A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 5:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
What is the goal of the Christian faith? What is the end of your existence? What are you living for? Our answers to these questions shed a great deal of light on what we believe.
Many answer this question in a decidedly material way. They might say that the goal of the Christian faith is to live your best life now. It is to experience prosperity—wealth, health, and security. This is what God wants for you now, they say.
Others answer this question in a more therapeutic way. They might say that the Christian faith exists to make you happy. It is to bring you peace in times of trouble and joy in times of sorrow. God wants you to feel better, to be happy, to be emotionally stable, they say.
Maybe you’re aware that these answers are very self-centered, defining the goal of the Christian faith in terms of what it might do for us, what we get. But this is a distortion of Christianity. Some recognize the problem with this and instead say that the goal of the Christian faith is to renew the world, to care for the poor, to right wrongs. But while Christians should be those who shine as a light for justice and truth, mercy and grace, this is not what the Bible teaches is the goal of the Christian faith.
The text we come to today brings clarity to the goal of our Christian faith. It helps us understand the end for which we are made, the place we are destined to arrive.
The reason answering this question is so important is because knowing our goal, knowing where we are aiming not only gives us a future hope that sustains and strengthens us, but it also directs us in how to live now. Our future destination determines our present actions. We are to be a people who live with the end in mind.
In a significant sense, this is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. Jesus addresses his followers and is telling them, “Because you belong to my kingdom, this is how you should then live.”
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Rather than begin with who will be blessed, I want us to begin by considering how those who belong to Christ’s kingdom will be blessed. We are going to begin with the end in mind. We are starting here because I think it brings into proper perspective the requirement for being in God’s kingdom. How will the pure in heart be blessed? This is the result: they shall see God.
Seeing God is the goal of the Christian faith. But this is something we seldom consider. If that’s true for you, as it often is for me, you are not alone. In fact, the doctrine of seeing God, a doctrine called the beatific vision, is one of the most neglected doctrines of the church today. One theologian says that it has essentially “dropped into oblivion.”
But this doctrine is the reason we exist as Christians. It is our ultimate destination. It is what results from receiving the grace and goodness of God. At the end of all of God’s grace is not material blessing or emotional well-being, it is God himself. And beholding him, seeing him, is the very heaven of heaven. It is ultimate happiness.
Jonathan Edwards writes of this beatific vision that “the pleasure of seeing God is so great and so strong that it takes the full possession of the heart; it fills it brimful, so that there shall be no room for any sorrow, no room in any corner for anything of an adverse nature from joy. There is no darkness that can bear such powerful light.”
This is the end for which all those in Christ are destined. And this was God’s intention from beginning to end. God doesn’t just give us our hope; God is our hope. God is the end for which we are created. He is the target for which we aim. Our hope isn’t no more pain as wonderful as that is. Our goal isn’t an incredible feast, though it will be amazing. At the end of all of the grace of God exists God himself. For from him and through him and to him are all things (Rom 11:36). The Christian hope is that we would see God.
But what does one have to do to attain this sight? What is the requirement for seeing God? Jesus tells us here in Matthew 5:8 who will see God. It is the pure in heart.
Those who are pure in heart are those who seek God with their whole-being, with all that they are. They are defined by a truthfulness, an undivided commitment to the Word and ways of God.
Here there is no compromise of God’s law, no accommodation to the world. The opposite of being pure is to be impure, to be unclean. The impure does not know what to do or who to follow. But the pure in heart follow the words of Christ.
And this presents a great challenge to us. You see, the heart is the very center of who we are. It encompasses our personality, thoughts, our actions, will, and affections. And when we look within, to our hearts, what we find is not very encouraging. The heart is the fountain of all our troubles. Jeremiah describes it as “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Later in Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus says that “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” This makes a person unclean and impure. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that to be pure in heart “means that we have an undivided love which regards God as our highest good, and which is concerned only about loving God. . . . It means that we should live to the glory of God in every respect, and that that should be the supreme desire of our life.”
Does this describe your life? Do you have an undivided love for God or do you love the world and your own comfort as well? Are you concerned only about loving God? Do you live for God’s glory in every respect?
I know how I must answer each of these questions, and I suspect that your answer is the same. And this is a massive problem for us. So, what hope is there for us to fulfill this requirement? How can we ever see God?
Our only hope—just as these Beatitudes have been reminding us—is to turn to Jesus. It is to be poor in spirit, acknowledging we are dead in our sin and without hope on our own and to look to Christ.
Listen to God’s promise to his people in Ezekiel 36:25-26. God says, “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.”
The only way we can have a pure heart is to recognize that our hearts are not pure, and then to mourn over our sin and to turn to God who alone can make us pure. Only the Holy Spirit can turn a heart of sin into a pure heart. And through his work, the Christian attains the promised hope of seeing God.
One of the great blessings of being a part of God’s kingdom is that the future blessing of seeing God is ours to glimpse and taste now. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
This is our response—to look to him, to love him, to live for him—and by faith in him, he has fulfilled our requirement. We can be counted pure in heart because Jesus was pure. And the result of this is that one day we will see God. Because this is his promise to us: Behold, I am coming soon (Revelation 22:7).
So, brothers and sisters, with that in mind until that day comes, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Song of Response
Sermon Audio from Recent Sundays