Happiness is… Those Who are Pure in Heart

By: Donnell Wyche – October 20, 2019

Preamble

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us free others. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

We are continuing our journey through the Beatitudes this morning. Matthew describes them in Chapter 4 as the sick and their caretakers, people in pain, epileptics, demon-possessed, paralytics, from all over Israel and from the nearby cities. As you enter into the text with me, imagine that this audience represents the full spectrum of the human experience. Each of them there with their own story, their own understanding of God, themselves, and how they fit within God’s larger the story of creation. When he saw the crowds that gathered to hear him teach, he went up on a mountainside, a hotbed of terrorist activity, and began to teach them. It’s here that he announces… 

Blessed… or Happy….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3–12)

Jesus wasn’t giving us a new list of moral virtues that mark the person who is welcomed in the Kingdom. He wasn’t laying out new boundaries markers of who’s in and who’s out. Jesus is telling us a better story, a Kingdom story, about what Happiness is. About living as a community whose King is the God of Heaven and Earth. This list is a description of the way things are for the People of God.

Last week we considered the fifth beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful…” today we consider,

8Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

This beatitude is a doozy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Okay, well, if you have been here during this series, I’ve shared enough stories with you to completely disqualify myself from reaping the blessedness from this beatitude. But, let’s dive into this phrase, “the pure in heart.” 

What’s Jesus getting at here? It seems, a lot. Scholars have unpacked and defined this phrase as a critique of the Pharisees and Sadducees emphasis on the external purity laws. In a community that desperately desired God’s return, the people and the religious leaders among them developed a system to help ensure that the people were always in “right standing” – ready to receive and welcome God’s return and blessing. This got developed in lots of ways, but the one that scholars (Francis Bacon, John Wesley, and others) settled on was cleanliness. The idea that what was external is what made you unclean. 

You’ve heard the phrase, “Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.” 

When John Wesley said this, he was echoing the second century Rabbi Phinehas ben Yair, who was in turn expanding on a tradition found in ancient Babylon – that we get close to the divine through our strict adherence of ritual purity laws. It’s a form of climbing a salvation ladder that we might get close to God. That only those with clean hands and pure hearts are fit for worship. (Psalm 73:1 & Proverbs 22:11)

But consider the toddler who is exploring their newfound world. They haven’t developed or been taught to distinguish what is clean from what is unclean. So they use their mouths to explore their world. There’s the story of the toddler on the train platform who picks up and puts into their mouths the discarded gum they find there. The really religious emphasized the purity laws because they were focused on what was external as making and contributing to our uncleanness. Within the Ancient Near East culture purity had two basic understandings, the external things that made you unclean for instance to be in the temple, or the purity of the soul that allowed you entrance into the land of the blessed as the Greeks put it.

As for what was external, Jesus had some thoughts about this,

10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11What goes into your mouth does not defile you, but what comes out of your mouth, that is what defiles you.” 12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:10-12)

I love it. Listen to the disciples, “You know that the Pharisees were offended when you said this.”

25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26)

While the religious leaders of Jesus day were fixated on what was external, Jesus says,

8Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Some scholars consider the idea of “pure in heart” as only referring to the internal, what the Greeks call the purity of the soul.

Jesus had thoughts about the internal as well, because it’s what proceeds from the heart that makes you unclean.

15Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these defile you. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile you; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile you.” (Matthew 15:15-19)

I like how Søren Kierkegaard puts it, with the pure in heart, what you see is what you get.

Now there’s a thought. 

Those who have an integrated internal world that fuels their external life, Jesus says “Blessed” for you will see God. 

8Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

These are folks whose feelings, mind, and will are, if you will, in harmony. This is the pureness of heart that Jesus is describing here. I really appreciate that Jesus takes time to describe the kingdom of God as containing those who live with integrity, whose mind, will, feelings, and actions are all aligned in their obedience to God. There’s a lot I can learn from them–chiefly what it means to live with integrity. 

Right now, I’m learning a lot from a new friend who has been falsely accused. Every day as people vilify them publicly and privately, they get up, go to work, face their accusers, live and act with integrity. 

Now, me on the other hand, knowing the truth, and having the proof, I would take a different tactic. I would make sure people knew the truth, saw the truth, heard the truth. 

But this friend, instead, they are quiet, but strong. Determined, without being demanding or overbearing.As I’ve been praying for them, holding them in the light, and bearing witness to their pain and suffering, I’m learning exactly what it means to live with integrity. It requires truthfulness, caution, and vigilance. Because the pure in heart believe and act in a way that believes in all things that good and true. Those who have an integrated internal world that fuels their external world are “blessed.” They will see God. The pure in heart believe and act in a way that believes in all things that good and true. They enact the belief that if God loves us as Jesus says in John 3:16, then God also loves everyone else. This lays waste to the idea of an isolated, “holy” life, and allows for the inner work to bring our egos into submission, which allows growth. 

This vigilance, which I’m in awe of, allows the pure in heart to become watchful, helping them to achieve integrity, not just in the single moments of challenge that life throws are them, but it allows them to develop a moral character of integrity, which is what I think Jesus was pressing when accusing the Pharisees of being hypocrites. He was basically saying, you seem to have developed a way of behaving externally that allows you to ignore the virtues of justice, mercy, and faith, which renovate the heart.

Jesus blesses the pure in heart because we cannot operate as a community, let alone as a family, without those in our midst who call us to social renewal. These are the folks who are constantly inviting us to see ourselves clearly, in the light of day. They often are the folks who are asking the tough questions, like, “Why?” Or they are the ones reminding us that it doesn’t have to be this way, when folks say, “That’s just the way the world is.” 

But remember in Ephesians, Paul’s vision is that God has been at work since the beginning, removing the barriers to God’s family so that we can be given over to good works. The pure in heart remind us that God hasn’t left here alone, that as we develop relational reliance on the Holy Spirit, we can partner with the Holy Spirit and know that we are never alone.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit intercedes for us believers in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26)

Sealed with the Holy Spirit, we declare that it doesn’t have to be this way. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we declare there is another way, often the way forward is through non-violence, suffering, repentance, and peace-making.

Because,

8Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Prayer Senses

Freedom and clarity. For making decisions and moving forward. Don’t be afraid to start over — with God. Increased faith. The Lord is inviting you to ask Him to increase you in the spiritual gift of faith. It’s an invitation to the Holy Spirit to bring you further into the vision and heart of the Lord for your life and the world around you.  Help to let go. The Lord is ministering to those who need help to let go of anger that is keeping you bitter. 

Healing and courage. The Lord is healing those who have struggled and suffered from the lies and wounds of neglect: feeling like you’re not enough, that your needs don’t matter. He’s releasing courage to believe that He will meet your needs and that your needs have always mattered, especially to Him. Transformation. Just like a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly after a period of time in a cocoon, the Lord is shifting you into a new season. Ask Him for help and clarity to embrace it and to receive the new things He’s cultivating in you during this time. Provision. Ask God for what you need and the eyes to see how He responds. He’s inviting you to come to the table. There’s enough for everyone. Bring your need to the Lord. There’s no need too small, no need too big, for Him to fill and meet. 

Friendships. The Lord sees those who are lonely. He’s releasing divine connections for those who have been walking alone and the discernment to recognize who He has put in front of you. Trust Him to keep you safe. Scriptures: Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of  your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.