Sermon: Three Virtues
Scripture: Matthew 5:7-9
In this week’s lessons we look at three beatitudes that describe our Christian character, which other people must observe and experience.
Theme: Purity of Heart
The next beatitude says, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” Again, the same general principles apply. We are to purify ourselves, as John says in the first of his epistles (1 John 3:3), but we are enabled to do so only because we have first been made pure by God and have come to see true purity in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the verse actually says that we are to be pure in heart; and this gets quickly to the crux of the problem because the heart of man is impure. What is the heart? In the Bible, the heart is the center of the personality, and it involves the mind, the will, and the emotions. Three verses from the book of Romans make this complex definition clear. In Romans 1:21 Paul speaks of men without God saying, “Because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart [i.e. mind, intellect] was darkened.” In Romans 2:5 he says, “After thy hardness and impenitent heart thou art treasuring up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Here the emphasis falls mainly on the man’s implacable will.
Finally, in Romans 5:5 he writes, “And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.” In this verse the heart is the seat of the emotions. A reference to the heart of man is a reference to the center of man’s personality. And it is this that is the source of man’s problems. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). And he added, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
That is the state of your heart and mine as God sees it. Since that is the case, we may well ask, “How can a man be pure in heart? How can a man see God?”
The answer is that only God can do it. You can begin by trying to cleanse your own heart; but whether you turn to ethics, or religion, or asceticism, or whatever it may be, you will find that your heart is as corrupt at the end as at the beginning. No, only God can do it.
David knew this and prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). God does do it for all who believe on Jesus Christ. He does it judicially in the moment of our belief. He does it practically during the moments of our earthly life as we yield to the gentle urging of his Holy Spirit. And he will do it finally and completely in the moment of our death as we are then purified from all evil and brought without spot into his holy presence.
Because of this assurance, we strive now to please him, to yield to him, allowing him to make us increasingly pure. As we do, we come increasingly to see him as he fills our being and makes himself known to us. We take our place with those countless others who endured “as seeing him who is invisible.”
What does the Bible mean when it talks about the heart?
Describe the condition of our hearts apart from Christ. How does that manifest itself? What is required for our hearts to be purified?
Reflection: What are some specific ways people try to cleanse their own heart?
Prayer: Ask the Lord to increasingly purify your heart so that your thoughts, words, and actions will reflect Christ.