Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”
If Jesus would have just said, “Blessed are the pure, for they will see God,” then the religious would have rejoiced because they were experts at outward purity. They had a long list of over 600 laws on what to do, when to do it and why, they even had rules that regulated how far they should walk on the Sabbath. While they expended all their energy trying to make the outside look good they were really engaged in maintaining masks to cover up what was really taking place on the inside. But you will never clean the heart by changing a habit, you can’t fix the inside by focusing on the outside. Instead of pursuing heart purity they practiced a false piety, instead of authenticity there was acting. Rules and regulations don’t lead to righteousness they lead to self-reliance. Instead of purity of heart we end up posing as pretenders trying to hid a putrid heart and Jesus said some of his sternest words to those involved in religious mask management. Matthew 23:25-28: “25 What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[a] and then the outside will become clean, too. 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Instead of pure hearts they had hearts of hypocrisy. They mistakenly believed that their religious acts made them right, but it was really just a show of spirituality. Jesus saw through their pomp and pretense and looked right into their hearts as He quoted Isaiah in Matthew 15:8: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Holiness must come from the heart because everything else flows from the heart. Proverbs 4:23 provides a pointed challenge to all who are prone to pretend: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” What comes out of the heart can contaminate, if the source is polluted it will poison everything downstream. Jesus is not interested in reforming our manners to make us look good He wants to transform our lives so we will live like Him. Purity does not come as a result of cleaning up our conduct, or rigorously keeping the rules, it’s a heart issue. In Matthew 15:18-19 Jesus said: “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” God is not caught up with our outward appearance, which may be hard for some to hear since that’s where many spend much of their time in maintenance and manicuring, no God hones in on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 says: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Proverbs 21:2 reminds us that: “the LORD weighs the heart.” God is not looking for believers who are busily engaged in behavioral modification, he is searching for sold-out followers who have fully committed their hearts to Him. Proverbs 27:19 says: “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” The heart is the chair of our character, it’s what Max Lucado calls the “switch house that receives freight cars loaded with moods, emotions, and convictions and puts them on the right track.” When the heart is bad the track becomes broken, and it’s just a matter of time before we experience the disaster of derailment. Bad behavior comes from a broken heart, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Today there are many diseases but the deadliest deals with a deceitful heart, our greatest problem is not a race problem, or even a poverty problem it’s a heart problem. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Its here that we see four heart realities.
- The Deceitfulness of the Heart.
The word deceitful has its roots in the name Jacob, which means “supplanter.” Jacob was a dealer in deceit until God dealt with his heart, changing both his heart and his name. In Genesis 35:10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.” Second we see:
- The Disease of the Heart.
Jeremiah refers to the hearts as “beyond cure” because the sickness of sin has tainted our hearts causing them to be terminally diseased. The heart is beyond human healing, something man cannot mend or medicate. This is the disease the Reformers referred to as total depravity because it infiltrates and infects ever part of a person, influencing how we think, feel, and behave. Today we are being taught that we sin as a result of our surroundings, but it’s not what’s around us but what’s in us. Before you argue this look at Adam, he was in a perfect environment yet he still sinned. Genesis 6:5 speaks to both the seriousness of sin and the source: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Sin comes from the inside and its impact is both fearful and far reaching. Third we see:
- The Diagnosis of the Heart.
Verse 10 says: “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind.” Because the heart is deceitful and diseased, we desperately need God to diagnose the heart. Only God can see inside the heart and show us what is really in us. We can attempt to manage and mask the heart, but hide the heart never works because eventually what’s in the heart will rear its head. It’s like the story of the little girl who started crying when she heard a dog barking. The owner scolded his dog and it immediately settled down. The mother tried to comfort her daughter and said, “You don’t have to cry, honey. He stopped barking.” The little girl continued to whimper and said, “Yes, but his bark is still in him.” Religion is like the bit and bridle it tries to rein in the heart much like a rider reins in a horse. But religion’s muscle will at best only manage the heart it will never mend it. We may be able to control ourselves for a while, but sooner or later the beast will bark again. Last we see:
- The Doctor of the Heart.
In Jeremiah 17:14 the prophet proclaims, “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Only the Holy One can heal your heart, our condition is so grave that the only cure is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We are not talking about turning over a new leaf we are talking about total transformation and that requires a transplant. In Jeremiah 24:7 God says, “I will give them a heart to know me…” and Ezekiel 36:26 says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” You will never be pure in heart until you admit your sin and surrender your life to the Savior. Are you ready to receive a new heart or are you going to run to rules and regulations to mask and manage you’re broken one? Why not bring your diseased heart to the doctor to be healed because relationship is a lot more fun than rules.