Matthew 5b

Matthew 5b: The Pure Heart

In giving this sermon as the standard for Christian behavior and the qualifications for entering heaven , Jesus wanted us to realize  these standards cannot be met in one’s own power.  Jesus continues with his list of Beatitudes and the third one is – meekness.  The world’s view of meekness is someone who lacks courage, who is a pushover, a doormat.  This is not the Bible’s view, for Jesus was described as meek and lowly. Again the promise is the meek will be blessed and inherit the earth.

All of these beatitudes represent the goals of the child of God, the believer. They come as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s life.  In fact, this is the only way they can be produced. Meekness is listed in Galatians 5 as one of the fruits of the Spirit.  Meekness literally means – ‘ yieldedness.’ The meek decrease that He might increase, they are selfless. The meek gladly accept His Yoke so they might learn from Him and He can give them rest.

Realizing we were without God in this world means we were without hope, for He is the God of all hope.  Convicted of sin and finding nothing in this world that would bring us the inner peace we were searching for, we turned to Christ to save us for we were dying.  There was a desperation in us, an emptiness that we could not seem to fill. In my life, I discovered just how poor and wretched I was.   Many people can be sorry for their sin or wrongdoing or their dire circumstances, but conviction by the Holy Spirit leads to godly sorrow which produces repentance.

We then begin the Christian life and we realize apart from Him we can do nothing, so we realize we are to yield to Him. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3. Or as a hymn we all know says-  ‘trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus but trust and obey.” Yieldedness = meekness, gentleness.

The first three beatitudes are linked together as each one builds off the other. The first beatitude leads to salvation realizing how lost, undone and void our lives are.  Salvation brings with it- the mourning over sin- in our lives and the lives of others. Sin breaks the heart of God and it should break ours also. These leads to the third beatitude- a meekness, which means like John the Baptist, I want more of Jesus and less of me.

Do you recall what Jesus said from the cross?  “ Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was saying if they only knew what I had in store for them, if they would only do it my way. I am the way. The Way to Holiness.  Generation after generation- we see people searching for a way that will bring them what they yearn for- an inner peace and joy that brings contentment regardless of the circumstances.  They have believed the lies and deceitfulness of the devil and the world that says contentment is found in the things of the world in the accumulation of things.  Yet in Matthew 16, Jesus says- ‘ what does it profit a man if he gains the world, but loses his soul? ‘

Again in Luke 12 we have a parable known as the Parable of the Rich Fool.   A man who had accumulated so much wealth, he needed larger barns to store his crops in. Over and over in this parable we see this man  saying – ‘ I will do this and I will do that..’ Then he said I will have plenty of good things stored up and I will enjoy life, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God called this man who was rich in the things of the world a ‘ fool.’ “ You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up for himself but is not rich toward God.”

So as we look at these first three beatitudes, we can conclude the opposite would be true of the opposite conditions:  unblessed are the arrogant in spirit and the unrepentant and the self-sufficient, who do not mourn over sin, but celebrate it. Unblessed are the stiff-necked who will not yield to God.  But one day- those who will not bow their necks now will bow their knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was counter to what society and the world told them  2000 years ago and it is still the opposite of what the world recognizes today as where contentment can be found.  We live in the world of – I will do this and I will do that- and then I will enjoy life. The disciplined, self-willed, strong independent life is the admired life.  And Jesus says of those who pursue this path- they don’t know what they are doing.  They are blind to the truth. And furthermore, the blind are leading the blind. People in the world of accumulating things- hang on every word of the Warren Buffets of this world. Rather than the One called Wonderful Counselor who has all knowledge, who created all things and promises to guide me and you with His counsel and afterward receive us to glory.( Psalm 73:24)    Isn’t it interesting how gold has come to be considered a precious metal?  Its worth has soared in value in recent years and currently sells for around $1400 per ounce.  Do you know what they use gold for in heaven?  To pave the streets.

Jesus continues and tells us:  “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”   When you think of using the terms – hunger and thirst- these are words used often to describe ambition.  Ambition is a normal drive God has given us. It is proper we should have ambition and of course since this is a God- given appetite or drive, the enemy will want to distort this God given drive and turn it into something perverted.  Do you understand why the enemy, the devil, does this?  Lucifer was driven by ambition to be like God. He was power hungry; he wanted to be worshipped. He was covetous and he coveted the recognition and attention that God received. We see this in the political arena, the ambition to have power, the more, the better. But you also see in all facets of society, the bully on the playground, the deacon in the church, the movers and shakers in the community.

Ambition must be directed, not perverted.  Jesus is telling us- our ambition must be for righteousness. After I was first saved, there came a time in my life where my ambition was to be successful in business. I spent a lot of time working and thinking about what I could do to be more successful, to make my mark. There is nothing wrong with wanted to be successful, unless it becomes an idol of importance in one’s life. If success by the world’s standards is how you measure your life- then these beatitudes are showing you what should be your priorities and how they should be re-aligned.

First we must possess righteousness. Not self-righteousness but the righteousness of Christ. When we realized how spiritually impoverished we were- how our self- righteousness was as filthy rags, we asked God to forgive us and accept the gift of the Lord’s righteousness. He took my sins and paid for them and gave me His righteousness- the Great Exchange.

Second after we possess this righteousness, we are to practice this righteousness. This is to be our priority- to practice righteousness in the society in which we live. When we do- we are salt and light.  Having been born again and having become a new creature, I now possess a new identity.  I want to live out my new identity. I possess the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, therefore I want to practice this righteousness.  Living according to our new nature should now be our number one priority. God’s word is my source of truth now, and knowing and living according to His truth will set me free.  We are to let who we are determine what we do; not what we do- determine who we are.

Now when you begin to practice what you possess, you will find it easy to be what God wants you to be and how He wants you to act in church on Sunday. But come Monday at work, it seems the world wants you to leave your faith in the church and at home- don’t bring it to work or to school. Yet we are to practice what we possess and promote what we possess.  Well, let’s be practical, you would say, the company has a policy you must not do these things in the workplace. What are they telling us?  They are saying you must not speak out for righteousness. They are saying you believe what you believe is righteous, but we do  not believe what you believe and in the name of tolerance, you must not speak of this righteousness in the name of Jesus Christ.

Just got a little uncomfortable didn’t it?  I know. I have the same problem. All of us do. We are told not to treat certain behavior as sin, which according to our faith and belief is sin.  Look at all the trouble religion is causing in the world, says the world.  Yet the word of God tells us: “ Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” ( Proverbs 14. 34) “ We are no longer just a Christian nation…” ( President Barack Obama) I agree with what the President said, for it is the truth. The fact that he said this without fear of backlash from the Christian community tells us more about where we are as a nation than the fact of the statement.

It does not matter if we put on our money- In God We Trust; or that we have churches on every corner- it does not make us a Christian nation. What exalts a nation in the eyes of God is the righteousness of His Son, the Lord Jesus, is possessed by individuals; who practice it openly in society; and promoted by a people who have a voice in their community, who speak out for righteousness’ sake.   If  we are no longer salt and light- we have lost our voice in the society and in a nation.

This  move to silence the Word of God is nothing new. Two thousand years ago when the church was born at Pentecost, it only took a matter of days before leaders wanted this to be silenced. “ Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “ judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”(Acts 4: 18-20)

So we see what our ambition is to be and we realize it is contrary to what our culture wants us to be. The pressure to conform is more forceful than ever before. Even some of our country’s leaders and our church leaders seem to be compromising their stance. And as the salt loses it savor, and the light is put under a bowl, the darkness and decay of sin eat away at our nation as our morals, ethics, and spiritual principles erode .

The next beatitude Jesus states is:  “ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” If we consider hunger and thirst for righteousness as an ambition, then mercy represents an attitude.  We all have heard it said, and rightfully so, God’s grace is giving us what we do not deserve and God’s mercy is not giving us what we do deserve.  Mercy is really a form of and attitude of kindness.  Love is patient, love is KIND… ( I Cor. 13)  “ And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be KIND to everyone..” ( 2 Timothy 2:24)

We are to be merciful because God was merciful to us. Mercy does not gloat over the misfortune of others as they reap the results of their sin and rash actions. Mercy should create a genuine concern for others.  Jesus said we are to love the Lord thy God with all our hearts, all our minds, soul and body and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The roots of kindness grow out of the mercy of God, this fruit of the Spirit really comes under the heading of love.  For we  are told : “… love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”( I Cor. 13)  As my grandmother would say- ‘ rudeness is never acceptable, kindness always is.’ Jesus said – by this will men know you are my disciples that you love one another as I have loved you. ( John 13)  Love is a verb a word of action that results in giving.  For God so loved the world, He gave…. Kindness is a result of the love and mercy God has shown us, and we are show to others.

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”  What does the word ‘ pure’ mean to  you?   I would say pure means completely clean- no impurities- snow white, unmixed, undefiled.

Somehow this beatitude caught my attention.  I realized the first beatitude was a condition that led to my salvation.  The four beatitude- ( hunger and thirst for righteousness) led to a re-aligning of my priorities.  This beatitude says this is what I was created for- to see God.

Jesus is telling us our goal and purpose for living, for which we were created was to have a relationship with the True and Living God. He is telling us how it starts with the first beatitude. He told Nicodemus- you cannot SEE the kingdom of God unless you are born again. New birth provided the new pure heart- without you cannot see God, you cannot understand spiritual truths. The Westminster Catechism states: This is the chief end of man –to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Jesus said I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly . ( John 10)   The abundant life, the life of purpose, meaning and contentment comes with the pure heart.

The key to seeing God, to having eternal life; to opening the treasure trove of blessings not only for eternity but for the here and now is – a pure heart.

Recognizing my sinfulness, my emptiness led to my salvation where I received a brand, new pure heart. For the Lord cannot abide except in a pure, undefiled heart. You cannot and will not mourn for the things that displease God without having a pure heart. You cannot be meek , nor will you hunger and thirst for righteousness without a pure heart. A heart that is undefiled. We were born with a heart that is described as deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. ( Jeremiah 17)   We need a new heart. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.  You cannot be merciful or a peacemaker without a pure heart nor can you withstand persecution without a pure heart. A pure is a holy heart.  It is a heart reserved wholly for God. It is a heart that loves God with all its heart.

It is not external- it is internal.  “ The people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain, their teachings are but rules taught by men.” ( Matthew 15)

“ Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean..” ( Matt. 15)

A pure heart lives by the rules of God in the power of the Spirit. A life that is pleasing to God, a life of faith comes from a pure heart.  And without faith it is impossible to please God we are told in Hebrews 11: 6.

However- did you know contrary to popular thought- it is possible to run  a church without faith. Get some good, smart people together, run effective programs, make rational decisions about your budget, teach Sunday School, and preach sermons and you can do that without getting out of your comfort zone. Because we do not have a radical, risk taking faith, because that type of faith comes from pure hearts.  God has told us what He has planned for us:  “ I know the plans I have to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” ( Jeremiah 29)  Half-hearted efforts will not work. Whole hearted efforts will. Whole hearted efforts come from a pure heart.

God gives us a pure heart. ( Jeremiah 31:33)

Our job is to maintain a pure heart.” How can one keep his way pure?   “ Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

Other practical ways to maintain a pure heart are through fellowship with believers and through the discipline of doing good works for God.  We maintain a pure heart through the study of His Word and the obedience of it.

Peacemakers  have pure hearts, have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. They have peace with God and the peace of God, which qualifies them as peacemakers because they have found the only true peace there is.

The last beatitude is the ability to rejoice in tribulations and persecutions for these will come when we possess, practice and promote the righteousness of God.

Jesus was teaching something that was contrary to popular beliefs in his day.

Today , His teaching is even more contrary to popular belief than it was when He came 2000 years ago.

The Lord Jesus when He came to earth 2000 years ago was different. It was a noticeable difference. He was always composed, articulate, ready with an answer. He was compassionate and not a respecter of persons, the Samaritan woman at the well was as important to him as the High Priest, and the Roman governor. He was likeable- children came to Him, were attracted to Him.  He was comfortable with sinners, desperate people sought him out, as He came to reveal the truth of God.  He taught as no one had ever taught before or since.

We can sit at his feet today, hear his wisdom and learn from Him and be changed into something different just as those disciples were.  And how did they impact the society, the culture, the world in which they lived 2000 years ago?  The turned the world upside down. I have to believe we can make a difference.

Is not God the same today as He was then? Is He not as powerful and active as ever and ready to respond to faith where He finds it?  Of course He is.   I believe real faith is produced in the heart that  is pure.   So guard your heart with all diligence, for out it come the issues of life.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14