Monday, 12 October 2009

Hope in the Beatitudes - pure in heart will see God

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8)

I confess at the outset that this beatitude has caused me some problem. The other beatitudes seem to be focused on our recognition of our sin and a longing for righteousness external to ourselves. This beatitude at first sight seems to be suggesting that our hearts should be pure – the very opposite of what I know to be true about my heart.

Prior to the flood that God sent in Noah’s generation, the Bible tells us that “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). Even after the flood nothing has changed, for the Lord said “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). I don’t believe there is anything in the Bible to tell us that this state of affairs has changed, that the fundamental nature of humanity has somehow improved over the years. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful beyond all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). Jesus confirms the wickedness of the human heart, saying “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

So what hope do we have of having a pure heart? The answer, in our own strength, is none. Trusting in our own efforts to improve ourselves is pointless, fruitless.

Thank God that he gives us hope of a pure heart. The Lord says through Jeremiah “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord’, because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more”. (Jeremiah 31:33-34). The Lord promises to Israel through Ezekiel “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

As Gentile believers, we are grafted in to both these promises of a new heart. Repentance and trust in Christ leads to rebirth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. “[God] anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor 1: 22). The Holy Spirit will create a pure heart in us, conformed to the likeness of Christ. We can’t do this work of sanctification, it is all of God and all of His grace. “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4:4-6). This Spirit of Christ, dwelling in our hearts, is pure and holy. Praise God!

Thus those who mourn over their sin and repent will receive a new heart, indwelt by the very Spirit of Christ. The believer is then exhorted to live by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the sinful nature – “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Gal 5:17). So begins the daily battle against the flesh.

Thank God that with this new heart though, we have the promise of seeing God. Throughout the Bible we are told by God that “no-one may see me and live” (Ex 33:20). I believe the reason for this is the presence of sin in us, which can not come before a holy God. Thus our need for a mediator between God and ourselves in Christ. Yet one day, when all things are made new, “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3-4). There will be no need for a mediator in those days, after all sin and unholiness is banished. We will see God, face to face. How amazing! How utterly amazing is the grace of God.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently, God read your post.

    "Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?" -Psalm 94:9