“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5.8).
“He who has a pure heart will never cease to pray; and he who will be constant in prayer, shall know what it is to have a pure heart.” Madame Guyon
Perhaps every generation could make this claim, but I believe there has been no other time in history when mankind was more in need of the blessing found in this verse. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To see, to understand, to be attuned to the heart of God – what greater grace can there be? Yet in our world there are myriads of distractions that deter us from seeing the wonder of God; not just the wonders of God (His creation) but of God Himself.
Leaky roofs, self-planning, oil changes, stinky diapers, stinky relationships, healthy relationships, paying bills, working to pay the bills, tension with the boss, seeking promotions, sports, TV, Facebook, sex, comparing families, comparing appearance, vacations, planning vacations, worry/anxiety, fear, hate, spending time with your spouse, hanging out with your kids, church activities, PTA, pet sins, addictions, war, rumors of war, unstable economy, school shootings, political squabblings, church bickerings, mission trips, blogging, gardening, polarization of world views, loving your neighbor, not loving your neighbor, Bible study, (and Martha, I didn’t forget you) preparing meals and cleaning the house….
Not all these are bad things – some are even good – very good, but nonetheless seem to be prioritized over intimacy with our God. In the midst of our frantic life-styles it is our Creator we need to see; the promised and abiding sense of His presence must consume us. A purity, a singleness of vision upon our Lord must be our marker – our one obsession. It’s a calling, a deep longing, a clear whisper that invites us to draw near – to come and follow. It is a voice once heard which makes all other proclamations a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.
So, how do we see God? Jesus said that it comes as the result of an inward purification. What does that mean? The term for purity (katharos) carries with it the view of cleansing from all that defiles or makes unclean; purification as by fire so as to create a genuine gem – free from all impurities; pruning so as to bear greater fruit.
These definitions alone lead us to see that there is an intensity inherent in the process of purification. There is no external rite that could ever magically make us clean and genuine. There is a “fire”, a “cutting away”, a scrubbing which all infer that to be pure is no passive proposition. If one would desire to be clean and pure they would necessarily need to submit to the God’s gauntlet of change and re-creation.
Now before we run off and get caught up in the “impurity of self-effort” we must remember that a cosmic declaration of our purity has already been pronounced. “You are already clean (pure) because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 13.10; 15.3). Yes, we must open ourselves to the work of the Spirit but it is the Spirit who ultimately initiates and completes the work needed in our hearts. Purification cannot come by “trying harder” to eliminate the “bad stuff”. We must trust Christ to have the broken replaced by the whole; the dark places of the soul redeemed by the light; the hollow spaces filled the His fullness. And this is done by the ever-sanctifying work of the Spirit (Matthew 12.43-45; 2 Corinthians 3.18).
Now let’s compare our verse with Hebrews 10.22: “… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” We are able to come near to God because of the all sufficient sacrifice of Christ and immersion of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.13). Think of the ramifications of these facts when it comes to inheriting the blessings of this beatitude …. There is nothing we have to do to gain access into purity. It has already been achieved. Therefore, we have entrance into the very heart and mind of God. The “blessing” is already ours. As we remain in the surety of this truth and as we allow the Spirit of God to “baptize us with fire” so the clarity of the mind and intentions and plans of God will be ours.
“No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began…. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2. 7-16).
Now before we get to the application of this verse on marriage I feel obliged to say something about sexual purity. Although this verse is not intended to be solely about sexual behavior, it is common for us to think about such things when we read this beatitude. I speak of this subject in an isolated manner for two reasons. Although there are many other distractions that can fog our vision of God, perhaps there is none other with such great potential for maiming and scarring the intimacies found in marriage – before or after our vows. There are so many men and women in our communities who have been trapped by the seduction of sexual sin and in spite of the obvious consequences can’t seem to find their way to healthy, fulfilling sexual values and behavior. The results – they cannot see or understand God.
Secondly, Satan has used sexual sin to weigh down with shame those who have tasted this “Turkish Delight” (Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis). There are so many who live hopelessly in the bondage of this sin believing they will always be smothered by distorted attractions of a thousand varieties. They see no way out. They have “come to Christ”, studied their Bibles, tried to pray, attended retreats, joined groups, confessed and yet remain haunted by this sophisticated demon. The result – in their shame they cannot see or understand God.
I dare not in a few lines presume to say something adequate enough to remove the tentacles of this sin. Yet one thing I know. The trappings of this failing are not beyond the reach of the arms of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you are one feeling hopeless in accessing the healing provided for you, DO NOT GROW WEARY! Sexual sin has not dis-qualified you from being a key to the Kingdom of God. Trust the finished work of Christ and believe that what He began in you, He will see through to completion (Philippians 1.6). Do not allow Satan to kick you out of the game!
So what of marriage?
First of all I am reminded that according to the Bible marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church. So as there is an assumed purity between God and the redeemed, so there must be between husband and wife. As Jesus single-mindedly gave himself up for the church, so must a man and a woman within the marriage covenant (Ephesians 5.21-33).
Again purity in marriage is not limited to sexual exclusivity – although it certainly includes this. Protecting marital purity means that a couple is mindful of anything that is distracting from their ever-growing intimacy – long work hours, excessive time with friends, TV, Facebook, hobbies – even ministry. Wow, it is shocking as I write this that “the other woman” could be sermon preparation or feeding the hungry or “going to church” or writing on a blog! We can be guilty of marital impurity any time we get imbalanced in what we spend our affections on. Therefore, we must be intentional in measuring the attention we give to other things – even good things.
But the greatest benefit to a marriage where both partners exercise a pure heart is that they both see the heart of God. If I go before my God in regular fellowship and see my wife with His eyes, her needs with His supply, her pain with His healing scars, her vision with His vision – I will be increasing capable of blessing her with gifts from the very presence of our Lord. Think of the increased forgiveness I could display if I saw her from the vantage point of heaven. Think of the gentleness I could respond to her with if I saw my Father being gentle with her as well. Think of the love I could bestow if I kept in mind that He loved her first.
Father, both in our marriages and our lives in general we have allowed “other voices” to drown out Your revelation and guidance for our lives. We are more than foolish as we have invited too many other things to distract us from seeing and hearing You. Oh, how blind we are to exchange Your truths for a lie – a bowl of porridge. We praise You for bridging the gap between us and You and empowering us by Your purifying Spirit to see the “deep things God”. As You ever refine us, may we ever praise You. In Jesus. Amen.