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06. Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

6th of a Series of 10 messages on the “Beatitudes”. This sermon was delivered by Pastor Eric Chang on Apr 27, 1980.

Matthew 5:8

Today we continue in our study of the Sermon on the Mount and we study today Mt. 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” They shall see God! What a prospect! What a promise! And who can give such a promise but God alone? Now I would like you to notice first and foremost the future tense here: they shall see God. Future tense! We do not yet see God in His glory and His majesty. “We see [through] a glass, darkly”, [KJV] the apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 13:12. We see, but in a glass, darkly. But Paul goes on to say that we shall then see Him “face to face”.

What is Life All About?

What is the goal of human life? I wonder what the goal of your life is? Where does this life lead us to? Where does the road of life end? How many times I have observed that the road of life leads nowhere but down into a hole some several feet below the ground. And all one’s strivings and all one’s labors are going to end up, when we go down into this hole, a few feet in the ground. You cannot be in the ministerial work without from time to time having to officiate at a funeral and to realize that that is the way of all flesh. It is hard for us in our youth and in our good health to ponder this reality, that whether we like to ponder it or not, the way of all life ends in the ground. But if it stops there, we should all be pessimists, or else we should just have to be like the British and keep a stiff upper lip and try to make the best of a bad case, for we seem to be going precisely nowhere but into the ground. If that is all the prospect of human life, then it is a gloomy prospect indeed. Even those of us who must from time to time officiate at a funeral go away with many solemn thoughts in our minds as to what life, after all, is all about. It seems so meaningless at the grave to recite the accomplishments of the deceased - that he did this and that, and that he had this and that degree, and that he took this and that honors. It seems all so irrelevant to go through all that. It is all at an end. It is all passe. It is all gone. So to recite past honors is just like taking out a photograph album and looking at bygone days, all of which is no more at present. But where, if you do not know God, will you go, for this life leads you nowhere? It is a dead end; literally a dead end. The end is death; very literally, a dead end. The tragedy of those who do not know the Lord is really quite pitiful. They do their best to take their minds off the subject only to have it return again and again, whether it be in the quiet moments of the night when our thoughts come back to us after the labors of the day have ceased, or whether it be that some loved one passes on and they are confronted once more with the one thing they do not want to think about .

When I was in Hong Kong a few months ago, I saw an old friend of mine. She was one who grew up with me right back in Shanghai. She always was a very brilliant girl and very good at whatever she put her hand to - whether it be her piano or whether it be in her studies. Then she went to the United States and made a very fine career for herself in the sciences and ended up very high in the academic world. She got her Master’s degree before I even saw or came anywhere near to my first degree. So far was she ahead of me in the matters of academic pursuit. She started early and she finished early. At a very young age she had not only accomplished her work and finished her work at the Ph.D., but she was already an associate professor, I believe, in the state university of Michigan. So as a very young person she was there up n the heights of the scientific world in the specialized field of crystallogy, especially, in mineralogy. But when I talked with her in HK, she was no longer in this business of science but she was in the business of business. She was now running her father’s business, her father being a very wealthy man, a millionaire in HK, maybe a multimillionaire I should say. There are an awful lot of millionaires in HK these days, especially with the HK dollar.

I had a good conversation with her and I asked her why she gave up her very her brilliant career in the sciences to manage her father’s business, which seems to be completely unrelated. She said that is why she did it, because it is completed unrelated. I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, I had reached more or less the top of my field and there was nowhere else to go. It was the end of the road. It was a dead end. I couldn’t see any more prospects.” One could go on doing a bit of research, but there was not really anywhere interesting to go, as far as she was concerned. She had reached the top. She was at the professorship. So what else was there to do? There were no subjects of research that particularly interested her in her field. So when her father invited her to manage his business in Hong Kong, she said that she knew nothing about business but she was always eager for a new challenge. So she went into business, became the manager of her father’s business, and apparently did very successfully in business too, soon mastering - with her very brilliant mind - every department, every aspect of the business world from stocks and shares, which was not strictly her business, to other departments of the business world. And then when I was talking to her, I asked, “Do you find the business world very interesting?” She said, “I did - in the first year! But now I find there’s not much left to learn and I find the whole thing getting very boring. It’s all routine now, and the challenge is gone.” I said, “Well, what does that mean?” She said, “That means I have to look for something else to do because I’m getting bored by this routine.” She had reached also the top of the business world and there was again nowhere else to go. What else was there to do? There were no more new mountains to climb in that world and no more new challenges; at least no new mountains that interested her. So I said, “Well, what other fields do you hope to try? Having tried science and business, that doesn’t leave you very much left to go for.” So we got to the subject that life seems to be all a dead end road and there is not anywhere else to go.

There seems be so little that one can do when one has reached the top. When you are below at the foot of the mountain, it looks so glorious - the snowy peaks above! What a challenge! What heights! But when you are standing at the top, you have nowhere else to go unless you have a helicopter to lift you up, and then a helicopter can’t go that far up either. So we find that this seems to be the whole story of the human life. When I considered her case, I looked at the case of mankind generally. I see people struggling so hard for this “Bachelors”, for this “Masters”, for this “Ph.D.” and then for this whatever it is you can try after that. And then you do not know where else to go, what is left to do, what else to accomplish. It seems to come finally to some dead end. Well, there are still little research projects that you can pursue here and there, but is that what you are going to put your whole life into? Is that what life is about? When it comes to making money... well, money was not a problem because her father was a millionaire and she was at the top of some business. Who wants to talk about money? What can you do with it? You can paper your walls with it; after a time, even that does not look nice. What do you want to do? So when you got the money and you have the degrees, you have the status, where do you go from there? It seems you have arrived at a dead end.

A Glorious Prospect - To See God

But how glorious the prospect when we can look beyond all these, and say, “We shall see Him - face to face.” Now for me that changes the picture. When I was a non-Christian I felt exactly the same way. I studied life - I looked at life - and I could not see that there was anywhere to go. Because, sure there is a road, but what comfort is it to go traveling down this road only to realize that you have come to a dead end? That is not very interesting. Many times I felt a sense of utter frustration, wondering what all the toil of this world is about. I did not become a Christian in order to have some glorious prospects. That is not the case at all. I did not become a Christian because I hoped to find some road beyond the dead end. If the truth and the reality of the matter is that there is nothing more than a dead end, then we have to just accept that. Like Bertrand Russell simply said, “Even though life comes to a dead end, we just have to make the best of it.” Not surprising! Bertrand Russell was British and he had quite a lot of exercise in the stiff upper lip. But the question is: is there something beyond? And the Lord Jesus tells us, that for the pure in heart, there is an awful lot beyond. And that we may experience that. It will be ours, but the Lord Jesus does not offer it cheap. You have to be - and this is the conditional aspect of it - you have to be pure in heart! And that makes it ever so difficult, doesn’t it? The Lord Jesus does not dish out salvation in a cheap and easy manner, which is rather after the fashion of our modern evangelist who is forever trying to sell his goods by cutting the price.

The Lord Jesus tells us frankly, “You can see God. God will be seen by you, provided that you are prepared to be pure in heart.” Now this is most essential that we study what it means to be pure in heart, and whether or not this vision is after all a reality. Now the question also hinges on this: unless God becomes real to us in this life, we might only be talking about “a pie in the sky”. We might be trying to just comfort ourselves and refuse again to believe that dead end is dead end. We would like to invent some future for ourselves that we shall call ‘the vision of God’. As I told you I did not become a Christian because I wanted to see something beyond the dead end. I was willing to accept the dead end if that is the way it is. Until I met with God. Until I met with God and I realized that God is. How I met with God I have shared with many of you before and I shall not repeat again, but that experience of God completely revolutionized my life. I realized that God is real, that God is there. That was the beginning. But unless you have met with God in some way here and now, then this prospect of this vision God must to some extent always be rather evasive, rather evanescent, rather mythical, if you like.

That is why I have time and again stressed the importance of a living relationship with God here and now. Otherwise your faith is going to be founded perhaps more on fantasy than on reality. We are not able - unless we walk in purity of heart here and now - we are not able to say with Paul, “I know whom I have believed.” Are you able to say you know whom you have believed? Or are you simply able to say merely a tautological expression, as the logician says, “I believe in whom I believe.” That does not go very far, for we can all believe in whatever we choose to believe. We have to go beyond merely the believing of what we believe, to a knowing of the One whom we believe in. And the way to know Him is through this step of commitment, this step of total commitment. There is no other way that you shall know God except through total commitment in this life. This is the reason why I have emphasized this time and again, because without totally committing yourself to God and merely professing some type of intellectual faith, then you are only going to have an intellectual faith in God. That is as far as you will go. An intellectual faith in God may be very interesting for philosophers. It is not much use on which to build your life solidly. Intellectual faith is for academic interest. Is your faith intellectual? Or is it founded upon a reality in which you are able to say with the apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed”, because I have experienced His power in my life, because I have met with him in this transforming relationship, whereby He has made me to become a person that can be rightly called a new creature in Christ.

Can you say that of yourself? If not, then whatever faith you have of God must frankly be labeled ‘an intellectual faith’. This is very good for psychological purposes, very good for intellectual discussion, and of some interest to philosophers, but of very little practical use. Because our faith in God must find its root in life, and the purity of heart is a quality of life. It is not an intellectual persuasion, an intellectual conviction. It is rooted in life, in the quality of your life. That is very important to understand. So, I say once more again, that salvation in the Lord’s teaching is not a salvation by faith which simply believes that certain things are true - that there is a God, that Jesus died, and so forth. Nor is salvation by means of doing this and that - performing good works - burning candles in churches, putting some money in the offering, doing some kind deeds here and there. It is not a salvation by works, it is not a salvation by intellectual faith; it is a salvation by transformation, a salvation by the grace of God that comes into your life and changes you into a new person. Now, that is reality! That is talking about something that you know has happened to you; something that you can speak of as your having experienced in your life; and not something that you have believed in your mind through intellectual persuasion. Now I do not say there is anything wrong with intellectual persuasion. That is very good. By all means, study apologetics and study the philosophers, the Christian philosophers if you like, by all means do all of this. But if you stop there then your salvation also stops there. Salvation has to do with purity of heart.

To See God, One Must Be Pure in Heart

So notice the conditional aspect of this statement. You may see God but on condition that you are pure in heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they - not other people - but they shall see God.” This means the negative form of the statement is equally true, that is, if you are not pure in heart, you do not have to worry about seeing God, because that is not going to be your portion. For it is they - the pure in heart - who shall see God; the others do not receive any kind of promise of salvation. Now notice carefully the conditional aspect. I must stress this point, because salvation is conditional. There is no unconditional salvation in the Scriptures. I must stress this because as I mentioned last time our good friend Martin Lloyd-Jones, he did precisely this thing. He tried to remove the conditional aspect of this. He seemed to be, for dogmatic reasons, disturbed by the saying, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”. In other words, if you desire to receive mercy, you must be - not you maybe, or, you ought to be, or it is rather nice to be - you must be merciful. This disturbed him because, for his dogmatic outlook, he wanted to base salvation purely on one thing, as he himself says, forgiveness is based solely on repentance. But now it is repentance plus being merciful. And that disturbs his theological or dogmatic equilibrium. It unbalances him. So what does he do? Well, the good Dr. Lloyd-Jones decides then somewhat to restructure the Lord’s saying, and this I find is unpardonable. This may not be allowed to pass. What he actually does in order to remove the condition is to turn the Lord’s saying upside down. When you study the way he expounds the passage, what he effectively is saying is, “Blessed are those who have received mercy, for they shall be merciful.” Now nothing gives us the right to turn the Lord’s words upside down. First of all, in order to do this, to turn a conditional sentence into an unconditional sentence, he has to turn it upside down, but more than that he had also to change the tense, for as you have noticed, what the Lord is saying is “they shall receive mercy”. In theological terms, it is an eschatological statement, that is, it is a statement regarding future things. They shall, in the future, when God’s salvation comes upon their life, they shall receive mercy on that day. But Lloyd-Jones has to turn it to: they have received mercy, and therefore they should be merciful.

Now that is also true. Of course what Lloyd-Jones says is also true: “Blessed are those who have received mercy, for they shall, or at least ought to be, merciful. Now even though that statement is true, because the Lord Jesus said that in Mt. 18:33, it is not what the Lord Jesus says here in the beatitude. In Mt. 18:33 the Lord does say that. So the statement is true in itself, but it is irrelevant as far as what the Lord is saying here. In what the Lord is saying here, we have to go through from Mt. 18:33 to v35. And in Mt. 18:35 the Lord says if you do not forgive others, neither shall you be forgiven. It is so plain that it is not a question of interpretation. One does not require any interpretation. One just lets the words speak for themselves. They are perfectly plain. We must not and we dare not change the conditional aspect of this sentence. We may not indulge in removing a condition that the Lord has set. It is most important to observe this. You may not play around with God’s words. When Lloyd-Jones finally comes to the end of his sermon on Mt. 5:7, he realizes that he has not really been saying what the Lord has been saying. He also realizes that and then he makes a few statements more or less to the effect that blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. But in the meantime he has already wanted to tell us that the conditional aspect has been removed. This will not do. So here we must realize that it is a condition: you shall see God if you are pure in heart. Curiously enough when Dr. Lloyd-Jones comes to Mt. 5:8 he does not seem to want to argue about the conditional aspect anymore. He seems to have dropped the subject. That is very curious, too.

Now this we must bear in mind, as Professor Schweitzer rightly sees, he says this: “No one can count on God’s mercy who does not himself show mercy.” That is a perfectly correct statement and a perfectly correct understanding of what the Lord says, because that is precisely what the Lord says. No one can count on God’s mercy who does not himself show mercy. That is most important to bear in mind. So when we come to this matter - and I am joining these two because there is a close relationship between “Blessed are the pure in heart” and “Blessed are the merciful”. This relationship comes out very clearly in Ps. 24:3-4. Let me read to you which in fact is the OT foundation for these words of the Lord Jesus. Ps. 24:3-4 reads like this: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And 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.” It goes on to say in v5 “He will receive blessing - notice the ‘blessed are’ - those pure in heart - He will receive blessing from the Lord, and mercy from the God of his salvation”. The word ‘mercy’ here is translated as ‘vindication’ (also quite correctly so) in the RSV, and the Greek OT has ‘mercy’. He shall receive mercy, and so tying it up with the previous beatitude of the Lord’s teaching. But there is one more thing before we proceed to examine what it is to be pure in heart. And it is this, and it is also a question raised by our good Dr. Lloyd-Jones, and he raises the question of the vision of God. Do we see God - on that Day - do we see Him with the naked eye, or do we see Him in some spiritual sense? How shall we see God?

In What Sense Do We See God?

Now I would not raise the question if he did not raise the question. Since he raised the question and since his is one of the most widely-read commentaries on the Sermon of the Mount, I am bound to have to comment upon it. Well, having considered the issue, Lloyd-Jones then goes on to come to conclusion that we do not know the answer to that question. That is very surprising! But for me, that will not do because this question is too important to leave as vague as that. Shall we see God on that Day, with these physical eyes? Shall we really see God, as Job says, “In my flesh I shall see God” [Job 19:26]? Or do we mean simply we are going to see God in some kind of a spiritual sense? In other words, this spiritual vision of God would be not different in quality, not different in kind, from the way in which we see God now, but only that we will see Him more clearly. We see Him now but only vaguely, unclearly. We see Him with the eyes of faith - spiritually - but we do not see Him very clearly. “We see in a glass darkly” but we do not see Him precisely. But on that Day, this vision of God will become clearer, it will become purer because our spiritual life, presumably, will have come to perfection. And so in answer to this, Lloyd-Jones presents some evidence of Scripture and says that on the basis of that evidence we do not know. I need to comment, first of all, that the evidence that he presents is very far from complete. He has missed out a great deal of the important evidence. So we need not be vague at all about this matter. For example, Lloyd-Jones quotes the case of Moses. He says that Moses was not allowed to see God face to face; he only saw the back part of the glory of God. Therefore he goes on to say that man cannot see with these physical eyes the glory of God. But this statement frankly about the case of Moses is quite irrelevant. It is irrelevant because once more the good doctor has forgotten that we are talking about eschatology, that they shall see God at some point in the future. It is eschatology, that is, something not in the present situation not in this age but in the age to come. So quoting Moses is quite irrelevant.

In this age, in this present time, in the non-eschatological situation, that means, living as we are in the present state of sin that we are in, no man, given this situation of being a sinner, can see God and live. That the scripture has said very clearly. And Moses, being a sinner like all the rest of us, of course could not see God and live, as that passage says. He could only see the back part of God. He could not see God face to face. But that has nothing to do with the words of the Lord Jesus here, because we are not talking whether or not we can see God now with these eyes or in my particular situation, but whether we shall see God in that Day when this same body will be transformed. When the corruption shall put on incorruption, when the mortal shall put on immortality, when the sinful body will be no more and this new body - fully-glorified and Christ-like - will be there. We are talking about eschatology. Here the good doctor has forgotten the subject again. Quoting Moses is utterly irrelevant. Moses has nothing to do with the discussion at all because we are talking about they shall see God on that Day, on that Day when they shall put on immortality, when this body will be transformed into the likeness of the body of the glory of Christ’s body, as Paul tells us in Phil. 3:21. So the answer to this question is by no means vague.

Again you notice I have already quoted 1 Cor. 13:12 twice. You have to notice that what Paul says there is that the vision we shall have of God on that day is - contrary to Moses’ vision -going to be face to face. That is precisely what Moses did not have, so quoting Moses has nothing to do with it. Moses could not see God face to face, and that is precisely what we shall do in God’s grace: we shall see Him face to face. And what is more, the vision is not the same in kind, but only different in degree. The vision is entirely different in kind as Paul himself makes plain. For now we see in a glass darkly - but then our vision will be of a different kind - but then we shall see face to face. What does it mean “glass darkly”? It means now our vision of God is indirect. The glass there is not the kind of glass we are talking about here when we look through a glass. The glass there is the looking glass, the mirror. We see now in a mirror, in a reflected way, the glory of God darkly. In those days, as many of you know mirrors, if you have been to a British museum or to any museum of antiquity, you know that the mirror was a polished brass or polished metal of a kind that was polished so smooth that you could see into it and see a reflection. They did not have mirrors in the sense that we have mirrors today. So Paul says, we now see His reflected glory. We see in a glass darkly. But then our vision will be completely of a different kind. It will not be an indirect vision looking through the reflection. [tape cut here.] [Add: , but then, it will be direct - face to face.] So the Scripture does not leave us in doubt as to what is the nature of our vision of God. We shall see Him! And that is an exciting prospect! We shall see Him. If that does not excite you, then there is not very much in this world that is going to excite you. What excites you? To be able to drive a TR7? What excites you? To fly a helicopter? For me there is nothing more exciting than that prospect: we shall see Him, as He is, for we shall be like Him! We shall be like Him because He will have fully transformed us. In this mortal flesh, with all its sin, I cannot see God, and live; but on that day, we shall see God, and live.

Attaining the Vision of Seeing God by Having a New Heart

Let us come speedily then to the consideration: how shall this glorious vision be ours? How will it be possible for you and for me to have a share in this glorious vision? Ah, what prospects to see God! What does “pure in heart” mean? What is it that has to happen to me? Well, we see from Scripture that by nature, man’s heart is very far from pure. It is desperately wicked, it is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things. Jer. 17:9f tells us exactly that. The heart is desperately wicked. Man is deceitful. He is even good at deceiving himself, never mind deceiving other people. How we know how to kid ourselves; we know how to fool ourselves; we manage to talk about ourselves into all kinds of nonsense. Our hearts are deceitful. We must ever be on the guard from this deceitfulness of our hearts. So how shall we become, from having a deceitfulness of heart, to becoming pure in heart? The Lord Jesus tells us exactly the same thing in Mk. 7:21-22. He tells us there that out of the heart, out of the inner part of man, there comes forth every manner of sin and evil. Just read the whole long list for yourself there in Mk. 7:21 onwards. It is long and unsavory list of evil things that come out from the heart. So my condition being such, what prospect will I ever have of seeing God? The answer is “none whatever”. Left to myself, none whatever. What has to happen? What has to happen is that God has to do something to my heart. He is going to have to perform a heart surgery on me. He is going to have to take out my old heart which has already died of spiritual arteriosclerosis and implant a new heart into me that is truly alive. He is going to have to do the heart transplant. And thanks be to God that when he does a heart transplant my chances of survival are pretty good, compared to those poor people who have heart transplants today and do not survive for very long. When he lives for six months it is declared to be a fantastic success. Presumably if he had not got a transplant he would have lived for two years, but having had a transplant he could have the glory of living for six months. This of course is very interesting as a scientific experiment, but as an art of prolonging man’s life in this present age, that can hardly be described as too fantastic. Anyway I shall not get into medical debates. I am talking about spiritual heart transplants and very good prospects on that subject. So, how is my heart going to be cleansed? How does God change my heart? How does He give me a new heart?

This teaching is precisely there to be found already in the OT. In the OT we are already told that God is going to give us a new heart. Ezekiel is particularly the prophet of the new heart. He says that several times. For example, in Ezek. 11:19, he speaks of “having a new heart and a new spirit.” He says this also in Ezek. 18:31 and I shall read this for you because it is significant for our purpose: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” I would like you to notice a very interesting thing here which has to do with how we get a new heart in a moment. It says, “cast away from you the transgressions and get for yourself a new heart.” God can give us a new heart, but we have to seek it. This aspect of God - God’s gift and our desiring: hungering and thirsting for it - is most important. We shall return to this in a moment. But let us notice what we must do. How then does God change our heart or cleanse our heart? Well, there are three things we see in the NT relating to the cleansing of the heart.

Firstly in Heb. 9:14 we read that the blood of Christ cleanses our heart or our consciences from sin. It is the blood of Christ that can cleanse our hearts. It is He who makes us clean and so gives us a new heart. The same thing is said in 1 Jn. 1:7, that “if we walk in the light ... the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Secondly, we read in Eph. 5:26 that He cleanses us also by the water of God’s Word. The Word of God cleanses our hearts. Jn. 15:3 says the same thing where the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.” Thirdly, we are told that the heart is cleansed on our part by means of faith - Acts 15:9. Faith is that by which God cleanses our hearts. But we on our part must have faith. So you can change the imagery but the imagery is the same. Either the image is speaking of cleaning the heart which is dirty or changing the heart which has become hardened. Scripture uses different pictures to say the same thing. The pictures may be different; the message is the same. In each case a heart that is cleansed is as good as new, or a heart that has been changed is a new heart. Either way it is the same thing.

The Heart is the Inner Man

What then is the heart actually? What is being changed? What is being cleansed? In a sense, of course, we must realize the heart in Scripture is speaking about what Paul would speak of as the inner man - the inner man with all its emotions, its decisions, its capacity to think. The heart in Scripture is simply another way of speaking about man in his innermost self; man as you really are, not what you just appear to be on the outside. It is what you really are on the inside. It is not what you show other people that you are. Maybe you are very charming in your outward behavior, very bad tempered on the inside. Now many people are like this. They live a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde kind of existence, a kind of spiritual schizophrenia. They are one thing inside and another thing outside. But the heart is what you are really in your inside, the inner man. That is the important thing to grasp. It is really what you think, not what you tell other people that you think. When people ask you what you are going to vote for on May 20th? You will say, “I will vote ‘Oui’ (‘yes’ in French)”, but when the day comes you will vote ‘No’ (also ‘no’ in French). One is for public consumption; the other is for the actual thing that you are going to do. What you think is not necessarily what you say; what you say is not necessarily what you think. So, when Scripture speaks about the heart, it is speaking about what you are in your real self, what you really are. It is that which needs to be changed.

The Bible and the Word of God is concerned to teach us at the deepest level of our problems, not to change some symptoms. Not to say, “Well, you have pain here, so I will give you some aspirin to help to relieve the pain. That is okay and the pain goes away here and then it comes up over here. It is rather like so much of surgery today. You remove the cancer from this point and it comes out even worse at another point. So you cut off this part and it comes up in another place. It is like our time to remove dandelions nowadays. You pull off a dandelion flower and next time you have two dandelions there. You say, “I pulled it up the other day, what happened?” So, you pull this thing up and cut a little bit deeper and then you discover three dandelions. So you say, “This is impossible!” And so this is symptomatic treatment; you deal with symptoms. But the Scripture goes to the root of the matter! God wants to deal with you at what you really are inside, not that so you come to church, you have a beautiful smile and you look at this nice suit you have here. You come in here with this beautiful Bible in genuine Morocco leather, costing $56.00 to buy. You strut in here; you look so beautiful on the outside. And what is in the inside? So when you get home, you shout at your wife, grab your brother by the throat, make life miserable for your roommate, and then the real self begins to come out. The real self is there. God wants to deal with the heart. And so ‘heart’ simply means the real self, the inner man.

We see this for example in Eph. 3:16. Here Paul speaks about the inner man and in v17 he talks about the heart, which is exactly the same thing, of course. It is simply the inner man: man as he really is. This is what the Lord Jesus comes [to do]: He must cleanse this inner man with His blood, not with an outward garment of religion that you can put on and look more religious than you were before. Not that you can speak of the nice necklace with a cross hanging there which makes you look even more religious. If my tie does not look good, next time I will turn up with a clerical collar, so that you can respect me for being a clergyman. So if my clerical collar does not impress you of my sanctity, then I shall come with a proper preaching gown next time - a black one. If my preaching gown still does not impress you, and my collar still does not impress you that I am a minister and a clergyman, the next time I shall come with my collar, my gown and my academic coat as well. By that time I hope you will be thoroughly impressed that I am a minister of the Gospel. Now if I have to impress people of being a Christian by these external means, then I have missed the whole point. If my sanctity depends upon the blackness of my gown that I wear for preaching, and if it is too black then I put two white collars here just to relieve the unrelieved gloom of blackness upon me, which I shall then call the Geneva collar. This is pitiful! This is pitiful!

Purity in Heart in Practice

Today we have to preach and try to establish our religion by outward cloaks when God wants to look at the inner man. God looks upon the heart. He wants to change man in the inside of him. What is true for the clergy applies to the Christian. And I am stressing this point because the purity of heart here is very, very practical. It is very practical. Because not only is this a purity in the heart, but it is purity that will be seen in the light. Not seen simply in the way you wear your clothing and that you stick a little cross on your lapel. I have no problem if you like to stick a cross on your lapel, but that sticking of the cross does not make you more holy than anyone else. Because your Bible is in Moroccan leather and mine is only in plastic cover does not mean that therefore you are a better Christian. So, what then does purity of heart mean? Now we know what is the heart and we know how the heart becomes pure, we still have to ask precisely what does ‘purity of the heart’ mean. Well, when we study the scripture, we find that this again is rooted in the OT. As we saw in Ps. 24 the cleanness of heart is extremely practical. I hope you read it very carefully. In case you did not, I hope you will look at it again because there it says purity of heart, cleanness of hand and truthfulness of speech; they are all of the same package. You cannot have one without the other. Purity of heart will be certainly manifested in the cleanness of hands; that is, you do not indulge in sinful acts, doing sinful things. It will be expressed in the truthfulness of your speech, that what you say is true. That one does not have to guess, “Now, how much of that statement was true? How much of it was exaggeration?

Now if you come from the Hong Kong society, for sure you know that becomes a major problem of analysis because you have to take a big discount for every sentence. When you have made heavy discounts, maybe by the time you have finished with the analysis, maybe 20% of it is true and 80% is false. That reflects the impurity of the heart. Where the heart is pure, your statements will be true. You have a man who, when he says the word, you know that word is true. There is no messing around; his hands are clean. In other words when the Lord Jesus speaks about a purity in heart, we must not make it so spiritual that it comes to mean absolutely nothing anymore. Many times (and I stress this point) when people say, “Oh, that is very spiritual but very impractical” [they make it sound] as though what is spiritual is never practical. That is incredible! Because in Scripture the opposite is true. What is spiritual is practical! What is unspiritual is precisely what is airy-fairy, and not practical because it is not true. We must learn to change our thinking. When Scripture speaks of a thing that is spiritual, when you say pure in heart in the spiritual sense, it means that your change is extremely genuine. It means that what is pure is genuine. It is true because it is clean, and cleanliness must be expressed in every aspect in one’s life, even in the way I hope you dress. Some people think it is very holy to be very dirty because it proves that you do not care much about external things. They say, “You were just saying, you preached just now that it is the inside man that counts and the outside man doesn’t matter. So if I don’t comb my hair, it’s okay. If I don’t wash my hair and it is all standing up on ends and all greasy, I am very spiritual. What is important is that it is pure inside. If I am very rude, it doesn’t matter; rudeness is only external. In fact I am very kind inside.” Now this is the kind of thing we must not fool around with when expounding the Lord’s words. Pure in heart does not mean that the outside does not really matter or how you behave does not matter because it is really in the heart. No, no! Pure in heart in Scripture means that it has a very definite and practical application. It means that you do wash your face even though you are pure in heart. That not only your heart is clean, your face also is clean. That what the scripture means. It is so practical. That is why your hands are clean, too. That is in Ps. 24 too: clean hands! Okay. I do know that that means not committing sin, but it also means that you can wash your hands. I mean quite literally.

It is a witness for Christ that Christians are careful even in the way they dress. Christianity is as practical as that. I am concerned about the appearance of every Christian worker. Some Christian workers really can improve on their appearance. Whether you brush your shoes or not matters also. It matters, too. Let your shoes also be clean, when your heart is clean. And I have said in other things, too, the practical aspect of every life. To go to a Christian home, one hopes to see that that Christian home is also clean. And not to say, “Well, spiritually, you know purity is inside the heart, so if my house looks like a garbage bin that has been overturned, well, it does not matter too much, because it’s all in the heart.” I stress this point because so many Christians think that spirituality is inward and so outward does not matter. And so we can go on from there to say that behavior also does not matter. No wonder that there are some Christians and some pastors who are unbelievably rude. But if you challenge them on the rudeness of their behavior, they say that it is the purity of heart that counts. Well, I would like to see the purity of heart in Scripture seen in the way you behave, in the way you manifest yourself, in the way you conduct yourself. So it says, “Let your speech be true.” Now the Lord goes on to that on the Sermon of the Mount: “Let your yes be yes!” Absolutely true! Oh yes, the scripture is so practical. But not only in this passage. The scripture speaks of this in many ways. That time and again we find that the cleanliness of heart finds expression in obedience to God. It is seen in the practical obedience of everyday living. It is as concrete and real as that.

A Pure Heart, A Perfect Heart

There is this term “perfect heart” in the OT used many times - perfection of heart. It is used for example in 1 Kings 8:61, 2 Kings 20:3 and many, many times in the Scriptures. There we find that when you look at it, it refers to a heart which is holy and totally committed to God, but because it is totally committed to God, it expresses itself in practical obedience to God. So, for example, in 1 Kings 8:61 you read there that whole-hearted, perfect-hearted obedience. The word ‘perfect’ means whole: a complete heart, without any division. You pure in heart means you love God with your whole heart, not with some part of it. That is very important to understand, very important. In 2 Chron. 25:2 it is said of King Amaziah that, “he did what was right in God’s eyes, yet without a perfect heart.” Very interesting! You can do what is right in God’s eyes, and yet your heart is imperfect. Will a person like that see God? Not if we follow the Lord’s teaching very carefully. He said the pure in heart shall see God, the perfect in heart. Pure means perfect; that means no blemish, no imperfection in it. It is perfectly clean. No spot is soiled. That is why only a heart that is whole - totally committed to God - shall see God. But Amaziah is said to have done what was right. Strange! He did what was right. Outwardly, he did everything right, but inwardly his heart was not perfect with God. Not perfect. This is very important. We must keep therefore the balance. We must be perfect inside but find expression also on the outside. But it cannot only be on the outside; it must be perfect on the inside - totally committed to God on the inside. Whole, perfect, means ‘total’. That is what it means. Total heart for God. That is how you become single in your eye, in your vision of God.

Finally it means also to be circumcised in heart. Rom. 2:29 also speaks of circumcision of the heart. So does Col. 2:11: circumcised of heart. What does circumcised of heart mean? It means removing of the flesh from the heart. What does removing of the flesh from the heart mean? It means pure in spiritual motive. What does pure in spiritual motive mean? It means very simply to be utterly obedient to God - unreserved obedience to God, an obedience that is motivated by love for God. And so with that we must close. I trust now we understand then how we become pure in heart. We understand what is the heart. We understand what purity of heart is. Purity of the heart is the doing of God’s will, and doing His will wholly and completely, without reserve. Would to God that learning by His grace, to be transformed by His power and depending on His grace to do His will, you and I shall see God, on that Day, face to face.

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church