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Pure in Heart

February 26th, 2010

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

Matthew 5:8

 

Purity is important. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, stands a hospital designed and constructed while Cambodia was the recipient of aid from the Soviet Union. The operating room in that hospital was designed with lights installed to give surgeons the light they needed to perform surgical procedures. You need lots of light to operate, right? Yes, but one thing was overlooked: the way they installed the individual lights in the molded ceiling above where surgeries would be performed omitted any way to clean and sterilize the lights. The end result was the entire room was useless. You may have a skilled surgeon operating with plenty of lights but if contamination is nearby the patient, then you have placed his life in jeopardy.

 

In the sixth beatitude Christ gave purity of heart as the second trait of those on the journey up toward power in ministry. Anyone who would serve with God’s power must be pure in heart. The word that is used in the Bible referred not to purity that has always been and has simply been maintained. Rather the word means a cleansed heart; this is purity gained through the redemptive act of God that is received by faith and mediated by His Spirit. That this is purity of heart sets it apart from mere outward adherence of religious rites and activities. This is not to just appear pure in heart to others, but to be pure in heart with oneself and with God.

 

Old Samuel was told by God to go to Jesse of Bethlehem and anoint one of his sons as king. When Samuel saw Eliab the oldest, tall and handsome, he thought surely this is the one. But God said to him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). One by one Jesse’s sons passed before Samuel, seven in all, but the Lord had rejected each of them. He finally asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” There was one more, the youngest and the smallest, David, who was tending the sheep. Samuel said to send for him and they waited. How long they waited we are not told, but it must have been more than a few seconds, perhaps an hour or more, after all he was with the sheep, but when he came God told Samuel, “He is the one.”

 

The world rarely waits for anything. It hurries on to whatever uncertainty may be grasped. It rushes without knowing why and grasps without knowing what. But God waits and looks, patiently seeking and searching for the pure in heart. The pure in heart is that individual who has taken the blood of Christ and applied it to every failure of his life. He has come to grips with his failure but has invested his faith in the sufficiency of Christ as the covering for his sins. But he has done something else as well. He has taken the holiness of God into the hidden crevices of his heart, and like a fire, has let God’s grace burnout the impurities of his soul. There may be watershed moments in life when we are overwhelmed with the presence of God and we make great head way in personal spiritual growth, but it seems that more often than not this is a process and not a single event type of victory.

 

To maintain a house really well, periodically we need to clean behind our furniture, back in the corners, under the bed, behind the sofa. We can, of course, get by for a little while with just cleaning the visible traffic areas, and busy people normally do just that, but back where we cannot see dust is accumulating. Eventually, we need to take the trouble to clean everywhere, even places we cannot see because if dust is there, it has a way of drifting out into the other areas, the ones we can see. This is true of our souls as well. Daily we should confess our sin and surrender to Christ all our ways, but periodically we need a spiritual spring cleaning, where deeper issues and personal habits are placed under the Lordship of Christ. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). So as we examine ourselves, we should take the Bible along as a guide.

 

The pure in heart are the cleansed in heart and this means that they have not sought to become pure by personal effort but by faith in Christ. Miles Stanford wrote these words:

 

God’s basis must be our basis for acceptance. There is none other. We are “accepted in the Beloved.” Our Father is fully satisfied with His Beloved Son on our behalf, and there is no reason for us not to be. Our satisfaction can only spring from and rest in His satisfaction. It is from God to us, not from us to God. J. N. Darby was very clear on this: “When the Holy Spirit reasons with man, He does not reason from what man is for God, but from what God is to man. Souls reason from what they are in themselves as to whether God can accept them. He cannot accept you thus; you are looking for righteousness in yourself as a ground of acceptance with Him. You cannot get peace whilst reasoning in that way.

 

Paul taught the importance of purity of heart, and it was always directed for those in ministry, whether lay or vocational. In the pastoral epistles, written to disciple younger men who were serving the Lord in ministry, we find these verses.

 

·        1 Timothy 1:5: The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

·        1 Timothy 3:9: (Speaking of deacons) They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear (pure) conscience.

·        2 Timothy 2:22: Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

·        Titus 1:15: To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

 

Though purity of heart is important for every believer, it is specifically stressed for those who are called to serve vocationally. His point is abundantly clear, that we who have identified a call to serve can only really serve effectively as we have this trait of purity of heart. This means to get rid of hate, greed, lust, anger, pride, and every other impure thought.

 

The reward for doing so is that we shall see God.

 

“Purity of heart,” so far as it exists, brings with it the power of seeing more than others see in all through which God reveals Himself – the beauty of nature, the inward light, the moral order of the world, the written word, the life and teaching of Christ. Though we see as yet “through a glass,” as in a mirror that reflects imperfectly, yet in that glass we behold, “the glory of the Lord” (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 3:18).[1]

 

There is a spiritual blessing that Jesus introduces here that later He expounded upon. How it made its way into the Scripture is not clear, except that either John overheard this prayer of Christ or the Spirit gave him the specific knowledge of it, but its benefit to us is inestimable. On the night of His betrayal, as Christ prayed to the Father, He made a request on our behalf, that we might see His glory.

 

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world…I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24,26

 

He was not referring merely to the afterlife, but also the here and now. Christ taught about a deep personal experience that every believer can have. As we walk with Him and let His Spirit search us, as we apply the blood of Christ to every sin and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, we find that a new level of experience begins to be ours. We see God more clearly. We see the glory of Christ and the love of Christ more clearly. This is the vision that satisfies the soul as nothing else can. It is certainly not our achievement, but merely the bestowal of God’s grace and love in a receptive heart. This is the requirement for all and any who would be used of God. God waits for the pure in heart, to show Himself to them, and through that showing to lead them forth into the world to touch others in His power.

 

Frank Laubach wrote these stirring words:

 

I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in little things is what astonishes me … I seem to have to make sure of only one thing now, and every other thing “takes care of itself,” or I prefer to say what is more true, God takes care of all the rest. My part is to live in this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will, to make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need think about.

 

We cannot keep two things in mind at once. Indeed we cannot keep one thing in mind more than half a second. Mind is a flowing something. It oscillates. Concentration is merely the continuous return to the same problem from a million angles … so my problem is this: Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after image, shall always be one of the elements in every concept and precept?

 

I choose to make the rest of my life an experiment in answering this question.[2]

 

One last thought: those who have learned to live and to minister like this, live above panic. They are at peace and empowered through the Prince of Peace. Anyone who has seen God has a new and altered view of what is really important in this world.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, purify our hearts, by Your blood, through Your Spirit, through your Word, for your glory. Show us your glory. Amen.

 

 


[1] Ellicott’s Commentary

[2] Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic (Westwood, New jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1937), 14, 19-20.

Evening Devotionals, Lenten Devotionals (Fastenzeit) ,

The Merciful

February 25th, 2010

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

 

The first four beatitudes are the journey down in humility before God. The second four are the journey up in being outfitted spiritually for duty for God. The first four establish our need and empty us of our pride; the second four focus on the practical result of the power of God coming into our lives. Upon each step of the four going down we gain the blessings of God, and at each step of the four going up we take God’s blessings to others. The first four are about us and God; the second four are about God in us for the world.

 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son depicts a life that had gone down the first four of these, and the blessings that they bring. He came home to the Father in utter poverty, but he encountered a gracious reception. So we come to God in admission of our lack of anything that would commend us to His holiness, in utter spiritual poverty and find that He opens for us the kingdom of heaven. The Prodigal came home in grief for the terrible financial loss he had endured, but his father prepared to celebrate his home-coming. So we come to God mourning our sinfulness, even the sinfulness of the whole world, and find the joy and comfort of God stirring in our souls.

 

The Prodigal came home in humility, having had to admit his foolishness, his failures, and that his woes were his own doing, but his father restored to him the position of honor as his son. So, we come to the God in utter humility and find that God promises that we shall reign with Him in glory. The Prodigal came home hungry and thirsty for the father’s provisions he had earlier despised and rejected, but he found that his father was prepared to let him feast again at his table. So we come to God having chased a thousand unholy fantasies to their fruitless and unfulfilling outcome, but discover a bountiful supply of grace and love reserved for us from God. We are very much like an army of Prodigals who stumble across the Father’s threshold in failure and disgrace but discover the kindness and love of God being expressed toward us.

 

The journey up toward power begins with the last words of the fourth beatitude, “they will be filled.” This is more than mere soul satisfaction. It is about the righteousness of God filling us and transforming us, making us fit for God’s use. Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The world seeks to squeeze us into its mold; it encourages us to model our thoughts and our lives after its own values. The old sinful nature is still residing within the believer, and it is beyond taming and can only be dealt with by crucifixion, by reckoning ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). Just as the Prodigal was separated from his old life when he returned, he considered himself dead to the pig farmer whose animals he had fed, and dead also to the prostitutes with whom he squandered his father’s wealth, so we must reckon ourselves dead to the ways of the world that we have known, and to the ways of the world that we have not yet known.

 

We are now filling ourselves with the good things of God and the outcome is true inward satisfaction and a new usefulness to God. The life of the resurrected Christ is now our reality and we no longer think like the world but we are being transformed from within by the Spirit of God. The first reality of this new life that Christ addressed was mercy. This includes such ideas as patience toward the faults of others, not losing our temper when people annoy us, and being kind when we don’t really feel like it. But yet these ideas are not the heart of the spiritual trait that Christ was teaching. To be merciful as He was using the term means to be so burdened by the sufferings and problems of others that we must take action to help relieve them. It includes such passive ideas as politeness and holding our anger, but it is much more about the active concepts of reaching out in compassion toward others.

 

To be truly merciful requires, absolutely requires, that we do not dwell upon receiving some reward for being so. Christ promises a reward, as with all the beatitudes, but those who look for the reward and only act mercifully for the sake of the reward are normally anything but truly merciful. Mercy comes as a trait of God and thereby of His children. The proclamation on Sinai reverberated this reality of God: “The compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). Concerning our merciful God we read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Mercy is so disturbed by the plight of another that it is willing to take sacrificial actions to remedy the problem.

 

We never hear of the life of the Prodigal beyond his reception by his father, but in another sense we know him only too well and see his face every time we look in a mirror. We can imagine him now having a greater understanding and compassion toward others who had made disastrous mistakes in their lives. We will be disappointed in him if he were anything less, to see him act toward another person with the same judgmental attitude that his older brother demonstrated toward him. He of all people has a basis to be merciful. I like to think of him as becoming a missionary and going out into the highways and back roads of the world looking for other prodigals estranged from their fathers, seeking to bring them back home as well, or becoming a counselor that specializes in family problems and helps people put their lives back together.

 

How about you and me? We have received the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, who suffered pain, shame, and even separation from the Father on the cross. God who has every reason and right to condemn us, has instead taken it upon Himself to save us. Should we who have secret sins hidden in the dusty corners of our personal histories be anything but merciful to others? Our mercy toward our fellow human beings is evidence of our faith and salvation. If we are merciful we will think and act in the same spirit as Paul who wrote, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).

 

But there is a reward promised for the merciful, that we shall receive mercy as well. This is a call to see the world through different eyes, through the eyes of the Father, to see the needs of every person, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. The merciful have grasped the truth that only in the grace of God found in Christ Jesus is there eternal hope for any living soul. It sees that mercy also as what they need. The merciful as Christ described are not the people who comfortably live in one universe of plenty while throwing scraps toward those who live in the other universe of need. Rather it is the people who have grasped the need that we all have of the mercy and grace of God. Whatever economic realities there be that separate people from one another, count for nothing as we stand before God in need of His mercy. And having received mercy in Christ, we discover that these outward differences also melt away between believers in light of His love for us all.

 

Christ said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). The merciful have taken the first step up the pathway toward power for God: they have begun to think about others and not just themselves. They live in the reality of both their need for grace before God and in the availability of this grace from God, and they share what they have received with others. They live with confidence that it is more blessed to give than to receive and that God watches over their lives. They are freed from selfish worry and freed to mercifully love others.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, thank You for Your mercy. Lay the needs of others upon our hearts. Let us have insight into the depth of Your love for this world, and to follow You as you lead us forward to serve. Make us true ambassadors of Christ.  Amen.

 

Evening Devotionals, Lenten Devotionals (Fastenzeit) ,