Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sermon on Matthew 5:8, for Lent Midweek 6, Beatitude 6, "Blessed are the pure in heart"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. “You’d better clean your act up fast!” We’ve all heard similar words, and if they were directed at us we may either have felt that sinking feeling of failure, or a rising feeling of defiance. I wonder how often they actually produce a willingness in us to accept the correction, and obey. But this isn’t the way the beatitude speaks. It says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Not a command, like “Get out your soap and scrub brushes!”, but a statement of fact, or a description of those who blessed. In our whole series we’ve seen how the Beatitudes give us “Christ-colored glasses” by which we see the Christian life. In other words, our life before God is colored and shaped by the light of Christ. Christ’s life running in and through us, by His gracious working.
But “blessed are the pure in heart” raises a standard that seems incomparably higher than the other beatitudes, which speak of mourning, of humility, of hungering for righteousness, and being merciful. But pure in heart is an absolute. It’s an immovable mark of perfection. How do we get there? And what to do with an impure heart? Jesus tells what makes us unclean or impure in Matthew 15: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.” If then our heart is unclean because of sin, is all hope lost? Can we be clean again?
Solomon asked in the book of Proverbs, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?’” (Prov. 20:9). The expected answer is that none of us can say that we have made our heart pure or are clean from sin. Furthermore, what could we every use to make it clean, if we are not pure? It’s easy enough to see how we make ourselves impure in heart, but it’s not within our power to make our unclean hearts pure again. We must turn somewhere else for this inward purity of heart. We must turn to the One Man who was pure in heart—Jesus Christ. Jesus, who said, only those who are pure in heart will see God. Here we might remember what Jesus said of Himself: “no one has seen the Father, except Him who is from God; He has seen the Father.” If only Jesus has seen the Father, then only Jesus is truly pure in heart. Truly Jesus is pure in heart as the Son of God, and He sees God the Father face to face in His full glory.
We all want to see God. We all hope to stand one day in His presence, unashamed of sin and pure in heart. We hope for that day when we will enter heaven, and dwell eternally before our God and creator. But to see God we must be pure in heart, and we already established that we ourselves are not able to make our hearts pure. We cannot get rid of our own sin. But hear how the prophet Ezekiel describes the change of heart that God gives His people,
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,        and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new            spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give   you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my         statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your     fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezek. 36:25-28)
Before Jesus cleansed us, we had a heart of stone. A stubborn, rebellious, and resistant heart of stone. Our heart was stone dead to God, because it was full of impurity. It was the exact opposite of what God requires, a pure heart. We sure didn’t have any way of getting that old stone heart out of us. We needed a heart transplant. Scrubbing and polishing that old stone heart just won’t cut it. In the end, it’s still lifeless.
            But God sprinkles clean water on us, to clean us from our uncleanness, and gives us a new heart. He removes the heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. He makes His Spirit dwell within us so that we may walk in His statutes. With clean water sprinkled on us in baptism, God cleanses our hearts by the blood of Jesus. Our hearts have been made pure by the cleansing blood of Jesus, shed for us at the cross. Hear from the book of Hebrews, how Jesus opens the way to heaven,
“Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of      Jesus,” and further on, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with           our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure             water.” (Heb. 10:19,22)
We can see God in heaven one day because we’ve been purified by the blood of Jesus, as our hearts were washed with clean water in baptism. From the only pure heart that ever beat—the heart of Jesus—flows the pure blood that cleanses our hearts from sin. His Holy Spirit gives us the heart transplant for a new life—taking out our stone-dead heart, and giving us a heart of flesh, sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. Truly, “Blessed are the pure in heart” is God’s grace for us. For we’ve been richly blessed with a pure heart, sprinkled clean of all sin, in Christ Jesus. From the One who was pure in heart from the beginning. Born perfect, of the seed of God. And He gives His purity to us, that we might see God.
This truth is reinforced in 1 John chapter 3:2-3, where he says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we will be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies Himself as He is pure.” Do you hear that? When God appears we will be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is! We are promised a heavenly body like Jesus! And we are purified by hoping in Jesus, because He is the One who is pure. Purified in heart by our hope in Jesus, we too will see God as He is when He appears.
The Beatitudes speak of God’s favor to us in Christ Jesus. The words, “they will see God” are astonishing if you stop to think about it. No one has ever seen God directly in His unveiled glory, except for Jesus, His Son. But now through the purification of our hearts through the cleansing blood of Jesus, we have access to the throne of God, and will one day see Him face to face. Seeing God’s face goes beyond all earthly descriptions. We do know that it’ll be the end of all evil, sin, pain, and darkness, as described in Revelation’s picture of the saints before God’s throne. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city] and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3-5).

We have every reason to join with all the saints in singing praise to our great God, for sending His Son Jesus. Blessed is Jesus, the pure in heart, for He has seen God. And blessed now are we, who through Jesus’ purifying blood are also pure in heart; for we too will see God! On the day when we rise with all the saints to join in unending hymns of praise, we will see our God face to face, and all thoughts of past sorrow and hurt will be forgotten. May the Lord bless us and keep us until that day! Amen. 

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