Friday, August 8, 2008

Matthew 5:8 A Clean Heart

As we have studied this chapter in Matthew, we have learned that we must recognize our sin and God’s holiness. In fact, it is obvious that the first three things which our Lord describes as characterizing a person who is “blessed” are impossible for us to attain on our own. We cannot recognize our spiritual poverty (v. 3) apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, our sin nature might be sorry we got caught in our sin but we are not able to truly mourn over our sin apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit (v. 4) nor are we able to be gentle apart from the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 5). This change in our nature from being a child of wrath to a child of God should result in us living differently. What we see in verses 6-12 of chapter five are the result of verses 2-5. Because we are new creatures in Christ we have a different spiritual hunger (v. 6) and because we have been shown such abounding mercy we should likewise be merciful (v. 7). These are not things that we could, out of our own effort, produce within ourselves. They are the product of God’s work in our lives through the Holy Spirit. It’s a good thing too because not only are we not able to produce those I think apart from the indwelling presence of our Lord we wouldn’t want to produce them. As we come to the verse we’re going to look at today to me is the plainest example that what God requires relating righteousness is beyond impossible for us to acquire on our own. We must have God’s help.

Jesus says in verse 8 that some who is supremely happy in their spirit (Blessed) is someone who is “pure”. The word “pure” translates the Greek word “katharos” (2513). In his commentary on the book of Matthew, Dr. John MacArthur observes that it was used often to describe metals that were refined to the point that there was no impurity in them. Applying this word to a person would mean that they had a single minded devotion to God and served Him with spiritual integrity. The same word is used in the Septuagint in Genesis 20:5 when Abimelech was confronted about taking Sarah into his harem. He replies that he took her “in the integrity (katharos) of [his] heart”. This word was also used to describe physical cleanliness as in Matthew 23:26 Jesus tells the Pharisees to clean the inside of their bowls and plates.

There are a few observations I think we should make regarding this idea of purity. First of all, God isn’t grading on a curve. He doesn’t say 99 and 44/100 percent (bless Ronnie MIlsap’s heart) but rather he calls for complete purity. Having come to that recognition, we then must realize that we are completely incapable of being that clean. Even on our best days we’re still just sinners saved by grace and we will be until we go home to be with our Lord. Certainly we should grow spiritually and I believe as we do we will sin less but we’re never going to free ourselves of this sin nature. What we see here, then, is an unattainable goal—for us. However, God can and will conform us to the likeness of His Son Jesus. Even though we fall short of the standard we need to make ourselves ever mindful of it.

This purity that Christ describes as being characteristic of those who are blessed is not an outward purity. This is not the good china or Sunday go-to-meeting clothes that we think makes us more respectable in the eyes of other people. I mean, most of us can clean up nice enough and put on our best behavior when we need to and if someone only knew us in the best of circumstances we’d come out shining. That is the easy part. That is right doing”. What Christ calls us to here is “right being”. An apple tree is always going to be an apple tree regardless of how bad it wants to be a pecan tree. We can clean the outside of the cup, so to speak, but if we’re not a follower of Jesus in our heart we’re just putting on a show. Christ, in this verse, says that those who are blessed are “pure in heart” (Greek “kardia”-2588). We can clean up our appearance, but if we’re not clean in our hearts there is nothing that we ourselves can do about that. We must pray the prayer of David in Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God”. If we are going to have the spiritual purity that is required for a relationship with God, only God can produce that. He does that through the Holy Spirit.

The result of our spiritual purity is that, one day, you and I “shall see God”. Those who pretended to be right with God and put on a good show won’t be able to fake it well enough to remain in God’s presence. In fact, Psalm 1:5 tells us that “the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous”. We can be thankful that in the future we will be able to see God and live with Him in heaven forever, completely free from sin. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


vincit omnia veritas said...

"Those who pretended to be right with God and put on a good show won’t be able to fake it well enough to remain in God’s presence."

-How sad and how true. That is the difference between knowing Christ and knowing Religion. The unconverted is like "an apple tree," but "is always going to be an apple tree regardless of how bad it wants to be a pecan tree." The believer desires to be a pecan tree, and is indeed transformed gradually to be like Christ, although he will never be a full pecan tree this side of eternity :)

And yes, I like pecans.

Joe Blackmon said...

Good observations, sir. It is so important for us to realize and to proclaim that only God can effect spirtual transformation. If anyone sees good in us it is because they see God's work not ours.

Have you ever had pecan pie? I didn't know if they made those in your hemisphere. :-) I like pecans too. We had a pecan tree at the house I grew up in.