Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
During the Lenton Season of 2005, I had the opportunity to preach a series on The Beatitudes with Leith Anderson. One of the sermons that I preached was on today’s verse. I’ve decided to repost that message here.
Sermon Preached at Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN on Wednesday, March 16, 2005, by Rev. Brian D. Schulenburg
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART
He came to me with tears in his eyes, and a heavy heart. It was obvious that the news he was going to share with me had given him quite a bit of heartbreak, and that he was a broken man. As he began telling me the intimate details of his private life the floodgates of emotion could be held in no longer. He wept as he spoke of his addiction to pornography and he was broken over the condition of his impure heart.
She was angry, and felt that she had every right to be. Her marriage wasn’t anything like she had dreamt it would be. The best adjective to describe the state of her marriage was the word loveless. She couldn’t remember the last time that her husband told her he loved her. An attractive new coworker readily showered her with praise. She felt her heart longing to spend more and more time with him. When attraction led to infidelity she too was struck to the core at the condition of her impure heart.
It had been a difficult financial year. Even though Bill and Joan each had full-time jobs, the bills outnumbered the income, and Bill was forced to find extra sources of income just to make ends meet. God blessed Bill with a great personality, expertise in his field, and a penchant for making friends. So consequently, offers for Bill to consult came in at a steady pace. Soon the income from Bill’s consulting business rivaled his income from his full-time employment. A number of Bill’s clients paid Bill “under the table” with cash. Bill remembers thinking, “It sure would be a lot simpler not to report this income to the IRS.” And then he too was struck to the core at the condition of his impure heart.
In His Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” Perhaps you are here today and your thoughts are, “Oh great, if only the pure in heart will see God, I may as well give up now. Because, my heart is far from pure. If anything, my heart – the things that I desire, are too often impure.”
The good news today is that the Bible is full of stories of the impure whose hearts are made pure by the touch of God within them.
His name was Saul. He was a religious zealot who was concerned about a new religious sect that claimed that Jesus was the Messiah. Saul did everything he could to extinguish this threat to traditional Jewish teaching once and for all. The book of Acts records his story. It’s in chapter 7 of this book that we read of the first Christian martyr – Stephen. He was a preacher, who told all who would listen about God’s love. But Saul and Sanhedrin, the religious elite, didn’t approve of Stephen’s message. They murdered him, stoning him to death. Acts chapter 7 ends with these words, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
Two chapters of the Bible later we read of Saul’s amazing conversion. Listen as I read from Acts 9 . . .
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.” (Acts 9:1-8a)
The same Saul who was breathing out murderous threats against God’s followers, was invited by God to join the Kingdom of the pure in heart. Why would God choose a murderer to be one of His children?
Her name isn’t recorded in Scripture. All we know is that she was an adulteress. The Gospel of John, Chapter 8 records her story. Pulled from the arms of her lover by yet another group of religious leaders, she was to be made an example of in a raucous spectacle of trial and stoning. The law stated that any adulterer could be put to death, and the religious leaders intended to see that the law was fulfilled to its letter. Just as it looks like it will be too late for this woman, Jesus begins to write something on the ground with one of his fingers. Some have speculated that he was writing the Ten Commandments, but the truth is we just don’t know what it was. But whatever it was, coupled with his words, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” caused every stone to drop. How beautiful that the only one without sin was the one who caused all the stones to drop. Listen to the apostle John’s description of the rest of the story, “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” (John 8:9-11)
Her heart was impure, but Jesus offered to make it pure.
Want more stories? Then read of the original sinners, Adam and Eve; the adulterers, David and Bathsheba; those who laughed at God, Abraham and Sarah, a prostitute named Rahab; and idolater named Ruth; a scoundrel named Jacob, a financial swindler named Matthew; a betrayer named Peter; a coward named Timothy; a quitter named Mark; a rejecter named Jonah and the list goes on. People whose hearts were anything but pure who are now seeing God.
What is the miracle of Matthew 5:8? The miracle is that anyone can have a heart that is pure. Blessed are the pure in heart. The same Saul of whom we read earlier had his name changed to Paul when he was met by God. But he received more than a name change. He was spiritually blind, when he encountered the living God he became physically blind, and when he gave God his life he received back his physical sight and was given spiritual sight. So much was he changed that he wrote over 2/3 of what we now call The New Testament. He was even more of a zealot after he met Christ, never ceasing to serve him with everything that he had. He never stopped being amazed that God would seek out someone with as impure a heart as his. In his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome, Paul wrote,
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)
In a similar sentiment, written to a young man he mentored named Timothy, Paul wrote, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:14-16) Paul understood. His heart was not pure because of anything he possessed within himself. His heart was pure because of the transforming work of God within him.
The Beatitudes begin by speaking of our spiritual poverty and that we can only enter the kingdom of heaven when we recognize that condition. It is this recognition that makes it possible for us to see our total inadequacy to do anything about our impure heart when left to ourselves. Jesus knew about our condition when he shared the truth of Matthew 5:8, and he knew that the way to accomplish Matthew 5:8 in our lives was for him to be our purifier.
In nine days we will commemorate the death of Jesus. This day is called Good Friday on the Christian calendar. Last year at this time Americans were flocking to see the film The Passion of the Christ. It was a fascinating time in our nation’s history. Opinions regarding the film were given on every television network in the land. You couldn’t turn on a talk radio station without hearing about the film. In the week after its release, I was listening to the local sports radio station and every single show referenced the film, and the way that the film moved those who watched it. The phrase I repeatedly heard in one way or another was, “I can’t get over how much Jesus suffered for the sins of the world.”
I don’t know about you, but as I look around at society today, I see people trying to fill their lives with any number of things – diversions, money, status, excitement, things. And, I can’t help but think that as a society we are thirsty for more. We are thirsty for God. A great Christian theologian once said, “Thirsty hearts are those who have been wakened by the touch of God within them.”
Are you thirsty for something deeper? In this Lenten season does your heart long to move past the state it’s in, and move to the things of God? Good. Because, that longing is evidence of the work of God within you. Do you want a pure heart this Easter? A pure heart is a forgiven heart. It begins with acknowledging that you need God. Paul, that apostle whose life was so transformed by God said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) He also said that what we deserve for our sin is eternal separation from God, but that God’s gift to us is eternal life through Jesus Christ his son. Why do we celebrate Good Friday? Because, the best gift that was ever given to humanity was given on that day. Jesus paid the sacrifice for our sins. He died so that we could live. He knew that there was absolutely no way even the most perfect human being could have a pure heart, and thus see God, apart from His work within them. Paul described the miracle of how we see God in Romans 10:9 when he wrote, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
I am so glad that Jesus loves me. I am so glad that he can make an impure heart pure. I am so glad that even though the struggle with impurity continues until we one day get to heaven, that God gives us the strength to win battle after battle. Is my heart completely pure? Absolutely not. I feel like Paul who said, “I am the worst of sinners.” But I feel so blessed because of Jesus’ forgiveness, which in God’s eyes makes me able to say, “Blessed is Brian for he will see God.” Can you say that today? If not, why not let today be the day that you allow God to purify your heart? He will do that for you. It’s as simple as praying, “Dear God, I am guilty of sin. My heart is not completely pure, but I believe that because of your death and resurrection I can have a pure heart. Forgive me for all the wrong things I’ve done in my life. Take control of my life today as I confess you as Lord of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Blessed are you – the pure in heart, for you will see God!
It is only because of you that we can be seen as pure in heart. Thank You for loving those who do not deserve Your love. You are good and we praise You for the way that you take us who are anything but pure and make us new.
In Jesus’ name,