by Mike Ratliff
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 ESV)
How important is it for Christians to be pure in heart? If we look at Jesus’ statement from Matthew 5:8 we see that those who are pure in heart shall see God. What does that mean? Is this a promise that the only ones who do attain a pure heart will be in eternity with God? Or, does it mean that our English/American understanding of the terms used in this statement by Jesus are inadequate to convey the truths correctly? Perhaps it is both. Also, what does it mean for a Christian to be pure in heart? Jesus is telling us that this is very important. I have heard teachings on the Beatitudes that say that the Christlikeness demanded by Jesus in this sermon is only possible for people who have been glorified. That means that they believe in a Millennial Reign by Christ some time in the future where Christians now will live in perfection for 1000 years ruling and reigning with Christ. In other words, they are teaching that Christ’s call for Christian’s to be pure in heart is not possible for us here and now.
If we seriously read the Sermon on the Mount, placing into context with all of Jesus’ teachings and all of the Apostle’s teachings, we must see that Jesus is telling us that His disciples are not to lazily wait around for the Millennium to get serious about their walk before the Lord. We are to pursue Christlikeness by submitting to His Lordship in all parts of our lives. How can we do this? Is it all by will power or do we need help?
Before we enter in to this discussion let’s look at what it means that the pure in heart shall see God. First, God is infinite. He is beyond our comprehension. The little bit of understanding that we have of God comes through where and when God has revealed Himself to us in a way that we can understand. For instance, we learn much from the Word of God don’t we? To see God in the context of Jesus statement in v8 means to to come to an understanding of God and His ways as He has revealed Himself to us. This understanding can come through our circumstances, prayer, worship, and from reading the Word of God. I watched a video today at church about people who had been horribly impacted by Hurricane Katrina. They lost most, if not all, of their possessions to the flood. However, as they were interviewed, they thanked God that He had impacted their lives like that because through the workings of various ministries and godly people they had actually experienced God’s grace in action. One man said that if there had been no Katrina that he would still be wasting his time watching sports on TV while his Bible had three inches of dust on it from lack of use. Now, he is walking closer to God and now he knows where the book of Isaiah is whereas before he didn’t. As many of you know, I was in the blast zone of the OKC Federal Center Bombing on April 19, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh set off his bomb. It was amazing to see God’s hand working in the lives of those severely impacted by that tragedy. God used it in my own life to bring in stress and anger which revealed a heart desperately in need of grace.
To see God is to experience God as He sovereignly moves in our lives. What is the requirement for this to take place? Only those pure in heart can detect this and respond as God would have them respond. Those with impure hearts, sin is present and not being dealt with Biblically, may experience God moving in their lives, but will not “see” God in it correctly. They may believe God is impacting their lives, but their response will be centered in negative emotions such as resentment.
To be pure in heart is critical for the Christian. How do we become pure? It must be fine-tuned. It must be grown and developed. It must be cherished and protected. Here are four facts we must grasp and apply to our lives and understanding in order to cultivate a pure heart.
1) God will help us fight off temptations to compromise.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
I am convinced that most believers don’t believe this. When we are tempted we must turn to God, cry out for help, then look for the way of escape so that we can endure the temptation. No temptation we experience is unique to us. We are all tempted by our enemy who attempts to manipulate our hearts to strive for fulfillment via some fleshly or selfish action or inaction. If we learn to always look for the way of escape from God instead of always going back to the dumpster of sin then, we will be actively cultivating purity in our hearts.
2) Focus on God’s Word.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:1-17 ESV)
The last phrase in v17 tells that Jesus prayed to the Father to keep His disciples by sanctifying them in the truth. Then He stated that God’s Word is truth. We have God’s Word. It is our Bibles. If we diligently get God’s Word into us by getting into the Word regularly and devotedly then we will be cooperating with the Father in our sanctification. This is purifying our hearts. There is no way we can expose our hearts to God’s Word like this and not be changed.
3) Submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25 ESV)
Well, how do we do this? Is there some switch we turn on and off that enables or disables us from walking in the Spirit? This is hard to grasp for us if we are bent on being in control of everything. For us to walk in the Spirit we must be walking surrendered lives to the Lordship of Christ. This starts with taking up the yoke of His Lordship. Then we must devotedly surrender our wills to Him. We must not seek what our flesh wants, but instead, we must live sacrificed lives constantly seeking to be transformed by renewing our minds. This means that we must say no to anything that stands in the way of obeying the will of God while actively seeking His will. We must abide in Christ. None of this is possible for us if we are bound to fulfillment via self-gratification. Not going to happen! This is why I used to get so upset at some of the folks at our old church. They just could not get it that adulterating their devotion to God with devotion to anything else kept them in spiritual mediocrity. Why? Their purity was adulterated so their ability to “see” God was diminished. I found out the hard way that most of those folks really resented anyone who tried to express how a genuine disciple lived. I think I have expressed this on this blog before, but here it is again. I had one of the leaders at that church tell me that my devotion and convictions were being borne out from my excitement about what God was doing in my life. He told me that it would wear off. Well, if he was right about the source then I suppose he would be right, but the source of my devotion and convictions were being borne out of the transforming God was doing in my heart as I stayed in consistent mind renewal. (Romans 12:1-2)
4) Pray for God to Intervene.
A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Psalms 51:1-19 ESV)
When we sin, and we will sin, we must ask for God to cleanse us. We must understand that even though our sins may hurt others, they are sins against our Holy God. He is the one who has been offended. We must ask for forgiveness after we confess. Then we must humbly seek for God to grant us Repentance. He must give us a clean heart. He must purify us. He must do these things because we cannot.
If we will learn to fine tune purity in our hearts, devote our lives to walking pure before the Lord, then we shall see God. I don’t know about you, but I want, with my entire being “to “see” God working in my life, therefore, Lord, create in me a Pure Heart!
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