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Purifying the Heart

The title of today’s presentation is Purifying the Heart. It’s the sixth of a series on how we can make the beatitudes our own.

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The title of today’s presentation is Purifying the Heart. It’s the sixth of a series on how we can make the beatitudes our own.

So all right. The beatitudes. Matthew, the 5th chapter…. We haven’t read these for quite awhile, so let’s kind of do a quick study on them. Verse 3:

Mt. 5:3 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Is that anything you’d be interested in? The Kingdom of Heaven? Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. And I think we’re talking about not just now, but in the Kingdom, when all tears are wiped away. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Oh! Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Do you ever get frustrated with your lack of Christian performance and obedience to God? Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Is there anybody here that needs any of that? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. So that’s the sixth beatitude. Only one remains to go after that.

But I wanted you to turn with me to Hebrews 2, and verse 6. We read these things and I think we just kind of think Jesus was just doing a warm-up here before He got to the important stuff for the disciples. But what does it mean when it says we will inherit the earth? And the one even more important before that, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven? Have you ever thought about that? About how the Kingdom of Heaven could be yours? I always assumed that that meant that I would get to be in it. Right? But I want to read you something in Hebrews 2, and verse 6. David asked this question and Paul is quoting him.

Heb. 2:6 – What is man that You are mindful of him? Or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels. You crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet. So what’s he talking about there? Well, he’s talking about, from the beginning, how God gave Adam charge of the Garden of Eden – to dress and keep it, right? And then all of us have control over the earth. We’re the beings on the earth…. No animals have control of the earth. But humans do. We call the shots. But then it says,

V-8 – In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet, at present, we do not see everything subject to him. So he expands on that – about how everything is under his feet. He says that we don’t see everything that is going to be put under our feet yet. Right? So the earth is under our feet now. So there is going to be more that is put under our feet. I think it’s pretty obvious what he’s saying here. It talks about how we’re going to inherit all things – inherit the earth. When you inherit something, you own it, right? It’s yours now. So the Kingdom of God, the entire universe, everything that is – physical and spirit – ours – in God’s family.

We’re talking about here today – blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God – this is a high-stakes operation. God has been willing to allow many people to suffer. He allowed Jesus Christ to suffer. We’re going to suffer. And it’s all so that this can happen – so that we can inherit all things. So let’s look, today, at how we might become pure in heart – very important.

What the words mean. Blessed are you. Well, that’s just what it says. Happy are you…. You’re blessed when…. When you have this attitude, it leads to blessings from God. That’s what it means. Pure – what is that word? Katharos is the Greek word and it means, literally, pertaining to being ritually clean or pure. But it is used in a non-literal way in the scriptures. But give what is in your cups and plates to the poor and everything will be clean to you. So taking care of the poor is a way that we can be pure, according to what God says. That was a quote from Luke 11:41. The comment by the Louw & Nida Lexicon says, Katharos may be rendered in some languages as pure in the eyes of God, or even right in the eyes of God. So blessed are those who are good in the eyes of God. Then kardia – the word for heart – not occurring in the New Testament in the literal sense – your heart – the muscle in your chest that goes like that – at least, we hope it does – that’s not what this is talking about – with special emphasis on thoughts, inner self, mind. You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart (Matthew 22:37). The secret thoughts of his heart will be brought into the open (1 Corinthians 14:25). Each person should give what he has decided in his heart (2 Corinthians 9:7). It says here, It is possible to render kardia by a number of different terms, depending upon the immediate context. Some of those words would be mind, intention, purpose or desire. The inner self, thoughts, emotions, intents, hopes, desires – who you are – me, is what it is talking about – the me. That’s who I am. That’s where I live. Combine that with pure and it means to be dedicated only for God – to be purely dedicated, completely focused on obeying and being aligned with God. People that are like that will see God. That’s what that term means. It just means what it says.

So let’s think about the attitude. It has to do with the inner life – who we are and what we think about internally – not what we present to people so much, but what we are all the way down at the base. It means that we are without ambivalence about God – that we don’t waffle back and forth in our mind about God. It’s all one way. So that has to do with faith, doesn’t it? Faith is what causes us to be committed to God. When we’re that way, what others see is what they get with us – if what they see is aligned with God.

How many people remember the old show, Leave It To Beaver? Remember Eddie Hascal? Eddie was a smart-mouthed kid on the old show, right? He always thought he was so cool, didn’t he? He acted cool and he thought he had all the parents fooled. Right? When he came over to Wally’s house, he would always lay on the sincerity, and honesty, and the compliments to Mrs. Cleaver. “Yes, Mrs. Cleaver. Oh no, Mrs. Cleaver.” And he pretended to be upright when he was really the one who was always trying to influence her kids to do something wrong. Right? He was a phony! What was funny about it was that, as we watched him go through his routine, it was funny, because we all knew that Mrs. Cleaver saw through him like a department store window! He wasn’t fooling her – or any adult, for that matter.

So we see people who are a lot like Eddie and they fool us. But they do not fool God. So this is a beatitude about what we do when nobody else is around, what we think that we don’t put words to – that kind of thing.

How does God help us become pure hearted? Well, there are a lot of different things that He does, I think, but one of the things is that He is to reveal Himself to us in a very personal way. He answers prayers in such a way that we know it was God doing it, I think. That’s one thing He does, so that we know that He really is involved with us. It’s not just that He’s the God of the Bible, but that He is God that bails us out when we make mistakes, or throws us a bone periodically.

I had a friend once, who was having a tough time financially – this was after the fact that he was telling me this story – he wasn’t discouraged when he told me – but he said that he read that if you get specific in your prayers, then God will get specific in the way He answers them. So he decided to get more specific. He needed a watch to do his job, so he asked God to give him a certain brand of watch in a red box. I’m wanting to say that he asked for a Rolex in the worst way, but I don’t know that they put those in red boxes. I don’t know if he even knew what a Rolex was, actually. I didn’t, at the time. But he told me that two weeks after he prayed that prayer, somebody gave him that kind of watch in a red box. And he was wearing it as he told me about it, so I’m pretty sure it happened the way he said.

So what has God done for you just to let you know that He’s involved in your life? I’ve told this story before. When I first started out in the church, I was a teenager and my parents weren’t a part of it. I was trying to save up money to go to college and I got a job for the summer. In the first week, on Friday – I started on Monday – that Friday, the engineer at the place I worked told me that one of the major components of this project I was supposed to work on hadn’t come in – and might not come in – and that I probably wouldn’t have a job for the summer. So I went home and I told God that I had paid my tithes, that I had done everything I knew to do, and that I really needed the job so I could go to college and find out more about this kind of different church I was interested in. So I came back Monday and he said, “Oh, that torque tube came in over the weekend.” He said, “We may need you to work overtime.” So I had a whole series of things like that happen to me right there in the beginning, then nothing for years and years and years – until we were put on half-salary. Then the miracles started happening again. It seems to me that the kind of things that He does are the kinds of things that we need the most when we need them the most. There were things along the way, too, but I’m just saying, financially, that’s how it worked for me.

Maybe the examples of the summer job or the watch aren’t the best, because they are kind of frivolous, but the way I look at is, if God can be frivolous with us, then He can be powerful with us, too.

Another thing I remember was kind of pivotal in my life. I recall asking my mother why she wanted me to go to church, when she didn’t go herself when I was a young teenager. She explained that the church we attended was the church she grew up in. But now that we had moved, the people in our new congregation didn’t seem very friendly to her. I asked her why she thought it was that way, and she said, “Well, you know, they have a lot nicer clothes and houses and cars than we have.” So I never went back. But I did ask God to show me what He wanted me to do. And He did. And I’m still on that track today. I think, if we have specific answers to the questions we ask of God, then it helps us keep on the right track.

What I think is the best example of all, though…. Let’s turn to Luke 1:49. I quoted this just recently. But it’s such a good example. This is what Mary prayed after the angel came to her. Let’s think about Mary for a minute before we read this. The angel came and told her that she was going to have a baby. Right? And she said, “Well, how could that be seeing as how I have never been with a man?” He said, “No problem.” She said, without any waffling, without any ambivalence, without any back and forth whatsoever, she said, “Well, then, let it be done to me as you’ve said.” So she was a pure-hearted person, wasn’t she? If God says it, then it’s going to happen, even if I don’t understand how. Right? So this is what she said. This is her song.

Lk. 1:49 – For He, who is Almighty, has done great things for me. And Holy is His name. See, there it is, isn’t it? He did great things for her. He did miracles for her. She was already pure in heart, but I think that probably helped.

So that’s one thing, I think, that happens to us. Is that something we do or God does? Well, both, because God does stuff when we ask Him to do it, a lot of times. So we have a part in that, too, don’t we. God, I think, wants us to ask for things that we need. Sometimes He doesn’t agree – gives us something else – but I think He does want us to. And I think that when we know that God takes care of us, it’s a lot easier for us to be single-minded toward God.

In the first sermon on this purity of heart thing, in the beatitudes, we talked about how the opposite of that is double-minded. That’s the word James used to describe lack of purity of heart. “Halting between two opinions,” Elijah said. Right? Well, when you’re pure in heart, you don’t have two opinions. You just have one. And that’s what God wants us to do.

Okay. What else? Let’s go to Mark 9, and verse 20.

Mk. 9:14 – When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him. “What are you arguing with the about?” he asked? A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of his speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive this spirit out, but they could not.” “O, unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me.” So they brought him. And when the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” So, if you had a child like that – he was probably a teenager, by this time – how desperate would you be? How important would this be? A lot! So Jesus said, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” And immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe! But help me overcome my unbelief.” Now we all know what that’s like, right? We all know what that ambivalence – and he’s expressing a lack of purity of heart, isn’t he? He’s got two opinions at the same time in the same brain. He wants to believe. Sometimes he does. But it seems like the higher the stakes get, the harder it is to believe. So Jesus did help his unbelief and He cast the demon out of that boy immediately.

So what is this? I just simply call this point admission. If we’re not pure in heart, one of the things that we need to do – maybe not the best thing – but one of the things we need to do is admit it. “I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” I mean, what you see is what you get there. Right?

Okay, so that’s the second thing, I think, we can do. We can ask God to take care of us. We can admit it when we realize that we’re not pure in heart.

The third thing I have here is to be mindful – to become aware of our need to be single- minded. Maybe that’s a little bit connected, but it’s slightly different – to be aware of our own tendency to wander off from God.

I think about the Church of God. And I’m not too familiar with other churches. I think they’re probably all – since they’re filled with people subject to the same thing – I know all governments are – all companies – but for us, God says that love is the best gift. Right? 1 Corinthians 13. So what do we do? Well we wander off in search of doctrinal differences so that we can be more pure, I guess. We wander off in search of our own following or cult experiences. We focus on obedience, instead of on the heart, not realizing that obedience comes out of the heart when the heart is right. So we need to be mindful of the fact that we don’t naturally go toward God. We wander away. We need to be aware of the inner ambivalence that is there – aware of the tendency to deceive and manipulate other people.

I remember the Bill Cosby routine where he was married and had kids. He had little kids, so a lot of his routines were about little kids at that time of his life. And he talked about one of his kids stealing a cookie out of the cookie jar and him catching – I think it was – his son. And his son looked up at him with the cookie in his hand, and he said, “I got it for you.” We’re like that to God when we try to pull stuff like that on Him. We’re like the kid with the hand in the cookie jar. He sees everything. There’s no way to fool Him. This isn’t about what we present to others, but the person – the we, the me – that God sees.

There are so many people who know how to manipulate and to present themselves in a certain way to get what they want – to work the angles. So this beatitude really is where the rubber meets the road for us. No fooling God about what we’re like.

I was talking to a friend recently – and he brought this up – about somebody that we both have known for many years. My friend now has an opportunity to work closely with this other person. He commented that he’d seen this person tell so many lies over so long a span that he wasn’t sure if this person could tell the difference any longer. Of course, all his lying and posturing has always been about climbing up the organization that he’s a part of. And since it’s a religious organization, the irony of that just becomes even more obvious. We had a discussion about our friend and we both believe that this person wants to be a good person, but there’s that going back and forth. And he’s done it for so long that it prevents him from being the same way every time. He’s kind of like a chameleon – whatever color is around him, that’s what he is. Still, with God, all things are possible. So we see somebody like that and we think, “That’s a pretty bad character problem.” What’s going to happen? Well, I think God will take care of that.

Okay, what else can we do? Well, we can study. There are lots of examples in the Bible of both the pure in heart and the impure. I think one of the things – I don’t know if they even remember it, but I remember saying it a lot to my kids, and I hope it sunk in…. I knew that a lot of church kids grew bitter and left the church, because of the hypocrisy that they saw from their parents and other adults in the church. So I always told my kids that God gives us two kinds of examples in the church – good ones and bad ones. And the trick is to be able to tell the difference. So, in the Bible, there are good examples and bad examples, too, of people that are pure hearted and those that aren’t.

Balaam, the prophet, comes to mind in Numbers, the 22nd chapter. He wanted to curse Israel so bad he could taste it, but God wouldn’t let him. God’s denial caused him to vacillate and waffle so much, his vacillation was described by James as madness. We know that, in that state, the human mind really doesn’t do well – with two really strong opinions. That’s why you never see Ford and Chevy guys. You see Ford guys and Chevy guys, but not both. We do not like to have two things going on at once in there. And Balaam was really plagued with that.

When we study the Bible, we can look and see how people vacillated back and forth, and wavered – how they got strong and how they got weak. That’s all good stuff for us to think about, because to be pure in heart means to be the same way every time toward God and to be aligned with Him in that way.

What else? Well, prayer. “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” All of us are so strong that we can stand anything but temptation. We can be aligned with God – gung-ho all the way – until temptation comes along, and then we fall like a rock. Right? “Help my unbelief.” That’s one of the things we can pray. That was a prayer, wasn’t it, because he was talking to God when he said that. So we need to pray about that. I’m making that a difference from asking God for blessings. This point about prayer is that we specifically ask God to help us become single-minded in our faith.

The next one is…I just called this activity. You know, we don’t get a face-to-face response from God everyday, but we do interact with other people, so we can practice being pure in heart with them – no manipulation, honesty – what they see is what they get.

In my practice I see a lot of all of that. I have two kids that I work with. One is a boy and, if anybody had a bad start, it would be him. He and his sister – their biological parents were drug addicts – so they were put into foster care early – like six, seven years old – and were abused quite a bit in foster care and by their bio parents. But then they were adopted by this couple and she is a therapist and a Christian. I don’t know what persuasion she is, but she has done such a great job with him. The reason he is in therapy is because of all the anger he has about what happened when he was little. But he doesn’t tell any lies or try to sugar-coat anything that is going on in his head. It’s very easy to do therapy with somebody like that. It’s right there! So it’s there to work with. He’s very good natured and humorous, in spite of all the terrible things that have happened to him – very resilient. He working is his way, gradually, out of all that anger. It’s just so inspiring to watch him and it’s so easy to work with him, because he’s just so completely open.

But then I have this other client. She’s open in a different way. She’ll come in and talk about something and then, while we’re in the middle of it, she’ll change the topic. And she’ll say, “Let me ask you something completely off track. Do you think a kid my age…there’s something wrong with them if they like to snoop through their parents’ stuff in their room?” I mean, she’s open about it, right? But it’s not quite as open as the other one. She does come to grips with her issues.

Both of these people are trying to learn how to be good people. That’s what they want. I don’t know that they know the correct definition of that completely yet, but neither do I.

All right. What else can we do? Well, as we say in all of these things – this series – we can backtrack through the beatitudes. Let’s just take Eddie, as an example. Why was Eddie like he was? And what would have helped Eddie? Well, Eddie did not have any respect for doing right, nor did he respect Wally or the Beaver. He called him Shrimp. And he didn’t respect Mrs. Cleaver, because he lied to her all the time. So he was not honest and open with them. And he saw everybody as someone to use to fulfill his own desires. He didn’t respect them enough to be honest with them. So he was not a merciful person. He was always trying to get those guys to do his dirty work for him and come out Mr. Clean himself. But he really didn’t think much about them. And he wasn’t,especially, merciful to the Beaver, because he looked down on him so much. If he had been a merciful person, he wouldn’t have mistreated everybody so much as he did.

Mercy is the beatitude that comes before purity of heart. Right? One of the things that drives us to become pure in heart is to realize that we need to be merciful to other people.

The beatitude that comes before mercy is hungering for righteousness. How does Eddie fit into that one? Well, he wasn’t merciful because he didn’t love God’s law and hunger to be righteous. He didn’t care about that. That wasn’t important to him. He could treat people like dirt and it didn’t bother him.

Why didn’t he hunger for righteousness? He didn’t love God’s law because he wasn’t meek. Eddie thought his way was best. He didn’t need to listen to anybody or learn from them, especially God. Remember, that was our definition of meekness – to listen. He wasn’t listening to anybody.

Why wasn’t he meek? Well, because Eddie had never sorrowed over his own state. He was trying to ride high. So he had never really mourned his responsibility in wrong doing. He hadn’t experienced meekness because he’d never mourned for his own sins, which is the second beatitude.

Why had he not? Well, his lack of mourning came straight out of the fact that he did not understand himself in relationship to God. He didn’t know God. He didn’t know that God was great and he was small. He only knew that he was small and he was fighting desperately to cover that up, rather than admit it. So he was duplicitous. He presented one way, but inside he was another. We all understood, didn’t we, that Eddie was insecure. That’s why he tried to cover it up by acting like the big hot-shot.

So all of this shows that, when God lets us run into a beatitude, and see ourselves lacking in it, then the solution is to look at the previous beatitude to see if that’s the problem. And it almost always is. The only exception would be when it’s another one further back down line. We just keep going backwards until we find the place where we became spiritually arrested. And then we do like John said in Revelation, we go back and do the first works – start at the beginning, if we have to. John was quoting Jesus when he said that, by the way. Right? So, the Captain of our Salvation speaks.

Okay, so we can see the connection between the previous beatitudes and having a pure heart. Once again, as with all of these, we only scratch the surface, but we still have to move on. So next time, we’ll talk about becoming a peacemaker – something that’s only important to those people who are pure in heart.