If you listen to, or watch, the news at all I'm sure you are aware of what happened to Samantha Runnion. Samantha would have turned 6 last Friday. She was playing with a friend, when a man who said he was looking for a puppy grabbed her. He put her in a car as she kicked and yelled to a playmate: "Help me."
Her nude body was found a day later alongside a mountain highway near Orange County. An autopsy showed she was asphyxiated and sexually assaulted.
Last Thursday, 6 year old Cassandra Williamson was taken from the home where her family was staying in St. Louis and was murdered.
Why would anyone do such a thing? What is man's problem that causes him to do such horrendous things? The Bible teaches us that man's problem is his heart:
Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Our most serious problem is not our environment, our economic situation, or our lack of education. I am sure that most of us think that if we make changes in those areas, all of our problems will be solved, and we will consider ourselves blessed. But Jesus did not say, "Blessed are the brilliant," "Blessed are the wealthy," or "Blessed are the healthy." No, he said, "Blessed are the pure in heart." Why? Jesus alone understood that the true human problem is sin - the filthiness found in the human heart - and that only those with pure hearts can be truly blessed.
Jesus explains to Peter in Matthew 15 that it is not external things that defile, but defilement comes from the inside:
Matthew 15:18-20 (NKJV) "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 "These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."
It is not external, physical acts that defile, but defilement comes from the heart. Millions of people go to churches and go through all sorts of rituals and formalities thinking they will be clean when they come out. Some think that if they get baptized, they will be cleansed from their sins as though some physical, external act could cleanse the inner person. The problem is that defilement is in the heart, and it is purity in heart that God demands.
We are currently studying the Beatitudes in our study of the "Sermon on the Mount", and we have seen that you can't pick and choose which ones you want to apply. Kingdom citizens fulfill all the Beatitudes. When you become poor in spirit, the rest of the Beatitudes will show themselves in your life as a wonderful outworking of the Spirit of God. You will understand yourself spiritually as a cowering beggar, totally without power to earn anything spiritually, and you will reach out to God with a tremendous sense of inadequacy. Then you will mourn over the sin that has put you where you are and become meek before the absolute holiness of God. In your humility, you will hunger and thirst for the righteousness you know you can't attain on your own. As a result, you will cry out to God to be filled, and He will hear you and give you His mercy, thus making you a merciful person. That results in purity of heart and a desire to make peace. As a result, you will be persecuted and slandered by the world. Yet though you fulfill the Beatitudes and are persecuted, Matthew 5:12 holds out the promise of joy, because God will reward you.
This morning we want to study Jesus' words in:
Matthew 5:8 (NKJV) Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
The first thing we learn from this beatitude is that Jesus is concerned with our heart. It is not enough to clean up our act on the outside.
At the time of Christ's entrance into the world, Israel was in a desperate condition economically, politically, and spiritually. The Jewish people anticipated the coming of a Messiah who would bring an end to Roman oppression and establish a political kingdom. But in the "Sermon on the Mount," our Lord dealt with spiritual realities.
Because of their inability to keep the law of Moses, the Pharisees invented new laws that could be kept. That pacified their consciences, but their misinterpretation of Mosaic law and their additions to it formed a relentless and imposing system of legalistic duty on the people. It eventually became a religious system that was itself impossible to live by. The religious leaders got to the point of agreeing that if only a few of God's laws were kept, He would understand. When they realized that even that was too high a standard for them to keep, they decided that if a person did their best to keep just one law, God would understand. That's why the lawyer in Mark 12 asked Jesus, "Which is the first commandment of all?" (v. 28).
Israel was burdened by the oppressive legalism of the Pharisees. They were the dominant religious influence on the common people. The Pharisaic religious system produced tremendous guilt and frustration among the people of Israel. That's ironic because the Jewish people were committed to the reality of God, and the fact that He had revealed Himself in the law. In the end, the religious system of the Pharisees didn't work - which is true of all such systems.
The Jewish people knew that God had promised a redeemer. They knew someone would come who would forgive their sins. He would find the remnant of true worshipers and cleanse them. Ezekiel said God would sprinkle the redeemed with water that would make them clean (Ezek. 36:25). God was going to take out their stony hearts and put in them hearts of flesh (v. 26). He would purge them from their sins. They knew David had sensed God's forgiveness, because he wrote:
Psalms 32:2 (NKJV) Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
They knew forgiveness was available, but many had not experienced it.
When Christ said, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8), He meant that only the pure in heart would see God in His kingdom - not those who merely participate in external religious ceremonies. Those depending on a religion based on human achievement won't make it into the kingdom. The Greek text of Jesus' statement contains the emphatic word autoi - "they alone." Only those with purified hearts will see God.
Man tends to measure himself by his fellow man. Second Corinthians 11 speaks of false apostles who measured their spirituality by comparing themselves with others. The Pharisees were good at that kind of comparison. And the way such people test their character is by finding someone worse than themselves as the criterion for comparison. Generally, it's not difficult to find someone worse than yourself, so you probably won't fail such a test. One Pharisee prayed:
Luke 18:11 (NKJV) "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
His standard was someone lower than himself.
God's standard for acceptable character is not whether a person is better than a tax collector, liar, thief, or cheat. His call was not for us to be better than child abusers or murderers. His standard is that we be 100 percent pure:
1 Peter 1:16 (NKJV) because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
Jesus stated that same standard in the "Sermon on the Mount":
Matthew 5:48 (NKJV) "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Mankind sets the standard of "goodness" very low, but God's standard is Himself; the absolutely holy and righteous God of the universe.
Only those who are pure in heart will enter Christ's kingdom and be in God's presence. Christ's words must have surprised His audience, because they were so concerned with externals. The Pharisees got upset if certain rituals - such as hand washing - weren't done correctly. Our Lord said they were great at tithing mint, cumin, and anise (Matt. 23:23). But while they made sure that they gave 10 percent of various tiny herbal leaves, they paid no attention to love, truth, mercy, and justice. Jesus said of them:
Matthew 23:25-27 (NKJV) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
Everything they did was external, and our Lord revealed their cloak of hypocrisy and shredded it in one statement.
Some of the people in the crowd that Jesus taught in Matthew 5-7 were legalistic Pharisees. There are people like them in every religious crowd. They think they will go to heaven because of their own achievements, saying to themselves, "I'm all right. The Lord certainly wouldn't send me to hell. I don't torture animals. When my neighbor needs to borrow something, I loan it to him. I've never killed anyone or ran out on my wife. I provide for my children's needs. I've done the best I can in this life." That's the religion of human achievement.
There are only two kinds of religion in the world. One is the religion of human achievement, which comes under every name imaginable. It teaches that you can earn your way to heaven. The other is the religion of divine accomplishment, which affirms that God brings salvation through faith in Christ alone, and that people can't make it to heaven on their own.
Many religious people today are trying to gain favor with God by their works. They are trying to please God by the things that they do. For example: Catholic theology says, "By my deeds I can not only earn merit for myself, but if I earn more merit than I need to get into heaven, my extra merit goes into the treasury of merit to be applied to somebody else to get them out of purgatory." What that says is, "Not only can I, by my merit, earn my own salvation, but I can over earn it and apply what is left to someone else's salvation." This is salvation by works, and this is denying the sufficiency of Christ's work. If you are trusting in something that you've done to get you into heaven, you'll never get there.
The religious leaders of Jesus' day had no excuse for relying on external ceremonialism and works. They of, all people, would have been familiar with God's standard in the Old Testament.
Psalms 51:6 (NKJV) Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
The Jewish leaders should have known how to get into the kingdom. Ezekiel told them that the Messiah would come and wash them clean (Ezek. 36:25-29). God has always sought purity of heart.
Without a pure heart, you will never see God or His kingdom. Only a pure heart experiences God's forgiveness. The wonder of salvation in Jesus Christ is that He came to earth to purify our hearts. He took our sin upon Himself and paid the penalty for it. Then He imputed His own righteousness to us:
Romans 4:24 (NKJV) but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
What a fantastic exchange! He makes us pure in God's eyes!
1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.
Because Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, His righteousness is given to us. It is by faith that God makes us pure - not by personal achievement.
What Does it Mean to Be Pure in Heart?
The Greek word translated "heart" in Matthew 5:8 is kardia, from which we get the word cardiac. The Bible always refers to the heart as the internal part of man - the seat of a man's personality. Predominantly, it refers to the thinking processes - not the emotions. When the Bible talks about emotion it refers to the bowels of compassion, the feelings we get in the stomach or midsection. The Bible even talks about the liver as an organ of emotion (Lam. 2:11). That's because the Jewish writers expressed emotions, such as love and hate, by the effect those emotions produce in the abdominal area;
Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, But his heart is not with you.
We can think of the word "heart" as referring to the will and emotions, because they are influenced by the intellect. If my mind is really committed to something, it will affect my will, which in turn will affect my emotions. The will is like a flywheel; the mind gets it moving and once it is moving, it moves the emotions. When our Lord spoke of the pure in heart He was talking about a pure mind that in turn controls a person's emotions. That was a direct shot at the Pharisees and legalists who told people that all they needed to do were external religious activities. Similarly, in Mark 7:1-23, Christ affirms the importance of what's in the heart as opposed to external traditions.
Notice what the Bible says about the heart:
Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV) Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Our thoughts, feelings, and actions all flow out of the heart.
Ephesians 6:6 (NKJV) not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
The heart is where our thoughts and actions are generated.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Genesis 6:5 (NKJV) Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Does anybody here want to argue with that? Do you realize how evil your heart is?
James 4:8 (NKJV) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
God wants changed hearts.
Psalms 51:10 (NKJV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalms 73:1 (NKJV) Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.
God is concerned about the inside of a person. If you go to church every day of the week, carry a Bible around and recite verses, but your heart isn't pure, you haven't met God's standard. It doesn't matter how religious you are on the outside.
What Is Purity?
The Greek word translated "pure" in Matthew 5:8 is katharos, the noun form of katharizo, which means: "to cleanse." In a moral sense, it speaks of being free from the filth of sin. Katharos is akin to the Latin word castus, which is the root of the English word "chaste." In Matthew 5:8, it refers to a cleansed heart.
Katharos can also refer to something that is unmixed, unalloyed, or unadulterated. This term in Greek was sometimes applied to milk or wine which is unadulterated with water, or of metal which had been refined until all impurities were removed. So, we might think of pure meaning unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. In Matthew 5:8, it would refer to a heart unmixed in its devotion and motives. In that sense, "pure in heart" would refer to singleness of heart as opposed to double-mindedness.
To be pure in heart means more than avoiding outward sins, it means avoiding double-mindedness. Double-mindedness is like a cancer of the spirit. It slowly eats away at your spiritual life until there is no real life left. Jesus said:
Matthew 6:24 (NKJV) "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Soren Kierkegaard wrote a book called, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. That is not a bad definition, provided that the one thing we will is the glory of God.
Let me try to show you where that definition comes from in Scripture. We start with the closest Old Testament parallel to this beatitude, namely:
Psalms 24:3-4 (NKJV) Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.
You can see what David means by a "pure heart" in the phrases that follow it. A pure heart is a heart that has nothing to do with falsehood. It is painstakingly truthful and free from deceitfulness. Deceit is what you do when you will two things, not one thing. You will to do one thing, and you will that people think you are doing another. You will to feel one thing, and you will that people think you are feeling another. That is impurity of heart. Purity of heart is to will one thing, namely, to "seek the face of the Lord":
Psalms 24:6 (NKJV) This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah
You can see this idea of purity in:
James 4:8 (NKJV) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Notice that just like Psalm 24, there is reference to both clean hands and a pure heart as preparation for drawing near to God, or "ascending the hill of the Lord." But notice how the men are described who need to purify their hearts: "You double-minded." That is they are men that will two things, not just one thing.
The impurity of double-mindedness is explained in:
James 4:4 (NKJV) Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
So the double-minded man of verse 8 has his heart divided between the world and God, like a husband who has a wife and a girlfriend. Purity of heart, on the other hand, is to will one thing, namely, full and total allegiance to God.
So if we ask, "Where in the gospels did Jesus explain purity of heart in this way," the answer would be:
Matthew 22:37 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. Not with part of your heart. Not with a double or divided heart. That would be impurity. Purity of heart is no deception, no double-mindedness, no divided allegiance.
You can see the echo of this meaning of purity of heart in:
1 Timothy 1:5 (NKJV) Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
Sincere faith is an unhypocritical faith.
Purity of heart is to will one thing, namely, God's truth and God's value in everything we do. The aim of the pure heart is to align itself with the truth of God and magnify the worth of God. If you want to be pure in heart, pursue God with utter single-mindedness. Purity of heart is to will that one thing.
What does it mean to see God?
Matthew 5:8 says that those who are pure in heart "shall see God." The Greek text expresses continuous action and could be translated, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall be continuously seeing God for themselves." The verb translated "to see" indicates an action that the pure in heart direct back upon themselves.
There are several aspects of "seeing God". First, to see God means to be admitted to his presence. After the plague of darkness on Egypt, Pharaoh exploded to Moses with these words:
Exodus 10:28-29 (NKJV) Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!" 29 And Moses said, "You have spoken well. I will never see your face again."
When a king says, "You will never see my face again," he means, "I will never grant you admission again into my presence."
In the same way, we call the doctor today and say, "Can I see Dr. Green today?" We don't mean, "Can I see him from a distance." Or, "Can I see a picture of him?" We mean, "Can I have an appointment to be with him?"
So the first thing "seeing God" means is being admitted to His presence. This can refer to our salvation, which is bringing the forgiven sinner into God's presence. And it can also refer to the believer's fellowship.
Second, seeing God means: "being aware of His glory." After God confronted Job in the whirlwind, Job said, "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Virtually all of our spiritual sight in this life is mediated to us through the word of God or the work of God in providence. We "see" images and reflections of his glory.
When your heart is purified at salvation, you begin living in the presence of God. You don't see Him with physical eyes but with spiritual ones. You begin to comprehend Him and become aware of His presence. Just as Moses saw God's glory (Ex. 34), the person whose heart is purified by Jesus Christ repeatedly sees the glory of God.
Heart-purity is what tunes our spiritual receivers to the frequency of God's transmission. Radio stations are assigned frequencies on both the AM and the FM bands. If a station is on the FM band at 98.3, and you are tuned to 98.7, there is no way you can receive that transmission. You must be tuned in to the correct frequency of the station you want to receive. Making your heart right before God, tunes you into Him.
And when we are tuned into Him, we will enjoy the privilege of catching a glimpse of His glory - a vision of His majesty. This is the promise to all who are pure in heart. If we are, we will see God.
So seeing God means not only being admitted to his presence, but also being aware of His glory.
Finally, seeing God means being comforted by his grace. Again and again the psalmists cry out to God that he not hide his face from them. For example, in Psalm 27 David says:
Psalms 27:7-9 (NKJV) Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When You said, "Seek My face," My heart said to You, "Your face, LORD, I will seek." 9 Do not hide Your face from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation.
"Do not hide Your face from me," is the same as saying, "Be gracious to me!" This means that seeing the face of God is considered to be a sweet and comforting experience. If God shows his face, we are helped. If he turns his face away, we are dismayed.
So when Jesus promises the reward of "seeing God," there are at least these three things implied: we will be admitted to his presence, not just kept in the waiting room; we will be aware of His glory; and we will be helped and comforted by his grace.
Jesus says that only the pure in heart will see God. That is, heart purity is a prerequisite for seeing God. The impure are neither granted admittance to his presence, nor are they aware of His glory, nor are they comforted by his grace.
This leads every sensitive soul to cry out:
Proverbs 20:9 (NKJV) Who can say, "I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin"?
And with the disciples: "Who then can be saved?"
Jeremiah 13:23 (NKJV) Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.
No one can purify themselves on their own because no one has the power to do so. Job asked,"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" (Job 14:4). Only God can. If you wonder how you can be clean, you need to realize that you can't do it by good works. You can know purity only by putting your faith in Jesus Christ and looking to Him to cleanse your heart.
Jesus' answer comes back just like it did to the disciples in:
Matthew 19:26 (NKJV) But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
In other words, God creates a purity for us and in us so that we can pursue purity. And by his grace we must seek that gift by praying with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10). And we must look to Christ "who gave himself for us ... to purify for himself a people"(Titus 3:l4).
The Scripture says that God purifies our hearts by faith:
Acts 15:9 (NKJV) "and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
God is the one who purifies the heart, and the instrument he uses is faith.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
If you are a Christian, it is important for you to read the Word of God and also to pray:
Psalms 119:11 (NKJV) Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!
Believers, we must understand that the Word of God is a cleansing agent. As we spend time reading and studying its pages, it will cleanse our heart. So, if you are having trouble seeing God, it is most likely because your heart is not pure; and if your heart is not pure, it is most likely because you are not spending enough time in God's Word.