The beatitudes are one of the most interesting sets of scripture in all of the bible, particularly because so many people have so many takes and takeaways on them.
To some they are an announcement… Jesus shows up and begins giving this amazing sermon to this group of really broken people and be begins to tell them that they are blessed.
To some they are a new set of things that we should become…
Ways that we should change our lives to fit into the picture that Jesus is painting for us here…
I have taught from the beginning, I believe that essentially the first four are one thing, and the second four are another.
The first four show was what it means to be broken. What it means to have that void in your life that you have no clue how you will ever fill it… because it is in that place that Jesus can step in and be your everything, which is what he wants. To me, the first four equate to salvation. Dependency on Jesus rather than trying to make it in your own strength, and the last four begin to show us what our lives will certainly start to look like if Jesus has that kind of hold on us… we becoming merciful. Our hearts are purified, we are peacemakers, and of course, we will be persecuted. And I am really looking forward to talking about the last beatitude, because I think it is absolutely fascinating and truthfully, it is more hopefully than most of us may think, and it is not all depressing.
But I by no means claim to have all the answers about the beatitudes, and in fact, as many of you know, more than anything through this EQUIP series I am seeking to begin conversations. Conversations that last much longer than just our hour block of time on Thursdays… Because to me, if nothing else, each of these 8 “blessed are’s” should make us curious. Because obviously we all want what Jesus is talking about, because the blessing on the other end of each of these things seems way to good to pass up.
Who wouldn’t want to inherit the earth?
Who wouldn’t want to have the Kingdom of heaven be theirs?
Who wouldn’t want mercy?
Who wouldn’t want to be satisfied?
Who wouldn’t want to be comforted?
Who wouldn’t want to be called sons of God?
Who wouldn’t want to see God?
and that is the beatitude that we get to today. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
The beatitudes truly set up the sermon on the mount so well. and this one particularly… This is an incredible statement… for several reasons…
First of all… like we just said… who wouldn’t want to see God?
But at the same time… who actually is pure in heart?
Paul says in Romans 3:10 that “no one is righteous, not even one…”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 says “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
Everyone screws up… everyone has evil in their hearts…
so the question ultimately becomes…
Does anyone see God?
and if so, then who? Who gets to see God?
Because in the old testament seeing God was a bad thing. Nobody wanted to see God. Because they wanted to live.
Gideon thought he was going to die because he saw an angel… God actually told Moses, “you can’t see my face or you will die…” so God showed Moses only his back.
But in the New Testament, the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and quite a few people saw God, didn’t they?
So what does Jesus mean when he says “Blessed are the pure in heart?”
Because obviously it is something that we want. Obviously it is something that up until that point, nobody experienced.
Today, we are mostly going to focus on one word, and that word is pure. Again, the idea is that these ideas begin conversations, and they are not the final word on them.
This is what I think Jesus is getting at.
I think that truthfully, this is where we are introduced to the Spirit of the law. And it becomes much much more evident in the verses to come as to exactly what that really means… when Jesus says things like you have heard that it was said… you shall not murder…
but I say to you…
If murder is in your heart… if hate is even in your heart at all… you are guilty. Because there is something going on in your heart that you are letting harvest… that you are letting burn… and just because you are masking it, doesn’t mean its not there.
Just because you aren’t acting on your lust doesn’t mean that you mind isn’t in all sorts of screwed up places…
Just because you give to the needy doesn’t mean that you care about the poor.
It brings me back to one of my favorite Brennan Manning quotes, and I have given this to you before, but he says in the Ragamuffin Gospel,
“The temptation of the age is to look good, without being good.”
Solomon puts it this way in Proverbs 20:6, “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love… but a faithful man, who can find?"
A person who does the right thing, for the right reason, is very hard to find.
A pure heart, is very heard to find.
So what is it?
What makes a heart pure?
What is it that purifies our hearts?
The word pure is the Greek word “katharos” and it means pure… but if you were to look this word up in Vines expository dictionary, first of all it would show you three senses of the word… the Levitical sense of “pure,” as in the law… as in something is clean, or unclean… that is pretty cut and dry.
and then there is the ethical sense, which means to be free from corrupt desire, from sin or guilt. - which is the definition most people give it and move on.
but then there is the physical sense. Which I have found with a lot of words, understanding the physical sense can help us understand how it may work in reality… remember, we are trying to figure out how this looks like for us, in this kingdom.
Because sometimes ethically something can sound good on paper, but not really translate that well.
there are a couple of different definitions of what it takes, in a physical sense, to make something pure.
The first is, when something is “purified by fire.”
and The second sense is “like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit.”
Okay… lets look at both of these. First of all, lets look at pure as “purified by fire.”
The first thing you may wonder is, “What does that have to do with the heart?”
Solomon in Proverbs 17:3 says something really interesting… it is one of those verses most of the time we just read right through.
He says “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the heart.”
A crucible was a pot that held metals so that you could put them under fire… you put silver in the crucible and then you could place the crucible in the fire so you can put the silver under extreme heat.
So, there is something in silver, and in gold, called the dross, and it is a mass of solid impurities that was just kind of mixed in with the silver.
So what would happen was if you put the silver in the crucible, and you put it in the furnace, the silver would come under the heat of the furnace and and when it got hot enough the dross would separate from the silver… and then the silversmith could then come by and he could scrape off the dross and then they would have a totally pure piece of silver.
That is how one would “purify” silver.
My pastor in New York, Brad Reed, gave me a really insightful perspective on this verse… He taught me this… now.. first of all… “do you ever notice thatwhenever you recognize something in your own heart that it is just abundantly clear you need to change, it always seems like after you recognize it and begin working toward changing it, whatever causes you to sin in that area seems like it is put in front of you more and more?
Like anger. “when you are angry, if you ask God to help you with your anger… suddenly you are more angry for the next two weeks?” Like, more so than ever, everything that anybody does just seems to get you going…
What is that?
Why is it when we see things, enough to recognize them, and we really want to get over them so we actually begin working on them, they seem like they come against us stronger?
And this is what he said, and it is so insightful.
“Most of us don’t know what lies in the recesses of our hearts until God turns the heat up.”
Here is the reality. When everything seems like it is going great, and its always going your way, and every time you try something it seems like you just keep winning… it is going to feel really good… you can just sort of breeze by life and not realize what is missing. It is called being “rich in Spirit.” we talked about it the first week of this series. It can become very easy to begin to think that you are the reason that you are ok.
But when you face trials, and things get tough, what happens?
Why does Jesus say blessed are those who mourn?
Why does his brother, James say “count it all joy when you face trials?”
Because trials separate the dross from metal in your heart… Solomon says that the crucible is for silver, and the Lord tests the heart… He is comparing the process that God puts our hearts through, the refining process, to the process of purifying silver.
and he will test your heart in those moments when you are real with him about what is going on in there….
because truthfully, he needs to know… “is this real?”
Is this a real change? Does this person really want to change…
he will turn the heat up… and it may feel real hot for a little while, but then just like that silver smith, he will come in and he will scrape that dross off of you and refine you… and at the end of the day, that refinement is your grace.
Because it will take you some place that you would not have gone on your own.
So one way that the Lord tests our hearts is he turns the heat up on them.
He wants to see how we do. He wants to separate what is nasty and worthless with what is valuable and priceless, so through various trials in our lives he purifies our hearts.
Another way that he tests our hearts is he actually puts us to the test. The religious people, they loved to make it look like they are good… but Jesus always brought it down to the heart… and to the decisions when nobody else sees you… He always has a way of sorting out the silver and the dross.
and we have to ask ourselves: “When the rubber meets the road, and no-one else is watching, do you do the right thing?”
In Luke chapter 10 (v25-37) He gives us the parable of the good Samaritan. And it begins by a man asking a question that Jesus seemed to be asked a lot….
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
and right away we have a problem. What must… I… do? So Jesus asks him, “well how do you read the law?
“What do you think you need to do?”
and so the man gives Jesus the great commandment, he says “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and you should love your neighbor as yourself.”
So Jesus then gave the man an easy way out… because right from the beginning we have a guy here who wants to be a hero… he wants to justify himself… he wants to do something that makes him think that his heart is right. So Jesus gives him a chance here… he says, “thats right. Go do that.”
and then the bible says that the man, in order to justify himself, asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?”
and so Jesus gives us this parable. Of a man who gets attacked on the side of the road and is left for dead. and it is interesting that as this man is laying there waiting to die, it says this “by chance, a priest was going down the road.” By chance… meaning, there weren’t a lot of people on the road… it was probably a miracle that anyone was walking right there… so obviously, nobody else was on that road, and if there were others on the road, it was probably the same people who robbed and beat the man in the first place… The priest knew walking by, nobody would see what good deed he did if he did one, and when he calculated the risk he decided it wasn’t worth it for this man, so instead he passed on the other side of the road.
The Levite did the same.
And of course, we know the story… the Samaritan man responded differently. He gave up what he had for the man. He helped him.
Jesus through this entire story, is leading this lawyer somewhere. He is trying to show him several things, but one of those things is,
“I test hearts.”
I care how you respond when you are not going to get any credit just as much as I do when you may get recognized for what you did.
Something has to purify your heart!
Because most of us go through life thinking that our hearts are good. We go through life thinking, OF COURSE WE WOULD BE LIKE THE SAMARITAN.
Why wouldn’t we help?
But then we get a chance to help, and our hearts get tested.
take me for example.
I have been trying to take Monday’s off, and this week was no different, I took it off but had to run to the church to pick something up quickly, and as I was getting back in my car someone pulled in in their truck, and they said that they were out of gas and asked if I could help.
and right away, I was a bit resistant. In my heart, right away I started thinking, IT IS MY DAY OFF….
I help people when I am at work.
as if that would stop anyone who wasn’t a pastor for a living and gives tons of their time on their “day off..” to the church, and to helping people.
but I hesitated.
I highly considered crossing to the other side of the road, and only because I checked myself did I help the man at all.
I gave him a little gas, and then he told me he had no food at the house, so I gave him a couple of loads of food from the pantry downstairs.
and that is the whole reason that the food pantry exists, and yet I was hesitant about the whole thing, just because it was my day off.
My heart was tested. And if I passed, I got a D on that one.
The bible tells us in Jeremiah that the heart is deceitful above all else, it is desperately sick and NOBODY CAN UNDERSTAND IT. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
if we truly believe that, then we have to ask ourselves, why are we trusting our hearts so much?
Isn’t that what we do? We follow our hearts…
but Why do we follow our hearts to the ends of the earth??? when we know that it is just going to leave us there.
That is why God says, “let me test your heart…”
“Show yourself approved so that I know that I have something I can work with here…” because if you are always following your heart, you are going to end up finding yourself in the same places.
If your heart is causing you to lust, you follow that, and where does that lead you?
Somewhere you don’t want to go.
So when your heart gets tested, you have to know its a refinery. Jesus knows that the heart is deceitful.
God knows that. What he wants to know is: Are you are going to follow that deceitful heart, or if you are going to follow him? Because as you begin to follow him, your heart will begin to be purified.
The second physical sense for making something pure, is “like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit.”
The way that this concept is used in a few places in the New Testament, is actually one of the pictures we get of judgment. It is more pleasant than some of the other pictures that we get, and it is the image of a farmer pruning a fruit tree.
So farmers had these apple trees and there would be all sorts of apples on them. Different apples of different sizes, and the farmers would come during a certain time in the season early on, and he would prune the tree. He would cut off the smaller apples driving more nutrients back into the tree so that in the smaller apples place, a bigger, better, larger apple could grow before the harvest. He is doing away with the bad fruit now, because it is preventing good fruit from coming forth. The bad fruit is getting in the way.
Now, we will get really into this toward the end of our series on the sermon on the mount when we get to Matthew 7 and the section “A tree and its fruit” but I want to show you a little bit of what Jesus says there, in that moment:
every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
So, the idea seems to be that the trees that don’t produce good fruit, eventually get cut down and thrown into the fire, so prune them now… water them now… get the bad fruit off of the tree because it is preventing the good fruit from coming forth.
Because one way or another, they are going to get pruned. You can do the pruning now, and cut off the problem areas in your life now….. and then you can live in freedom the rest of your life with a heart that is pure…
or you can let the bad fruit stunt the growth of your life, you can limp through life feeling like a slave because you know your potential is not being met, and then at judgment there will be a pruning. Either way, pruning will happen.
The pure in heart are the ones who prune now.
So both of these ideas, purity by fire and purity by pruning, are both sort of, packed into this verse.
Because here is the truth…
and we have said it probably a dozen times during our sermon on the mount series…
Whatever is in your heart is a window into whatever it is that you are becoming.
There is a verse in Matthew 15:8, and Jesus is talking about the Pharisees but he is quoting Isaiah and he says:
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
and this is the big problem. It is like what 1:6-10 John says…
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
He gives us three “If we say’s” that show us that we have deceived ourselves and are living our lives in a dishonest way that is trying to deceive others.
- If we say we walk with him, when in reality we are walking in darkness...
We lie. And we do not practice the truth.
He is saying, look at how Holy God is. In him, there is only light. In him, there is no darkness at all. with Jesus, with God… everything revolves around good. That’s the center. When God created man, he said “it is good” Everything God does revolves around that.
It all revolves around what is good.
And if we claim that to be the center of our world… We claim Jesus to be the center… if we say that is our center but really its not… really we walk in darkness, we have a secret life, a hidden part of us nobody sees… we aren’t practicing truth. We aren’t acting like Jesus. There is nothing dark about Jesus at all… He is only light. In him there is no darkness at all.
Then John says:
2. If we say we have no sin... We say we are ok, maybe we used to be a mess before, but not anymore... Now we have it together... then John says that “We deceive ourselves... And there is no truth in us.” Because the reality is that we are all a mess. and acknowledging what we lack is the only way that allows Jesus to make us everything that we are not…
but instead, we convince ourselves in our deceitful hearts, that we are something, on our own. That we have achieved it on our own.
Then lastly, John says:
3. If we say we have not sinned… This is actually saying, I HAVE NEVER SINNED. if we project perfection and maybe even unknowably deny our need for a savior... we make him a liar.. And his word is not in us.
I don’t know very many people who would go with number three. hopefully I don't know anyone.
and I only know a few people who would go with number two.
Most people are not going to say “I am perfect, I always have been.”
and more will say, but still not that many, “that they now have no sin” - though I do see the trap behind this one… the idea that Jesus filled your life, and took away your sin and in him you have been perfected… because we are being made more and more like him every day but we still are prone to errors, and a person who is pure in heart definitely knows that their heart is vulnerable.
The one that I think most of us fall into, if we fall into any, is #1. We say we are walking with him…
we don’t claim perfection, but we claim reconciliation and we claim friendship and yet our hearts are far from him….. because no matter what it is that we may say about God, deep in our hearts we struggle to believe that we actually need him.
Jesus would so much rather you be who you are as long as who you are is sitting at his feet, broken knowing that apart from him you are hopeless and with Him you can do all things, and endure all things.
This is ultimately the problem. Instead of pruning, we pretend like the fruit is good. We even convince ourselves that the fruit is good. We eat the bad fruit so much, that it begins to taste normal to us!
The heart is deceitful. and yet we trust it.
but as long as we trust our heart, we will follow it,
and as long as we follow it,
God will never be able to purify it…..
God says, “trust me.”
Because I know the things are weighing you down and I know exactly how to lift that burden. But you have to put it in my hands.
The heart is deceitful. Don’t trust it. But work on it.
Because it can be pure if Jesus is living inside of it. You still may make mistakes, but whatever is on the inside should be reflected by your life rather than masked by life.
and as that takes form more and more and as people begin to see the real you, the real you begins to get more and more pure, and before you know it, you don’t care what anyone else thinks anymore because Jesus has refined your heart and you get to see God.
This is something that I have found to be true. When your heart is pure, you start seeing God.
And you may say to me, what do you mean? How do you know? Are you saying you have a pure heart? Are you saying that you have seen God?
No. Not really… but this is what I am saying.
The Pharisees were actors. That is why Jesus called them hypocrites over and over and over…
God was right in front of them, but they missed him because they were focusing all of their attention on the show that they were putting on.
They didn’t like Jesus, because he distracted people from THEM.
When people were looking to Jesus, they weren’t looking at the Pharisees anymore.
They weren’t sizing themselves up to how much they prayed or how many days they fasted or to how much they gave in the offering plate in the temple each time they went.
Because their eyes were on something different. Something better.
One of the seven woes of the Pharisees that Jesus gave in Matthew 23, when he is calling out these people who acted…. who preached but did not practice… was he says this in Matthew 23:16 -
“Woe to you, blind guides.”
and he goes off on them… and he says a bunch of things to them here, one of them being: “For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”
Because the Pharisees were all about the gifts they were bringing. But they brought the gift and they missed the person who it should have been for.
But in this particular woe, three times he makes this judgment against them… they are blind!
They don’t see what they are supposed to see.
Because as you all know, the Pharisees are literally the opposite of pure in heart.
We talked about these two contrasting types of people two weeks again when we talked about those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… two men who come to the temple to pray… and the first is the Pharisee and all he can say is “thank God I am not like the tax collector who is waiting in the back for his turn to repent because he definitely has a ton to repent of…”
right? that is basically what he says… He says, “I am good. He is bad. Thanks for that, God.”
it is the opposite of a pure heart.
and then, in contrast, the tax collector just simply says “Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner.” and that was the man who went away justified… because he saw something.
He saw a God who meets people in the broken places… and so God met him there.
All throughout his ministry, who sees God?
Who see’s Jesus, accepts him as God, and receives from that? the sinners. The tax collectors… the ones who knew they were sick.
All throughout Jesus’ ministry, who missed God?
The ones who were wearing masks, and pretending. They miss him, and it is a shame.
Because whatever is not pruned now, is going to be pruned later… remember what Paul says, God judges the secrets of men.
Stop pretending. And you will see God.
Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:14-
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
and that thought is always an overwhelming one… because we all know that we aren’t holy.
But Paul in Ephesians writes and says that Christ loved you and I so much that he gave himself up, that HE might sanctify us. and only after HE sanctifies us, will he then present us in splendor, as a Holy, spotless bride.
Jesus died to make your deceitful heart pure. and he wants to do it. But you have to take off the mask… you have to break down the wall, and let him have access to what is really in there.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.