Matthew 5:1-12 — Man, What a Tough Beatitude, To Be Pure at Heart — That’s More Than Just Outward Appearances

Posted: September 27, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew, The Beatitudes

Have you ever thought about it? The impure thoughts that flow through our mind daily! Even if we never act on them, those thoughts are there. Even the Christ follower has impure thoughts daily. We think about things we should not think about. Sometimes these thoughts dominate us for days, weeks, months, years on end. Lies, rationalizations, murder, theft, sexual sin, anger, you name it. We have these thoughts and fantasies. When we get to the Sermon on the Mount later in Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus saying that being His follower involves more than just not physically doing the wrong things, He says that our thought must be pure also. Physical actions are the result of thoughts first. Actions only come after thoughts. Often are hearts are full of sinful thoughts even if we do not act on them but they are there. That’s when you really do realize how impure we are. We may exhibit self-control outwardly but our thoughts are the hardest thing to bring under self-control. So, Jesus lays a heavy one on us here. Blessed are the pure in heart. It is only through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that we can see God. Changing the outward evidence of our behavior is easy but the process of becoming pure at heart takes a grace covering from Jesus and the daily, daily, daily chiseling of our hearts into purity by the Holy Spirit. What a painful process that is! To make our hearts pure!

The next Beatitude continues the theme on contradicting normal human behaviors when Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” In contradicting normal human behavior requires action from us. Thus, this beatitude is a command to reach higher – above normal human nature. Wayne Jackson, in his essay, “Who are ‘The Pure in Heart’?”, says This Beatitude represents “that ideal state of mind of the person who longs to serve God and others for the sheer unselfish joy of honoring the Creator, and thus free of base motives. What a lofty disposition that would be.” I agree with Mr. Jackson. His statement indicates that this Beatitude represents an ideal, a lofty disposition. By saying that he means that there is a change that must occur. For me, this ideal, this lofty disposition has to be broken down into three component parts to be analyzed. Those are “purity”, the “heart”, and “seeing God.”

First, let’s look at purity. When you look at the original Greek in which this Gospel was written, the Greek word that we translate into English as “pure” is katharos. In the original Greek katharos was used in the context of metals. In this sense, it was talking about metals with all impurities removed or anything with all undesirable elements removed. When you think of the metallurigical reference, it is much like us. We are born impure. We are born with a sin nature. It is only through the burning fire of salvation and a lifetime of sanctification are all our impurities released from their hold on what is pure and God-like about us. Just as physical birth is a challenging, painful experience, our rebirth in Christ is a purification. This process of change from one state to the other is a challenging, painful experience. Thus to achieve this ideal state of this beatitude, we must have gone through a transformation in which we are rid of our normal base human behaviors that prevent us from achieving what this beatitude recommends. We must have taken the action of accepting Christ into our lives and then seeing that the life Christ wants us to lead requires us to let go of our selfish impurities and aspire to the life of selfless service that Christ led.

The next aspect of this beatitude is the “heart”. Biologically, we cannot exist without the functioning of our most important organ. Thus, this organ defines our existence. Maybe, that is why the heart has always been used as a symbol when referencing our spiritual condition. Our spiritual heart is that which is inside of us that defines us as to who we really are – who we are when no one is looking. Thus, in the context of this beatitude, Jesus is saying that we should be more than outwardly pure. Anyone can be outwardly pure. But, we, as Christ followers, must be pure of heart. We must be persons of such character that our inner most being is striving to achieve God’s ideals. Not just putting on a pretty front when on the inside we are just iron ore in its raw base state—full of impurities, impure thoughts and motives. To be pure in heart means that our inner most thoughts match our outward appearance. We walk the Christian walk as well as talk the Christian talk. Instead of having selfish motives for everything we do, our heart must be willing to serve and meet the physical and spiritual needs of our fellow man without thought of “what’s in it for me”. It is like when you sit down to write your tithe check to your church. Is it about obedience and submission to the instructions of God or are you keeping the command but yet thinking of what I could have done with that money. To sum up, it is our motives that must be purified such that our thoughts and actions are all about honoring God in all that we do.

The final aspect that I want us to look at here is about the concept of “seeing God” that is mentioned in this Beatitude. I think that the arrangement of the phrases in this Beatitude are important (i.e., God is not random in any way…even the way he arranged the sentences in the Bible are done with purpose). The end game, “seeing God” cannot happen without having gone through the transformation that leads to a pure heart. Thoughts and actions must be transformed to give us the opportunity to “see God”. To “see God” in the original Greek meant to experience the fullness of God, to see the fruits of that experience. For example, those who believe only in man’s reason (that which can be proven by man’s standards) will conclude that Jesus is a nice prophet who spoke in parables about how to act in this life, but will not “see” that Jesus is the Living Water, the very one child of God, the Savior of the World. Without faith, one cannot see. Without releasing our humanness, our flaws, our limited ability to control our world to the will of our Creator, we cannot really “see”. When we give up control of our soul to the One who made us, only then can we experience the cleansing peace of God and “see” the majesty of who he is and what he has done for us. Going back to Wayne Jackson’s essay again, he said, “When one submits to the conditions of the ‘new birth’ process, he ‘sees’ or ‘enters’ the kingdom of God, i.e., he receives the blessings of citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.” Thus, to see God, we must have the blinders of human selfishness and self-interest removed from our eyes. Only then can we truly see God in all his splendor. When those blinders are removed and we have submitted to God and allowed him to rule our lives, allow him complete control can we be transformed into the glorious child of God that can see him and sit at his feet.

Therefore, this Beatitude requires action like all the others. We must go down a path of change. We must make the painful walk through the purification process. The purification process in which our selfish motives are removed from us such that our heart, that base part of us that defines us, is reflective of God through our love and service to our fellow man. Then and only then can we be able to see the splendor, peace, the possibilities, the hope of God’s amazing kingdom. All of this splendor, hope and peace come from knowing that by no action of our own we have gained access to spending eternity at God’s feet in Heaven through the cleansing blood of Jesus. Without that cleansing blood, we are not worthy of ever gaining that access. Through that wonderful gift, we become so humbled and awed that we no longer think solely of ourselves. Through our salvation gift, we are so thankful (like someone having just saved our physical life) that we will do anything in humble service to him. No selfish motives. Just thankfulness for his saving grace. We love. We serve. We give. All to honor him. All done with a pure heart that “sees God” in everything we do in thankfulness for what he has done for us through his Son. We are pure in heart then. Our service to others, our praise to our Maker and Creator, our love for our fellow man all come as overflow from the realization that we deserve just punishment but have been shown extreme grace. When we live our lives from that position, a position of being an undeserving recipient of a pardon, then all pride gets washed away and purity can begin. We can see God.

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