Blessed are the Pure in Heart - the Heart Matters

Speaking of the heart, Jeremiah 17:9 says,
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Exodus 8:32 says of Pharaoh’s heart,
But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.

Jesus said this in Luke 6:45,
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Deuteronomy 6:5 says,
And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Again Psalm 86:11 says,
Teach me Your way, LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Psalm 51: 5-7 says,
Behold, I was brought forth in guilt, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in secret You will make wisdom known to me. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 
Continuing later in, Psalm 51:9-12 it says,
Hide Your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilty deeds.
Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.
 
Matthew 5:8 says, 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

There is a saying, “Let’s get to the heart of the matter.” No problem is ever solved by merely looking at the surface issues surrounding a situation. That’s exactly what Jesus speaks to in the Beatitude we will look at today. It matters what exists in our heart.

I tell people all the time how I am continually amazed at the genius of God, His nature and of course God Himself. It starts when I look and observe the wonder of His creation and its magnificence. But then I am amazed even further as I ponder and experience Who He is and how He has revealed Himself. I hope you’re seeing some of that as we have examined what Jesus said in these Beatitudes.

Now we come to the next of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” At first glance it seems like a simple enough statement. And if we rushed pasted it, we would miss what I just mentioned. You see, in the simplest of statements is wrapped the genius of God’s revelation. We should never make the mistake that because something is simple, that it’s simplistic. The weightiest of truths are captured in simple terms. Everything about what Jesus has been saying is deeply profound and relevant to our lives at a foundational level. These truths provide the building blocks in a relationship with the True and Living God.

In studying these Beatitudes, I have learned and shared with you that there is a sequenced pattern in how Jesus presents these Beatitudes. Remember, Jesus is presenting character traits which should be evident in the lives of His followers.

In the first three, Jesus lays out how His followers come to an Awareness of Needs in their lives. The believer becomes aware of their coming to God with nothing to offer - Poor in spirit. The believer is one who becomes aware and comes mourning their sinful state and is comforted by God’s grace. The believer is someone who comes humbly into His kingdom.

The next three of the Beatitudes then lays out corresponding results of the satisfaction of those needs. The Poor in Spirit become persons who are Merciful. Those who have mourned and are comforted by grace become the pure in heart. We’ll look at that today. The humble follower becomes the peacemaker, we’ll look at that next week.

Later we’ll see the outcome of the follower who lives out the reality of all of those mentioned. Living in this world they will become those persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

All of these that He lays out are pointed and realistic. There’s no painting around the edges with Jesus. It’s the true and Living God talking to a real and desperate humanity and offering to them a better way out of the dilemma of our existence.

Blessed are the pure in heart. Once again, we see that God’s interest with us points to an inner reality before dealing with the outward. His emphasis is with our heart before our head. It’s not enough to have a knowledge of God. A relationship with God is not confined to an outward compliance to moral principles. Our faith, our doctrine is not merely a set of principles. Those principles must stem from an encounter with God inwardly. Mere intellectual assent is insufficient to knowing God. An individual must surrender their soul to the realities that God presents to us about Himself and ourselves. And that surrender must occur within us before anything we do outwardly has any value before Him.

To see an example of how this looks from a negative perspective, we only have to look at Jesus with the Pharisees. Here is a group of very religiously observant individuals who had reduced their faith to outward conduct. But what was Jesus’ assessment? Matthew 23:27 says,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

What appeared alive and clean on the outside, Jesus said is inwardly really dead and unclean. Knowing God, a relationship with God, must first and foremost exist out of an inward relationship. Knowing, hearing and seeing God is a heart thing.

Now, what does Jesus mean by heart? Well, hen Jesus speaks of the heart, He’s not speaking in emotional terms or our affections. The heart is not primarily emotional, intellectual or connected with the will. All of these can and will become involved but that’s not what it points to primarily.

To put is simply, the Heart is the center of person. The heart is the wellspring from which everything else flows. It’s the totality of the core. We use the phrase, “Here’s the heart of the matter.” If we were to say that something is rotten to the core, it means that from deep within there is a problem.

I remember as a boy being with my dad when he would purchase a watermelon. I don’t know what they called it. But they would take an instrument and dig into the core of the watermelon. They would then pull it out with a sample from the middle. My dad would taste it and know if it was sweet or not. I remember getting taste and smiling knowing that later I would get to have a slice of cold sweet watermelon.

God deals with the Heart because in truth, our problem is a core, a heart problem. The source of our problem is at the very core of our being. Reforms of the outward will not solve our problem. The heart, the core of who we are has to be attended to.

History and contemporary life is a witness to the failed attempts to help mankind by saying that our problem is education or our environment. “A safer, a healthier, a wealthier, a more educated humanity will make it all good.

I remember meeting with a group of regional education leaders in another country. I began by thanking them for the work they do in helping children learn. It’s an important work. I understand it is hard work. My daughter is a teacher and she has shared often how difficult that work is. But I also shared a story with them that I had once heard.

There was an industrialist who ran a railroad. One day a worker on the railroad was caught stealing nails at the worksite. Rather than dismissing the worker the owner said to himself, “What this man lacks is an education. He steals because he is uneducated.” So, he pays to send this man to school and then to the university to improve the man. When that man had completed his education, he returned to the railroad and then later stole the railroad from the industrialist.

The Bible has an answer to this story. In Jeremiah 17:9 it says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

You see, mankind’s problem is in the core of his being. That’s why a solution must address mankind at the core, at their heart.

Jesus says the heart must be pure. What does He mean by Pure? There are two aspects to look at in answering that question: a Clean Heart and a Devoted Heart.

Remember, when we speak of these character traits, we are not talking about something that comes natural or is the product of our exerted effort. It must be a byproduct, a result of what God’s does.

First of all, a pure heart is a clean heart. This speaks of the redemptive work of God in the heart of an individual. The problem with our hearts is that they are sinful.

Psalm 51: 5-7 says,
Behold, I was brought forth in guilt, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in secret You will make wisdom known to me. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow.

The writer is saying that he see his sin and asks God to cleanse him.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The follower of Jesus recognizes their sinfulness. They go to the only place where sinful hearts are made clean. Someone might say, “Yea, but it doesn’t stay clean. I still sin.” Yes, that’s true. But the solution remains the same. You return to the place where hearts are cleansed. We confess our sin and He cleanses us. We fight this battle, we strive to obey Him, and when we fail, we acknowledge our need for cleansing and go always to the only place cleansing is provided.

A pure heart before God is a heart that is also singularly devoted and sincere. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me Your way, LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” Lord, unite my heart to fear, to honor You Lord. In the core of my being Lord, I desire this, Lord. You see, a cleansed heart is a heart linked, is devoted to the One who cleanses.

And of course, the first and great commandment speaks clearly to this. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” There is no one  or nothing who should stand before God in my heart’s devotion. He is to be our primary consideration and commitment. Our problems arise when anything else takes first place and is the driving force for our lives and decisions. A pure heart is a devoted heart.
The follower of Jesus knows that there is nowhere to turn. Left to ourselves our hearts are darkened. Whenever I encounter the temptation to even contemplate another way, I am reminded of an incident recorded in John 6. Many people had been coming to Jesus to hear Him and enjoy the miracles that He was performing. But then He began to say things that put people off. In verse 66 it says that “many of His disciples left and would no longer walk with Him.” You see, outwardly they liked the benefits Jesus provided. But not so inwardly because they walked away.

But then in John 6:67-69. Here is the incident I always bring back to mind.
So, Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to leave also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

They knew in their hearts the reality of God’s work in their lives. It wasn’t merely an outward compliance. They had come to believe and they knew. In a manner of speaking, “They had seen with in their eyes and devoted their hearts to the One to whom they knew was the Holy One of God.”

My eyes have never seen God. And yet, I am witness that He cleanses dark hearts and sets them in going in a direction they would have never thought possible. I am a sinner, but He is a great and mighty Savior. And as He cleanses my heart, that same heart sees the God who rescues sinners, who is more wonderfully amazing then ever I could image.

I remember reading something in a book by C.S. Lewis that comes to mind right now. He said something to the effect of: “If a person is running away from evil, they know that they can run toward the good and be rescued. The hero will save them. But if you’re running from the good, where to you turn. Will the evil villain rescue you?” I think not.

Friend, why would run away from God? He wants to help you. But it’s not about turning over a new leaf, keeping moral rules or devoting yourself to doing good deeds. It’s about an honest dialog with the living God about what you truly need.

You need a pure heart. He’s in the purifying business. Call out to Him and He will rescue you from yourself and give you a clean heart.

We all need clean hearts. We need clean hearts if we’re going to see God.
That’s the truth of it.
It’s a Truth that Matters.

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