Monday, March 23, 2015

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

Part 7 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Amazing Sights to See 

There are many amazing places to see on earth--places like (1) Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China, (2) Victoria Falls bordering Zimbabwe and Zambia in Africa, (3) The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam, (4) Tunnel of Love in Klevan, Ukraine, (5) Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives. But nothing compares to seeing God. Jesus declared,

Psalm 24

The sixth beatitude is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). When Jesus spoke these words, he was probably thinking of Psalm 24. This psalm refers to a person with “a pure heart” (v. 4), who “will receive blessing from the LORD” (v. 5) and “seek[s] the face of the God of Jacob” (v. 6).

The Importance of the Heart

Jesus didn’t say that the outwardly pure would see God. He said “the pure in heart.” The heart is “the core of a person, that place from which we feel and think and determine out actions.” [1] The heart is who we really are.

All of us, to some degree, are concerned with our outward appearance. But how concerned are we with our hearts? “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus emphasized the importance of the heart. He taught that his followers are to strive for inward purity.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). 
All sin begins in the heart. Sinful desires often lead to sinful actions.
“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:18-19). [2]
The scribes and Pharisees were satisfied with being outwardly pure. Jesus called them hypocrites.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:25-28). 

What Does It Mean to Be "Pure in Heart"?

You can buy "maple flavoured syrup" or "pure maple syrup." Maple flavoured syrup" It’s packaged to appear like it’s maple syrup, but it really isn’t. The person who is “pure in heart” is what he or she claims to be (unlike the scribes and Pharisees, who were hypocrites).

Purity of heart is sincerity of heart. The person with a pure heart just doesn’t claim to love God. He or she really does. In Psalm 24, the person who has a pure heart “does not lift up his soul to what is false [i.e., an idol]” (v. 4). His heart is devoted to God, not an idol.

Citizens of God’s kingdom sincerely love their King. 

Many people claim to love God, but their hearts don’t belong to God. They are idolaters. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke against idolatry and said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). [3]

A Change of Heart

We do not by nature have pure hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). We need new hearts. God saw this need and promised that there would come a time when his people would receive new hearts.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:25-26).
When we put our faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us (“I will put my Spirit within you,” Ezek. 36:27). The Holy Spirit transforms our hearts. We now have a new desire to love and obey God. “Purity of heart is not a qualification for salvation; it is a result of salvation.” [4]

Seeing God

There is a connection between having a pure heart and seeing God. When your heart is devoted to someone, you long to see that person. A woman is apart from the man she loves, longs to see him. Only those who truly love God long for the blessing of seeing him.

The pure in heart are blessed because “they shall see God.” The apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). And the apostle Paul says that God “dwells in unap-proachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). Moses was given a glimpse of God’s glory, but God told him, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exod. 33:20). But one day, all of God’s people “will see his face” (Rev. 22:4).

The greatest blessing a human could ever experience is to see God. 

But if your heart isn’t devoted to God, then the thought of seeing God isn’t very exciting. It’s a sign that you’re devoted to an idol.

You Don't Need a Bucket List 

Some people make a “bucket list.” It’s a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” It would be nice to see all of earth’s amazing places before I die. But I also believe that death is not the end.

In this life, I won’t see everything I’d like to see. But that’s alright because I know I’ll see God. And I’ll enjoy the new heavens and new earth without having to worry about death again. So I don’t really need a bucket list.

[1] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 205.
[2] Jesus also said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
[3] James writes, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
[4] Charles L. Quarles, Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church, Kindle location 1402.

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