Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
What does it mean to be “Pure in Heart”?
Dictionary.com defines pure as: free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter: such as pure gold or pure water. I rather like their alternative definition: free from foreign or inappropriate elements.
Pure in the Greek used here is ‘katharos’ (kä-thä-ro’s) which means: clean, pure physically, purified by fire, or something similar to a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit.
Ethically…pure means: free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt.
A lot of these definitions sound a lot like scripture. For example:
Daniel 12:10 “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined” or
John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
The word heart in the physical sense I think we can all figure out. I’m pretty sure when the bible refers to a “Pure Heart” it’s not talking about someone who has just come from their cardiologist with a stellar EKG and stress test result. So let’s look at the biblical ‘heart’.
When the bible talks about the heart, it’s talking about the center of the human spirit. The place where your emotions, thoughts, motivations, courage and actions originate. The center of your spiritual life, your soul or mind. Everything you feel and everything you do springs from the “heart”.
Luke 6:45 says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The 2011 NIV says, “for everything you do flows from it.”
The bible gives us the picture that when we think about something or do something, that thought or action formed in the heart and we express it either verbally, physically, or maybe we keep it to ourselves but in some way that thought affects someone or something, even if it’s just us.
So why is this important? Why do we need to have an understanding of God’s definition of the heart? I used to believe that what mattered in life (or death) is that you were a good person. If you didn’t hurt anyone and you made it through life free of drugs and jail you were pretty good to go wherever people went in the afterlife. The problem with this is God clearly says through Paul in
Romans 3:10-12 “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
We go through life thinking we are good but we overlook those times we said something mean to someone, or that time we gave a dirty look to the person who cut us off on the freeway. We forget about the times we argued with our families for no other reason than to prove ourselves right.
But if none of us are truly good…and only the pure in heart will see God…where does that leave us? It SHOULD leave us feeling humble, which is right where God wants us, so HE can start to work on us. It’s important to remember that there is NOTHING we can do to gain a pure heart. The pure heart God wants is one that is faithful to and seeking Him. As our faith increases, God’s transformational power begins to work inside of us. As God purifies our hearts, we start seeing things differently. Our motivations change. OUR desires become less important than HIS. You no longer see that attractive secretary in the office as a nice piece of tail, rather you realize she is a daughter of Christ. When the man walking ahead of you drops a $20 bill from his pocket your first instinct is to tell him, instead of scoring a free lunch.
Back in 2002 my wife, my daughter and I went to the Renaissance Fair and afterwards we were hungry so we went to a Carl’s Jr. nearby. As I walked into the lobby I noticed a bill sitting on the floor. My first instinct was to walk up and step on it. Barbie came in behind me and I had her stand in front of me as I bent down to pretend to tie my boot. I grabbed the bill and ordered very quickly and rushed my family out with our food to leave. It was then that I realized the bill was a $100. Back then I was so proud that I was so stealthy about getting that bill and the fact we had just spent a lot of money at the faire made it even better. Of course on the way home all I could think was some drug dealer dropped it and saw me take it and was now hot on our heels to get it back..lol. These days if I find a dollar on the ground I’m looking around for anyone who may have dropped it and I tend to feel guilty if I can’t find anyone. When I was the “old self”, my motivation was to play the finders keepers game. Now, my motivation is to find the person who may have just lost the only few dollars they have.
Motivation is important. It shows where your heart is. Even Christians can do things with the wrong motivation. Do we invite people to church events because we want them to come to know Christ? Or do we do it so people will see us doing it and think we are the super evangelist of the church? Do we volunteer at church because our hearts are drawn to a certain area of service? Or do we serve because someone is bugging us to do so. Or maybe we serve in an area where we aren’t called to or gifted for but it’s the cool place to serve. It comes with perks and benefits that another, less desirable area doesn’t have. So we volunteer in an area overflowing with members while another area struggles to get the job done with fewer bodies than they need. We can all think of those areas I’m sure. How often do we see the pastors, who are needed elsewhere, doing decision counseling during the alter call as we stand and sneak donuts in the hospitality area. Come on, who doesn’t want to work with the food…especially at the special event. But what about the volunteers who spend hours after the event cleaning up trash and signs and barricades because there are only a few people willing to stay after and some of them didn’t even get a meal ticket because they only worked probably the hardest shift there is. Now if you are reading this and you work on the hospitality team…please…I mean no offense and I hope you don’t bust me the next time I am sneaking extra donut holes. But you need to reflect on why you are where you are. In any area of service, ask yourself why you are there. If you’re a chef, what better place to use your gift than preparing food. But you may also have a heart for youth ministry. In fact, I know a man who does catering and makes great tacos but he works with our high school ministry and as a result he sets up some of the yummiest foods and snacks in the hospitality area at the start of our D-Groups nights on Wednesdays. Again, we have to examine our motivations.
So…how do we gain a pure heart?
I already said there is nothing we can do to gain one. But there are things we need to do, to position ourselves, to prepare ourselves for the work God wants to do in us.
First and foremost we have to ASK! If we don’t ask then we’re either assuming we are good or we are afraid to ask because we know it’s hard. God’s chisel is sometimes painful. And that can be scary.
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The English Standard Version says “renew a right spirit within me” and the Contemporary English Version says “make me faithful again.”
The Hebrew word for spirit here is ruwach (rü’•akh) this doesn’t add anything to this blog but I just like that it sounds like Klingon. But the word used here is used to convey vivacity or vigor, courage, patience or lack of it, desire or disposition. So we can see why David is asking for God to renew in Him a spirit that desires to do God’s will, to be courageous yet patient. To have the right disposition to do what God has planned for his future. And that’s something we should all want.
Then we have to take those steps we need to take that allow God to do it. The Spiritual Disciplines that draw us closer to God. Things like spending time with God. This isn’t that time you spend complaining to Him that the traffic is horrible and your going to be late for work.
It’s time alone in solitude, praying to God for that Pure Heart and listening for Him to tell you what He wants you to do next. This could be in your room with the door closed or it could be walking on a nature trail in the hills. Or it could be in your garage with worship music playing.
It’s also time in the word…studying.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Alive and active…that means when you are studying the word, the Holy Spirit is working on your heart. He brings things out that convict you of those things you may have ignored. The things that are keeping your heart contaminated. Maybe it’s the inappropriate elements I mentioned at the beginning…lust, porn, that secretary.
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
verse 17 “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Teaching, rebuking, CORRECTING and training. We often read that and think it applies to how we teach, rebuke, correct and train others. But it starts with us. It’s meant to teach us and correct us.
We are not equipped with the heart that is required to do the work God has planned for us. We have been programmed by the World to be selfish, proud, hurried, to look out for #1…us. It’s when we step down off our throne and seek God’s desire for us that He begins to work. And the bible is one of His best tools.
So we spend time with God, we ASK Him to transform us, we read the word, but even if we spend several hours a day doing this, it’s still less time than we spend in the world. So it’s just as important that we are aware of what and who is around us. We need to surround ourselves with Godly Christian friends. We need to make sure that we work in a place that doesn’t compromise our values. Or that we run our businesses in a way pleasing to God. We don’t overcharge for labor on a job just because we can or pad the cost on parts. We don’t send a customer a bill when we know their insurance is going to cover it, in the hopes of getting paid twice. We have to be honest with our business practices.
For God to create in you a Pure Heart, he needs to have your WHOLE heart, not just the pieces you are willing to give up.