We live in a very compromising world. As Christians, we want to live uncompromising lives to our Lord because of all he has done on our behalf in Christ. We want to be pure in heart.
Being pure in heart means to live with an undivided and loving loyalty to the LORD alone. It means to serve and love only God by His grace and His power that works within us.
Yet we do not have pure hearts completely. Even as Christians we sin daily and wrestle against our sins (Romans 7:7-25). Our hearts are polluted and Christ has come to make us pure in heart, so that we might learn to love God alone!
There are many idols that we have in our hearts. Many things we love more than God. Yet Christ is committed to smashing these idols as we surrender them to him.
The pure in heart are not perfect people, they are those who have been saved by the LORD Jesus who is pure in heart and who cleanses them from sin. The great hope of those who will one day be pure in heart is that they shall see God. It is the greatest motivation to continue to ask him for strength for purity so that on that day we shall see him as He is! (1 John 3:1-3)
As Jesus says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Psalm 24:3-5 says: “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 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. 5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
We know that the One who ultimately ascended the hill of the LORD and stands in God’s holy place is Jesus Christ our Savior from sin, He is the only one who has perfectly clean hands and a pure heart!
Purity of heart
What is purity of heart? An undivided and loving loyalty from the heart dedicated to the LORD alone!
During each day of our daily walk with God, we experience what is like a walk through a hall of advertisements: everyone selling to us what we “truly need”. It’s like a walk in vanity fair, where Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress is being tempted by everything to keep him happy and healthy to distract him from fully seeking after God (which is the place also where his partner Faithful is killed!). It is like a visit to a country with street salesmen, everyone trying to sell you something – Our lives can be great distractions from the one thing needful, as Jesus puts it!
In our world of compromise, we can have literally “everything we want, when we want it” and not have the very thing we need the most: an undivided and loyal love from the heart to the Lord and His Kingdom!
Purity of Heart in the Old Covenant
In the Old Covenant, Israel was taught to approach God through a mediatorial High Priest who approached the presence of God in the Holy of Holies only once yearly on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). God was instructing the people that if anyone was to approach a Holy God it would be with a perfect and pure heart. The High Priest approached God with a bloody sacrifice that symbolized the life that was required as a substitute in order to bring purity of heart to sinners so that they might have communion with God again.
In the New Covenant, we see the full significance of the High Priest revealed in the Old Covenant. Jesus is our High Priest who has shed his precious blood, so that we might be pure and holy, and so we might approach the Living God and all come into his presence. The Book of Hebrews has much to teach us on this Greater High Priest:
Hebrews 9:24-28: For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
76% of Americans Keep the First Commandment?
God revealed our need of a Savior and our need of a pure heart, or an undivided and loyal love from the heart in the first of the commandments: “Thou shall have not other gods before me!”
In 1993, 76% of Americans said that they “consider themselves completely true to the first commandment”. What this means in reality is NOT that 76% of Americans are true to the first commandment, but more likely that 76% of Americans don’t fully understand the Gospel!! None of our hearts are fully devoted to God, and whatever at any particular time is getting our fully devotion and loyalty is an idol.
Now perhaps you don’t have idols of wood, stone, or porcelain as in other cultures in other parts of the world; perhaps you don’t offer incense and prayers to a little porcelain Buddha in your home. But what does your heart desire and want so much that your heart clamors: “Give me this, or else I’ll die!”
According to secular psychologists (and there is some good we can learn from them- – ALL TRUTH is God’s truth), most people struggle with four main idols (although the secular psychologists wouldn’t call them idols). These four main idols are like colors, there are many variations and shades of these idols and they can be mixed like colors to form new idols.
The four main “idols” of our hearts are: (1) Power; (2) Approval; (3) Comfort; and (4) Control.
In these four idols, you can find various “sins that so easily beset you” each and every day. In these four idols, you can find what takes the place of God many times in your life, on any given day. Meditate upon these four and the many variations of each of them, then try to think about how Scriptures corrects the assumptions of our idols and smashes them as we meditate upon the Word of God and bring our thoughts into captivity to our Lord Jesus!
“Good Old Fashioned” Idolatry
What must you have for life to be meaningful or happy- – money, reputation, position, respect?” At any given moment, our hearts are ready to be divided in its loyalty according to whatever we think at any given moment, will ultimately bring us happiness! So, what do you desire that if you do not have, you think you will die?
If you answer this question with anything other than God Himself that “other” person or thing serves functionally as an idol or god to you. Jesus teaches us what this means in Matthew 6 concerning serving two masters:
Matthew 6:24,33: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 …33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
To seek anything more than the kingdom of God and his righteousness is “good old fashioned” idolatry! We need pure hearts, undivided and loving loyalty to the LORD alone, yet we are all idolaters. If you cannot think of the idols that afflict you at this moment, read this brilliant insight as to what the first commandment actually means in our daily and momentary practice, written by 120 godly men who wrote the Westminster Larger Catechism. This answer is in response to the question:
“What are the duties required of all creatures/all mankind (every single human being!) in the first commandment?”
“The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.”
After reading this, we are reminded that the “heart” is the seat of all of our affections – we must guard our hearts! After reading the duties required in the first commandment, I am not tempted to commend myself and my filthy works to the Living God, rather I am encouraged to repent and return unto God yet again to seek his loving grace and forgiveness!
As Christians, We Desire to Be Pure and Clean Like Our God…
…and we can be! In Ezekiel 36:25ff, God promised that he would send the Spirit of God to transform our hearts and cause us to love God and His Law.
zekiel 36:25-27: 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. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
The promise of God in Ezekiel’s prophecy was that he would provide pure and clean hearts for his people. In the fullness of the times, after Christ had earned our salvation and paid our debt for sins committed against God, Jesus received the Spirit and sent it forth to cleanse His people (John 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 15:20ff). In fact, Paul says that the work God has begun in us will be completed and accomplished when Christ returns and we are a pure and holy bride for Christ.
ESV Ephesians 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
How Can Our Eyes See God Who is Holy and Majestic?
Jesus says that the pure in heart shall see God. What does it mean that we shall see God?
In Exodus 33-34, Moses the Mediator of God’s people in the Old Covenant, wanted to see God’s face, his glory. God allowed Moses to behold his glory passing by, but not his face.
Exodus 33:18-23: Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
As an Old Covenant servant of God, Moses had the privilege of talking with God closer than anyone else, but the time had not come for redeemed man to behold God face to face. No man would behold God face to face until the LORD Jesus, who was God and with God, would walk among us as man. The Apostle John explains this in John chapter 1:
John 1:1-18: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
As his people who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we now see God with eyes of faith. We look on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We see God now as he is revealed in His Word and we see him with eyes of faith. One day however, we shall see him as He sees us on the Last Day! The Scriptures teach us in various places that when God renews all things, we shall behold His glory in the face of Jesus Christ- – and we shall be like him, truly like him – -pure in heart!
1 John 3:1-3: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13: Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The Beatific Vision
Historically, this great hope of “seeing God” has been called the “Beatific Vision”: The final vision of God’s glory and truth given to the blessed of the Sermon on the Mount! The pure in heart shall see God! What hope! What a motivation to serve the Living Lord alone with loving loyalty from the heart!
If you have never read St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ you must do so as soon as possible (not an understatement! An extremely important book to read for Christian encouragement!). Here are some of Augustine’s thoughts as he meditates upon seeing God one day. When we go through difficult and trying times, when some of the time we desire to give up, we should meditate by faith upon the face of God revealed in Jesus Christ! And how do we “see” the face of God in Jesus now? From the revelation of God’s character found in Scripture!
From Augustine’s Confessions:
“Alas! Alas! Tell me of your compassion, O Lord my God, what you are to me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation”. When I hear, may I run and lay hold of you. Hide not your face from me. Let me die, lest I die, if only I may see your face.”
Soli Deo Gloria!
Love in Christ,
Next Study: “Blessed are the Peacemakers”