by the writer of Proverbs, "No one can say that he has cleansed his own heart, or say that he is pure from his sin." That only happens by the grace and mercy of God as He works in us by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Jesus said Himself, "No one comes to the Father, except through Me."