“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
This next sentence in Jesus’ description of those who would be blessed of God was another challenge to the status quo and to the common understanding of the day. Everyone He was speaking to wanted to see God. They all listened to the Pharisees to help them to know just how to make that happen. And the answer? “Follow the law.” “Follow the traditions of the elders passed down through generations.” In other words; “do your best and maybe you’ll get there.”
Now Jesus comes along teaching that the matter is deeper than your behavior. Elsewhere, He said that the law of not committing adultery was valid, but He expanded it to include lust in our hearts. The law against murder was important but He said you shouldn’t even hate someone else.
Here’s the deal: the problem has never been just about the things I did wrong. If that were all there was to it, reform schools and self-help programs would be astonishingly successful. But while they help some people, others just make temporary changes. Why is that? Because most times, we focus on behavior modification…reformation. Jesus was getting at an important point. In Matthew 15:19 He said “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander. These are what make a man unclean.” It’s the stuff inside that is the real problem. Solomon once said it this way: “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
So when Jesus said we need to be pure in heart, he wasn’t talking about reformation, He was talking about transformation. Something had to happen to change a person’s heart before they could see God. Of course, from the New Testament perspective, we understand that the means of that is believing the gospel and trusting in Jesus. He then comes in and changes our heart.
But we also need to beware of thinking that once that is accomplished, we are good to go and don’t have to think about it any more. That’s where biblical community comes in. That’s where confession comes in. That’s where accountability relationships come in. Because the words of Jeremiah in the Old Testament still ring true: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” We are most often blinded to our own sinful tendencies rather than those of others.
So let’s be thankful today that our hearts are pure before God if we have trusted in Jesus. And let’s re-commit to keep short accounts with God. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). The fact of having a pure heart, when we are all too well aware of how dark ours tends to be, ought to be an impetus to keep it as pure in practice as it is in in the sight of God through Christ.