Chapter 5 of Matthew, beginning to read at verse 1 - we should know this passage off by heart by now, reading it so many times, but that's good because we get it into not only our heads, but hopefully we get it into our hearts.
"And seeing the multitudes, he" - the Lord Jesus - "went up into a mountain: and when he was sat down, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" - and this is today's - "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Let us pray together: Our dear God, we ask Thee this morning for Thy power, for the power of the Holy Spirit of God to be our portion in this place. As we open the word of God, as we seek the truth of God that He, as the only commentator of the word of God, would lead us into all truth. Lord, help us we pray, give us strength we pray - in our weakness pour in Thy mercy to strengthen us, that we may speak as thus saith the Lord. May every believer in this place, and even unbelievers that do not know Thee, dear God today may they receive a word from the Lord that will deliver them, that will liberate them, that will give them peace with their God. Bless us we pray now, and fill us with Thy Spirit, for Christ's sake. Amen.
"Blessed are the pure in heart", verse 8, "for they shall see God". According to the Reuters report from Stockholm in Sweden, Stockholm has long arrived at sexual freedom and liberality. We may have thought that that came within the 1960's, but there's more of it today. Old-fashioned fornication, that the Bible names as fornication, is quite accepted by all parents in that place almost. It is accepted as normal for youngsters to have sex before they are married. It's reported that only 5% of girls and 2% of boys go into their marriages with their purity intact. In 1974 a research firm surveyed 35,000 young people from the ages of 16-25, and the interviewer sought to learn from those selected individuals what they felt were important values in today's world. The study revealed that only 31% viewed pre-marital relationships as morally wrong, compared with 52% in 1969. Opposite to that, some saw abortion as perfectly acceptable and only 58% saw it as wrong, now it's 45%. The proportion who considered living a clean moral life as a very important value fell from 71% to 52% - and all of these falling statistics indicates to us, as the Church of Jesus Christ, that we are coming nearer and nearer to the days of Noah.
You only have to look at your television set to see that even now when they advertise ice-cream they do it in a suggestive way. What was considered pornography 30 years ago is now seen as legitimate advertising material. 'Leadership' is a magazine in the United States of America for pastors, for clergymen at large, no matter what denomination. And they commissioned a poll of all sorts of religious people, of 1000 pastors. It indicated within that poll that 12% of them had committed adultery while in the ministry, 23% did something that they considered as inappropriate - that is 1 in 8 pastors. They did a wider poll, not just to Christian workers but to people who call themselves Christians, and the statistics doubled - 23% said that they had committed adultery, and 45%, almost half, 1 in 2, had said that they had committed something inappropriate.
Well might the Lord have said, 'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God'. The Psalmist asked the question, 'How can a young man', or for that matter an old man, or a young woman, 'cleanse his ways?'. How is it possible, in a sin sick world that we live in today - it is so evident to even the children of the devil that have not the light of God, they some of them, can even see the wickedness of our world today - how can a Christian possibly walk in righteousness and keep a pure life within his soul?
The heart that we have in our body is a very powerful organ. It's said that in one hour it produces enough work to lift a 150 pound man a top a 3 storey building. Scientists also tell us that in 12 hours the heart works enough to lift a 65 tonne tank off the ground 1 foot. It tells us again that in 70 years, the lifetime of most of us, that in 70 years the energy that the heart produces is enough to lift the world's biggest battleship right out of the ocean. Now that is our physical heart, but you see the word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and indeed throughout the word of God, when the word 'heart' is referred to, it doesn't refer to our physical heart but it refers to a greater heart. A heart that is greater than our physical heart with all the things that it can do - the greatest discovery is what our hearts, spiritually speaking, are capable of.
I want to ask one question first of all, as we look at this verse and what the Lord Jesus says: 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God'. What is He talking about? What is purity of heart? Now as I look at this beatitude the question comes to me: 'Well, why isn't this beatitude at the start? Surely if we are to walk a life of faith and a life beside Christ, surely we must be pure first of all to come near Him?'. Or perhaps if it's not at the start why is it not at the end? Because surely purity of heart is the result of everything that we would want to achieve in the Christian life? It could be seen by some in religious circles as to be the goal of all our Christian faith to end up with a pure heart. Well, like all the beatitudes it is in the middle, it is here where God has put it simply because the beatitudes are a progression. They are a spiritual progression, not to salvation - although they can be seen as such - but they are a spiritual progression to Christlikeness, and to the life that we find the kingdom to speak of within the word of God.
What do I mean? Well the first beatitude, you need to be poor in spirit, you need to realize that you are a sinner before you can come into a relationship with God. You need to mourn for your sin. If being poor in spirit is an intellectual knowledge, mourning for sin is an emotional knowledge where you feel the weight of your sin, you feel the painfulness and the dirtiness of it. The third beatitude - being meek - is to know that, because others around you are the same as yourself, you do not put yourself above them, you do not put them below you. The next beatitude would speak that because we know we are poor, because we mourn after our neediness, we know that we are hungry, we realize that we are thirsty and we cannot satisfy the spiritual need and the spiritual gap within ourselves by anything - only God can satisfy, so we come to God and we ask God to fill us. And we remember that when we have been shown mercy, we realize that we can do nothing else than but to show mercy to those around us.
It's only the person that has realized their sin. It's only the person that has come to Christ for His righteousness, for His salvation, that will ever come to the realization that they need to be pure in their heart - and without purity of heart they will never ever with their eyes see God Almighty. So what is this? It's not the goal of all Christian life. It's not something that we need before we become a Christian, because we can never have it without it being in this progression. So what is it to be pure in heart? Well, first of all we need to understand what the Lord Jesus Christ means by 'heart' in this verse. We've already seen that He doesn't mean the physical heart. But the heart throughout all of Scripture is a name that is used for the centre, the pinnacle of all personality. It is who you are, it is the centre of your being, it incorporates the mind, but it is not just the mind. It incorporates the emotions, but it is not just the emotions. It includes the affections, but not just the affections and also the will - what you know you want to do and carrying it out. The heart encompasses, it is an inclusion of all these things together - and when we read in the word of God 'the heart', we can take it as meaning the whole person: body, soul, mind and spirit.
The Bible right from start to finish describes our heart's condition. If you would turn with me to Matthew chapter 15, the Lord speaks of what our hearts are like before a holy and a righteous God. It's not a pretty picture, it's not a picture that the self-righteous and self-religious smile at. Verse 18, and again disputing with the Pharisees as He was within the sermon of the mount He said: 'But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man'. You see, the Pharisees were walking around as Pharisees, as legalists, and everybody that put something dirty into their mouth, everybody that worked on the Sabbath, even drag a chair across the dust - it was seen as ploughing - anybody who did that, they had 360 odd rules that they'd made up themselves and if anybody broke those things, external rules, they were anathema to the Pharisees.
The Lord had come, and the Messiah - the Christ of God - had come with the message of God, and His message was a Gospel of the heart. It was not a Gospel of externals, and what the Lord was trying to get to these boys minds was this: 'It's not what you put into your body that defiles you, although you can do things that will defile you, but the primary problem is this: it is the heart'. Because of your heart's condition all these things that you do with your hands, that you look upon with your eyes, that you think up in your mind - they're not because someone has come along like a cartoon, the wee devil on your shoulder and it has whispered into your ear. They come out of you because they are ingrained within you. They're in your grain, they're in your very make-up, they're part of you - and out of your heart, out of your personality, out of your will, your affections, your emotions, who you are, all these things emanate and there's nothing you can do about it.
It's a sad picture, so much so that Jeremiah said that the heart is deceitful above all things - and when the Bible says above all things, it means above everything - and desperately wicked, who can know it? You know as well as I do that your heart often deceives you and what you feel often is not reality, it's not often the truth. The Psalmist was in this predicament in Psalm 24, and I want you to turn with me to it. Psalm 24, and it's as if that the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 and verse 8 were an answer to the Psalmist's rhetorical question. The Psalmist, hundreds of years before, in Psalm 24 is heralding down into the future, into the annals of time when Christ would come, shouting to Christ this question, and Christ is answering it within the beatitudes. Verse 3: 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?' - the answer - 'He that hath clean hands, a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, the righteousness from the God of his salvation'.
The Psalmist asked the question of all time: 'Who can come unto God? Who can approach God? What is the road to approaching the hill of God? What is the highway?'. Isaiah says that it is the 'highway of holiness'. The Psalmist says that 'it is him that hath clean hands and a pure heart'. The Lord Jesus says: 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God'. But you could be like me, and you look at all this, and you could be like David in Psalm 51 and he asked the question and in his sin, in his adultery, in his murder, he asked God to cleanse his heart: 'Lord cleanse me from secret sins', says the Psalmist. And David, if you turn to it very quickly in Psalm 51, there's so many questions about his sin, but what he longs for is cleansing - and in verse 6: 'Behold', he says, '[God] thou desirest truth in the inward parts'. It's not what a person wears or what a person says, or what a person looks like, or whether they have a beard or whether they don't have a beard - and believe you me that's the kind of things they argued about here. Those things God is not concerned with! 'You desire truth within the inward parts, Lord: and in the hidden parts Thou shall make me to know wisdom' - then in verse 10: 'Create in me a clean heart O God; and renew a right spirit within me'.
Do you know what Martin Luther, the great reformer, said? He said, 'I am more afraid of my own heart than the pope and all his cardinals'. He knew the dynamite that was in his own heart. The prophets longed for clean hearts, that's why in Ezekiel they talked about a day that would come when Christ would come, when their stony hardened hearts would be replaced with a heart, a new heart of flesh that beat after God. They looked in Jeremiah to a heart that would have the law of God written upon it, no longer would the law of God be written on their heads in a wee box, or on their hands, but it would be written in their hearts.
There's two incentives that come from a pure heart. You see, the purity of heart that the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking of speaks to me of two things. First of all: it speaks of inward purity rather than outward purity. And secondly: it speaks of single-mindedness. First of all: inward purity rather than outward purity. Christ's Gospel was a Gospel of the heart, not of the head. The heart was the problem, not the head. Now what is in your head is important, but what is in your head will ultimately flow out from what is in your heart. Christianity is about the heart. Christianity without the heart is legalism. Christianity without the head is liberality. You need God in your heart and then you'll have the right doctrine in your head. This was the dispute with the Pharisees, this is what the Lord was arguing about. He was saying: 'Blessed are the pure in heart', but they were saying: 'Blessed are those who are outwardly, ceremonially clean, because those that are externally holy will see their God'. But Jesus said: 'You're clean on the outside, but in the very depths of your being, in your emotion, in your intellect, in your affections, in your will, in everything that makes you a person, in your heart, you're dead'. Remember when Saul was chosen as the king: he was tall, dark and handsome, he had everything going for him in the world's perspective. But do you know what had to happen? God had to change his heart! Because God said: 'Man looks on the outward appearance, but I look upon the heart'.
The Sermon on the Mount has the backdrop, where the Lord Jesus is saying right throughout it, through every verse that we have read, and every verse that you could read from chapter 5, 6 and 7 of this sermon: 'Heart righteousness is what God wants, rather than rule righteousness'. Listen to this, let this get into your head for this is the Gospel: God is not concerned about rules, God is concerned about the righteousness of His Son in your life. And righteous living will flow out of the righteousness of Christ in your life, so that you'll not need rules. But also this purity of heart speaks of single-mindedness. What do I mean by that? Well, this fits in with the context of the whole of the Sermon on the Mount. If you turn to chapter 6 of Matthew, the next chapter, chapter 6 and verse 22, we see that what the Lord is trying to do, it's as if He's going through a jungle with a machete and He's trying to cut away all the overgrowth, and He's leading to one specific plant which is God's righteousness and God's righteousness alone that will satisfy. Therefore in this chapter, in verse 22, He says this: 'The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light'. What's the Lord saying? He's saying that if you're to come into the kingdom, if you're to have success within God's Church, and in God's life of sanctified holiness that He will give to you: [you] must be single-minded, you must be focused.
The scholar Mr. Tasker put it like this: 'It is the single-minded one who is free from the tyranny of a divided self'. Now come on, let's be honest, aren't we divided? It seems that there is a battle raging within us everyday of our lives, and that's simply because our old nature is still with us - we have a new nature, yes, but there's a fight, there's a battle that goes on day by day and it's whatever nature we feed that will win the day! As Watchman Nee said: 'Often it has to do with what I decide when I get out of my bed in the morning, who's going to have the victory within me the new nature or the old'. You know what I'm talking about: the things that you do, like Paul, that you wouldn't do, you wish you couldn't do - and the things that you wish you could do but you can't do, you can't bring yourself to do it. The Lord Jesus is saying that this purity of heart is not simply moral purity - it includes that - but what He is talking about is, as J.B. Phillips translated this verse: 'Blessed are those who are utterly sincere'. Are you? We all sin, we're all going to sin - but are we trying our best, by the help of the Holy Spirit in our will, to try and live a life that is pleasing to God, or are we double-minded - and James says that a man who is double-minded is unstable in all of his ways. You'll get nowhere as a Christian - and that's why many of you are getting nowhere as a Christian, because you haven't tamed the lion of lust, you haven't tamed the fire of hell from your tongue, you haven't tamed your murderous hating thoughts within your soul! You haven't tamed all those things and unless you tame them, and you decide that no longer are you going to be double minded, you will never ever be pure in your heart.
What did Paul say? - and I think this is marvelous. He said: 'This one thing I do' - he didn't say 'This ten things, or dozen things I do'. We, as Christians, can be running around doing a dozen things - Paul says there's one thing I'm going to do and that's press towards God's mark. Concentrate on one thing, do it well, and let that one thing be this: seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Jesus is saying in this verse: to be pure in heart is to live one life for Christ, and live it open to all around you. It is being free from hypocrisy, being free from falsehood, not simply walking into this hall, or into whatever church you attend and pretending everything is alright, pretending you're the holiest of all in the holiest of all, when you know deep down that things are not right before God.
The easy answer to this question is: What does your mind think of when it goes into neutral? What tidbits does your mind feed upon? Young men what do you watch on the television late into the night? For these things cannot add to a pure heart. The Greek for purity that the Lord Jesus uses is the word 'cathiros' (sp?). It was a word used in Greek literature to describe clean drinking water, the grain that had been winnowed, all the dirt and chaff had been taken away. It was used to describe feelings that are unmixed, it was used to describe metals that were untainted. And you know examples of this word, medical examples are: 'cathartic', something that is used to clean an infected area. Psychologists and psychiatrists, if you go to them and have a counseling session with them it's sometimes called a 'catharsis' - a cleansing of the soul and the mind. A 'catheter' - you all know what that is. To cleanse, to make pure, to have not just purity of heart in a moral sense, but fidelity towards God, an unswerving loyalty to the things of God, to the will of God, to the word of God. To be simple, to be single in your devotion, not to be divided.
One illustration of this: have you ever talked to someone and they start talking to you, maybe after the meeting, and they're talking away - and they're looking all around them, and they're looking at what she's wearing, what he's saying, and what car he's getting into - and you're standing there and you know fine well that, as they're talking to you, they would rather not be there. They're not concentrating on you - now, that can be like us. We are not single-minded and single-hearted, we are not focused to our Christian lives, we're not really interested! Now as you look at this verse, and you see Christ saying to you and to me: 'Be pure of heart', you despair, and I despair! Because this is nigh impossible - in fact it is impossible! You cannot do it - with the heart that you have, and with the heart that I have, it is absolutely impossible. Yet the Lord says in verse 48 of our chapter, chapter 5: 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect'. You see, in Christianity, perfection is the goal - and nothing else will satisfy God but perfection.
Do you know what the bad news is? (Apart from the fact that my time's running out terribly!). The bad news is this: that all of us are disqualified. I dont care how long you're saved, I don't care how good a preacher you are, or how much of the word of God you use, every single one in this place, whether you're saved or unsaved, are disqualified from qualifying for a pure heart.
You see, there are several types of purity - and secondly, I want to look as quickly as possible at the fact that the pure, the Lord Jesus Christ says, shall see God. They will see God, and without purity - and none of you can have purity, by the way, of yourselves - you will never see God. Thomas Manton put it like this, the old puritan: 'God alone sees the heart and the heart alone sees God, and it is the pure heart alone that sees God'. The book of Hebrews says this, a declaration upon all humanity, that 'without holiness no man shall see the Lord'. First of all what you need, and especially if you're not saved in this place today, you need positional purity. What is that? That is where God grabs you by the scruff of your neck, spiritually speaking, He lifts you out of your sin, He plants you in Christ Jesus and in the middle of His righteousness. And when God looks at you He no longer sees your impurity, but He sees Christ's purity. That's salvation, and He purchased it at the cross, where He became your impurity that you might have His purity. You can have it now by faith in Christ! But for the Christian this is not positional purity, but this is practical purity. That this is the only way, as a born again believer, you're going to come to see God. Imagine the day, believers, imagine the day when you will go to heaven, and you will see not the face that men and women saw when they were down here on earth, but you will see the glorified Christ. Imagine that day: the sunnum bonum, the greatest thing in all eternity, the greatest joy that will transcend all the accumulated pleasures that this world or even eternity can bring, it will be ecstasy to see Christ as He is with 20/20 vision of God!
Now, the debate has raged throughout Christian history about whether we will see God, or whether anyone has seen God. Some said of Moses that he saw God, well he saw the back of God - I don't know what that means - but it says that he didn't actually see God. There are many theophanies - which means a revealing of God in the Old Testament, like the burning bush where God's voice came out. Yet of all these pictures and symbols and demonstrations of God, 1 John 4:12 still says: 'No man has seen God at any time', and even though Moses endured as seeing the invisible he didn't see, in a form, God. But listen, the Lord Jesus Christ comes, as He said in this chapter, to fill up the prophets and the laws. He puts the full stop upon all that has been said in the Old Testament, and He says this: 'No one has seen God at any time, but let Me tell you this: those that are pure in heart shall see God' - and that is emphatic: only those that are in pure hearts will see God. But it's also continual: those that are pure in their hearts, they alone will see God, but they will see God continually. Isn't that powerful?
Helen Keller was a blind girl, she was also deaf. She was asked rather forcibly on one occasion: 'Isn't it terrible to be blind?'. Do you know what she replied to that? 'It's better to be blind and see with your heart, than have two eyes and see nothing'. Christian, what do you see with your heart? Do you see the purity of Christ, the righteousness of Christ? We can see God in His total being, everything that He is, in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can see Him by faith in His Son, we can see Him by faith within the word of God, His revelation of His being, we can see Him in His world - we can see Him, if we're saved, in our very lives! The hymnwriter said:
'Something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen'.
Job said: 'I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye hath seen Thee'. Christian, have you seen God lately? Have you seen God at all? The ultimate event of all eternity will be when we see, after looking through a glass darkly, we will see Him - and when we see Him, praise God, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is! Job's testimony was this, in all his pain - and I'm nearly finished, just bear with me - in all his pain, in chapter 19 and verse 25-27, he says this: 'For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God'.
Do you want to be pure, Christian? Non-Christian, do you want to see God one day? Do you want to be cleansed? Do you want to be freed from your sin? Zechariah 13 and verse 1 says that there is a fountain open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness, so that you can wash it away. The sermon in Acts 15:9 he told the people: 'Purify your hearts by faith' - and if you want to be cleansed today you've to go to that fountain by faith and be washed in the blood of Christ. For the blood and nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, can cleanse us from all sin. Christian, do you want to be pure in your heart? First of all you need to be honest with God about your heart. You need to acknowledge to God that only He can make it pure, you need to fill yourself with God's word, for He has said that it's through His word that He has made us clean. You need to think of your eternity, the hope that is within us that keeps us alive, that keeps us going: that one day we will see Him and we will be like Him.
'Newsweek' has written about a microphone that they have devised that will eradicate all stethoscopes that the doctors use to sound our hearts. What they're going to do with it, they're going to put it up our veins, right into our heart, and they can get right into the centre of our heart to hear our hearts condition. Christian, if you could hear as the Holy Spirit hears your heart condition this morning, what's it like? Can I give you an exhortation as I close? Solomon said: 'Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life'.
Our Father, we have heard so many times over this week: 'Blessed are they, blessed are they, blessed are they'. But Lord, we have heard today something that shakes us again to our core: 'Blessed are they that are pure in heart: for they shall see God'. Lord, let there not be one in this place that is not positionally pure in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. But Lord, help us each, by Thy grace and by Thy Holy Spirit, to be more blessed and holy - more, Saviour, like Thee. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighth tape in his Beatitudes series, titled "Blessed Are The Pure In Heart" - Transcribed by Judith Watkins, Preach The Word.
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