Blessed Are the Pure in Heart
Blessed Are the Pure in Heart
Remember the advertising slogan for Canon cameras back in the 90s? The slogan was “image is everything.” We live in a culture that embraces that idea. We go to great lengths to project a certain image to those around us. The word “makeover” has become a standard term in our vocabulary. Cosmetic surgery has become big business.
I came across a product last week that took the idea of image in a direction I never expected. The product is called Spray On Mud. It is a can of pressurized mud which can be sprayed on your 4WD SUV to give the appearance that you’ve been off road. According to the company's website, spray-on mud can help give your friends, family and neighbours the impression you've just come back from a day's shooting, fishing or visiting friends who live on a farm; anything but driving around in town all day or visiting an out-of-town shopping center. We will do strange things to make the outsides of our lives project a certain image even though the reality is something much different.
In our survey of the beatitudes, we have remarked how counter-cultural Jesus is. Jesus assaults the prevailing ideas about spirituality by cutting through the façade and getting down to the real truth. This is never clearer than in the sixth beatitude. In this statement, Jesus gets to the very core of what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom. He tells us that it is the pure in heart who will see God.
Inward Reality Versus Outward Image
In order for us to appreciate the impact of this statement to Jesus’ original audience, we need to understand the mindset about spirituality that was pervasive in Jesus’ day. The people who were most respected for their spirituality in first century Judaism were the Pharisees. The Pharisees were all about spiritual image. They wore special clothes to emphasize their spirituality. They gave long prayers in public places to let everyone know how spiritual they were. They emphasized conformity to the law of God in such detail that they would give tithes on the herbs they grew in their gardens. The Pharisees were very aware of their spiritual image. They took painstaking measures to be sure that their image was perceived and protected. If the Pharisees were around today, they would wear Christian T-shirts, carry the biggest Bibles, and be sure everyone knew how much they give to the church. They would be at church every time the door was open, sit on the front row, and say the loudest “amens.” They would do good things in a calculated attempt to be lauded as spiritual leaders.
Jesus, on the other hand, emphasized the inward nature of true spirituality. Jesus was not concerned with an outward show of purity. He was concerned about the inward reality of purity – purity in the heart. This is clear throughout the sermon on the mount.
· They said don’t murder, Jesus said don’t even hate.
· They said don’t sleep with someone other than your spouse, Jesus said don’t even lust.
· They made an open fanfare of their giving to the poor. Jesus said do your giving in secret.
· They prayed big prayers on the street corners to be noticed by men. Jesus said go in your closet and pray in private.
Jesus pronounced judgment on these spiritual showboats. In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus thundered against their outward show of religion which lacked the inward purity of the heart. (READ)
Jesus is not impressed by spiritual staging. He can smell a spiritual poser immediately. On the other hand, Jesus also knows a pure heart when He sees one. He knows the reality of the heart that longs for true purity before God without the religious showmanship. So when Jesus pronounced His blessing on the pure in heart, it was in direct contrast to the pharisaical approach to purity. Jesus pronounces His blessing on those who are really pure – pure in heart, not just the ones who pursue an image of purity.
Pure at the Center of Life
To understand what it means to be pure in heart, we need to see what the Bible means by the heart and by purity.
The heart is the control center of life.
· Matthew uses the term kardia 15 times. Each time it is found on the lips of Jesus.
· The heart in biblical thought is the center of passions and emotions, thought and reflection, decision and will. It is the whole of our inner being from which come all our ideas, thoughts, feelings, desires, and decisions.
· Proverbs 4:23 says “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the springs of life.”
· Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-20 that the heart is the source of the things that defile a person. The actions and words of our lives find their source in the heart. This is why the heart is so critical to genuine Christianity.
Purity of heart refers to undivided devotion.
· The Greek term was often used to describe metals which had been purified. Thus, they were pure and unalloyed with anything else in the sense of pure gold.
· This is the biblical picture as well.
o Psalm 24:3-4 tell us that the pure in heart are those who do not lift up their souls to falsehood or swear deceitfully. In other words, their souls are pure and undivided.
o James 4:8 equates purifying the heart with getting rid of double-mindedness. This is all said in the context of those who were trying to love God and the world at the same time. So a pure heart is a heart free from competing devotions. It is not double-minded but focused on one thing – loving God.
o Purity of heart can be summed up in Jesus’ command to love God with all your heart (Matt. 22:37). All your heart means a heart that is undivided and singular in its devotion to God.
ILL/APP: James uses the language of spiritual adultery to describe double-mindedness. The double-minded man is the man who has a wife and a girlfriend so to speak. His devotions are divided. His love is not pure.
Jesus is calling us to a pure love for God which is not shared with the idols of this world. This kind of purity begins with our hearts.
The focal point of the battle for genuine Christianity is the heart. You cannot have an impure life if you have a pure heart. Jesus cuts through all the outer layers of life and rivets our attention today on the focal point of the battle. It is the heart.
The Pharisees were more outwardly devoted and committed than most of us here today. Yet, Jesus pronounced judgment on them. Why? Because their outward devotion masked an inward corruption. Their hearts were not pure. Jesus said they honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him.
How can we pursue a pure heart?
· Bathe your heart in the Word of God. Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them with your truth; your word is truth.” The Psalmist repeatedly praised the cleansing power of the Word in Psalm 119. “Your word have I treasured in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11).
· Pray for purity in your heart. David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart O Lord my God (Ps. 51:10).” He also prayed in Psalm 86:11, “Teach me Your way O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.”
· Seize the blessings of forgiveness by confession and repentance. 1 John reminds us that sin is ever-present. If we say we have no sin, we are liars. Yet, John also reminds us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). He also reminds us that when we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous one (1 John 2:1). He is the propitiation for our sins.
The Pure in Heart Shall See God
What does it mean to see God? There are two senses in which we can understand this promise. One is present and one is future.
To see God is to have a relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ. The pure in heart see God now with the eyes of faith. They have trusted in Jesus Christ and therefore have been delivered from spiritual blindness and darkness into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. They now experience God in personal fellowship through Jesus Christ. Through the Word and the Spirit, they behold the wonders of God which previously were invisible to them because of their blindness.
To see God is to be welcomed into heaven where we will see Jesus Christ face to face. Paul says that now we see dimly but one day we will see face to face. John says that one day we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. One day, the pure in heart will be welcomed into God’s eternal heaven where we will see God with glorified eyes and behold His glory through Jesus Christ.
The purity of heart which Jesus speaks of here is not something we can attain by self-effort. It comes always and only by faith in Jesus Christ and the cleansing which flows from His cross and resurrection. To be pure in heart, you must know Jesus Christ. Do you know Him today?