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Can I have a Clean Heart in a Dirty World?

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Can I have a Clean Heart in a Dirty World?

6th Beatitude, Sermon #7 in series

Read Scripture – Matthew 5:8

The great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, once said, “I have had more trouble with myself than any other person I ever met.”

If we are honest, I suspect we all can identify with him. 

Why is this so?  Could it be because of our split personality?  There is this beautiful person inside of us that genuinely wants to be clean, kind, truthful and forgiving; but there is also that other part of us that is a source of thoughts dreams and motives that we are ashamed of.

The Apostle Paul described the dilemma in a very vivid manner.  Listen to him:

“No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right.  I want to, but I can’t.  When I want to do good, I don’t.  And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.  But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.

 

It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind.  This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” (Romans 7:18b-24 NLT)

Can you identify with that description?  Do you sometimes cry out inside: “What a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?”

I have very good news for you.  Chapter 7 of Romans does not stop with verse 24.  There is another verse – verse 25, “Who will free me?”  “Thank God!  The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The whole next chapter, chapter 8, talks about life lived under the control of the Holy Spirit.

There is an answer to our dilemma and His name is Jesus. 

It is the person who has found this answer that Jesus was referring to when He said: “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.”

It is God’s will that every one of us have a pure heart.  Jesus did not come only to teach.  He came to make us what He teaches we should be. 

How crucial that we understand that purity of heart is not a spiritual option for Christians or a nice goal for a select group of Christians.  Hebrews 12:14 puts it this way “Those who are not holy will not see the Lord.”

Put that statement up against the words that Jesus says in this Beatitude:  “Those whose hearts are pure…will see God.”

Whatever a holy and pure heart is, our Lord makes it clear that it is essential; not some add on or some nice option.

I.                 WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE A PURE HEART? 

First, it means to have a single purpose.  Jesus put it this way: “No one can serve 2 masters.  For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)

The problem with the person that the Apostle Paul described in Romans chapter 7 is that he or she is divided.  That person is trying to live under the leadership of 2 masters without giving either master up.  Jesus says, you can not do that; for one of these masters – the master named God Almighty will not tolerate that kind of attitude. He demands our total allegiance.  He is no different than the husband or wife who demands total allegiance from their spouse.  How could he be otherwise and be a God of integrity?

William Barclay tells of a famous Danish sculpture who completed a magnificent statue of Jesus.  His work was so impressive that soon his fame spread over Europe.  One day the French government contacted him and offered him a commission with a very high salary to carve the statue of the Roman goddess Venus.  He answered them: “The hands which carved the figure of Christ can never carve the figure of a heathen goddess.”

That is the voice of a pure heart.  The issue of who is Lord, of who we are living for – it has been settled.  Not even money – lots of money – can change it.

For the pure in heart, there is only one opinion that really matters – the Heavenly Father’s opinion.  What does it mean to have a pure heart?  It means to have a single purpose.  And that single purpose of a pure heart is to please the Heavenly Father. 

Second, it means to have a cleansed attitude. 

It is God’s will that you and I have a pure mind and pure motives.  God is concerned that our reason for doing what we do is pure and clean. 

One of the great saints of all time, John Bunyon, author of Pilgrims Progress, was once told by someone that he had preached well that day and he answered sadly, “The devil already told me that as I was coming down from the pulpit.”  You see, he had learned the danger of self-centered pride.

The 6th Beatitude demands from us utter sincerity.  Is our work done from motives of service to God or from motives of pay? 

Is our service given from selfless motives or from motives of self-display?

Is the work we do in the church done for Christ or for our own prestige?  In other words, am I working for me or am I working for God?

Do we read the Bible and pray from a desire to be in God’s company or is it because it is the thing someone else expects us to do?

Oswald Chambers asked a rather disturbing question: “Do I awaken sympathy for myself when I am in trouble?”  Then, he says, “I am slandering God because the reflex thought in people’s minds is: ‘How hard God is with that man.”  It is easy to slander God’s character.

Do we compliment people because we love them and wish to give them joy?  Or is it because we love ourselves and want to manipulate them and flatter them?

Jesus said: “Blessed are those whose attitudes and motives have been cleansed – made pure.”

There is an important truth wrapped up here.  God is far more interested in our motive than in our performance – performance is important but the motive is far more important.  He asks, “Why do you do this?”  before He asks, “How well did you do?” 

II.                WHAT IS THE RESULT OF HAVING A PURE HEART?

The Beatitude itself answers the question.  “They will see God.”

“Cleanness of heart brings clearness of vision.”  Sin blurs and obscures our vision to the point that God becomes invisible. 

To put it another way: “Our spiritual vision depends upon our character.” 

Jesus had something to say about this: “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

I like the King James Version: “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Only a single-minded person can see spiritually.  Have you ever tried to look 2 directions at once?  The result is that you end up not seeing clearly in either direction.  As Jesus put it, there is nothing but darkness and confusion.

This truth has a beautiful implication: God reveals Himself, not to the talented or the intelligent, but rather to the pure in heart.

Knowledge of God comes as a result of obedience; not intellectual ability.  That is why a disobedient person with a high IQ is being honest when he says, “I don’t see God”.  Or “I don’t understand”, or “I just can’t see it that way.”  He or she is blind and the only cure for their eyes is heart purity.

That is why an obedient person with a low IQ can understand great mysteries and deep truths.  Their eyes have been opened and cleansed and their vision has been corrected. 

Our ultimate problem is not an intellectual problem, but a moral problem.

“God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.”

III.               HOW CAN MY HEART BE PURE?

The Psalmist David answers that question.  After he had committed adultery, he prayed to be made clean and pure again.  What did he do?  What was his secret?  How does this apply to me?

First – he confessed his need to be pure.  He cried out in

Psalm 51:3-4:

“I recognize my shameful deeds – they haunt me day and night.  Against You, and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in Your sight.  You will be proved right in what You say, and Your judgment against me is just.”

That is the beginning point – admit our need.  Admit our spiritual poverty.  Admit that God is right and we are wrong.

Second – David believed that God would reach down and change his life.

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”  (Psalm 51:7)

Third – he prayed a definite prayer for his own personal cleansing.

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God.  Renew a right spirit within me.”  (Psalm 51:10)

Fourth – he surrendered his life to God.

Listen to his prayer as he continues in the Psalm:

 

“Restore to me again the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.  Then I will teach Your ways to sinners, and they will return to You.  Forgive me for shedding blood, oh God who saves; and I will joyfully sing of Your forgiveness.  Unseal my lips, oh Lord, that I may praise You.  You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them.  If I brought You a burnt offering, You would not accept it.  The sacrifice You want is a broken spirit.  A broken and repentant heart, oh God, You will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:12-19)

God heard and answered David’s prayer.  He will answer your prayer when you pray it with that level of sincerity.

You may say, “Pastor, suppose I have lost purity of heart; can it be regained?  Can a thief become honest again?  Can an evil person become righteous again?”  Those are heavy questions, aren’t they?

Let me answer those questions by telling you about one of the greatest saints who ever lived. 

Her name was Mary – Mary Magdalene.  She is referred to by early church leaders as the “Arch- Virgin – the highest of virgins.”

Not content to call her merely a pure woman, Augustine lifts her far above other women.  But do you understand that tradition tells us that she was a common prostitute of the streets.  She was both vile and vulgar.  Mark’s Gospel says she was delivered of 7 demons.  But one day she came in contact with the One who is Himself the purest of the pure.

As one has put it, “She so loved Him with her heart that all her affection was poured out on Him.  She so completely took Him to heart that her evil desires were cast out.  Being filled with the purity of Christ, she herself became pure.”

A little while later we find her standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross.  And guess who is by her – Mary, the Lord’s mother, the pure mother of Jesus.  The 2 are standing there together, Mary, the forgiven prostitute and Mary, the blessed mother of our Lord – both pure. 

It is significant that on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene was the first person chosen by Christ Himself to be sent forth to tell the Gospel message.  She saw God that Easter morning because her heart was pure.

Can a person become pure again?  Absolutely.  If Mary Magdalene could become pure again, then there is hope for every one of us.

“God blesses those whose hearts are pure for they will see God.”

 

 

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