Quest for Faith: A Heart of Gold

 “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Let those words sink into your consciousness. The pure in heart will see God. In 1982 the LA Times carried the story of Anna Mae Pennica, a 62 year old woman who had been blind from birth. At 47 she married a man she met in Braille class, and for the first 15 years of their marriage he did the seeing for both of them until he completely lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa. Mrs. Pennica had never seen the green of spring or the blue of a winter sky. Yet because she had grown up in a loving, supportive family, she never felt resentful about her handicap and always exuded a remarkably cheerful spirit.

Then in Oct. 1981 Dr. Thomas Pettit of the Jules Stein Eye Institute of UCLA performed surgery to remove the rare congenital cataracts from the lens of her left eye – and Mrs. Pennica saw for the first time ever! The newspaper account doesn’t record her initial response, but it does tell us that she found that everything was “so much bigger and brighter” than she ever imagined. While she immediately recognized her husband and others she had known well, other acquaintances were taller or shorter, heavier or skinnier than she had pictured them.

Since that day Mrs. Pennica has hardly been able to wait to wake up in the morning, splash her eyes with water, put on her glasses, and enjoy the changing morning light. Her vision is almost 20/30 – good enough to pass a driver’s test.

Think how wonderful it must have been for Anna Mae when she looked for the first time at the faces she had only felt, or when she saw the kaleidoscope of a Pacific sunset or a tree waving its branches or a bird in flight. The gift of physical sight is wonderful. The miracle of seeing for the first time can hardly be described. Yet there is a seeing that surpasses even this – and that’s seeing God. The irony of Mrs. Pennica’s “miracle,” according to Dr. Pettit, was that “surgical techniques available as far back as the 1940’s could have corrected her problem.” Mrs. Pennica lived 40 of her 62 sightless years needlessly blind.

There is a passing that surpasses even this story and that is seeing God. When we pass from this life and see the face of Christ the joy will exceed the accumulated joys of a life on earth. This moment will exceed anything that people on earth experience when encountering a celebrity.

The time and place that Jesus spoke these words found in the Sermon on the Mount was a time when much of made of being impure. Only a few were considered pure. If you were a farmer or a Roman Soldier or came from a poor family you were considered impure. Only the religious elite were considered pure and they did all kinds of ritualistic things to insure their purity on the outside was in tact.

Jesus was not talking about that kind of purity. He was talking about being pure in heart. There was a time in the history of the Church of the Nazarene that we thought God was bigger than sin! There was a time when we took seriously the words of 1 Peter 1:15:

“14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

We took seriously the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24:

“23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.”

We believed that 2 Corinthians 5:17 was a real truth:

“17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

What does all of this mean for you and I today. As we sit here in this place this morning there are many people who come through these doors each week and they want to be Christ followers but they are struggling with some sin that drags them back down during the week. Actually I am comforted by those who at least are wrestling with it. Those who have acquired a compatibility and comfortableness with sin and no longer are even attempting to live out their faith are very scary to me. It is heartbreaking really.

Who is stronger, God or the devil? Who is more powerful in your life, Satan or the Holy Spirit.? Is it possible to be so full of the Holy Spirit that we don’t give place and priority to the devil, or sin in our lives? Can you believe that we used to believe that God was bigger than sin? By the way I still believe that. I have never understood teaching that says God the creator sent His Son to die that we might still be not fixed as his creation, not made better just made right. Dallas Willard referred to this as “bar code religion”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it cheap grace. Yet, it is really just another form of religion. In cheap grace religion no one is ever challenged to "live a life worthy of the calling they have received" (Eph. 4:1). Dallas Willard calls this phenomenon the gospel of sin management. In reality, it takes the new life promised in the gospel of Jesus and reduces it down to the act of removing sin-guilt. The goal of the Christian life becomes avoiding hell rather than experiencing fullness of joy and life. This has had a tragic impact on the way we live and how we teach others.

So what exactly is Jesus saying here? “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Let’s look at this a little closer today. Jesus said we would “see God.”

An Internal Purity

The question is, how do we become recipients of this promise? Jesus said it would happen by being pure in our hearts. Very likely this ‘pure in heart’ comes from the Old Testament teaching found in Psalm 24:3 – 5:

“3 Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?

4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. 5 They will receive the LORD’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. 6 Such people may seek you and worship in your presence. . .”

The Old Testament prophets relished the idea that someday God would enable His people to have pure hearts. Ezekiel wrote these words,

25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.[b] 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” Ezekiel 36:25-27

Jeremiah, another Old Testament legend looked ahead and foresaw a time when God would put His “law into their minds and write it on their hearts.”

Jesus came to earth and encountered a group of religious people called Pharisees and He seemed to often be perturbed by them. They taught in essence, Blessed are the outwardly pure in heart for they shall see God.

In Matthew 23:25-28 we read these words:

25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[i] and then the outside will become clean, too.

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Jesus calls all of us to a radical inner purity. He is calling us today to this same thing. He is looking for a people who will love Him with all their soul mind and strength. He is looking for a people who will live out the idea of loving ones neighbor as himself.

Are you beginning to see it today? Are you beginning to feel the call of God as presented in the words and teachings of Jesus Christ?

It is simple really. We are expected to live out what is in this book. Aren’t you tired of the way you’ve been just slopping your way through life. You are passionate about the wrong things. You are giving your time and energy to things that really don’t matter all that much. I know we have to work and we have to go to school but there is a higher calling and priority in the lives of authentic Christ followers and that is that we seek to know and understand what Christ calls us to and then we do it. We live surrendered live to Him. We live in community. We look after one another’s families. We are a community of believers that pass down our beliefs to our children. (Nursery, Children’s ministry, student ministries) What are you passing on? What are you handing down or out to others? How important is this faith you were given?

A Devotional Purity

The word “pure” used in this teaching was a word in the Greek that was used to describe pure water, metal without alloy, or feelings that are unmixed. Here it carries the idea of being free from every taint of evil.

Often the phrase “pure” or “pure in heart” is thought to primarily refer to having a pure mind regarding matters of sensuality or sexuality. While this is certainly indicated it is not the exclusive meaning. It goes much deeper. This means a heart that does not have mixed motives and divided loyalties in its relationship with God. It is a heart of singleness in devotion to God – pure, unmixed devotion.

James wrote about this when he says, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded” In other words, rid yourself of mixed motives, duplicity, double-mindedness; be simple and pure in your devotion.

Let me give you an example of what devotion is not. Do you remember being introduced to someone and they keep talking and smiling but at the same time they are looking behind and around you at other people and things. They really are not interested in you but they are apparently seeing you as means to an end. In the God-man relationship such behavior is scandalous. “Pure” is represented by the words, focus, absorption, concentration sincerity and singleness. It is focusing on God with a singleness of heart.

A teaching like this will produce frustration in some you. Hopefully some of us will push past the frustration and even what we have been taught in the past and begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. At the end of this section of teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 You can let a verse like that drive you to despair or you can ignore it.

Allowing it to drive you to despair is allowing it to make you vulnerable and open for God to show you what He meant by these words. We casts ourselves on His grace, not so we can keep on breaking the rules and sinning willfully, but for renewal. No, let me say it a little differently, radical renewal.

We must ask him to implant and nourish His kingdom in our lives. I believe with all my heart that you and I can have as much of God as we want. How much do you want? I believe that if we live out these words that Jesus is teaching they will take root in our souls and grow within us.

Is the character of God’s kingdom in your life? In other words, are you living out your faith on a daily basis? Are you surrendered in every area to the things of God? Hebrew writer:

Jesus said the reward would be that we would see God. Let me talk with you about that for a few minutes.

Seeing God: How do we see God in this life: Helen Keller said when asked if it was terrible being blind and deaf, “Better to be blind and see with your heart, than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” We see Him with our hearts when we live in devotion to Christ and His word.

Seeing God Now: You can read the Bible and get nothing out of it but once you know God and you are hungering and thirsting to know all about Him you will find Him on the pages of His word. You will see Him in creation. In Psalm 29, David was watching and listening to a thunderstorm and penned these words.

3 The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The LORD thunders over the mighty sea 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

He saw the lightening and wrote: “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightening” (v. 7)

Job saw Him in the difficulties of life and wrote, “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)

Seeing more of God: This sixth Beatitude is suggesting that the purer our hearts become, the more we will see of God in this life. The more we become focused on Him, absorbed with Him, concentrated on His being, freed from distractions, sincere, -- single minded, the more we will see Him.

Even adversity in our lives will bring Him into focus more clearly.

Ultimate sight: Our ultimate sight will come one day when as the pure in heart we stand before God. That moment will be more joyous than anything we have ever experienced.

“25 “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. 26 And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God![b] 27 I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:25-27 Here is the complete Beatitude: “Blessed (approved of God) are the pure in heart (those with a clean, unmixed heart for God) for they will (continuously) see God (in life and eternity).”

Improving Your Vision

     1. Be absolutely honest with God about your heart’s condition.
     2. Acknowledge that only God can make your heart pure.
     3. Fill yourself with God’s Word
     4. Think about what you will be in eternity.

The apostle John wrote: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” I John 3:2,3

Paul wrote to Titus and reminded him: “ 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14

I am including in my notes the whole of Hebrews chapter 12. I would encourage you to read it on your knees and make it into a prayer.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?[d] He said,

“My child,[e] don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”[f]

7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?[g]

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.

18 You have not come to a physical mountain,[h] to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[i] 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”[j]

22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.

25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”[k] 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.

28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.

A couple from Bakersfield, CA purchased a new boat, but they were having serious problems. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get the boat going. It was sluggish no matter which way they turned or how much power was applied. After an hour of trying to make it go, they putted to a nearby marina, hoping someone could tell them what was wrong. A thorough check on the topside of the boat revealed everything was in perfect working condition. The engine ran fine, the out drive went up and down, and the propeller was the correct size and pitch. Then, one of the marina guys jumped in the water to check underneath. He came up choking w/ laughter. Under the boat, still strapped securely in place, was the trailer!

Ridiculous! But not more ridiculous than the many believers are puttering around wondering why their Christian life isn’t working – it’s simple, they have sin attached beneath the surface of their lives that needs to be removed.

Verse: If you confess your sin, He is faithful and just to forgive of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. 1 John. 1:9

The Catholic church gives us this prayer:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me so, O Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. Amen.

In Christ We Have:

A love that can never be fathomed
A life that can never die
A righteousness that can never be tarnished
A peace that can never be understood
A rest that can never be disturbed
A joy that can never be diminished
A hope that can never be disappointed
A glory that can never be clouded
A light that can never be darkened
A purity that can never be defiled
A beauty that can never be marred
A wisdom that can never be baffled
Resources that can never be exhausted.