Sermon: Walking in Purity before God - Matthew 5

There is a promise given to those who have made Jesus Lord of their lives; those who have experienced His cleansing.

What is the heart of which Jesus speaks. What is this purity? And what does it mean that we will see God? Dr. Calvin Wittman explores this beatitude from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Sermon series: Going Right in a Culture Gone Wrong

  1. Building a Godly Home for the New Year - Psalm 101
  2. Walking in Purity Before God - Matthew 5
  3. When You Feel Like a Nobody Going Nowhere - Psalm 139
  4. Grace Relations - Acts 10
  5. How Giving Makes You Joyful - Philippians 4

Scriptures: Matthew 5:8

Introduction

We come this morning to the sixth beatitude which has to do with purity of heart and with seeing God. Whereas the promises associated with the previous beatitudes talk about belonging to the kingdom of heaven, inheriting the earth, being comforted, filled, and receiving mercy, this one says is certainly one of the greatest because it offers us the promise of seeing God.

As with all the others, this beatitude fits in sequentially with the others. Those who have come to see their sinful state for what it is, they are the poor in spirit, they have mourned over their sins, been brought to the humility of recognizing their own inability to do anything about it and have thus hungered and thirsted for the righteousness of God and were consequently filled, as they received the bountiful mercy of God. This has brought them to the point of being saved, which means their sins were washed away and they have been made pure.

As we seek to understand all that our Lord is saying to us in this text, there are several things we must consider.

First of all, I want us to consider what the heart is. What exactly is this heart to which Jesus refers? Certainly it is not the muscle which pumps blood through our bodies, it must be something more?

Then we need to ask ourselves what is this purity about which Jesus speaks. If the pure in heart enjoy a state of blessing and privilege, what does it mean to be pure?

And what does it mean to see God? Is the scripture speaking literally or metaphorically? What is it saying, and then how do we make the application of this text to our everyday experience?

Let's take these in order this morning. First of all, let's deal with ...

1. The heart

The Greek word here is Kardia, from which we get our word "cardiac." Every culture has some internal organ which it considers the emotional, spiritual and mental center of a person. In our culture we speak of the heart as being that center. We say, "I love you with all of my heart." Or we say, "Let's get to the heart of the matter." Its our way of talking about the very center of a person's emotions, thoughts or essence.

This is exactly how the word heart is employed in scripture. It is used some 105 times in 98 verses in the New Testament. It means the center of who we really are; the epicenter of our being. It is this meaning to which our Lord refers in our text.

In the Old Testament the word for heart is often interchangeable with the word for mind, thus giving insight into this idea of it being the center of our emotions, thoughts and spirit.

In I Samuel 16:7 when Samuel is considering Eliab, David's older brother as the one he should anoint as king, God tells him, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

In 2 Kings 2-:3 we are told to serve the Lord with our whole heart, or without a divided loyalty, and in Deut. 4:29 we are told to seek Him with all our heart, or all of our being.
 
Jesus referred to the heart frequently in His ministry.

In Matthew 6:21 He says, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

In Matthew 12:34-35 Jesus tells us that this true center of our being reveals who we really are. He said, "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man, out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."

So the heart is the center of our being.

Now Jesus says that those who are blessed, those who enjoy a favorable position with God, who have this most fortunate state of existence are those who are pure of heart.

But we've got a problem. The scripture tells us that the heart of man is anything but pure, in fact, it tells us the human heart is wicked.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" And verse ten goes on to say, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I text the conscience, even to give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings."

But we also know that a change of heart necessary for salvation.

Romans 10:9-10 says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation.

So not only do we see that the heart is the center of our being, but that our hearts are naturally wicked, we are born with this proclivity towards sin, and in our fallen estate we cannot know it, but because God is God, He searches our hearts and knows us. But if we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts, we can be saved.

That brings us to the next thing we should consider and that is this idea of purity.

2. Purity

The Greek word employed in our text today carries with it the idea of cleanliness or purity, in the sense that we would commonly understand it. It means to be genuine, free from things that would adulterate something and make it impure; as in the purity of gold. It is similar to the concept of holiness.

When we think of purity of heart, perhaps we think of someone whose motives are pure, who possess no guile or malice. Someone who is good natured and may even be somewhat naive. But that is not exactly what our Lord is talking about here.

Within the context of what our Lord is saying, He is speaking about the heart of someone whose sins have been forgiven and whose heart has been made new, whose purity comes, not from themselves, but from the presence of Jesus in their lives.

Whenever I think of purity, I always think of milk. Just think about it, a tall cool glass of clean, white tasty milk; its color testifies to its purity. Now you let some foreign object falls into milk, say, like a fly and it becomes readily noticeable that this impurity has contaminated the entire container of milk. Nobody I know wants to drink milk that has had a fly in it. But let someone remove the fly and once again the milk appears to be pure, although there are now things in it you cannot see, unseen contaminants that make it impure.

That was the problem of the Pharisees in Jesus' day, and it's the problem with many people today. Their hearts have been contaminated by sins no one else can see, and thus they give the external impression of purity. But within them there is sin that remains uncleansed and continues to contaminate their lives.

Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 23:27-28 when He said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28"So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

The standards for citizenship in the kingdom of God are extremely high. External, outward, human righteousness might lead people to think you are pure, but that won't cut it with God who sees the heart. God says there has to be an internal work, a transformation at the most basic level, not only of what we do, but of who we are. The sins which stain our hearts need to be washed away and only the blood of Jesus can do that.

Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now and let us reason together, Says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

You see, within the course of His sermon here, Jesus is saying that the pure in heart are those who are saved, those who have been washed in the fountain filled with blood drawn from Emanuel's veins. As the song says, Sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.

Now we need differentiate between positional and conditional purity.

Positional purity is what happens when I am saved. When I am saved, God declares that I am a saint, I am positionally holy. He has written my name in the Lamb's book of life and declared that I am His. He has made me positionally pure.

Now, conditional purity is another matter. The truth is that sometimes the condition of a Christian's walk can be so bad, they can be out of step with God that there are impurities in their lives. That does not change their position before Christ, but it does affect their fellowship because they are allowing things in their lives that are contrary to the new, nature of purity they have in Jesus.

So to be pure in heart speaks to my position as a Christian before God and also to the condition of my walk with God. It does not mean that you and I must be perfect, it does, however mean that we have come to that point where Jesus is firmly established as Lord of our lives.

3. They shall see God

And there is a promise given to those who have made Jesus Lord of their lives; those who have experienced His cleansing. That is that they shall see God.

There is a future application to this. Someday all those who are saved will go to heaven and there God will reveal more of Himself to us and we will see Him. So that is one aspect of this passage, but I do not believe that is the point Jesus is making here.

Jesus is talking about that which takes place here on earth. Now, there are those who would say, that to see God means to be able to recognize His handprint in creation. But that is certainly not all Jesus is saying because Romans 1 tells us that even the lost can recognize God in general revelation, that is through nature and creation. No, Jesus is saying much more.

Remember that Jesus is speaking to a Hebrew audience. While the Greeks were a people of the eye, who wanted to see their gods and built statues of them, the Hebrews were a people of the ear who served an unseen God. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear, oh Israel." Revelation 2:11 says, "He who hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Interesting, then, we find Jesus telling a Hebrew audience that they shall see God.

Any good Hebrew would have been familiar with Exodus 33:20 where God tells Moses, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live."

And John 1:18 tells us that, "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the father, He has explained Him."

So when Jesus promises that the pure in heart shall see God, what exactly is He saying?

To understand this we need to take a look at the Greek word translated, "shall see." It was a very significant word in the Greek language and in their world view. As we mentioned, they were a people of the eye, which they thought was the most important means of perception. But this extremely important word carried a wide range of meaning, more than merely speaking of physical sight, it also meant mental and spiritual discernment or perception.

Knowing that no man has physically seen God the Father in His totality, we must understand that Jesus is using this word to convey the idea of perception, discernment and understanding.

We use the word "see" in similar ways in our culture. When we want someone to perceive what we are explaining we say, "Can you see what I mean?" When we want someone's will to change we want them to "see it our way." When we want someone to understand something unambiguously, we want them to "see it clearly." When we know that experience will help someone discern or understand we prepare them for the experience by says, "just wait, you'll see." Often times we don't mean they will literally see, what we really mean is, "You'll understand or you'll get it then." In this context physical sight is not necessary for even a blind man could have insight. So Jesus is not necessarily talking about physical sight but about perception, understanding and discernment.

Throughout scripture the metaphor of blindness is used to describe those who are lost and sight is used to describe spiritual life, that which is given to at salvation.

The blessing here is this: as the person who is pure in heart allows their life to be lost in Jesus and allows Jesus to live through them, their understanding, their perception, their discernment of who God is, of His ways, of His will, of His heart and of His hand will grow. Whereas those who do not know God are alienated from the life of God because of the darkness that is within them, because of the blindness of their hearts, as Ephesians 4:17-18 says, the pure in heart have had their eyes opened, they can walk in the light as He is in the light and have fellowship with God and with one another.

  • They are able to see God in that they see His Spirit moving in the so called circumstances of life.
  • They see His will being unfolded in their lives; they see His hand of provision in their everyday experience, they are perceptive to His ways, they are discerning of His heart and understanding when it comes to His word.
  • They are able to see God because He lives in them through His Spirit and He reveals Himself to them in new ways every day.
  • They see God as He lives His life through them. You see, the pure in heart will see God because they are living life, filled with His Holy Spirit.

If you have been washed in the blood of Jesus, if you have been made new in Him, if you are living your life under His lordship, filled with the Holy Spirit, you will invariably and inevitably see God.

The person who has not come to be poor of Spirit and thus brought to mourn over their sins and who has never been humbled to the point of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, they have never been filled with His Spirit, they have never experienced His mercy; they have never been cleansed by His blood, never experienced the catharsis of heart, and thus they have never been given spiritual sight. These folks, people who are still lost in their sin, they cannot recognize, perceive or see God.

You see, we pray for discernment, we pray for guidance, we pray for direction but the reality is, God is always revealing Himself to us, He is ever about the business of guiding us and directing us, the problem is not with His revelation, direction or guidance, the problem lies with out inability to discern or sense that revelation, direction and guidance.

The closer you are to Him to more sensitive your discernment becomes. What is it that keeps us from discerning or seeing His direction? Well, if purity is that which both enables and enhances spiritual sight, then impurity or sin disables or diminishes our spiritual sight.

Most people are not serious about sensing what God is saying or discerning His will and the reason I can say that with certainty is because if they were, they would do what is necessary, that is they would do their part, to insure that their spiritual receptors were functioning at capacity.

Conclusion

In light of this morning's passage, allow me to ask you a couple of pointed diagnostic questions.

First, there is a question here those who are unsure of their eternal destiny. It is a question about positional purity.

1. Have you ever had your heart cleansed?

I mean, in the context of this passage, can you unequivocally say that you have come to that point in your life where you have been humbled by your sin, mourned over it to the point that you have recognized your inability to do anything about it yourself, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you have experienced the filling that comes when you receive God's mercy and had your sins washed away and your heart made clean. If you've never come to that point in your life where you've received the forgiveness of sins Jesus offers, if you've never been given Spiritual sight by receiving spiritual life, this morning, God wants to wash your sins away, He wants to make you pure in heart.

Secondly, there is a question here for the Christian. This is a question about the condition or your heart.

2. Are you walking in purity before the Lord?

Is there anything in your life which is keeping you from being sensitive to and discerning God as He reveals Himself all around you? To determine this you and I need to allow the Lord to do a thorough search of the heart.

Several weeks ago our home computer became infected with a virus. It began to do all kinds of crazy things to our computer. It shut down our ability to go to the website of our virus protection software and it started sending wild commands to the printer and other various programs. We tried and tried to run our diagnostic software and it was like putting a band aid on a bullet wound. Finally my wife, who was extremely perturbed that some devious computer nerd somewhere had written a program that had infected her computer, she got online and began doing research into this particular virus.

Over the course of four or five days she learned more about computers than she ever thought she would know, but in the end she triumphed. She went to some geek websites, downloaded all the necessary information, processed it and found out what the problem was. She had to go into system files and programs most people don't even know exist. She went deep into the heart of the operating system, and there she was able to find the root of the virus and exterminate it.

You see, our hearts are often like that computer. Sin is virus which slips in, often unnoticed and slowly begins to infect every other area of our lives. And by the time we recognize it for what it is, it has often gained so much ground that it seems impossible to eradicate it and make things right.

But that's where we allow the Holy Spirit to do His job. The Psalmist had this in mind in Psalm 139:23-24. "Search me O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."

God made us and He alone knows us. It is with the blood of His Son Jesus that He can cleanse us. When we allow Him to search us and know us and cleanse us, then and then alone can we address this issue of purity.

What about it, Christian? What is it in your life that is keeping you from a deeper more intimate relationship with God? Is it an attitude towards someone else? Maybe it is merely a feeling of pride in yourself, or it could be a desire that you know is displeasing to God and yet you continue to nurture it and act as if it will do you no harm? Even as we speak this morning, as the Spirit of God moves in your heart this morning, what is He saying to you today and what will you do about it?

Dr. Calvin Wittman is pastor of Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He serves as a trustee at Criswell College, and regularly contributes to Open Windows, a monthly LifeWay devotional publication.