Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
At the halfway point in the Beatitudes, there’s a shift. The first four are inner heart attitudes, all characteristic of those who follow Christ. We realize we are poor in spirit, totally undeserving of God’s mercy and grace. We mourn over our sin and our broken humanity. We stop demanding our rights from God and from others, knowing that God will take care of us. We hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God — to know Him and His ways better. This is where the shift takes place in the Beatitudes — the inner man is being renewed in the first four, and the results of that renewing are shown in the last four. The first result is mercy — coming to the aid of those who are in need, no matter their relationship to us. This time, we’re looking at what Jesus means by “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
This idea of purity was nothing new to Jesus’ audience. All their lives, the importance of physical purity in order to be right with God had been drilled into their heads. The idea of purity of the heart is equally emphasized, if not more emphasized in the Old Testament, but the easy thing to do, the human thing to do is to focus on what we can do ourselves — keep hands washed, don’t be in contact with Gentiles, don’t eat pork, etc. Christ, when He came, constantly highlighted the error in this kind of one-sided thinking. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matt. 23:27).
In stark contrast to this way of thinking, Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Anybody can make his hands look pure, but like Prov. 20:9 says, “Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?” The truth is that sin has stained each one of us, and the definition of the word Jesus uses here translated pure — “katharos,” means un-stained. Never, ever having been stained in the first place.
Consider David’s prayer in Psalm 51 after his sin with Bathsheba:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
He did not ask God to look at all the good things he had accomplished to weigh against his sin like we so often do. He called on God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy to give him a clean heart knowing he had earned neither. His conscience pricked by the light of God’s perfect law kept his sin ever before him. So when confronted by the prophet Nathan, he does not ask God to withhold chastening, but rather he recognizes that his sin was not ultimately against Bathsheba, her husband, their baby, or Israel, but ultimately against God.
This sensitivity to sin is a result of having been given a pure heart. A pure hearted person is ever developing a sensitivity to the sin in their own life because as they mature in the knowledge of the Scripture, the ugliness of their sin is more and more evident. I think where most of us find ourselves on a regular basis is summed up in Psalm 73:
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
As the writer of Hebrews says, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). Now, because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we can come confidently before the throne of grace to ask for mercy again and again. What a difference from before! And the difference is not that God has become less holy and more approachable. Rather, the difference is in us — in our position in Christ. 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
If your life is characterized by light — striving to live as Christ lived, that is evidence of a pure heart. A clean heart before God through Christ, and a desire for an intimate knowledge of what pleases and hurts the heart of God is proof of sonship.
What is the promise for those who have trusted in Christ for their cleansing? “They shall see God.” That is mind blowing! With our current physical eyes we cannot physically view God, but with a pure heart, we can see His workmanship in creation, detect His guidance in our lives, and discern His purposes in the midst of our times of trouble. We can also see Him through glimpses of the church, through whom He expresses His nature, goodness, and love. More than that though, with glorified bodies at the coming of our “great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” we shall see Him physically, face to face. Jude says He will “make you stand blameless in His glorious presence with great joy!”
May we ever strive to increase in our purity and devotion to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in 2015.