January 4, 2021
Where do you find joy? Now, that may not be the first question you think of when you get up in the morning, but I really believe it’s the question behind everything we pursue in life. Joy. We long for joy. We long for that feeling of contentment, or goodness, or everything is as it should be – where we relish the moment and the worries and cares of this world have no power over us. Joy. Where do you find joy?
I find joy in sharing a knowing look with Becky that doesn’t require words.
I find joy when Hudson instantly recognizes me and a huge smile lights up his face.
And it gives me great joy seeing Kayla holding her baby that we prayed for so long.
Now there’s a lot of other things that give me joy as well: like being able to talk to God whenever I want; or being able to open my Bible and always find that God has something good to reveal to me; or being able to meet another believer for the first time and know we share a kinship of life together as brothers or sisters in Christ. These things give me joy.
I think they give you joy too. In fact, here’s the thing. If 2020 did anything for us, it clarified for us what really matters in life: our relationships with our loved ones, our relationships with one another and especially our relationship with God. After all, if we find joy in seeing our loved ones, what greater joy could there be than being with the One who gave us this capacity to love and be loved? And what greater joy could there be than to see the very face of the One who loves us with an unconditional, grace-filled, everlasting love? After all, if God gives us this capacity to find joy in our relationships with one another, how much more joy might we find in our relationship with Him?
So that’s what we’re going to try to unpack as we return to the good news in Matthew 5:8 where Jesus declares to anyone who will hear: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
For in this simple pronouncement of God’s grace, Jesus speaks into the deepest longing of the pure in heart: To see the face of unconditional love. To see the face of the One who accepts you just as you are. To see this face where there is no judgment, only acceptance. To know the blessing of the very presence of God…
You see, if what Jesus says here is true, then anyone who IS PURE IN HEART has the potential to see God with spiritual eyes and experience the intimate joy of His presence every day. So if that’s the blessing that’s promised us, I for one want to know just what it means to be pure in heart, and I hope you want the same. So today, as we look at this pronouncement of God’s grace, were’ going to try to answer two questions: What does it mean to be pure in heart? And what does it mean to see God? So let’s start with the first question:
What does it mean to be pure in heart? To begin with, let’s unpack the meaning of the words Jesus uses here. First, this word “pure.” This word was often used in Jesus’ day of metals that had been refined until all impurities were removed, leaving only pure metal. In that sense, purity means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated. When applied to our hearts, purity carries the ideas of being morally pure, and having pure motives in all our relationships.
Now, let’s look at this word “heart.” When we think of our heart, we often think of our heart as the center of our emotions, our feelings. But the Biblical use of heart is much broader than feelings. Throughout the Bible, as well as in many languages and cultures throughout the world, the heart is used as a metaphor to express the core of our inner person, the source of our motives, our attitudes and the center of our personality. It also includes our thinking process, and most importantly, our will. Where we make all our choices in life.
So then when Jesus speaks of “the pure in heart,” in relationship to God, he is describing someone of integrity – a person who has a single-minded focus, an undivided devotion toward God.
This is the heart that sees God as a person to be loved above all others. This is the heart that wants what God wants – that wants to do God’s will. This is the person who has a single-minded desire to please God.
Now the closest I liken this to in my everyday life is in my relationship with Becky. When I married Becky, there was this desire in me that not only wanted to love her above all others – but to learn how to please her – to learn what she likes and what she doesn’t like. Now, we celebrate 35 years of marriage next month, and I’m still learning what she likes and doesn’t like. And one of the things she doesn’t like… is for me to tell you what she doesn’t like, so I won’t tell you… But I am still learning things she likes so I can do those things. That’s the way it is with the pure in heart. The pure in heart want to learn how to please God. The pure in heart want to learn God’s will so they can honor God in how they live. The pure in heart have a heart after God. Their hearts are no longer divided. They’ve settled the matter of who they are living for. They are no longer living for self; they are living for God.
Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, this is where most of us struggle living the Christian life: Our hearts are often divided. Too often, our desires are selfish. Because we live in a world that constantly plays on the desires of our hearts. Constantly tempting us to live for ourselves, to please ourselves, and follow Arizona’s Casino motto: “You do you!” So we find ourselves chasing after lesser things like wealth, experiences or accomplishments to give us the joy we are looking for. We purse wealth to give us security, we pursue experiences hoping to find joy, and we are constantly trying to prove ourselves or make ourselves look good to bolster our identity. But then, at the same time we also want to pursue God. And what happens to most of us is that we find ourselves living with CONFLICTING LOYALTIES that mess with us our hearts, leaving us feeling wretched and confused. Sure, we do want to love God with all our heart, but we find ourselves pursuing these lesser things, and so we constantly miss out on the true joy God wants us to experience with Him.
Our conflict is this: We want the best of both worlds! We want to serve the Lord and follow the world at the same time. But Jesus tells us that is impossible. He says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24.
James this another way: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” James 4:4.
Here’s our problem: Whenever we look to something or someone other than God for our security, our joy or our identity in life – we exalt that something or someone over God. And the Bible calls that sin. It’s idolatry. For when we look to something or someone other than God for our hope, our joy or our life – we settle for something less than God. That’s the offense of sin. When we do this, we offend God. We belittle God. We tell Him He doesn’t have what it takes. We tell Him He doesn’t have what we need. We tell Him that think we know better than Him what we need. And we end up serving created things rather than the Creator.
And this is why there’s a joy deficit in your life and why you often feel so conflicted in your relationship with God. You want to experience joy with God but you’re settling for less than God. You’re trying to get joy from what the world offers you, but it never truly satisfies.
So what are we to do? We must deal with the condition of our divided hearts. James gives us the solution. He says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8
Here James gives hope. He tells us how we can become the pure in heart.. To be a person who loves God above all others. To be a person with a heart after God. He says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:4 Stop looking for joy in the lesser gods of this world and give your heart fully to God. And God will draw near to you. God will reveal Himself to you. God will make Himself known to you. And you will know the joy of His presence – And as Jesus promised, you will see God.
So let me ask you: Do you see God as a person to be loved with undivided devotion? Do you want to learn how to please Him? Honor Him in everything you do? If you do, then Jesus says you are the pure in heart. If you do not, then you’re basically living with a divided heart, and you will never know true joy until you draw near to God, until you give God the rightful place in your life. For then you will know this joy of this blessing Jesus announces: God will reveal Himself to you, and you will see God!
Which leads me to our second question which is this:
What does it mean to see God? Now, before I answer that question, I want us to consider who was listening to Jesus that day. Many of the people who were drawn to Jesus and listening were those who desperately wanted to please God but were finding it impossible. For the religious leaders of the day had put forth a different measurement for devotion to God.
“To love God,” they said, “Was all about external behavior.” It was all about following all their man-made rules – complying to ALL their man-made rituals. In total there were 613 commandments that you had to know and perform in order to prove your love for God. If you did these things you could gain the approval of God. But all these rules were burdensome – and they had nothing to do with the heart. You were forbidden to do acts of mercy on the Sabbath. You had to tithe a tenth of your spices and keep everything clean on the outside. But nothing was ever said about keeping your heart clean. In all total, there were 248 things you had to do, and 365 things you were to make sure you didn’t do. And any time you failed to do or not do one of these religious rules, you were condemned. You were made to feel worthless to God. And so it was to these people who longed to truly love God, Jesus gave his measurement of devotion to God when he said,“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
For when Jesus said this, Jesus gave them hope. Jesus said here that seeing God was no longer about following all the rules but was about having a single-minded heart devoted to God alone. If you had a heart after God, you would see God. God would reveal Himself to you. God would make Himself known to you. You could experience the smile of God you prayed for when you recited Psalm 67:1, May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us. Psalm 67:1
So when Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Jesus ignited the deepest longing of every heart. For when Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart” he told them that those who are pure in heart will continually see God for themselves. They will see God in all the beauty of His goodness. They will see God in all the wonder of His power. They will see God in all the glory of His love. And they will know the intimacy of His presence that will fill them with a deep and inexpressible joy. For they will know the smile of God.
I mean, if you can: Imagine the most beautiful smile of a loved one who is thrilled to see you, whose eyes are locked on you with undivided attention and unadulterated love – who is there for you, who wants the best for you and takes great delight in you – then magnify that by ten thousand times ten thousand – and you might begin to get a glimpse of what it means to truly see God.
That’s the blessing. That’s the blessing Jesus pronounces here. For when you see God, He will fill you with joy. For at the heart of the Gospel is not just salvation from sin, but an invitation to the deepest most loving relationship you can ever know. That’s what you were created for. That’s what your heart longs for. To know true joy in the depth of your soul by being reconciled to God.
This is why Jesus has come. For now when we look to Jesus by faith, not only does He give us salvation, but He reveals to us who God is. We can see God. Yes, someday, we will see God face to face in heaven. But the good news is that today, if you have a heart after God, if you want to love God above all others, if you want to please Him – He will show Himself to you, through Jesus.
For He is the source of true joy. And He wants you to know His delight in you. So, let me rephrase the question I asked you earlier today. I asked you when we began today: Where do you find joy? But as we look toward this year, I want to ask it a bit differently: Where will you find your joy?
Will you spend this year chasing after lesser things that give passing joy?
Or will you be single-mindedly devoted to the God of all joy? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.