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Intro: Purity is a favorable concept to us in nearly ever application of the word. We want pure water & air. We value pure gold, hand soap and even gasoline. Purity is important to us.
What type of purity does God value? Jesus says in Matthew 5:8 – 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Our study this month will focus on this fundamental characteristic of the Christian. I call this a fundamental quality because everything we do in service to God hinges upon it. Even deeds done in strict obedience to God’s command are displeasing to Him if done with an impure heart. We will see how apparent this is in scripture as we study.
I. “Defining Pure” – There are primarily two Greek words that are translated as “pure” in the N.T.
A. Hagnos is a word (and concept) that we have studied often. It is from the same root as the word holy or sanctified. What is holy is by definition pure or clean. It means to be free from contamination. Paul says in 1 Tim. 5:22 to “keep yourself pure”
B. The Greek word Jesus uses here in Matthew 5:8 is katharos . It is used 27 times in the New Testament. Fundamentally, it signifies that which is clean, or cleansed and therefore free from any contaminating substance.
1. It described physical things (the cloth in which Jesus’ body was wrapped – Mt. 27:59), and was often used to describe metals that had been purified through refining.
2. It was used in a ceremonial sense of purification of leprosy and the casting out of “unclean” spirits, thus making the person clean, or pure.
3. Katharos also denoted spiritual entities that had been cleansed such as the conscience ( 2 Tim 1:3 – I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience…). That which had been purified was no longer defiled or unclean. Peter uses both words in 1 Peter 1:22 – Since you have purified (hagnos – sanctified) your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure (katharos – pure) heart,
II. Defining Heart: Buried securely within the cavity of the human chest is an amazing muscle about the size of one’s fist. Charged by a tiny electrical impulse, approximately every 8/10ths of a second it “beats” – about 100,000 times a day, pumping some 1,800 gallons of blood. Physically, The heart with its precious cargo, is the life-center of the human body. Linguistically we often refer to the heart of something as the central idea or most important element.
A. Inside Person: Although the Bible does occasionally speak of the physical organ, predominately, the Greek word “kardia” is used figuratively. It describes a host of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and moral qualities that we possess as those who are created in the image of God. The heart in the Bible is the inner person, the seat of emotions, thoughts, attitudes and will. In Proverbs we are told, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7). Jesus asked a group of scribes, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matt 9:4) The heart is the control center.
1. Jesus said purity of the heart (inner person) was the quality of His people. That was not a new truth, but as old as God’s revelation.
•· Proverbs 4:23 – 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
•· God commanded Israel to love Him with all their heart, soul and mind.
•· David recognized what God desired of him – Psalms 51:6 – 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. vs.10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
•· Asaph exclaimed in Psalms 73:1 – Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.
B. Inside Priority: In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus repeatedly tells the crowd that the inside has priority over the outside. God looks there first. These beatitudes deal extensively with the inside or heart – (our emotions, intentions, attitudes and will.) This is their interconnectedness.
- You cannot be poor in spirit, mourn over your sins, be meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, be merciful , be a peacemaker, or be prepared to stand persecution for the name of Christ without having a pure heart. Actually, this is one of the most central and crucial principles of the Christian life. What act of obedience is acceptable to God when the heart is impure?
- Jesus provides a sharp rebuke for the outward and hypocritical religion of the Pharisee and says the righteousness of His people must exceed this. (Matthew 5:20). In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus says it is possible to commit murder and adultery in our hearts even before the outward act. In Matthew 6 He challenges our hearts to be willing to give money to others, forgive others, submit ourselves to God in prayer, and do all that God commands.
- The true character of the Christian can only be understood or described in reference to the heart or inner person. When the hypocritical Pharisees began to arrive at the seashore where John was preaching, he refused to immerse them as he had others because they were not truly repentant and submissive. They considered themselves to be God’s children because of their heritage. John said God could take stones and make them children of Abraham. (Matt. 3) Simon was a believer and was baptized for the remission of his sins. But when he selfishly petitioned Peter for the power to impart miracles, the apostle told him that his heart was not right with God (Acts 8:21). There was more that needed to be purified. His conduct revealed a deeper problem.
III. What is a Pure Heart? How do I get one? There is more to say here than I will say today. A pure heart can only be achieved through God. He cleanses my conscience through the blood of Jesus. But it is also a goal for which I strive as a Christian. God’s word is entirely directed toward this goal, and purity of heart is a constant challenge to every Christian. Let me suggest two characteristics.
A. A pure heart lives to serve God. In 2 Tim. 2:22 Paul calls on Timothy to ‘Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Notice that properly “calling on the name of the Lord” (seeking His help or access His power) requires a pure heart. In Paul’s admonition it included turning away from, not just the activity of the flesh, but the desires of the flesh (youthful lusts) and striving to be righteous (do the right thing). In fact, those who are pure in heart are always seeking to do the right thing and not wanting to do the wrong thing. I like what Martin Lloyd-Jones says here: “This statement which we are now considering, namely, ‘blessed are the pure in heart’, also corresponds to the second statement in the first group, which was, ‘blessed are they that mourn’. What did they mourn about? We saw that they were mourning about the state of their hearts. They were mourning, not only because they did things that were wrong, but still more because they wanted to do wrong” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Martyn Lloyd Jones, p. 107). Do you mourn over how much you want to do what is wrong? That is the challenge of having a pure heart.
1. We must recognize that the law of God creates moral purity. The initial use of the word “pure” in the Bible was in the sense of “clean” as opposed to “unclean” – clean or unclean animals, clean or unclean foods, the clean or unclean condition of a person.
a. What was the basis for determining this distinction? It was God’s arbitrary decision. Although we may suppose some logical reason (health, birds who eat flesh, etc.), the so called logic is not consistent. God made the choice and the Israelites were commanded to obey. If they did not they were considered impure (unclean).
b. What was at one time considered unclean, God can declare clean at another time. When Peter was asked to eat some of the things that were considered unclean. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15).
2. God creates a pure heart within me, not only through forgiveness, but also by defining what is pure, and directing me toward it. Therefore a pure heart cannot be obtained apart from obedience to the rules of God. In 119th Psalm, the “heart” is mentioned 15 times. This is interesting to note because all 175 verses of this Psalm deals exclusively with the value of God’s law, and the Psalmist desire to be obedient to it. Psalms 119:2 – 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!
a. The pure heart does not question the validity of God’s law and does not argue with its implications or applications toward himself.
b. There are certain physical or natural laws that man cannot break without consequences, but God can. Put your hand in a fire – you cannot break this, but God can. Cannot feed 5,000 people fully with a few fish and pieces of bread. God can & did. We call these miracles. Then there are moral laws that man can break but God cannot. I can lie. I can commit adultery. I can cheat. I can steal. But God cannot break these laws or ignore them when they are broken. Many people are more aware of, and more careful about the natural laws. The person with the pure heart strives to keep God’s moral laws.
B. A Pure Heart lives for the Sole Purpose of God. He keeps the law of God only to please Him. To be pure in heart means to be totally devoted to God. Some people have ulterior motives. They may do what is right (outwardly) but they do not do it for the right reason.
1. Have you ever heard the saying that everyone has an angle? This is probably for the most part true. The Bible says that the wisdom of the world is dominated by selfish ambition – James 3:14-16 – 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
a. In contrast the wisdom from above is pure and without hypocrisy (James 3:17 – 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
2. The pure heart is unadulterated with covetousness or materialism. There are many preachers and teachers who do it for the money. They claim to have a heart for God, but their heart is not pure. Peter warns against the false prophet – By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; (2 Pet. 2:3)
a. In contrast, Paul had a pure heart- 1 Thess 2:4-5 – But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness – God is witness.
b. When he is asked a reason for his conduct, the pure hearted person speaks only of pleasing God. 1 Peter 3:15-16 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. Do you see the elements of a pure heart here in these verses?
1) We must sanctify (hagnos) The Lord as the One we serve (pure devotion to Him alone)
2) We must display our obedience to His word in a clear conscience.
3. Double-mindedness has always been a problem for God’s people. We want to serve the Lord and follow the world at the same time. But Jesus says that is impossible. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other” (Matt 6:24).
a. James puts the same truth in another way: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). He then gives the solution to the problem in vs. 7-8 – Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
4. The pure hearted Christian has no ulterior motives or selfish angle. He loves his brother and helps him because he seeks to please God. He gives generously because he seeks to please God; He teaches and preaches sacrifices, prays, fasts, supports his family, visits the sick, submits to her husband, acts kindly, obeys the law – because he seeks to please God.
Conclusion: we have not said all that we need to say about this important and essential quality of God’s people. Do we face a more challenging task than changing and purifying our heart?
- It is easier to follow rules and forget the matter of the heart. We are more careful to keep everything clean that is seen by others and forget about the things that only God can see. If my hands are muddy, nobody would want to shake hands with me, so I better keep them clean.
- Do you remember seeing the “talking stain “commercial where the stain on the guy’s shirt is shouting so loud that the other person cannot hear what is being said? I read recently that this was the top commercial aired during the 2008 Superbowl and in the top 3 for the year. Why? – funny; and what they called relatability.. People could relate to hearing a stain talk to them. It is easy to focus on what is on the outside. This leads us to believe that if we are clean outside (what others can see), that we are OK in our heart. The stain on the outside needs attention, but Jesus drives us to look closer and strive to be pure in our hearts.
Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
May I devote my life wholly to Thee:
Watch Thou my wayward feet,
Guide me with counsel sweet;
Purer in heart, help me to be.
Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly;
Be Thou my Friend and Guide,
Let me with Thee abide;
Purer in heart, help me to be.
Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Until Thy holy face one day I see:
Keep me from secret sin,
Reign Thou my soul within;
Purer in heart, help me to be.
- Purity of heart comes from God. Seek His forgiveness through repentance and baptism for the remission of your sins. Though your sins be as scarlet, Jesus’ blood will make them white as snow.