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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 2, 2014
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
At the end of the month I will be flying out to California to attend the Shepherds’ Conference for church leaders and to see my relatives. I praise the Lord that He has given my dad such a long life. He is now 91. Throughout my life I have liked being with my dad. Even as a kid, it did not matter whether we were going fishing or I was going out on a job with him, I wanted to be with him. I loved him and I knew that by his actions that he loved me. Those times to be with him have only become more precious in the 23 years that we have lived here in New York.
But as much as I love my dad and like to be with him, there were also times that my dad was the last person in the world I wanted to see. Like the time I was 8 or 9 years old and accidently broke a neighbor’s window. I fled straight to my favorite hiding place. I was not happy to see my dad open the door and peer in at me and ask if there was anything I wanted to tell him. (He later took me with him to repair the window and apologize to our neighbor).
I believe that is the way it is with all of us in our relationship to God. There is born within every child an innate knowledge of God (Romans 1:19). As we grow older and become more conscious of our sinfulness, a fear of God also develops. A proper fear of God is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10) which will lead us to the salvation He offers in Jesus Christ and will keep us reverent and give Him the respect that is due Him. An improper fear can result in either extreme of withdrawing from God or turning against Him with defiant anger and hatred.
This morning I want to talk to you about being able to come to God with the same hope and excitement that young children have in running into their parents arms. There will be a longing to see God and a desire to be with Him when we have the next characteristic listed in our study of the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Let me state at the outset of this sermon that everyone will eventually see God. The question is in what capacity you will see Him? Will you stand before God as His children whom He loves and for whom He has prepared a dwelling place so that you will always be with Him? Or will you stand before Him to be judged and found condemned by your own deeds and therefore separated from Him for all eternity? Will you see Him once or continually?
Revelation 20:11-15 describes what happens to those that are not forgiven their sins by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 11 “And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one [of them] according to their deeds. 14 And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Take note that verses 12-13 make it clear that it is according to their own deeds that they are judged and condemned.
Paul gives a similar description in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. Jesus will come from heaven “with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
There are many that are not “pure in heart” as Jesus describes here. They will see God, but it will be only once at their judgment after which they will be separated from Him for all eternity.
Matthew 5:8 states that the “the pure in heart” are blessed because “they shall see God.” The grammar indicates that this is a continual seeing of God, not a one time event. It will also not be from a point of fear, but from the fulfillment of the longing that was in the heart throughout life. The “pure in heart” will see God from a position of love and acceptance.
These are those who according to Matthew 25:34 will hear from Jesus, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Or as Paul puts it in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, those that are in Christ will meet the Lord in the air, and “thus shall we always be with the Lord.” Or as it says in Revelation 21:3-5, “And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.”
But how is such a proposition to be fulfilled? How is a person to be assured of seeing God in this manner rather than in judgement? What does Jesus mean by saying it is the “pure in heart” that will see God? Who are the “pure in heart?”
To answer these questions, we must first remember the context. This is in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount which is Jesus’ discourse on the nature of true righteousness. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:20 that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Throughout the sermon Jesus contrasts the self righteousness of the religious leaders with true righteousness. Jesus begins this contrast with a series of statements we call the Beatitudes in which He describes the character traits of those who are righteous and the blessings they receive. Later in the Sermon, Jesus gives instruction of how the righteous are to react to various situations in ways that far surpass the legalistic system of righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.
Remember as well that the Beatitudes are neither rules by which you can earn God’s blessings nor can the individual statements be removed to stand alone apart from the other statements in the passage. They present a progression of understanding in the nature of true righteousness, and each characteristic will be developed in a truly righteous person.
Some have wondered why this B
eatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” does not occur somewhere else in the progression. It would seem that this statement alone is so wonderful and all encompassing that it would govern all the other statements. You might think that it should be found either at the beginning as an introduction or at the end as the final conclusion. What could be a greater blessing than seeing God continually? And what righteousness could surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if it is not having a pure heart? Yet this statement is placed in just the place that Jesus wanted it. Let me suggest how all these statements fit together.
First, there is a progression in which each Beatitude builds upon the previous one. Poverty of spirit leads to mourning over your sin which leads to meekness which leads to hungering and thirsting after righteousness which leads to being merciful. Stated another way, each Beatitude is dependent on the one preceding it. You will not truly mourn over your sin unless you are first poor in spirit. You will not be meek if you are not first properly repentant. You will not hunger and thirst for righteousness if you are not first submissive to God. You will not be merciful if you are not first in a quest for righteousness. You will not be pure in heart if you are not first merciful.
Second, there is a symmetry within the Beatitudes. The central theme of both the sermon as a whole and the Beatitudes as a section is righteousness. “Blessed are the those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” is the center of the Beatitudes. The first three Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted; and Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” all demonstrate why the person hungers and thirsts after righteousness. The following three Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy; Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God; Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” all demonstrate the result that comes from being filled with righteousness. In addition, the first three correspond to the three following hungering after righteousness. It is the poor in spirit that are merciful for they know fully their own need for mercy and therefore will give it to others. It is those who mourn that strive after purity of heart for they know their own sinfulness and they desire for that to be cleansed from them. It is those who are meek that are true peacemakers for they in humility submit themselves to doing God’s will regardless of the consequences to themselves. The whole section then concludes with the reaction of the world toward the truly righteous which is persecution.
That is how being pure in heart fits in with all the other Beatitudes, but we still have not answered the question of what it means to be pure in heart and why that would enable someone to see God. First, what does it mean to be pure?
The word “pure” is a good translation of the Greek word used because “pure” encompasses the essence of its meanings. Something that is pure is unmixed with any other matter. Pure maple syrup is not mixed with any other syrup whether it be sugar, corn or anything else. The idea of the Greek word here is that it is unified, all of one substance, without contamination. Pure water is only pure if it is without contamination.
The word “pure” also brings out the idea of “cleansing” which is another idea in this Greek word, kaqarovV / katharos, from which we get our word, “catharsis,” meaning to “cleanse the emotions or spirit.” Something may be pure because it was never contaminated or because all the impurities were removed from it. A cup can be washed and made clean (Matthew 23:26) and gold is refined and made pure in a fire (Revelation 3:18).
The basic idea of being pure is that the object is something that is not contaminated with anything else. There is no pollution, no corruptness, no adulteration, no defilement, no stain, no defect. When this is applied to human character, we would say that a person who is pure is a person who is holy. The connection between purity and holiness is brought out in Hebrews 12:14 which says to “pursue peace with all men and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” It is the “pure in heart” that will see God, and at the same time according to this verse, unless a person is holy they will not see God. I suggest to you that both verses are speaking of the same thing.
My claim is strengthened by looking at this same concept in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was widely used at the time of Christ, the very same word we are looking at in Matthew 5:8 is used over and over again in describing the ceremonial cleaning that took place to make an article or a person “holy” for usage in the worship of God or to continue in relationship with Him. It must be understood that anything of common usage or anything associated with sinfulness was considered impure. Anything associated with death was impure because death was due to the curse of sin. Childbirth brought uncleanliness because of its association with the curse upon Eve and through her to all mothers. Objects and people would go through a cleansing ceremony in order to be set apart to God.
Here are some examples. In Exodus 19:10, Moses tells the people that they must consecrate themselves and wash (purify) their clothes prior to when God would meet Moses on Mt Sinai. In Leviticus 8, Aaron and his sons cleanse (purify) themselves in preparation to serve God, and in Numbers 8, the Levities do the same. Most of the book of Leviticus deals with being cleansed (purified) after being made unclean whether it was because of being in contact with unclean animals or dead things (11), birth (12), leprosy (13-14), molds & mildews in a house (14), sickness (15), or immorality (18). Even the altar upon which the sacrifices would be made had to be purified (Leviticus 8:15).
It was this concept of outward purification that was the focus of the elaborate traditions set up by the Pharisees. Both the Talmudic and Midrashic literature prior to and from the time of Christ describe in great detail what would defile a person or a thing, the consequences of that, and what would have to be done to cleanse it. There were even ten stages of uncleanliness described depending on the degree of exclusion it would cause and what would be required to purify the person or object again. Even the land of Judea was set apart into ten degrees of holiness ranging from unclean people excluded from entering the nation all the way to the inner court of the Temple where only clean Jewish men could enter. Such laws developed by the Rabbis governed every aspect of their lives in their concern for the outward appearance. That is what would have been in the minds of people if Jesus had simply said, “Blessed are the pure.” The Scribes and Pharisees had that sort of outward purity which is why they considered themselves to be righteous.
Pure in Heart
Jesus made a statement much greater than to just be pure. He said “Blessed are the pure in heart,” for that is the true nature of being clean before God. The purity of true righteousness is inward. Outward cleansing is not enough (Psalm 51:10).
Jesus was not saying anything that the people should not have already understood because the Hebrew scriptures make it very clear that God has always sought for His people to be pure inwardly which would then result in an outward purity. Inward corruption cannot be whitewashed with outward ritual and be clean before our holy God. That is why Jesus used the analogy of whitewashed tombs to describe the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27. They appeared beautiful and c
lean on the outside, but inside was all corruption and uncleanness.
God already destroyed the world once because of man’s sin. Genesis 6:5 describes it, “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Note that when the Bible uses the word “heart” to describe the inner nature of man, it is not referring to just the seat of emotions which is how our culture tends to think of the heart. It is referring to the seat of the intellect, emotion and will. It is that which is in the man that controls him and sets his direction). Because man’s heart was wicked, God sent the flood during the days of Noah to destroy all but a small remnant of mankind. However, it did not take long for the descendants of those eight people that survived in the ark to fall into wickedness again. God called Abraham and his descendants to follow Him and be His people in a special way. God eventually raised up Moses to lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and into the promised land. Moses also gave them the Law which later Rabbis perverted into an intricate system governing all the externals of life. But in the Law itself, God was clear that He wanted much more than outward compliance. God wanted the people to obey from the heart.
The book of Deuteronomy makes that point over and over again. In 4:9 God warns the generation that was about to enter the land to be diligent to not let all they had seen “depart from their hearts,” but to remember and teach it to their children. In 4:29 God tells them that regardless of the circumstances that may come, that “you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” In 5:29 God calls on them to have “such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” In 6:5-6 the call to Israel is that they “shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” In 8:5 God tells them that the testing in the wilderness was to know what was in their hearts. Continually God warns them about what would be in their hearts and be careful of pride in your own strength and power (8:14,17), of self-righteousness (9:4-5), of selfish thoughts (15:9), of greed (17:17). What God wanted from Israel is stated well in 10:12, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” They were to “circumcise their hearts and stiffen their necks no more” (10:16).
Jesus was simply calling the people back to this old standard. It is as 1 Samuel 16:7 states, “. . . man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It is the same today. Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9, “this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
Many who claim to be Christians are in great danger because they are like hard hearted Israel of old and like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They feign an outward appearance of being good. They, like the Pharisees, have washed the outside of the cup. They practice what we would consider to be good things. They give of their time and money to charities. They will give a handout to beggars. They are good at coming to church on Sunday mornings. Some may even be outstanding active members of the church. They think they have good morals because they refrain from cultural taboos such as drinking, smoking and gambling. But God says, “so what?” Like the Pharisees, they forgot to get the inside of the cup cleaned. What good is it to think you have the moral high ground because you will not go to a movie theater if you watch the same trash in your home on a DVD?
Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-19, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man.” And those religious leaders of Jesus time, as we shall see in the weeks to come as we continue in the Sermon on the Mount, committed everyone of those deeds. They were guilty of murder because of their hatred (Matthew 5:21-22). They committed adultery and fornication because they harbored lust in their hearts (5:27-28). They committed theft and were false witness because they did not keep their vows (5:33-37). They slandered because they did not love their neighbors (5:43-45). Pride, self-righteousness, gossip, slander, back-biting, revenge, hatred, bitterness, theft from God of time and money, all these things are common elements in the churches of America today proving that American Christianity is no different in many respects from the hypocritical Judaism that Jesus spoke against. Jesus speaks against this sort of false religion as well.
Becoming Pure in Heart
How can someone become pure in heart? The Beatitudes preceding this one tell us.
First, there is a casting away of all human endeavor to earn it, because you cannot earn it. It is as Isaiah the prophet said, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags.” We must start by being poor in spirit. We must come to God and Him alone for help and trust Him to do it. What I read Deuteronomy 4:29 is still true, “you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” Hebrews 11:6 puts it this way, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” To seek out and place trust in any other place – in yourself, your works, a church, or even a religion – leaves a pollution, and you are not cleansed. You start by recognizing that you are spiritually bankrupt, and as a spiritual beggar, you seek out God. You must follow the call of James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse you hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
(See: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit)
Second, as you humble yourself before to God, you recognize your sin and mourn over it. Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 7 that Godly sorrow leads to repentance without regret, leading to salvation. You ask God for His forgiveness and based upon the work of Christ on the cross in dying for your sins, He does forgive you and comforts you by removing your sin as stated in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse (purify) us from all unrighteousness.”
(See: Blessed are Those that Mourn)
Third, in the humility that comes from being poor in spirit and mourning over sin, you yield yourself to doing God’s will. Though you may be – will be – slandered and taken advantage of, your goal in life is no longer self glorification, but pleasing Jesus Christ our Savior and bringing glory to Him. Like Jesus, your food becomes doing the Father’s will (John 4:34). That is meekness. (See: Blessed are the Meek)
Fourth, you are driven by a hunger and thirst to become like Christ in all of your character. When you turn from your si
n and place your faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, God not only saves you from your sin and forgives you, He imputes Jesus’ righteousness to you so that you are clean before Him. Hunger and thirst for righteousness craves for that positional righteousness to become practical righteousness in daily life. This is called sanctification and it drives the outward changes in how you live. You want people to see Jesus Christ living in you and thereby fulfill the very purpose of your salvation of being conformed into His image (Romans 8:29). (See: Blessed are the Hungry & Thirsty)
Fifth, because of the mercy you have received from God through Jesus, you extend that mercy to others. You reach out in graciousness to help others and forgive even when they wrong you. (See: Blessed are the Merciful)
Purity of heart is the craving of hungering and thirsting for righteousness to be inward as well as outward. The desire is that of 2 Corinthians 10:5 for every thought and attitude to be held captive to the obedience of Christ.
You were cleansed when you first placed your trust in Christ for salvation by His sacrificial death on your behalf. Hebrews 1:3 states, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 1 John 1:7 tells us that the “blood of His son cleanses us from all sin.” Peter says in Acts 15:9 that God had brought salvation to the Gentiles just as he had to them and was “cleansing their hearts by faith.”
But purification is not stagnant. The Holy Spirit continues to “cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. Do not flee your guilt! Embrace it by confessing it and turning from it so that God’s forgiveness will cleanse your conscience and life. The practical effect of the inward cleansing is the pursuit of outward purity. Paul’s call in 2 Corinthians 7:1 is that in light of all God’s promises to us that we, “cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” He also said in 2 Timothy 2:22 to “flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
God’s promises to those who are pure in heart are motivating to continue the pursuit even when life gets difficult. Revelation 19:18 states that one day we will wear clean (pure) white linen at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will also dwell in the city of pure gold that is illuminated by the glory of God (Revelation 21:18; 22:5), and so shall we see God for ever. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
One last Scripture in closing. Titus 1:15-16 states that “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” To those that have been purified through the blood of Christ and who are striving to live in purity from the heart, all things are pure because they strive to do all things to please God and understand all things from His perspective. To all others, there is only impurity. They demonstrate that they do not believe God because they do not obey God.
I do not know your hearts, but God does. I have been in ministry long enough to know that eventually what is really in your heart will come out. For those that are pure in heart there will be a deeper walk with Christ. For those that are not, some of whom as I said earlier may even give an outward appearance of being good, will eventually tire of the charade and return to serving what is at the center of their hearts which is themselves.
If you have never made a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – or if you are living a charade and you know it – I invite you to turn to Jesus Christ and let Him begin His cleansing work. Let Him purify your heart. Talk with me or one of the church leaders today. If you do know the Lord Jesus Christ, I challenge you to continue to let the Holy Spirit purify your life in every area and bring glory to the name of Jesus. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times a word for “pure” is said. Talk with your parents about what it means to be pure in heart and how that would be expressed in your life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. When you were a child, what made you want to be near them? What caused you to want to avoid them? Do you want to be near God or avoid Him? Why? When will the unrighteous see God? When will the righteous see God? What is the context of Matthew 5:8? What is the relationship of the Beatitudes with one another and what is the significance of the order in which Jesus presents them? How do the Beatitudes express the theme of the sermon? What does it mean to be pure? What does it mean to cleanse? What is the relationship between cleansing and holiness? How did the Pharisees seek to promote what they believed was purity? What is the significance that the blessing here is for those who are pure in heart and not just pure? What is the significance of the usage of the word heart in the Bible? What was the relationship of the Mosaic Law to purity in heart? Explain. In what ways are many modern Christians like the Pharisees? How does a person become pure in heart? How is this related to the Beatitudes? What cleansing occurs at salvation? What is the relationship between sanctification and purity? How is a person sanctified? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in this? What is the role of the individual human in this? Regarding Titus 1:15-16, why are all things pure to the pure while they are defiled to the unbelieving? Are you pure in heart?
Blessed Are the Pure in Heart
February 2, 2014 – Matthew 5:8
An __________________ fear of God can result in either fleeing Him or anger and hatred toward Him
We should have a longing to see and be with God – those who are ____________ in heart do
The theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the nature of true _____________needed to enter Jesus’ kingdom
The Beatitudes are the _________received by those who have the listed characteristics of true righteousness
The Beatitudes are a _______________of righteous characteristics that build upon one another
Poor in spirit mourning meekness hunger & thirst for righteousne
ss merciful pure in heart
There is a symmetry within the Beatitudes with hunger and thirst for righteousness as the __________
The first three Beatitudes are _________ the person hungers and thirsts for righteousness
The 5th – 8th Beatitudes are the ___________ that come from being filled with righteousness
The final Beatitude is the world’s _______________to the righteous
That which is pure (kaqarovV / katharos) is ____________ with any other matter – without contamination
Cleanse – to have the ___________________removed so that it is pure (Matt. 23:26; Rev. 3:18)
A human with a pure character is a person who is ___________, a necessity to see God – Hebrews 12:14
This word is used consistently in the Septuagint to describe ceremonial __________to make something holy
The traditions of the Pharisees were established in the effort to be cleansed / be pure by their _____standards
Pure in Heart
The purity of true righteousness is ___________. Outward cleansing is not enough (Psalm 51:10).
Inward corruption cannot be whitewashed by _____________ ritual (Matthew 23:27)
God has already destroyed the world once because of man’s ____________hearts – Genesis 6:5.
The Law given through Moses was meant to be obeyed from the _____________
Deuteronomy 4:9, 29; 5:29; 6:5-6; 8:5,14,17; 9:4-5; 10:12,16; 15:9; 17:17
Professing Christians who are like the ______________are in great danger – Matthew 15:18-19
Becoming Pure in Heart
4) Hunger and thirst for ________________- to be like Jesus in all of your character (Mt. 5:6) Sanctification
5) Recognize the __________you have received from God and extend that to others (Mt. 5:7)
Purity of heart is the craving of hungering and thirsting for righteousness to be _________as well as outward
The pure in heart will see and be with God throughout _________- Revelation 19:18; 21:18; 22:5
Titus 1:15-16 ___________________________________________________________________________
Turn to Christ and let Him ________you from sin – walk by the Holy Spirit and let Him ________your life
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