Blessed are the Pure in Heart!
Of all the Beatitudes spoken by our Lord, the one that has affected me most through the years is found in Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Continue reading . . .
Of all the Beatitudes spoken by our Lord, the one that has affected me most through the years is found in Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Much might be said of this remarkable statement, but here I want to focus solely on two questions. First, what is purity of heart? How might we know if we are moving in the direction of heart purity? How is it to be known or recognized? And second, how might I obtain purity of heart? What means has God provided that will help me cultivate this reality in my heart?
In answer to the first question, several things can be said.
First, and this may sound somewhat paradoxical, the person who is pure in heart is the person who mourns over the impurity of his/her heart. To be pure in heart begins with the humble and sincere confession that, apart from God’s grace, one is spiritually bankrupt (Matt. 5:3). To be pure in heart is to hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6). To be pure in heart is not absolute, sinless perfection, but rather the grace-empowered pursuit of it (Phil. 3:12-14). To be pure in heart is to engage in an on-going, never-ending pursuit of holiness, in the power of God’s grace.
It is a pursuit of holiness in which we are never satisfied. Our hunger for holiness is never fully filled. Our thirst for holiness is never altogether quenched. The pure in heart may sin, indeed, will sin, but they take no comfort in it; they feel no complacency in it.
Second, the pure in heart is the person who is pure inwardly, not merely outwardly. Simply being civil and law-abiding is not what Jesus had in mind. As Thomas Watson put it:
“A man may be wonderfully moralized, yet but a tame devil. . . . Morality may damn [him] as well as vice. A vessel may be sunk with gold, as well as with dung” (175).
Listen to the wise and perceptive comments of D. A. Carson:
“Purity of heart must never be confused with outward conformity to rules. Because it is the heart which must be pure, this beatitude interrogates us with awkward questions like these: ‘What do you think about when your mind slips into neutral? How much sympathy do you have for deception, no matter how skillful? For shady humor, no matter how funny? To what do you pay consistent allegiance? What do you want more than anything else? What and whom do you love? To what extent are your actions and words accurate reflections of what is in your heart? To what extent do your actions and words constitute a cover-up for what is in your heart?” (The Sermon on the Mount, 25).
Third, the pure in heart love, honor, and obey God with the whole of their heart. Although purity of heart is never to be reduced to civility, it certainly results in it. The pure in heart must never be half-hearted in their devotion.
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart” (Ps. 119:2).
Fourth, the pure in heart hate sin. It is always possible to leave your sin, yet still love it. Like a rattlesnake that sheds its skin but retains its poisonous venom, so also some cease from evil but wish they hadn’t.
Our second question is this: “How do we obtain purity of heart?” We must remember that whatever purity of heart we attain, it is always the gift of God’s grace. But God does appoint certain means or methods or instruments for us. Let me briefly mention five.
First, is the Word of God itself:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9-11).
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
What is the purpose of a water purifier? It is designed to eliminate impurities and alien elements from what you drink. So also the Scriptures serve to process our thoughts and desires and impulses and remove the sinful impurities from our lives.
Second, if we want to be pure in heart we must walk and talk and develop close accountable relationships with people who desire the same thing. As Proverbs says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20).
Third, we must continually pray for a pure heart. As David cried, so must we: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).
Fourth, we must deal ruthlessly with whatever there is in our lives that provokes us to sin. This was the point of Jesus in Matthew 5:29-30.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30).
Fifth, we must continuously fix our thoughts and minds on Jesus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).
And if you are left wondering whether or not this is actually all that important, consider the promise of our Lord: the pure in heart shall see God!