The Beatitudes, Matthew 5, fame poet, Emily Dickinson, told us that the heart wants what it wants. The problem is we are notorious for wanting the wrong things. We look to the reading of God’s word if you’ll join me in prayer. Lord, we do ask that you would instruct us to stay through your word, that you would command what you will. But first that you would heal us and open our ears that we would hear Your words. And Father, that not only hearing, but that would be doers of Your word as well. That in all things, Your son, Jesus, would be glorified in the lives of Your people. And this we pray and ask in His mighty name, Amen. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him and he opened his mouth and he talked to him saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Bless are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blesseth are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Bless are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blesset are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blesset are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blesset are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Bless are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The word of the Lord, may they please be seated. A few weeks ago in Min’s prayer breakfast, Sandy Johnson gave us the illustration of integrity being like a laser, light waves from a flashlight, they go all over the place. But a laser is highly focused. And like this, integrity is being whole, undivided, and focused. We take our desires and our actions and we line them up with what is pleasing to the Lord. Well, to take this analogy further, a laser is a coherent light that has the same wavelength, the same direction, the same phase. And that’s what enables lasers to have their power, even burning through steel with such a fine, focused point. When we see people, we meet with this single-minded attention, we also recognize an inherent power in it as well. Olympic athletes sacrifice a great deal to keep their focus. On his way to 28 Olympic medals, Michael Phelps swam eight miles a day, six to seven days a week, birthdays and holidays, five to six hours a day in the pool.
And he did this for years. And we see the payoff for that. We know lots of great athletes who are naturally gifted but don’t have this type of drive who just don’t make it, who wash out because they lack that focus. And this laser-like focus certainly can be admirable, but only when the goal is not corrupt. Because if it is, then it’s actually awful. People who give their lives attentively to foolish ends, building up a successful drug cartel. The 40th plastic surgery to try and look young at 70. Seven marriages in pursuit of Mr. Or Mrs. Right. What we set our heart on, it matters. The direction, the intensity, the focus are meaningless if the end is corrupt. The heart wants what it wants, but we desperately need is a new heart that wants better things. And if we’re Christians, Jesus has transformed our hearts and our outer actions, the inner heart, the outer actions, so that they reflect this new reality. A love for God, a love for neighbor, it flows from a pure heart. This is what Jesus is telling us in verse 8, Blessed are the pure and hard for they shall see God.
An uncorrupted heart shall see God. Well, what does all this mean? A heart that is focused. The word pure, it speaks of many related ideas. Purity, of course, can speak to a moral cleanness. We would say holiness. We say things like it’s pure gold, meaning it’s not mixed with anything else. But it can also speak to total integrity. A single-mindedness of being completely committed to the Lord. Our inner and our outer actions, they line up in this singleness of attention. No duplicity, no dissimulation. Purity and sincerity have a great deal of overlap. Well, like our laser, the same direction, the same length, the same focus, phase, all of these things come together. And a purity of light, unmixed with light waves going in many different directions, it’s narrowed in its scope. A pure heart is a focused heart, an inner purity that lines up with external actions. It’s what Jesus tells us here, and certainly has echoes for us from Psalm 24. There the psalma says, Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
Such is a generation for those who seek him, who seek the face of God. Now, Jesus speaks a lot about the heart. You see that everywhere in the Gospels. Why? Because it’s absolutely essential for our life in Him. Luke 6, Jesus said the good person, the good treasure of his heart, produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure, produces evil. For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks. Our hearts are the well springs of our lives. In the Bible, the heart, it speaks of our inner core. It’s who we are. It includes our thoughts, it includes our thoughts. It includes our wills. It includes our affections. We, in modern English, we tend to use the word heart as a way of talking about our feelings, our emotions. That’s only one small aspect of the Biblical meaning of the heart. Includes the totality of who we are. Later in Matthew, Jesus says something very similar to what we just saw in Luke. Matthew 12 said, The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good. The evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. Where is your heart?
What is coming out of it? What is it lined with? The scribes and the Phariseates were so focused on this outer observance of the law, but not on the heart itself. So focused on an external morality, but not what was driving it. Jesus is constantly telling them they have it backwards that they missed it. In Matthew 23, that strong condemnation, woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, Hippocrates, where you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisees first clean the inside that the outside might also be clean. So focus were they on these external. They missed the very things that they were pointing to. As Jesus said, the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, faithfulness. Now, in the rest of the sermon on the Mount, especially in chapter five, Jesus speaks about a pure heart in action. Murder, adultery, divorce, hating your enemies. All of these come from an impure heart. To hate your brother is murder. Why? Because that outer action of murder begins with the inner thought of hatred in your heart. To lust is to commit adulry. Why? Because the outer act of adulry begins with the inner thought of lust in the heart.
Jesus speaks not only against the so-called good outer actions without having a changed heart, but also good intentions with poor outer actions. We have that expression, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We live in a time when it’s so often the style, what it looks like over the actual substance. It’s what is my image versus what am I actually in the core of who I am? Thinking nice thoughts, void of real action, it’s not enough. James 2 reminds us as if your brother or sister is hungry and in need and you give him nothing but say, go in peace, be warm and filled. Without giving them the things they need for the body, he said, What good is it? Saying it’s not any good at all. That our faith and our works are to line up together. That comes from a heart that’s been transformed. And Jesus gives us this other heart diagnostic in Luke 6, speaking about false prophets, he says, They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly a ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the disease tree bears bad fruit.
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a disease tree good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, she will recognize them by their fruits. And we hear that in other places in scriptures as well. We recognize by the outward action. We know it, it’s quite simple. An apple tree makes apples. If you go ahead and tie a bunch of apples to a choke cherry tree, doesn’t make it an apple tree. We know that. Even if it’s got an apple on it. A Christian is one from the inside out. The fruit of the Spirit comes from a spirit transformed heart. A heart that loves God will emanate this focused attention. This new heart, it’s set to the same phase, the same direction, the same wavelength as the Lord, it’s pure. So what prevents this devotion to the Lord that we struggle with? Well, our hearts are fractured with our sin. From Tim Keller, he said, What the heart wants most, the mind finds reasonable, the will finds doable, and the emotions find desirable. What we want seems reasonable, doable, it’s desirable. Now, that would be great as long as the objects of our heart is good and our hearts want what is good.
But we can justify in that very same way any sin and go to great lengths to do so. There is not a sin that we want to do that we cannot think of it as reasonable, doable, and desirable. We take that God-given focus and we fracture it with our sin, a split focus that keeps us from that integrity, from that single-minded attention. In the Book of James, we get this curious expression, a double-minded man. There, he’s saying, If you lack wisdom, ask God. ‘Let him ask in faith without doubting. For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that’s driven and tossed by the wind. For the person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He’s a double-minded man, unstable in all of his ways. See, you cannot be in two minds, as it were. Instead of focus, we are fractured by our sin and by our doubts, and it causes us instability in us. A sinning Christian ought to be a miserable one because of this. But know that we can’t remain in that state for very long because one will drive out the other to find stability.
I’ve had people tell me this. They were at peace with an adulterous affair. Well, I’m sure that’s the case. That’s what happens when you give in to it. Peace, that’s not from the Holy Spirit. It’s peace because you just gave up the fight and you’re not fighting about it anymore. You’re not double-minded. See, our emotions are not to be driving the bus. Sin, it fractures our focus in that way. It causes the purity that Jesus is calling for to be shifted. Now, we are certainly aware of the desire of the sins of the flesh. We all are aware of those things: lust, greed, glutney, and so forth. But there is a sin that’s often unspoken of that is worse. It’s our pride. Pride is a great evil that we often just ignore. The ancients didn’t ignore it. Top of the list, the seven deadly sins. Gustav spoke of it, Aquinas spoke of it as the greatest sin of mankind. Fourth century Christian writer, Boethe as he said it this way. He said, While all vices, all sins flee from God, pride alone withstands God. Now, think about it. Have you ever heard of an accountability group for pride?
We do that dealing with lust. And most people who struggle with sins of the flesh, they know it and they feel a great deal of shame about it and they know it’s wrong. Not so pride. How often have you felt deeply shamed for being proud? Now, I’m not saying that the other sins aren’t important to deal with. So if you’re telling someone who’s driving, say, don’t drive against traffic on a busy interstate. That’s important. It doesn’t mean that it’s okay to not use your lights at night. That’s also important. Emphasizing one does not mean deemphasizing the other. The saying is we spend so much time focused on a particular set of sins that we overlook the greater. Pride. Our pride, it puts us at the center, a corrupt heart, a corrupt goal. It’s not pure. We want what we want because that’s what we think we deserve. We speak of narcissism a lot in our culture, but what is it? It’s an inordinate selfishness. We put ourselves above others. We think of ourselves more highly than we should, and the focus is all on us. We have a single mindedness that is about our wellbeing, our happiness, getting what we think we deserve.
At pride, it fractures us at the very core of who God has made us to be. Everything that Jesus speaks of, to get our eyes off of ourselves and to look away first to the Lord and then to others, that’s the remedy. You see, because pride is also the very heart of idolatry. We do not want to bow to the Lord, we’ll bow to an idol. Make no fake, you’re going to bow to something. The one who thinks they are independent of worship is a fool because they don’t know what they’re bowing to. But you were made to worship. Your heart was made to be lined up, focused towards the Lord. If it’s not towards Him, you’re going to put it on something. We do. And love a self leads us to protect the idol that we think provide us that love. Ideology is looking to anything other than God to give us what we want. Be security, be hope, safety, love, pleasure, all of those things we look to other than God. We set our hearts on these things and our focus and our attention. Our hearts are not pure in the sense of being aligned to the Lord, unalloyed, unmixed.
That question is, is what has your heart? What do you spend your time and your money trying to get? Or maybe another way, if you’re trying to go a different route, what makes you angry? What do you get upset about? Because when your idols are threatened or exposed, we get angry. Your candidate loses and you’re not just disappointed. You’re so mad, you can’t speak to anyone who voted the other side. Someone gets a promotion at work or maybe they get into college that you wanted to and you fall apart with this inner rage. I’m just disappointed. It’s consuming. Your kid gets a bad grade in math and you are personally offended and upset. That’s how you feel it makes you look. All of these that we have set our hearts on the wrong things to build ourselves up, and it shows that we’re fractured at the core. Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart. In and the result of that is for they shall see God. He connects those to us. From the fourth century, Bishop Gregory of Nisa, I put this in your bulletin, he said, If God is life, then the man who does not see him doesn’t have life.
Do you want life? You have to see God. He goes on and he says, The Lord did not just say, ‘Blessed to know something about God, ‘ but to have God present within oneself. That knowing God in the external way and a friend of mine, it’s in the core of who you are. To see God, it speaks to desiring God, to being in his presence. Or the other way we talk about is to know Him, to know God and to be known by Him. Now, we do see God partially fulfilled, and that’s fully yet to come. But there ares a desire for that. We hear it in the Psalm, Psalm 17. He goes, As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness. When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. When I awake to be satisfied with God, his likeness and righteousness. Psalm 63, too. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Worship with God’s people to see his power and his glory. It’s a desire of the heart. When we turn our eyes off of ourselves and towards the Lord, this is how we cultivate new desires.
This is how the Lord actually reorders and restructures our heart, repentance and worship are means to that end. Anything that has our heart, other than that, we repent of. It’s sinful. It isn’t just that we avoid doing the bad, we also call them to worship the good. You don’t get very far if all you’re trying to do is avoid bad things. You set your heart on the good and the greatest and the highest things, which is God himself. To be born again is to have a new heart. For everyone who’s a Christian, you recognize that this is definitely some assembly required. It is. You think a new heart, we wouldn’t have any struggles at all anymore. Anybody like that? I became a Christian and suddenly I was the humblest person. Never sinned again. No, we struggle, some assembly required. Because even with a new heart, God is taking us through the process of teaching us to align ourselves anew and afresh with Him and getting rid of the old patterns and putting off the old self. You see, with David, we, too, should cry out, ‘Created me a clean heart, O God, and renewed a right spirit within me.
‘ And as you consider your life this morning, what area do you think that the Lord is calling you to at this moment to surrender to Him in order to be single minded, to be pure in your heart, in your pursuit of Him. What is that for you at this moment? It’s something. We’re not ready to go to glory yet, I don’t think. What is it for you that’s taking this focus, that’s fracturing it? The thing that you’re trying to hide and to protect, because in some way it’s providing you some life. It also means it’s an idol. But which? Because the Lord, in His kindness, He wants to remove that. He wants to expose that because it will only give us death in the end. It will only make us double-minded. And God’s desire for His people is for the singularity, this attentiveness to Him, a desire coming from a heart that’s been transformed to a desire for a good end, a pure end, goals that are right, because that’s what’s best for us, that he’s made us this way. And anything that gets in the way, in his mercy, he will expose, he will break.
So what is that for you now? To be able to bring that to God, to lay that before Him as an act of repentance and to follow up with an act of worship. How do we see God who is invisible? In John 14, Philip said to Jesus, probably wanting to sound better than he was, Lord, show us the Father, and that’s enough for us. And Jesus’ response wasn’t, That’s a great answer. It’s, Have I been with you so long you don’t know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. That’s the point of the incarnation. The word comes and dwells with us. The word is God. Jesus comes to show us the will of the Father, and he demonstrated this single minded focus from start to finish, not my will, but your will be done. He’s constantly taking people and realigning them to see the Father. You see, in Jesus, we see a moral purity and beauty whose power transforms those who follow him. That’s why we love Him. We’re not left the same. And Jesus alone has the power to be able to do that, to transform us from the inside out.
But we don’t have to wait. That ability to change now is given to God’s people because the Spirit of the living Christ dwells in you. We don’t have to give up hope. The Pharisees came and they put this heavy burden on God’s people of the law because do, and they went and lift a finger for it themselves. And Jesus comes saying, I have fulfilled the law. My yoke is easy, my burden is light. You’re not saying you’re free from him with autonomy that’s not connected. He’s saying, What has inbound you? What has shackled you? He has set you free so that you can be what he has created you to be. A lover of God, a lover of brothers and sisters, free from the idolatry itself. That’s the good news of the Gospel. We have that good news, that hope. It’s not a burden, it’s a joy. And I will tell you, if that is not a joy to you, you’re probably not a believer. If that is a burden to your heart, your heart hasn’t met Jesus yet. He’s not a burden. He’s a bearer of your burden. He’s a truth teller. He’s one to set you free from the tyranny of the shackles of being fractured by our sin to give us a single minded heart and desire that is filled with His power to accomplish his great good.
Brothers and sisters, blessed are the pure and heart for they shall see God. Pray with me. Father, as we come before you this day, we say amen, thank you. We bless you for the goodness that you have given to us. And Father, we also confess. Lord, we are so easily tripped up by our sin, and we ask that you would forgive us that you would set us free. Not only the sins of the flesh, the Father, from our pride, which stands against you, set us free, forgive us. And Lord, we pray that by Your Spirit dwelling in us that you would continue to change us into the image of Christ. Lord, that he would be glorified in the lives of His people. Lord, make us those with a pure heart, for we desire to see you. In this, we pray and ask you Christ, our Lord. Amen. Please stand as we sing We Have Not Loved You.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription