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Sep 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 3, 2017 – Matthew 5:8

A Healthy Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

Intro: This verse stands out from the previous beatitudes

It serves the same purpose–i.e., to reveal the blessed state of Jesus’ follower
(Jesus himself is the one who makes each condition such that it is blessed)
– my goal is to find in the beatitudes a path in Christian spirituality
• to that end, this is the most explicit beatitude so far
for they shall see God
– to see God has always been aspiration of every godly person
• this is the spiritual longing expressed in several of the Psalms

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I may seek:
That I might dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in his temple (Ps. 27:4)

seek the LORD is a familiar Old Testament phrase
◦ more specifically we find seek His face

Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually (Ps. 105:3-4)

◦ we learn from this beatitude how to seek the face of God

Blessed are the pure in heart

To hear what Jesus is saying, we have to get behind these words
– in ancient times it was commonly believed that the world inhabited by spirits
• so every tree had its spirit, as did every river, the sky, the weather, etc.
• how people treated living things and natural forces was important
◦ the spirit of a thing could act for or against a person or community
◦ rules and rituals were created so as not to offend spirits or to appease them
– a related idea: certain objects contained an uncanny power
• that power could be released through contact with the object
• it would then attach itself to the person

Negative power: taboo, curse, bad juju
◦ in the language of the Old Testament: defiled, unclean, unholy
◦ the law provided rules to help people avoid contamination
◦ if contaminated, purification rituals were available to remove it
(Israel’s “purity code” primarily found in Leviticus)
◦ the mixing of certain items caused impurity (e.g., Lev. 19:19)
◦ something showing up where it did not belong (e.g., blood outside the body)
◦ contact with birth, death, blood, and having sexual
Positive power: holiness, blessings, purification
◦ this was released through contact with God or anything belonging to him
◦ the sanctuary, the altar, even touching a sacrifice
◦ cleansing through water or by fire

The Pharisees were radically devoted to the purity code

The Pharisees and scribes . . . had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) (Mk. 7:2-4)

– both Jesus and Paul minimized the purity code
• they emphasized the inner life of the believer
• and that what people are within matches perfectly their outward life

Jesus illustrates the purity he taught all through the Sermon

A pure heart is one that is complete (or whole)
– I buy packaged drinks for my grandchildren’s lunch
• the label says it is 100% pure juice
◦ but that is redundant, because pure is 100 % and 100% is pure
◦ a ring that is pure gold is not an alloy — there is no other metal in it
• watered down liquids are not pure
◦ Jesus observed a watered down righteousness
◦ a watered down spirituality
– pure spirituality is whole-hearted

A pure heart is one
– purity is related to integrity – an integer is a whole number
• integrity is oneness — an integration of all the parts
• a central point to which everything is oriented
– Daniel Siegel argues that the key to robust mental health is integration
• he says the brain is designed for the integration of its various structures
◦ the integrity of the brain is the integration of the person
• purity is having one heart devoted to one ultimate loyalty

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon (mammon may be a personification of wealth or materialism — Mt. 6:24)

◦ purity is the integration of heart, mind, spirit and body

Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (De. 6:4-5)

Purity may be moral, but it is also relational

Look at Jesus’ illustrations the righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (vv. 20-47)
– he joins external actions to internal thoughts and feelings
• each illustration involves another person; a brother, opponent, even an enemy
• in fact, Jesus elaborates on the relational aspect of these laws
◦ e.g., be reconciled to your brother (v. 23-24)
– integrated people work at integrated relationships with others
• alienation is symptomatic of damaged humanity (Ge. 3:14-24)
• the wrong things we do dis-integrates our relationships
◦ even if just a little

Now it is obvious to see what can interfere with purity

A divided heart (Mt. 6:19-20)
– James talks about the double-minded person (1:8)

Purify your hearts, you double-minded (4:8)

• and so the psalmist prays:

Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to [revere] Your name (Ps. 86:11)

– the divided heart is the defect of the hypocrite
• the failure lies in having two audiences for every action
◦ prayer appears to be for God’s benefit
◦ but there’s a way to pray that attracts the attention of others

A hardened heart (Heb. 3:13)
– anxieties rise in heart, so do doubts and temptations
• but these feelings do not ruin us, they simply happen
• however, if entertained, repeated, or habituated,
◦ a pattern forms and hardness occurs
– Jeremiah advises his hearers to “break up your fallow ground”
• the hard surface layer of soil
• the heart needs to stay softened
◦ callouses over the heart need to be removed

Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your heart (Heb. 3:7-8)

A pure heart does not hang on to:
– bad feelings – toward others or how I was treated
– bad news about others – slander, gossip
– bad desires, wishes, plans

Impure hearts can be purified

Refined by the fire of trials (1 Pet. 1:7; Rev. 3:18)
Washed in “pure water” (Heb. 10:22)
Pruned by the gardener’s shears (Jn. 15:1-2)
The disciples were cleansed by the word of Jesus (Jn. 13:10)

For they shall see God

I am hesitant to say much about this – I have my ideas
– obviously, there’s a reference to the future, so we can immediately think of heaven
– but I don’t think that was all Jesus had in mind
• after all, he could say, He who has seen Me has seen the the Father (Jn. 14:9)

I believe that our spiritual vision is enhanced with our heart’s greater focus
– with greater wholeness and integrity, we begin to see more than ever
• not with our physical eyes
• our soul has its own form of sight
◦ and it is to our hearts and souls that unseen things appear

. . . while we look not at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)
By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is unseen (Heb. 11:27)
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ep. 1:18-19)

Conclusion: Purity is the spiritual integration of our whole lives

God tells us, Be holy, Be merciful, Be pure in heart
Be this whole person who seeks first God’s kingdom and righteousness
• this integrated person who seeks the face of God

Our brains will do what we tell them to do
– they will contemplate whatever information we give them
• so our thoughts and emotions can open us to God
• or they can open us to something else
– it doesn’t mean we have to think about God twenty-four hours a day
• but if we create the habit of reflecting on God and his creation
◦ the effect will be purifying
◦ not merely washing the old stuff away, but by leaving no more room for it

A consistent practice of disciplined contemplation will certainly move us in the right direction

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