Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,
Jesus says: Blessed, congratulations, in sync are the pure in heart, they will see God.
You know, the heart is an amazing muscle in our body. It beats in our chest 60 to 100 times per minute. It operates without our instruction. And its main function is utterly essential. Without that steady beat. We die.
Its amazing really. I mean, my heart has been beating in my chest, 60 beats a minute, for almost 35 years. Imagine doing 60 curls per minute, for 35 years. Your arm muscles wouldn’t last a single hour.
Because the heart is so essential to good health, doctors encourage us take good care of our hearts. Usually this involves eating well and getting a lot of exercise.
Now when Jesus blesses the pure in heart, he’s not, of course, talking about the muscle that beats in our chest. He’s talking about the centre of our being, that part of us that is as important to our living, as the heart is to our body.
The heart is a metaphor for that mysterious, interior place. Some people refer to it as the soul, or consciousness. Whatever it is, it is the throne room of our lives. That interior place is the control room that directs our thinking, acting, longing and loving.
No doctor can listen in to the operations of this heart. It is open only to you and to God. But like our physical heart, this place can either be healthy or unhealthy. Pure or corrupted.
The scriptures have a lot of say about this internal control room.
In proverbs 4:23 we read: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life.
Jeremiah notes that the human heart is complex and corrupted: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Jesus says that our hearts pursue what our hearts desire.“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
The Heidelberg Catechism paints a bleak picture of the heart. It says that our hearts are naturally disposed to hate God and neighbour. That when push comes to shove, deep down, all of us are truly selfish, unable to love with a pure heart.
Those of you who pay attention to your inner life know that its a diluted place. And every now and then, if we’re healthy, we find ourselves praying with the Psalmist:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love… Wash me of all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…. Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:1-2 and 10
From a biblical perspective, the path to purity of heart begins in poverty of spirit. The first step towards a pure heart is to acknowledge your broken heart. The second step is to open yourself up to God, and invite him to come in and make you new.
Think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a team of heart specialists. The Father hooks you up to the I.V., and opens you up. The son lays down his life beside you. He donates his pure blood, tor replace your corrupted blood. And the Holy Spirit operates on your heart, reviving its beat, while cleaning out your veins and arteries.
No one becomes pure in heart without an encounter with the Great physician. The good news of the gospel is that God revives us in our inner being. The promise was made in Ezekiel 36:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Christians believe that this promise is fulfilled whenever a man or woman professes their faith in Jesus Christ, and receives the Holy Spirit.
And yet… while purity of heart is a gift, we do participate in the health of our inner being, just as we participate in the health of our physical bodies.
Purity is a gift, and a calling.
The Greek word for purity is Katharos. From this word we get the English word catharsis which means, “a release” or, “a cleansing”.
Katharos means =
- Clean, Pure,
- Single, Simple, Undivided,
Now it seems to me, based on this definition, that there’s a moral element to purity, as well as an integrity aspect.
On the moral side, the pure in heart are those who have a clean interior life.
This means that when a pure heart in heart man, sees an attractive person walking down the street, this man may notices their beauty, but he doesn’t go down the rabbit hole of objectifying that person in their mind.
And when a pure in heart woman shares a story with her co-workers, she resists the temptation to adjust the details, so as to make herself look better.
And of course, the pure in heart don’t simply resist that which is evil, they cling to what is good.
The good Samaritan had a clean interior life. He saw a neighbour in need and he acted mercifully towards him, no questions asked.
Perhaps the best description of the pure in heart is found in Romans 12. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase is especially good:
Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
… Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down… Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21
Have you ever met someone like this? So pure of heart.
The moral aspect of purity is summed up in the great commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself. The pure in heart make this their life mission.
There’s also an integrity aspect to purity. And by integrity I mean being undivided in one’s interior life. Being the same in public as you are in private.
I remember in high school, I attended the profession of faith of one of my good friends. Since this friend lived an hour away, I stayed over night at another friends house near his church. We had a party that night. Drugs and alcohol were present and consumed. And the one professing their faith the next day was consuming both.
I remember thinking… something is not right with this picture. Tomorrow your going to declare your love for the Lord and your desire to live for him. And tonight, your breaking both God’s law and the law of the land.
This story has a happy ending. The hung-over professor of faith is now a CRC pastor. And I’m happy to report that he has more integrity now, than he did when he was 17.
But at that time, he, and most of us in that room, had little integrity. We were not pure in our inner life. We were one thing with each other, and another with our parents.
Its not that the pure in heart need to be perfect. But if they’re on the right track, they are growing in their capacity to be the same person on Saturday night as they are on Sunday morning.
Ken Shuman once paraphrased the beatitudes. His paraphrase of the 6th beatitude highlights the integrity aspect of purity.
Happy, satisfied, and fully alive are those who are utterly sincere and completely genuine – those who are undivided within and are without lies and deception – those whose secret self and public self, are one self- for they will see God.
You know, Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, was obsessed with making products that were as beautiful on the inside as they were on the outside. This would drive his engineers crazy. “Who cares what it looks like on the inside,” they’d say. What matters is that it gets the job done.
But Jobs was insistent. He wanted his computers to be as aesthetically pleasing on the inside as they were on the outside. He wanted the whole machine to be beautiful—even the parts that no one could see.
The pure in heart share something of Job’s single minded focus.
While Jobs may have perfected the computer, it was Jesus who perfected the art of living with a pure heart. His will was united with his Father’s will: “I only do what I see my Father doing,” he said.
There was no guile in Jesus. No deception. No ulterior motives. He was the same with his disciples as he was in front of the crowds. And in the end, he willingly gave up his life. And he did so motivated by Love. Love for God, and Love for neighbour.
I think its important to remember, in this conversation, that our inner life is formable and malleable. Just like the food you eat impacts your physical life, so the stuff you expose yourself to impacts your interior life. The movies you watch, the social media you consume, the friends you make. All of it has an impact.
On Friday night, Brittney and I called it quits on a show we had been watching for a few weeks. It was sad because we liked some of the characters. But the vulgarity kept ramping up. Finally, we turned it off.
I used to be able to watch just about anything, and feel fine afterwards. But now I see that I probably just built up a tolerance. My hunch is that most of us have built up a tolerance to things that aren’t good. Is that a tolerance you want to have? Do you want cataracts on your soul?
Guard your heart, says the book of proverbs. Set up your life up in such a way that your inner life is well protected and well directed.
Prioritizing worship, and solitude time with God is so important for the health of your inner being. These things are to you inner being, what exercise and healthy eating is to your physical heart. The great physician recommends it.
Blessed are the pure in heart. For they will see God.
See. They will see God. I think this means that the pure in heart will receive their greatest treasure. They will become united to the one they love with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Paul says: “Now we see through a mirror darkly, then we shall see face to face.”
The great theologians refer to this face to face seeing as the beatific vision. Like a mountain range is lit up by the morning sun, the pure in heart will experience God in all his glory.
Jesus says “See” but this isn’t really about sight. This is an experience that confers blessing. The idea here is that the pure in heart will experience God in all his fullness. And in experiencing God in all his fulness, they themselves become full.
Of course, the ultimate moment of experiencing God won’t happen until the pure in heart are with God in the New Jerusalem.
But even now, we get foretastes.
I mean, maybe its happened to you in Church. Someone passes you the communion tray. And all of sudden you have this rich sense that what is being passed to you in not just a shiny plate filled with less than satisfying little chunks of white bread. In the moment, it feels like you are receiving sustenance from the very hand of God. And your sense of being alive is heightened.
Or maybe your at home, by yourself, listening to your favourite worship album. You’ve listed to it 100 times. But this time, is different. This time, you are transported through the music into what feels like the very throne room of God. The music becomes a means of communion with God.
These are moments of seeing. Moments when the world is transfigured in front of you, and catch a glimpse of the fullness of God. Our lives are defined by such moments..
You can’t manufacture these experiences. They are gifts of grace. But one thing is for sure. If your mind is in the gutter and your heart is fixated on the things of this world, you’ll won’t experience the blessedness of communion with the creator.
Only those who make God their treasure will see God in this way. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.