Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
We have been navigating through eight statements from Jesus called The Beatitudes that give us a framework for seeing and understanding how a Jesus-oriented community (or a Kingdom People) postures itself in the world. These “Blessed” statements are the introduction to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” where he will draw out the deeper meaning and more full understanding of teaching with which his audience–who were versed in Old Testament law–was already familiar.
Today, we center our attention on the statement “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Among Jesus’ eight statements, this one is a very natural lead in to his entire sermon, where he will take direct aim at the religious tendency to live outwardly clean lives, but be rotting away from the inside due to our sinful motivations, unchecked passions, wicked thoughts and divided loyalties. The Sermon on the Mount takes direct aim at the heart–the center of our thoughts, motivations, affections and attention.
God requires singular devotion and obedience stemming from a heart that is undivided and overflowing with love.
When “Just Do It” Doesn’t Do It
When we encounter the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that what is being laid before us is a standard that we have failed to keep. Jesus does not abolish the law, but rather, he drives in the very depths of what the law is meant to show us–our sin and inability to follow God wholly.
Consider the way Jesus discusses murder, he says, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (5:22) – he shows how simply avoiding ending someone’s life is not the full extent to the command “You shall not murder” but rather, drives our attention deeper into the motivations of the heart that may lead us to commit murder.
Jesus says, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:28). Jesus probes into the very thoughts of the mind and exposes the intentions as where the problem really lies. It is not simply refraining yourself from sexual impurity, but it is looking directly at the source of the impurity–which does not come from the wicked world, it doesn’t come from the sleazy marketing company, it doesn’t come from the attractive woman, but it comes directly from your heart.
At this point, we are tempted to either set down the law or try harder at keeping the law. These are the two temptations at this point, and they both lead to death because they both fail to solve the real problem–an impure, corrupted heart.
Your Deepest Longing
Did you know that the deepest longing inside of you is to be in harmonious relationship with God? It is to stand before him, walk with him, talk with him, live in his presence with joy. This is what you were created for–to glorify God by enjoying Him. You may say, “I don’t really feel that is accurate, because I don’t know that I’ve ever given that much thought.”
Here is how we know this is true, because you live for something. You may not have thought about this either, but you’ll discover this is true. You live for something. Fyodor Dostoyevsky states in his novel, The Brother’s Karamazov:
“For the mystery of man’s being is not only in living, but in what one lives for.”
The mystery is not that your heart is pumping, or your blood is flowing, or your neural network is firing properly. The mystery is that we live for something–and that we can’t not live for something. The mystery is: Why do we have to live for something? Whether you trust in Jesus or not, you have to grapple with this question–why does my heart search for significance, happiness, wholeness, joy, peace? You search for these things because you were made (designed, created) for God–to glorify Him by enjoying His presence.
In Jesus & Through Jesus
So, if “just do it” doesn’t do it and if our deepest longing is to be in God’s presence it seems like what Jesus is stating is unattainable. As if the takeaway from this beatitude is “try as hard as you can to be pure in heart.” Well, that won’t do it. The type of devotion that pleases God is full devotion–singular devotion, undivided loyalty, perfect obedience. The type of devotion of one who said, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19), and “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). The type of undivided loyalty that said, “no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). The type of perfect obedience that says, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42) and then lovingly submits himself to open shame and death on a cross. There was no other way.
The only way that we can experience having a pure heart is to cling to the pure One–the spotless Lamb. The only way we can find the thing that our heart is searching for without ceasing is to bow before the One who formed us in our mother’s womb. The only way for “blessed” to truly mark your life is for you to pour out your life, out of your overflowing love of the One who first poured out his life for you. Only then can we begin to experience our own hearts becoming purified and only then can we stand before God blameless–not because of our ability to keep up appearances or even do the right things but only and always because of Jesus.
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?