Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
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. In Ellicott’s Bible Commentary we read,
“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).
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 in his 1937 book, Letters by a Modern Mystic, 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.
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.
Lord, purify our hearts, by Your blood, through Your Spirit, through your Word, for your glory. Show us your glory. Amen.
Lenten Devotionals (Fastenzeit)