When Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount, He did so with a desire to teach all those who were in earshot. Matthew 5:1 says that Jesus climbed up the mountain and sat down. This posture (sitting down) was the traditional teaching position of a Jewish Rabbi. Here, Jesus is pictured as embracing His role as Rabbi/Teacher. The Bible says that after Jesus sat down, His disciples came to Jesus.
The disciples knew what it meant for a Rabbi to sit down as Jesus did. They gathered around to hear what Jesus would say. Jesus started His lengthy teaching with what is commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. A Beatitude is a statement that begins with the words “blessed are.” To declare something as blessed would mean something like “happy” or “fortunate.”
In His Beatitudes, as well as in His teaching that follows, Jesus made it clear that he was speaking to the heart. He was not primarily concerned with outward religiosity. Instead, Jesus was after the heart. Jesus knew the heart of man and desired that the heart of man would be totally and utterly devoted to Him.
It is on the condition of the heart that this article now turns. Scripture says, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
What is purity of heart?
At the outset, it is important to gain a proper understanding of what purity means. The word purity in the Greek is “katharos,” which simply means to be clean. It means that a person is clear or lacks pollution. It is as though the person who is pure is unsoiled or unstained.
Scripture says, “Pure religion… is this… to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). To be spotted is to be stained. It is like that shirt that a child spills fruit juice on. As the child wears the shirt, the shirt is in the world and is liable to become dirty. If the child is careful, he may not stain it for a while. But a time comes in the child’s life when he takes a bite of a watermelon. The juice falls down over his shirt, and his shirt gets stained.
Purity is like that shirt. It is clean, unspotted, and unstained. In one sense, it is perfect. It is how the maker of the shirt originally intended it to be. However, keeping oneself pure is challenging, just like keeping a child’s shirt unstained is challenging.
As a person is living in the world, it can be hard for him not to get stained. It can become tempting to give up the fight for purity. But do not give up. There are good reasons and much hope for the Christian to pursue after purity.
Why should the Christian be pure in heart?
Matthew 5:8 gives the Christian a wonderful reason to strive for purity. Matthew tells us that Jesus said the pure “will see God.” The pure have spiritual eyes that can see God clearly in the here and now, and it is the pure in heart that will see God when they depart from the earth.
Once again, it is important to note that there has only ever been One Who was absolutely pure in heart. His name is Jesus. When the reader sees that he is called to purity, he must both embrace his calling and embrace the finished work of Christ. This is true Christianity. It is also the mark of a true believer.
He will never amount to what he is called to be. Maybe better stated, he will never amount to Who He is called to be like, namely Jesus. Lean on Christ, find your rest in His work, and also embrace the high calling of God.
The Scriptures also make it clear that the believer must, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Strive for purity because it is what the Bible tells you to do.
In simple terms, pursue purity because it is what the Bible says a Christian will do.
Not only that, but if you are dirty, you will feel dirty. It does not feel good to be stained by the world. It causes depression, guilt, shame, and a slew of other disgusting emotions. It feels bad to be impure.
This should be another good reason to pursue purity. This is much like that little boy who has spilled a bunch of juice on his shirt that has now become stained. Typically, you will find that he wants a new shirt. He does not like the shirt anymore. He feels dirty. The reason for this is that he is dirty. Ideally, he would not have gotten it stained in the first place. But what does he do now that his shirt has become stained?
How can the Christian be pure in heart?
To be in the world and not get stained by it is impossible. If it was possible, there would be a righteous man on the earth who would never need Christ. But how does the Christian respond to what seems to be the odds that are stacked against him?
First, if someone is not a Christian, he must become one. It is only in Christ that someone will begin to grow in purity.
Second, regular confession must take place, as John tells us in 1 John that cleansing comes through confession.
Third, the Christian must have faith in God. Faith is not an abstract concept without a practical bent. Faith is absolutely practical and must be a part of the Christian’s life. Scripture says, “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9).
Fourth, the Christian must avoid people, places, and things that will cause him to get stained. If the Christian haphazardly throws himself into situations carelessly, he will never become pure unless God takes him like a mule by his bridle.
Finally, there is that little boy that we still need to deal with. His shirt has become stained from the juice. He feels gross and wants a new shirt. But that shirt was the shirt that his parents bought him, and he is going to need to wear that shirt. So what can be done?
As the parents seek to clean the shirt with all of their “wise” methods, they realize that nothing seems to be working. At this point, they throw their arms up in the sky and look upward. As they do, they see a beam of light shining back down at them. It is the sun.
They remember that someone told them a long time ago that if they would set a stained shirt out in front of the sun, the sun would actually draw out the stain, removing it from the garment. So they give it a try. They place it out in front of the sun, and, sure enough, the sun draws out the stain.
Scripture says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Paul makes it clear that purity comes by seeing clearly the One Who is truly pure.
Look to Jesus anew this day. Behold His glory in the Gospel. Do not take your eyes off of Him. It takes a little while for the sun to draw out a stain. So God’s process can be slower than the Christian would hope at times. But do not give up looking to Him – He is the fount of every blessing.
Father, I thank You that when You call me to purity, You will also help me to be pure. You are a wonderful God, and I pray that You would give me wisdom to be all that You have called me to be in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.