Blessed are the Pure in Heart
March 13, 2005 / No. 3245
Dear radio friends,
You will recall that we have been following in the last weeks the Beatitudes, those pronouncements of blessing that the Lord uttered in Matthew 5 upon the citizens of His kingdom: Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are they that mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness; blessed are the merciful. Today we come to the sixth: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
As we take up the sixth Beatitude, it is important to remember a few things about the Beatitudes, these pronouncements of blessings from the lips of Jesus. The eight Beatitudes, first of all, do not describe eight different people. They are the spiritual characteristics of every one who, by grace, has entered into Christ’s kingdom. All eight of these are found in each child of God. All are worked by the King of the kingdom, the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Spirit in the heart of each one. This is what it means to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. And this is what such a citizen will look like from a spiritual point of view. They are poor in spirit; they mourn; they are meek; they hunger and thirst after righteousness; they are merciful; they are pure in heart; they are peacemakers; they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Do you see yourself, by the grace of God?
The second thing that we must remember is that they are inward spiritual graces. The Lord is speaking in opposition to Phariseeism, which emphasized the outward. In contrast, He was saying that the children of His kingdom were, first of all, those who have been changed within. They possess, though not perfectly, these characteristics in spirit and in heart.
Finally, we have seen that there is a close connection between the Beatitudes. The Lord did not select them at random. There is a sequence of thought. The first three are concerned with our need. God makes us to be poor in spirit, to mourn, and to be meek. The fourth Beatitude is the great statement of the satisfaction of our need: Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. There we learned of God’s rich provision in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Then, the next three present the result of our being satisfied or having been given this righteousness. We are made merciful (v. 7); we are made pure in heart (v. 8); and, finally, blessed are the peacemakers (v. 9).
The Lord, then, says that those who have obtained mercy and those who have been filled with the righteousness of Christ are pure in heart. And He adds this blessing: “They shall see God.”
What is it to be pure in heart? We begin, really, with asking this question: Are there any pure in heart? Will any say, “I am pure of heart”? Yes. Yes, there is one, Jesus our Savior, who could say in Psalm 40, “I never have within my heart, Thy faithfulness concealed.” But, other than Jesus, are there any pure in heart?
The word “pure” we take to mean “without pollution, without contaminants.” We speak of pure air, pure water, pure gold. Pure. If Scripture is plain about one thing, and if the experience of the child of God bears that one thing out, it is this: that our hearts are corrupt and polluted in sin. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful (it is corrupt) above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” What heart is free from the pollutant of sin? There is none. There is none within the hearing of this broadcast. There is absolutely none.
What heart is a clear pool of water, 100% pure? You know that if you would stand up and say, “I am pure of heart,” that your conscience (if you have one), and also the world itself and everything around you would condemn you. There is no heart free of the pollutant of evil. So we must begin by saying that the Lord, when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” does not mean by “pure in heart,” sinless. In fact, let us emphasize that the first evidence of the pure heart of which Jesus is speaking is to be conscious of and to be burdened by the impurity that dwells within our hearts. The pure in heart have been given to see the ocean of filth, the dirty, stained ocean of sin within. We cry (Psalm 51:10), “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” That is why we must come, by faith, to Jesus Christ. We bring before Him, day after day, a defiled heart, a guilty conscience, a polluted heart. And we come to the fountain of cleansing. We come before Christ to be assured that our sins are cleansed and to be given strength to fight against sin and to live in obedience.
Is that why you come to Christ? Is that what it means for you to believe in Him — that you experience that your heart condemns you, that you are burdened by a sin within you? Do you know Christ as the only cleansing of heart?
But we ask, then, “What is a pure heart?” We see, very clearly, that it cannot mean a sinless heart and that a pure heart knows its own defilement. But what is a pure heart?
The Lord is always emphasizing the heart. He always begins with the heart. He always talks about the heart. Salvation by grace is a matter of the change of the heart, which God alone can do. The Pharisees of the Lord’s day were always ready to reduce the way of life and righteousness to a mere matter of conduct, of behavior and appearance before men. And their religion (Phariseeism) is simply the proud religion that we all possess by nature. The Lord would say to them ( Matt. 23), “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees…. for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and the platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
The Lord says, “You must not begin with, you must not place all the emphasis upon, the outward appearance. But you must face the reality of that which is within. To be pure without, while you are defiled within, is of no avail before God. You need a purity that begins with, and reaches into, the deepest part of the heart, that area where no human eye can see or penetrate, the area that God alone sees.”
The heart is our spiritual center. It is the center of our whole self, of our emotions, our thoughts, our will, and our desires. We read in Proverbs 4:23 that out of the heart are the issues of life. The heart, then, is the fountain out of which everything comes. Out of the heart comes our sin, our problems, our words, our thoughts, our attitudes. Man, of course, says “No” to that. Man says it comes from the environment, it comes from outside of us. And we like to think that way, too, as Christians. We like to say, “Well, I am this way toward my wife because she….” We like to say, “I’m going to act this way because they….” We think exactly as the world. We think that we will change if our environment changes. If those around us change, then we will change, too. God says, “No, your sin does not come from outside of you! You must own it. It comes from within you.” Adam fell into sin, and from then on men’s hearts were impure.
Now, our Lord said, Blessed are those who are pure — not simply on the surface, but in the center of their being, in their heart, at the very source of every activity. Then it is very plain who they are. The pure in heart? They are those who are born again by the Holy Spirit, to be renewed after the pattern of Christ, given faith in Christ, washed in the blood of the Savior, and daily sanctified by the Holy Spirit. They are the children of God, saved by grace and given, now, a new life in Jesus. “If any man be in Christ,” we read, “he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Behold, all is become new.” That new heart of Christ shines within us. It is placed within our innermost being. And that new life of Christ shows us our sin, shows us how sin has deceived us in its pleasures, how sin has wormed its way into everything that we do. There is a continuous experience, then, that we know our sin, and we have the desire to put away that sinful self and to confess our sins and to walk in obedience.
The pure in heart? They are the ones who, by the grace of God, know that they are filthy sinners and in need of cleansing and forgiving and change within. Do you know that about yourself? Do you know that about yourself — not about another? Do you know, not simply that sin is a bad thing and the world is going to pots and sin is gross and sin in other people is terrible and causes all kinds of problems, but do you know yourself? Do you know your own heart, and are you appalled by what you find within your heart and within your inward thoughts? And do you yearn to be forgiven, yearn to be free, yearn to desire to do that which is right, yearn to live in love toward God and your neighbor, no longer to practice hatred and lust and cruelty and jealousy and envy? Do you desire now, by God’s grace, to do that which is right?
The pure of heart are those in whom the Holy Spirit has worked the beginning life of Jesus Christ. We need to understand that the Lord is talking about godly sincerity. The pure heart is the opposite of a heart of guile and duplicity, of subtlety. It is sincere, it is genuine. It is godly simplicity. Put it this way: The pure in heart live with nothing to hide. They live with single-eyed devotion. They are not complex. They are not calculating. The pure in heart lay aside daily hatred and malice, guile and hypocrisy, envy and jealousy and evil thinking.
It is not sufficient to be pure in words and outward deportment, to be prim and proper, but within (in our desires, motives, interests) to be raging seas of iniquity. But we must be made like unto Christ, so that we desire more and more, by the grace of God, to live to the glory of God. This must become our supreme desire in life. Pure in heart means that we know our own hypocrisy and desire to be free from its dominion. The pure in heart take Psalm 139:23 and 24 into their closet, into their prayer chamber: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Show me, Lord, my motives. Let me see my intents. Lord, Thou knowest how I can deceive myself. I can sell myself and think that my motives and my interests are so true and pure. Lord, look within me.
And then we will want to be holy. By nature, we think holiness is a kill-joy of life. We are so foolish! But the pure in heart want to be filled with the love of God. They want the walls of their heart to be washed in the love of Christ. They become conscious of and grieve over the indwelling filth of their sin. And they desire to live in the love of God.
Is that your experience? That is the experience given to the child of God, to the pure in heart. Do you have a pure heart? Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. That is the greatest of all the blessings that Jesus speaks. You cannot get one better than that. It is so heavenly. It is so awe-inspiring. It is so glorious and oh so personal. To see God!
We know that that cannot be in the physical sense, with the earthly eye, and not even with the eye of the resurrected body. God said to Moses: No man can see Me and live. The apostle Paul said to Timothy that God is immortal, invisible, God-only wise. The being of God cannot be taken in by the creature. He is ever more glorious and blessed than we can understand.
You may journey for eighty years in prayer. You may enter into the courts of worship Sabbath after Sabbath. You may be taken up in death to stand before the throne in heaven. But you will never see to the end. You and I must say with Job, “I am a child; I am but as yesterday; I am a beginner.” No, we cannot see Him physically. But the Lord means that you will know Him in love and worship. That is what it means to see God. You will feel that He is near to you. You will rest perfectly in His presence. You will see His ways and know His presence. The world cannot. Unbelief cannot. They cannot see the footsteps of the Lord in their life. They cannot see the footsteps of the Lord in your life. You say, as something happens to you, “I see God in this. I see God in my tears. I see God in my heartache over my son, over my daughter, my anguish. I am not destroyed. I am not hopeless. I would not change with you,” you say to the unbeliever. “For in all of my trials I see God.” And they say to you, “Where is He? We don’t see Him.”
Oh, to see God is a wonder of God’s grace. It means that you have fellowship with Him, close fellowship. You will live your life near to Him.
Can you see someone a mile away? No. No, you need to get close, do you not, to see his face? Do you live close enough to God to see His face? Or do you like to keep distance between you and your God? Somehow you think that you do not want Him to see what you are doing or to be reminded of His face looking upon you. To see God is to live blissfully and reverently aware that my God is with me — that I know Him, that I love Him and I desire to please Him.
But, you see, it is the pure in heart that shall see God. Whatever sin is — sin is all kinds of things, it is within our hearts, our deeds, our minds, it is jealousy and hate, discontentment, resentment — whatever it is, sin blurs and takes away our sight, our spiritual vision. No, it does more than that. It blinds us. Isaiah 59:2, “Your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Whatever sins there are, sins that you willingly allow, sins that you know no repentance over, sins that you have made a pact with (perhaps you say, “Well, when I get older — 25 — I’ll quit this. But right now, No, I won’t. I don’t care. I’m going to do it), whatever that sin is that you clutch, you love, that you are going to keep — God says, “You cannot know my face.” Not to know the face of God, that is emptiness.
What are you living for? Are you living for the approval of men, for your own way, for the lust of your flesh, for jealousy and envy, love of self — what is it? This is what it will do. It will take away the sight of God. One sight of God in love is better than ten thousand days on earth in sin. One sight of Him in heaven will make all the suffering of this life seem to you to be but a little thing. If you have to carry that burden today all your days, when you see Him, you will say: “It was worth it!”
The pure in heart shall see God. But the promise is also that we shall see Him eternally. We shall see Him face-to-face. The apostle says, “I shall know even as I am known.” Or, in the words of Psalm 17:15, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Now God is preparing us for that moment when we shall enter into His presence. I want to see Him. I want to behold Him in glory, face-to-face, do you not? Will any other sight do for you? Is there anything more important? Is there anything that you would prefer? By grace, through faith, we cry: “Show me my God. Let me see Him in the face of Jesus Christ.” Is that the petition, the deepest desire, that you find within your heart?
Blessed art thou! God, by grace, has given you a pure heart, and He says to you as you grieve under the load of your remaining sin, He says, “Look at Me. Come close. Draw near. Don’t stand away in the corner. Don’t look down. Come close. Look to the cross. You see His body broken and His blood shed. That is what it means to see the face of my mercy in Jesus Christ.”
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we do praise and glorify Thy name for Thy holy Word and pray that Thou wilt inscribe it this day upon our hearts. Now, O Lord, be with us. Cause, O Lord, that we may live out of a pure heart, that we may be sincere and true. We pray through Jesus’ name, Amen