“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” -Matthew 5:8
We have come up against a culture that teaches you can have it all: you can go to church and feel good about yourself, listen to any music you want, hang out with anyone you want, put whatever you want in your body, and no one can tell you not to. You’ll be ok! If it makes you feel good, then do it. If it’s a 3-hour Netflix marathon, go for it. If going to youth group for an hour eases your guilty conscience, then do it. No difference – just whatever boats your float. 🙂
But that’s not Jesus’ message. Jesus wasn’t all about making you feel better. No, in fact, He often stirred up trouble:
- Came not to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34)
- Division to families (Matthew 10:35)
- Named the Pharisees whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers (Matthew 23:26-28, 33)
- Told prospective disciples they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23)
- Called loudly into a tomb for a dead man to come out (John 11:43-44), and a murder plot against Jesus started soon after (John 11:47-54)
- Proclaimed Himself as the only Way to God, the only Truth, and the only Life (John 14:6)
Youth leaders get so frustrated when they stand up and teach their students to live differently, and everyone sits quietly and absorbs and thinks it’s all a good idea, but no change in life happens. Everyone nods in agreement, then goes back home as if nothing has happened.
Maybe nothing has happened.
We often stereotype Jesus with such tame pictures as are plastered around the church nursery. For whatever reason, we don’t memorialize in our youngest worshiper’s church space the story of Jesus fashioning a whip and driving money changers out of the temple.* How do you “see” God? You may recall images of a blonde Jesus kissing babies and patting spotless lambs on the head. Just google “pictures of Jesus” and peruse for a minute. Is this how our society pictures Jesus? Is this how you “see” Him? I think that these images of the Savior of the world have shaped our thinking into that of a tame God.
Have we robbed Jesus of His power and authority? When we try to “see” God, what do we see? I wonder if we have an image of a snooty but puny Jesus. This guy seems too pure, too immaculate, too perfect, too untouchable, too preppy, too tame, too boring.
I wonder, what has happened to the power Jesus demonstrated? The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most famous teaching passage, concludes like this: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29). Has the power and authority of Jesus diminished over the years, or are we merely blind to it?
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). What does it mean to be pure in heart? This week, I am spending time thinking about what it means to be pure in heart. And guys, I have to confess: I’m struggling. This blog post is not full of my deepest thoughts and calls to action. I’m just going to list out some verses to start us thinking:
Psalm 51:9-11 “Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalm 73:1-3 “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Psalm 73:12-14 “This is what the wicked are like – always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”
Proverbs 20:9 “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?’”
Proverbs 22:11 “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.”
1 Timothy 1:3-5 “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Hebrews 10:19-23 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
Psalm 24:3-6 “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob.”
What do you think it means to be pure in heart?
*In case you missed the snarkiness of this remark, I am not seriously advocating violent action scenes of Jesus On A Mission be painted in the nursery. I think that’d miss the point.