Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
I enjoy meeting people. I really do. I know not all people are that way. For some, meeting new people can take real effort to the point of just being laborious. I’m not so much that way. I generally like to hear people’s stories. People are just interesting to me. You are interesting to me! If you are here and we have not really gotten to know each other, it’s not because I don’t want to, it has more to do with this shared restraint we all deal with called time. We are all limited by a 24 hour day and the need for sleep and other responsibilities. Getting to know people though is interesting to me, I enjoy that.
As much as I do enjoy getting to know people, and you may too, I also realize that there are very few people that will cross my path in my lifetime that I will really, really know. You and I may talk, we may even do things together; but there is a difference in hanging out with each other and really getting to know each other.
There have been many people that I thought I knew well, to then be surprised to learn I didn’t really know them at all. You have probably experienced that. Something happens or is revealed and you think wow…I never would have thought that of a particular person.
This can happen and often does because we may, and many do, operate on two levels. Level one is: I will call it our outside person. This is the person that everyone sees. This outside person carries himself a certain way, looks a certain way, and behaves a certain way. The other level is the inside person. Our inside person can be much different than the outside one. The inside person is the real you and me. The inside person is the part of us that is not always seen. It is how we think and feel that may not be seen by others. We all have filters. It is interesting. We may think and feel a certain way, that comes from our inner person and then we sanitize those thoughts, clean up those feelings and what comes out is what I want you to see, which may have little to do with what my inner man was processing. In other words what we see coming from a person or what we hear may not be what they really think or even reflect well who they really are. This makes it hard, even tricky to really know another person. It can be a challenge. We present to others what we want them to see, sometimes regardless of who we are on the inside. Jesus of course, knew this. So Jesus says in Matthew 5:8:
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Jesus didn’t just say, “Blessed are the pure,” but said “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Jesus did not say, blessed are those who look pure, who say pure things, who talk about purity, who teach about being pure, who understand the concept of purity, who call out people who are not pure, who think they are pure. No Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart.”
Our tendency may be to look at the outside of a person, the outer person. We may appreciate what we see. We also may tend to show others only our outer man, our presentation man, our carefully crafted person, our public persona. Jesus cuts through that. He is not impressed with the person we conjure up for others. In fact we read in 1 Samuel 16 as the Lord is speaking to Samuel He says this in verse 7:
1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
And so when Jesus in the Beatitudes, in this introduction of sorts to His first public sermon in which he lays out a description of His Kingdom of how His kingdom operates and functions, it is no wonder that He would say, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” The Lord is interested in the heart of His follower. He is interested in what is going on in your inner person, your inner most person, not so much of what is seen on the outside.
Now, the more we are around each other the more what is on the inside comes out and is seen. If I only see you here, if you only see me here on Sundays then you might not and I might not really see much of who we really are. But if you spend time at my house or I spend time with you outside of church, living life together, we would certainly learn more about each other, we would tend to get a better glimpse into each other’s inner man.
I was thinking about this very thing last week. I was thinking about how we can be so fearful of that. Sometimes we may not want our church friends in our homes because we can’t easily cover who we are. We may not want our children around some people because you know how small children can be, they just tell all…right?
We don’t usually say, oh, if you think my husband is a godly man at church, you should see him at home, he is like, 10 times more godly at home, you know, doing real life than simply what you see at church! It’s not so much that way, it’s more like we are afraid for people to see us in our normal environments where our inner man may be more out there in the open than when we are more able to hide that inner man away.
When we talk about purity of heart we can do so in two ways. First we can talk about purity in heart as inner holiness, inner holiness in contrast with outward forms of holiness.
In the Old Testament we can find many examples of ritualistic practices of observance to God’s commands with sincere obedience that flows from a sincere heart. For instance in Deuteronomy 10:12-16, we read:
Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
One thing we see here is that there is an obedience in deeds that bypasses obedience from the heart. God says, circumcise your heart, deal with your heart, your inner man.
Similarly in Deuteronomy 30:6:
Deuteronomy 30:6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Again, notice the emphasis on the heart, the heart that needs changing. Samuel said in 1 Samuel 15:22:
1 Samuel 15:22 Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
David said in Psalm 24:3-5:
Psalm 24:3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Even more dramatically, Jeremiah was brutally clear when he spoke to those who practiced a form of religion while trampling on the weak and innocent and chasing after false gods.
Jeremiah 7:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ 5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. 8 Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?”
Jeremiah was not speaking to some secular group. He was speaking to those who were entering the house of God to worship the Lord. They were his audience as he speaks of them going after other gods, thieves, murderers, adulterers, and so on. These were a religious group who practiced a form of religion, but their hearts were far from the Lord. They were not in any measure “pure in heart.”
The second way we can think about purity is that we are not double minded about things. Like, we show mercy because we love to show mercy, not simply to look good or to gain something. Or we show kindness, even to those who cannot return kindness. In other words we do what we do because we love the Lord not so that we get something in return. Maybe it is like serving in ways that will never be known by others, or to people we will never see again. In this sense then, being pure in heart is obeying God because we get to not as if we are on a covert mission to manipulate through our kindness for our own good or pleasure.
Our challenge is that we walk in the light both with our external self and our internal self. That we do not foster a discrepancy between the two or that we do not become satisfied with simply playing the part of Christians, at times, but that we are living as Christians all of the time. It gets, life gets, very dicey if we are really thinking about our hearts.
D.A Carson wrote: “We human beings are a strange lot. We hear high moral injunctions and glimpse just a little of the genuine beauty of perfect holiness, and then prostitute the vision by dreaming about the way others would hold us in high esteem if we were like that. The demand for genuine perfection loses itself in the lesser goal of external piety; the goal of pleasing the Father is traded for its pygmy cousin, the goal of pleasing men.”
The most stinging remarks we find in the New Testament regarding outward form and inward hypocrisy are in Matthew 23 as Jesus addresses the Pharisees. Now, before we dismiss this as “well of course the Pharisees lacked purity of heart,” let’s remember they were the religious leaders, the most religious in their society. They were in general the ones looked up to in their day. People did not laugh at them or make fun of them on the streets, no, they generally held them in very high esteem and had great respect for them. They were the educated, the teachers, and the role models even in their religious circles. But Jesus, cuts right through their outward form and goes right for the heart, the inner man, when he says beginning in chapter 23 verse 1:
Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 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. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 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. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. These men desired glory for themselves, craved positive attention from people, wanted to be praised by their followers. They were obsessed with self-glory and found it in living a lie, living a lie of outward purity.”
They will not see God. How we perform for others, for each other is of no consequence to God. God is interested in the heart. Who we are here doesn’t really matter if it is not who we are. Who are we? Who are you, who am I? Who are we before God?
I think the second beatitude and this one are tied together. If we mourn over sin then we will desire to be pure in heart. If we recognize our sins, our sinful deeds, sinful thoughts, sinful desires, and if we hate those sins and stop making provision for those sins because we hate them, then as we mourn we will labor to rip them out, cry out to God to rip them out of us, long for purity, weep for purity, cry out to God for purity and in the process we will be the pure in heart and we will see God.
But here is the thing. It is only through Christ that we can be pure in heart. It is His life in us, His work in us, and His provision for us that will in any way make us pure in heart. We are not capable of this on our own. This is being honest about who we are, we are mere people but those who have been a part of God’s plan of redemption through His Son. Jesus was totally and completely pure, and He has given Himself to us. So we don’t have to pretend to be something we are not; instead we can simply rely on Him and worship Him knowing that anything good in us is of Him. He is our life. He is to be our life.
Please don’t let this go, don’t float through life, float through your religious life, and wake up one day and say, this is not me, this is not for me. NO, deal with it now, get help if needed, but look into your own heart and see if you really are who you think you are – do you love Christ and desire to be with Him?
There are always statistics given, I’m sure you have heard them, of young people who grow up in the church and after HS graduation leave the faith never to return. It wasn’t real for them. I don’t know what the current stats are on that but the percentages are high. But let me say the stats are also very high of middle aged adults who, after their children leave home, they too quit the church, turn from what they had so professed to love, find things to pursue other than Christ. I grew up in the church. I had dozens of adults in my life who taught me in Sunday school, in youth group and so on. Of the dozens I would guess I could easily count on one hand those who are still in church. What’s up with that? Was it real? Doesn’t look like it. Who were they then, who are they now? Maybe it wasn’t real at all. It is sad. Forms of religion are not anchors of faith. Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart (it’s got to be real!), for they shall see God.
Where are you in this matter of the heart? Who are you really? Is Christ in you? Are you in Him?
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.