“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
Such a precious promise; one of my favorite in the Bible. “…for they shall SEE God”! This is my heart’s desire, and it makes me want to study the conditions of receiving this promise all the more, so that I may make it my own.
Now, there can be much confusion about the meaning of “purity” and the method of obtaining the promise. People are all over the place in what they believe about this one, and yet, it is so simple, and the answer is set so near to our grasp, that we often reach past it. And it can be so hard for us to be satisfied with the simple truth of the gospel, because we humans are proud, and we want to have some part in rescuing ourselves, or at least being able to say, “I did such-and-such, which gave me a better standing before the Lord.” That is why the gospel is so difficult for so very many people to take hold of; because it is too simple for them. They feel like there should be more to it…more things they have to do, rituals that need to be kept, self-punishment to be administered, and a quota of good works that needs to be filled. “Free gift?” they think, “Well, if it’s free, then it can’t be very good.” And they move on to some other religion that requires them to wear certain clothes, and say prayers at certain times, because they are unwilling to just humble themselves and accept that Jesus already paid the full price for our sins to be removed from us!
There are many people who may believe that they have done too many wrong things to take hold of this promise for themselves. They read, “Blessed are the pure in heart…” and stop there, because they know their hearts are far from pure, and there doesn’t seem to even be any hope for them to come close to the promise that follows…so they don’t even try. They are held back by their guilt and discouragement, and they decide that there’s no point in even trying to reach that beautiful promise, so they go off in the opposite direction, because…that is all they know…and they already know they are successful at their sin. They are afraid of failing to obtain that which their hearts so long for…they are afraid of disappointment.
There are also those who think that “pure in heart” must mean that they must live without touching the world…because it is so filthy and dangerous. They think they must live in their own happy worlds of innocence in order to have any hope of seeing God. Many parents believe this of their children, and do their best to try to keep their children innocent, and unaware of all of the sin that goes on in the world. Any mention of sin, and they cover the little ears, hoping that these young ones might escape the pull of sin by lack of knowledge. And truly, what good parent wouldn’t desire for their children to escape the sins that they themselves have fallen into? But in every case that I have seen, these children who have been so diligently sheltered, always end up finding sin…and in many cases, their fall is harder, because along with the lack of knowledge about sin, they have not learned how to wage war against it effectively either! On top of this, sin, in many ways, is a gift. Now, obviously, we should not seek it – we should be running from it – but without sin, there is no real understanding of how much we need a savior!
There are also those who read, “‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3) They think that you have to act like a child in order to enter heaven…and so, run off into childishness and silliness, thinking that it is the same as being pure. But they have missed the next verse, which goes on to say, “‘Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:4) It is the humility of a child that we must desire to emulate (the willingness to come right up to the Lord’s feet without hesitation, and to take hold of His gift of salvation eagerly, without trying to come up with some way that we can become our own saviors)…not the silly naivety, not the reckless goofiness from lack of self-control…and not even the innocence of a baby, which is what makes them so very sweet. A baby’s innocence comes from a lack of knowledge…but God wants us to know the wickedness of sin, and to not want it any more. True purity is a sober, earnest pursuit of God, and a fleeing from childish folly and sinful things. You also won’t be able to hold onto any desire for ‘coolness’, because God’s purity brings a joy and sweetness that isn’t ‘cool’ and doesn’t let us hold onto whatever ideas of being ‘cool’ we may have. That is another reason purity requires humility; God’s purity will look foolish to those who are striving after ‘cool’, and we need to be able to humble ourselves to the point that we no longer care, and are glad to be made so totally new that the ‘cool crowd’ thinks we’re weird!
Purity vs. Innocence:
Oswald Chambers has written, “Innocence in a child’s life is a beautiful thing, but men and women ought not to be innocent; they ought to be tested and tried and pure. No man is born pure: purity is the outcome of conflict. The pure man is not the man who has never been tried, but the man who knows what evil is and has overcome it.”
The reason newborn babies are so sweet is because they are innocent, and it IS a beautiful thing. But innocence is not what we should be building our lives around striving for. It will never work. Sin is everywhere, and it finds its way into our hearts no matter where we live or how careful we are. That willfulness that rises up in a toddler when told not to do something is not something that comes from anything in the world. It is a seed that is in the heart of every person as soon as they are born, and it will grow, and become evident in our lives. It was even in the hearts of the most ‘innocent’ humans to ever live: Adam and Eve. They were the most ‘sheltered’ humans to ever exist, living in a secluded garden made by God Himself especially for them, and not having any other people around to influence them wrongly. And yet…the devil found them there. And their own sin – the seed of sin that was already in their hearts – was played with…’watered’ – and their pride both sprouted and brought forth a harvest of consequences that day; the day that they disobeyed God. This is why Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. There has never been a person who has escaped sinning. There is no one who has retained the innocence of a little baby. Innocence is sweet…and as long as it can last, it is cherished. Sadly, any who strive after it will be sorely disappointed. However, when our sinful nature grows in our hearts, and we come to the place of realizing just how much we have hurt God by disobeying His law, we are so much more grateful to find the way out, through the salvation of Jesus! Romans 4:7-8 says, “‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’”
So what is it that we should be striving for, if it isn’t innocence?
Purity can only come when we have had to fight against sin, and have had the victory! Purity can only come when we have humbled ourselves before the Lord, like little children, and let Him remove all of the evil desires from our hearts, giving us new desires…and new hearts.
To those who feel like they have sinned so much that they can never be “pure in heart” – fear not! “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV) All that you must do is take hold of the salvation of God through Jesus Christ! He will teach you how to overcome your sinful desires. The more you surrender your life to Jesus, the more He is able to purge the impurities out of it. Purity doesn’t mean you have to clean yourself up in order to stand before God. When we get a glimpse of His holiness, we can often feel like this is the case. However, purity simply means that we must admit our great sin to God and allow Him to remove it from us. We must simply be willing to let it go, and let Him wash us clean.
Purity means that when our sinful desire comes knocking at our door, we won’t open to it, because we already know the outcome of those sins, and we don’t want to have anything to do with them any more.
And as we daily battle our flesh, and daily overcome, we shall be refined, like gold is refined (melted) in a fire so that the impurities can be removed. And as we are made pure, we SHALL see God. As the old sins and desires are removed from our hearts, we will be able to see God’s beauty in a new way! We will be able to see the delicate flowers, and smell the spicy breeze, and dance for joy in the tall grass. We can more clearly see His workmanship in every leaf, in every cloud, in the stars. And…we will get to see Him as we let Him draw close to us, as we let Him in to our hearts to renovate them and make them new. He will no longer be to us a “far off” God…but closer than the air we breathe. We will see Him as He leads us, as He lifts us up every time we stumble, and as He fills us with new life. We will see God because there will no longer be veils between us and Him; no sins darkening our vision, no pulls of worldly ‘delights’ lowering our gaze…and when we go to spend time with Him, we will be able to behold His beauty with nothing between us but love and great joy!
And we, who have tasted of the bitterness of sin and all of its deceitfulness, and have been made pure, are grateful beyond words…for we know what it is that we have been saved from…and we are so overjoyed to have found rest for our souls in the purity and holiness of Jesus, and the new hearts He gives us.