Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Beatitudes : Blessed Are The Pure In Heart

We are still continuing our series through the beatitudes.  Here is today's subject:
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.  Matthew 5:8 NKJV
I think the obvious question is what it means to be pure in heart.  A person with a pure heart is someone who does not desire to sin and desires to seek after and please God.  The heart that is pure is cleansed from all unrighteousness and selfishness.  In other words, the pure heart can not be our hearts at all.  Here is what the Bible says about our hearts.
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 
I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.  Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV
That's not good news at all.  If that were the end of the story, we would have no hope of ever seeing God.  Furthermore, we see from this passage that God searches our hearts.  In other words, we can not fake it before God.  In other words, a hypocrite does not have a pure heart.  Our outward actions must be founded upon an inward purity.  So many like to try to walk the walk or talk the talk, but they do so just for show.  Inside, they are depraved and evil and merely act out what they perceive to be righteousness for some kind of gain.  It is sort of like a criminal who pretends to be reformed when it is time to meet the parole board.  Jesus had much to say about purity coming from within.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.  Matthew 23:25-26 NKJV
You see the beatitude is for a pure heart, not a good outward appearance. Good behavior does not impress God nor will it lead to being blessed or seeing God. That is the difference between a pure heart and a hypocrite.  The one with the pure heart acts naturally out of a desire to please God.  The hypocrite acts out of arrogance to feign piety in order to please man.  God does not look at behavior, He looks at the heart.
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV
So we know now that purity of heart is an inward desire and we know from earlier beatitudes that we have no purity of heart.  We come to God seeing our spiritual poverty and utter lack of righteousness.  So considering we have no purity of heart, how do we ever get a pure heart?  Is God asking the impossible?  Yes, He is.  He is asking something entirely impossible for us to do on our own.  It is not only impossible, but goes against our sin nature.  It is only through Jesus that our hearts can be cleansed.  It is only through Jesus that we can have a pure heart. 

So what is a man with a pure heart?  He is not someone who never sins, but it is someone who grieves for his sins.  The reality is that while in these bodies, we will continue to sin.  Our sanctification is not complete until we receive our new bodies in eternity.  I am not excusing the sin in my life or yours, I am merely acknowledging the reality that we will still fail God at times after Jesus.  A pure heart is not about behavior, but about desire.  Again, God looks to desire more than He does behavior.  If you live (self) righteously out of a desire to impress man, you will not impress God at all.  That is acting out of a deceitful evil heart, and certainly not a pure heart.  Jesus reserved His harshest words for hypocrites such as that.  On the other hand, you have men like David who committed such sins as adultery and murder, but who was declared by God to be a man after His own heart.  We have men like Paul who called himself the chief of sinners.  We have men like Peter who denied our Lord.  

So what is the difference between a Christian with a pure heart who sins and someone in the world who sins? The difference is that where we were once celebrating that sin, we now grieve over it.  We were once proud of our sin, we are ashamed of it.  We once bragged about our sin, whereas now we confess it.  The man with a pure heart hates sin in general, and especially in his own life.  It was Paul who cried out from a pure heart declaring what a wretched man that he is.  It was David who cried out from a pure heart that he desired for God to create in him a clean heart.  For the child of God, that behavior will improve through a change of inward desire to please God rather than self or man.  For the worldly person who may even desire to change, that change is based on a desire to please others or to save his own flesh.  For the Christian, that change in behavior is because he was saved and cleansed by the blood of Jesus and initiated by God.  For the one in the world, the attempt (through doomed to failure) is initiated by self in order to elevate or save self.     

So now that we know what a pure heart means, how does that bless us?  How do we see God when God is invisible?  First of all, we can not see God the way we would see a tree.  God is not a bearded man in the sky in white robes.  I would not even begin to try to explain that I can even somewhat understand what it would mean to actually see God.  I personally do not know if it is even possible with our mortal eyes.  Our eyes merely perceive light reflected off of an object.  God, being a spirit, is not a physical object that reflect physical light.  If God were "standing" right in front of us, I do not know if we would see Him and if we did, I do not know if we could even comprehend what we were seeing.  Furthermore, how do you see God when God is omnipresent?  God is everywhere at all times. 

So how does one pure of heart see God?  We see Him by seeing Him in everything.  Please do not think I am speaking of God in some sort of pantheistic way where everything is part of God.  That is not what the Bible teaches at all.  You see, when you get past yourself and your fleshly desires and begin to live under the Spirit with a pure heart created in you by God, you begin to see things differently.  For example, yesterday when I almost ran out of gas and had just enough to coast into a gas station and up to a pump, I did not pump my fist and proclaim what great timing I had. No, I saw God keeping my car running just long enough.  When I drove to work this morning in the hard rain and flooded roads and made it to work safely, I did not credit my own driving skill or tire selection, but praised God for keeping me safe.  It is about seeing the Creator through the creation as I spoke about the other day.  You see, if you act out of an impure heart and serve to satisfy the flesh, you will never be able to perceive the spiritual all around you.  However, if you act out of the God-given new desires of your heart and live in the Spirit, you will begin to see the work of God all around you. 
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV

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