Matthew 5:1-12 Part 6

I’m going to begin, this morning, by way of introduction to this verse of Scripture, by examining some of the ways in which people waste themselves.  Now, while I have no illusions that this process will be scholarly and thorough, I am probably going to say some things that will make somebody mad.  Perhaps several.

But, although this description isn’t the most important aspect of the exegesis of our text, I think it will help to focus our attention on one of the most powerful statements of Scripture.  I, personally, am being wonderfully taught by the Spirit through the Word of Jesus.  And my desire is that the rumblings of upheaval, and the tearing down of strong fortresses, is going on in your heart by the mercy of God.

And, by that, I don’t mean the upheaval of sound Biblical doctrine – that must not be shaken.  God help me if I ever cause any confusion in your minds between Biblical truth and human rationality!  The tearing down of strong fortresses occurs when the Spirit uses preaching of the truth to cause people to see two things:  themselves – and Christ.  Men and women and children must become aware of their own ego-centricity.  Whether one wants to use the Biblical terms, “the law of sin”; or “the lusts of the flesh”; or just simply use the word “self”, the many strong fortresses of “I”-centricity must be hated, attacked, and laid siege against by Christ’s disciples. 

But whatever is left of self after hearing the first five of Jesus’ statements about His sheep has to be summarily dismissed after hearing this one.  Jesus says the pure in heart shall see God.  And this must be the highest good there is.  I’ll say something about what that means in a little while, but in comparison to this highest and best thing, people waste themselves.

Rather than the anticipation of seeing God, people spend themselves on dung.  Rather than the blessedness that comes through being pure in heart, people expend the energy of life on rot, corruption and dust.  And it all just goes away!  In fact, it’s all burned away at the fiery coming of the King. 

How would it be to spend one’s life – one’s being – one’s person – on nothingness and emptiness.  There’s nothing so void or empty as life – LIFE – that has no meaning.  Wanting, desiring, yearning for, joy and contentment and happiness that only being blessed of God can give; and yet frittering away God-given life on condemnable things and inconsequential things.  They are vain and empty.  And having no hope of seeing God.  Such is the agony of the spirit of death.

I was reading a short story by one of history’s great story-tellers this past week – Steven Vincent Benet.  It was Benet’s contention that the human soul consists of many chambers – most of which we never explore; but which, if we did, would reveal, in some of them, inexplicable horrors which, if experienced, would provide exquisite memories; and, in the other unexplored chambers, unfathomable beauty.  But, unfortunately, most of the doors to these chambers are unmarked, and we just pass them by.

Of course, this represents the terrible folly of human life.  To Benet, many are too apathetic to experience the worst in themselves – even if it is exquisite to remember.  And the human soul is capable of producing indescribable beauty – if only the doors were opened.  The wonders are in humanity – waiting to be experienced, rather than in the sight of the glory of God.

But Mark Twain was more conscious of the condition of mankind than most.  He said:  “Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.”  What, of course, Twain didn’t realize was that God didn’t have oblivion in mind for him.

But fame is a vapor.  So is popularity.  They’re dust in just a few short years.  And so is everything else that men seek in order to make them happy.  It wastes life.  Jesus said, “if a man loves his life, he’ll lose it.”  Deception is the name of this game.  Hard work is the luck of the successful.

But acclaim is gain.  Money – the great aphrodisiac.  Manipulation is power.  Intimidation to win.  The Power of Positive Thinking, because power is the definition of success.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they (alone) shall see God.”

And what do people do after their work fix is over for the day?  What happens after a day of deceit and intimidation and manipulation to gain power and success?  What do they do after every day, for twenty or thirty or forty years of gaining power and self-satisfaction and success – which is vapor and oblivion?  Get personal gratification and entertainment.  Shoot up – tap out – score – play games; or sit there like a sponge for four hours while somebody else shovels his brand of dust and vapor into their soul!  That’s really helpful – if, that is, you’re looking to waste yourself into oblivion.  If, that is, you were fortunate enough to attain oblivion.  Which you can’t.

Some author once said that a person’s god is whatever excites him the most.  What’s yours?  What’s your idolatry?  What excites you the most?  What turns your life on?  Your business?  Your own well-being?  Pleasure and entertainment?  Playing games?  How about your family?  The guile and manipulation of cutting a deal?  Friends and associates?  Acclaim, power, and social standing?  Pride of accomplishment?  I’ve got it!  Having things!  Comfort and security!

Jesus said that the ones who are pure in heart are happy, because they shall see God!  The motivation is seeing God!  The highest good, the summum bonum, the anticipated end of life, the greatest hope, is to see God!  That’s Jesus’ description of His disciples.

But how do we describe that?  What do we dare say about it?  The very concept itself leaves us without words – the language is insufficient – the mind of man is insufficient – the sin and the finiteness of man is detrimental!  “God is spirit; infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”  How, then, are we, who are made of dust of the earth, to see Him?  Are we to come face to face with infinite spirit?  Are we to visualize eternality?  And infinite holiness and omnipotence?

Jesus said (and we’ll have some of these to deal with in this Gospel) “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.”  And again, “You have not seen the Father, but I who am of God hath seen the Father.”  And again, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”

But then, on another occasion, He said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”  Paul tells us that Jesus is the express image of the Father; and the apostle John says that Jesus is Logos – the Word – the declaration of God!

“Seeing God” is a matter which has often been written about in the long history of the Church.  Some of the church fathers were greatly attracted to the subject and gave much thought to it.  Does Jesus mean, here in our text, that, in the glorified state, we should see God with the naked eye?  Or does it mean that, living in the body of Christ, through the eye of faith, we come to know Him – and come to “see” with understanding?

I have to admit that I don’t know very much.  I won’t dispute about it because the Scriptures don’t clarify it.  Why not?  Because the very Being and Person of God is so transcendent and eternal that all our efforts at a comprehensive understanding are doomed to failure!  I say this with reverence – the Scriptures don’t give an adequate conception of the Being of God, because of His Glory!  We aren’t meant, as creatures, to fully perceive the Creator in all His glory; and it’s dangerous and fearful to approach Him so lightly as to think that we could approach Him on familiar terms.

But Jesus clearly states, “blessed the ones who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  It is a glorious promise, and the one thing that should excite and motivate the believer.  Like the rising sun in the morning blots out our view of the stars, the hope of seeing God should pale the thought of any of those other things mentioned earlier.  Those are the desires for the world and the world order.  The apostle Paul commands us to set our minds on things above, and not on things of the world.  Purify yourselves from that, he says.  Clean yourselves from the desires and excitements of those things, for they are dust and vapor.  And they defile the man – he becomes dirty, and unclean and idolatrous.  But the pure in heart shall see God – that’s what makes men happy.  This is what Stephen saw.

The pure in heart.  What is it that Jesus means by “the heart”?  Remember, last week we said that a man does what he is.  In other words, deeds and actions don’t stand alone in a vacuum.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned with the heart.

According to the general Scriptural usage of the term, the heart is used to indicate the very center of a man.  What he is.  It isn’t merely the seat of affections and emotions, but symbolizes and represents the deepest propensities of mankind.  It’s his nature.

As we hear it bandied about in evangelical circles, it seems as if people refer to the heart in opposition to the intellect and will – as if the heart is that place from which comes only love, compassion and kindness; but the mind and the will are involved with something else!

But the Bible never makes those distinctions and dichotomies!  And the Pharisees can be a good example of that.  The usual understanding of the Pharisees is that they kept the law, but their hearts weren’t right.  But that’s not the case – their affections weren’t right, their theology wasn’t right, and their practice wasn’t right.  And their misinterpretation of God’s Law, and their misapplication of that Law was because of an evil heart.  It is a produce of an evil heart.

That’s completely different from what we normally hear, isn’t it?  And that’s because of a gross misappropriation of the Biblical term – “heart”!  The heart is used as the center of man’s being and personality.  It is the fount out of which everything comes! – the affections, the emotions, the intellect, the will – when the Bible uses “heart,” it is a full definition of the creature called “man!”  And that’s what the Lord emphasizes when He says, “blessed the ones who are pure in heart....”

And that’s what Jesus meant when He said:  “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  That would be an awfully strange statement, wouldn’t it, if the heart was only the seat of the emotions and affections!?

But, the fact is that the heart is used as the center of man.  And, for that reason, the Scriptures do speak in these terms – such as the statement by Jeremiah:  “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  Man’s troubles, then – all of them – are at the center of his being.  Man’s trouble is himself.

Perhaps one of the ways we might understand “purity of heart” a little better is to understand what has happened to us as a people as a result of “impurity” of heart.

The original constitution of Maryland declared that all officeholders of the state provide a declaration of faith in Christianity.  And it said that all persons professing the Christian religion are equally provided protection in their religion’s liberty.

The constitution of Vermont said that no man who professed the protestant religion can be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen.  And it declared that every denomination of Christianity ought to observe the Lord’s Day.  And the Law of God was written into the constitution.

The constitution of Massachusetts, in addition to those statements in the others, required the state to propagate Christianity (although not determining which denomination) by imposing an equal tax on everybody for that purpose.

The constitution of Connecticut clearly stated that, without Christianity, religion and the state would suffer disturbance – if not ruin.

The constitution of North Carolina stated that no person who denied the Divine Authority of the Old and New Testaments could hold office.

In 1842 the chief justice of the U.S. supreme court, after reviewing the original constitutions of forty-one states and colonies and territories, said, “this is a Christian nation.”

But during the last one hundred forty years, by impurity of hearts, every vestige of our Christian beginnings has been systematically revised.  And it is now illegal for any branch of civil government to proclaim the name of Christ (except, of course, in vain).

And, in its place, the Clinton administration – the seat of civil government – has declared the whole month of June, every year, to be gay and lesbian pride month.

If I were to define “impurity of heart,” I think this is where I might begin in order to illustrate it.

The terrible tragedy of our country today is the thinking that in order to change man you must change his environment – or improve his intellect, or to psychologically change his emotions.  Or put him through behavioral modification.

I was reading an article this past week which was extremely critical of the president’s war on drugs, because it throws money at education, rehabilitation and law enforcement.  And it was perfectly correct in saying that the war against social ills is a spiritual war.  And the Sword of Christ is the weapon that must be used to join the battle and win.  And it’s because the heart of man is wicked beyond our understanding.  The center of man must be changed b y Christ.  And all the schemes of man to rectify his own problems are doomed to failure the very moment the plan in devised.

People must be brought by the Sword of Christ to see their own desperate wickedness and become poor in spirit and mournful over their sin.  And being meekly submissive to God they begin to hunger and thirst for the righteousness found only in Christ, begging for His mercy and showing mercy to others – from which comes purity of Heart.  Do you see the change that’s required in the basic nature of man?

Well, what is purity of heart?

The word “pure” as you’ve probably already recognized, is a highly theological term.  And it has at least three main usages in Scripture.  And it is obvious that the Lord Jesus has all three in mind, here, as He says, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The word “pure” obviously means clean – undefiled.  In Revelation twenty-one, John tells us, concerning those that are to be admitted into the New Jerusalem, “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or lies....”

            In Revelation twenty-two we read further:

 “Blessed are those that do His Commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers and idolaters, and whosoever loves lies and makes lies.” 

So, nothing that is impure, or has any defiling touch about it, shall enter into the New Jerusalem.  One who enters must be cleansed – pure – washed thoroughly from the filth of sin, inside and out. 

“Blessed the poor in spirit... blessed the ones who are mourning... blessed the ones who are meek... blessed the ones who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness... blessed the merciful ones... blessed the pure in heart.”


Then, secondly, pure means “without folds”, no creases, no opposite sides.  The positive side of that is single, or “single-mindedness.”  One of the best usages of the word, in this particular sense, is found in Psalm eighty-six, where the Psalmist pleads with the Lord to “unite my heart to fear Thy Name.”  David craved an undivided heart – no folds or creases – no opposite sides.  He wished to be single-minded with respect to God – no hypocrisy.

Jesus says, blessed the ones who have no folds in their heart. Their hearts are undivided in their devotion to God.  And as the law of sin in them fights feverishly in them to turn their hearts from that devotion, they flee back to the cross of Christ to become poor in spirit and mournful of their sin, and craving the righteousness of God in Christ.  Single minded – single-eyed, unfolded adoration of God through His Son.  “Blessed are the pure in heart....”

Now, thirdly, the apostle James, in his very practical letter concerning our sins against God and against one another, says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Be pure inside and be pure outside.

People, although there’s no communion table before us this morning, there is one among us constantly.  And what you and I bring to the table, as we commune together, and deal with each other, is extremely important to Jesus.  He says, “Just the pure in heart shall see God.”  That makes it important, doesn’t it?  And, as we fellowship with each other, and do business with each other, and do battle with the Sword of Christ with each other, and inherit the earth with each other, there is the table among us.  The Body and Blood of Christ.

And the ones that are happy – the ones blessed by God – and the ones that shall see God, are the ones who are open and single-minded with each other.  Nothing hidden behind the creases and folds of duplicity and deceit and secrecy.  No hidden agenda – no secret motives – no hypocrisy.  No double-mindedness, not showing a face to each other but having another side that’s hidden (two-faced).

Not saying one thing but really meaning another, not appearing to be something you’re not.  It means being open and simple.  Simple-minded.  That doesn’t mean idiot, it means “one”.  A unit is simple.  More than that is complex.  So simple-minded means open and clear – there’s nothing lurking on the flip-side to be feared or mistrusted or suspect; it means beyond reproach with one another.  Pure in heart!

Don’t, please, reduce all this to just a little matter of decency, or morality, or an intellectual interest in the doctrines of the Christian faith.  Nothing less than the whole person is involved!  “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all!”  A Pure heart is an unmixed condition of being.  You can’t mix purity and defilement.  You can’t mix light and darkness.  You can’t mix black and white.  You can’t mix Christ and mammon.  There’s no connection between them!  And there’s the warning again not to try to take the edge off the sharp Sword of Christ.  The hope is to see God.  And the path to see him is a pure heart.

But taken alone this statement only ministers despair.  Read by itself, what hope does a man have except to trust in his own decency or some works righteousness.  Under those conditions life is a waste – spent on dung.

So we come back to the old truth – all a man’s hope rests in the grace and mercy of God to show him the reformation of nature and character that must begin with a self-consciousness of one’s own sin; and the deep lament over it, and the longing for Divine righteousness, the opening of the heart for the reception of His Goodness.

This is the way by which a clean thing can be brought from an unclean one.  And men stained with evil and bound with the chains of the mother of all evil, (the making of self the center of life), must be washed and cleaned and emancipated from that.  And, to us whom God has washed with the blood of Christ, He presents to us the basin with the cleansing water, “wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings... cease to do evil, learn to do the good.”

Finally, let me just say that nothing else will satisfy the human soul except the hope of seeing God – even if we only see through a smoky glass – a vision which is imperfect at best.  The state of blessedness, or contented happiness and fulfillment, isn’t attainable by any other way.  Purity of heart is indispensable in order to stand in the dazzling light of God, for nothing defiled may enter into His presence.

But whatever we are allowed to see in the future, we now stand in the blazing glory of the historical Jesus Christ our Savior.  And our present vision of God through faith is no more, nor less than the glorious God-man – God in flesh.  And our apprehension of Him, and our realization and understanding and seeing of Him comes to us in communion with Him through the channel of faith.  And, according to Scripture, that’s the one thing without which no man can be purified.

The blessing of God comes to the one who is pure in heart, for he shall see God.