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Author:Rev. John van Popta
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Congregation:Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church
 Burlington, Ontario
Preached At:
Title:The Pure Will See God
Text:Matthew 5:8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Readings: Matthew 15:1-20; 23:23-39

Psalm 24:1,2,3
Psalm 51:2,4
Psalm 17:1,2,6
Hymn 54:1,2,3
Hymn 54:4,

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and Sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ

Blessed are pure in heart for they will see God.

They will see God. This is truly among the most amazing things every promised in scripture. They will see God. This is the greatest reward possible. To see God. The highest good. The summum bonum. This is what we long for. This is the final destination. The goal of our lives. To see God. To enjoy him forever.

But then to understand this we need to understand these words. What is the heart? What is pure? How is purity possible. How can we see God, if scripture says that none can see God and live? These eleven words have a wealth of riches, a depth of meaning, a profoundness that is hard to plumb, to measure in one sermon. But we will make an attempt".

What did the Lord mean when he said "pure in heart"? What did he mean when he said "see God"? This morning I would speak to you of the truth of the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ in this sixth beatitude with this theme.

The pure in heart will see God.

1. The heart
2. The pure
3. The vision

1. the heart

To come to terms with this saying, this proverb, this beatitude we need first of all to understand what is meant by the heart. The heart in scripture is the centre of our being. The heart is the centre of life. We as modern people often think of the mind when we speak the heart. However, it means far more than that.

The heart is the seat of emotion. The Bible calls the heart the place of feeling, of love, of joy, of peaceful understanding. It is the centre of the will. The heart is the place where we make decisions. From where we set the course of our lives. This what we would call personality. Personhood.

Life not only has its source in the heart. Even as the heart, as long as it is beating is a symbol and sign of physical life, so also the heart is the centre of the soul and spiritual life, as well as intellectual life. The heart, in scripture, is the soul-centre. It is the focal point of central unity. It is the power behind mans dynamic activity. It is the source of ethical living.

Here, scripture says, we find the thoughts of the mind, the perception and will of the human spirit. Here we find the knowledge of self, our knowledge of God, the knowledge of the Law of God, our knowledge of our relationship with God. Here we find moral character. Godly wisdom. Ethical behaviour. The heart represents the whole inner being of person: who you are. It symbolizes the rational, volitional, emotional centre of our being.

But scripture says that the heart is wicked and impure. From it come wicked thoughts and desires. Jeremiah says, "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it?" Out of the heart come evil desires, murder, adultery, thefts, false witness, blasphemy. That's the Lord Jesus" assessment of the human condition. His list is a sort of negative summary of the 10 commandments. The heart is desperately wicked.

And then we see that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ right from the beginning was a message for the heart. This was not new to the Lord Jesus: no, this was the teaching and accent of the Old Testament as well. But in the days of the Lord there were many in Israel who had lost this sense. They had transformed the covenant good news of the Old Testament into an outward religion. They were concerned with outward purity.

In the Old Testament the laws are full of regulations and stipulations concerning cleansings and washings. Religious and moral demands were portrayed by these laws. The items of the temple were to be washed. The sacrifices, the organs, had to be washed. The Pharisees made all sorts of laws about cleansing and washing. The washing of bowls and plates and hands. They were concerned with the outward symbols of religion. They forgot the weightier matters of the Law: love God and love of neighbour.

So when the Lord says, "Blessed are the pure in heart" notice what he does not say. He does not say, "Blessed are the intellectuals." And in accenting the heart, he shows that the Christian faith is one that concerns first of all the heart. Now, of course we know that doctrine is important. It is important to think rightly about God. It is important for a church to have confessions and then to uphold them. Of that there is no doubt or dispute. Doctrine is essential. Understanding of the gospel by the church and its members is crucial. An intellectual grasp of the doctrine of the church is absolutely necessary for the church. But it is not only that. In fact, the intellectual apprehension of the gospel stands in service to the heart.

We must never allow ourselves to think or act as if the gospel was a series of propositions. Of some facts: This is what original sin is. This is what justification is. This is what sanctification is. This is what glorification is. This is what the church is. Ah, yes it is important that the church understand these things and that it formulates these doctrines in their confessions, but only in service to the heart. The Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism are nothing, if they do not address the heart. The preaching of the gospel from the pulpit is nothing, if you only allow it to address the mind. If you hear the gospel preached, and then only try to judge how well the preacher did and then judge the sermon, then the preaching is nothing. No, we have to sit under the preaching and allow it to judge our hearts.

To only be interested in the mechanics of how to interpret scripture, means that we are treating scripture as if it were Shakespeare or some other literature. No, the gospel concerns the heart. It addresses the head, yes it does that, but not only that. It has to change the way you live from the heart.

And yet the Lord Jesus in this addresses us all, does he not? It is the heart, not the externals. The Pharisees were concerned with the rules and rituals of their religion. The way of life and religion was a matter of conduct, ethics, morals, behaviour. And when we reject the intellectual approach then we say, "Absolutely right. The gospel is a matter of conduct, of life, of living rightly. It is not intellectual; it is life that matters."

But be watch out now! The Christian faith is not about externals! It is not first of all something that you do or how you do it? It is not about rules and regulations. It is not first of all about what you do! It addresses this question? Where is your heart? Where are you? The heart is the place of the intellect; it is the seat of emotion; it is the source of our will. These three. Rational; emotional; volitional. The mind, the emotions, the will. It is the centre of our being. Our sense of who and what we are. It is the wellspring of life itself. It is the total man. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are those who are pure in the centre of their being. Not just on the surface.Blessed are those who have a pure spring at their centre. At the centre and the source of their activity.

When we reject that the gospel is not first of all something that is of the mind, then we must not fall into the trap that we think then it is something that you do. It is of course life transforming. But what we do also comes from the heart. It is out of the heart that we work out our faith in our daily lives. Do not say, "the gospel is not an intellectual exercise; it is rather my life that matters." Do not think that for even there you have missed the mark. The Lord wants your heart. And he wants it to be pure.

"Blessed are the pure in heart." Jesus says. So we know what the heart is; but what is purity when we speak of the heart.

2. What is that purity?

Purity and impurity were important realities in the lives of God's people. They understood what this meant. In our day moral purity and hygiene are separate things. In a sense we are hygiene fanatics in the western world. In a previous century you might have heard a proverb: cleanliness is only second to godliness. There too, cleanliness, hygiene and moral purity are connected. But this has been lost to us. There is no real connection between the two. Hygiene and cleanliness have become part of the scientific world of disease control. No longer is it a matter of moral purity or ethical living.

We need to get a clearer understanding of this so that we can hear with the ears of the disciples and the crowd there on that Galilean hillside. What did they hear when the Lord said "pure?" "Pure in heart."

We have a better grasp of what the heart is. But what was purity? In the Old Testament the laws are full of regulations and stipulations concerning cleansings and washings. Religious and moral demands were portrayed by these laws. The items of the temple were to be washed. The sacrifices, the organs, had to be washed.

As we heard earlier: The Pharisees made all sorts of laws about cleansing and washing. The washing of bowls and plates and hands. If you read through Leviticus, you can read about all sorts of purity laws. Laws with respect to leprosy, concerning the handling of the dead. All sorts of laws. These laws accented the holiness of God. And the holiness of his people. They were to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood. A kingdom of priests.

But what was this purity? We can turn to Genesis 17. There the Lord says to Abraham as he confirms his covenant of grace with him: walk before me and be blameless. That word blameless. It means: singleness of heart. (Eenvoudig: for those of you who still understand Dutch.) But then not meaning simple or plain, but rather meaning: trustworthy. Without hypocrisy. Single. Single-eyed devotion. Not serving two masters.

Think of David Psalm, Psalm 86:11 "Teach me your way, O LORD and I will walk in your truth. Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." That is the trouble of the human condition. A divided heart. One that is not blameless in single minded, single-hearted devotion to the Lord. One part of us wants to serve the Lord. The other drives us away. Our lives are marked by a divided heart.

Make my heart one. Or as we sing in Psalm 86: "unite my heart and aim." Make my heart and the direction of my life the same. The good that I do I do not do, and that which I do not want to do is what I do. There is a war going on in my mind. "In your covenant you demand of us that we be blameless. That we have a singleness of mind and purpose. Of heart and aim. But we fail so often, Lord."

"Who can ascend the hill of God?" Psalm 24: "He who has clean hands and a pure heart." One whose heart and aim are one. Whose direction of life and source are the same: single-minded purpose so serve the Lord. And then again we must refrain from formalism. We are not walking blamelessly if only the external actions of our lives are in line with the will of God.

Hear the Prophets: I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though your bring me burnt offerings, I will not accept them" Away with the noise of your songs" Rather let justice roll like a river; Righteousness like a never ending stream. Not sacrifices, but justice. Not songs, but righteousness. Or Isaiah 1 When you come before me, who has asked this of you. What is this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings. Your incense is detestable to me. Your hands are full of blood" Make yourself clean. Stop doing wrong, learn to do right. Seek justice" Encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless, plead the cause of the widow"

And in Psalm 51 we read, we sing, "create in me a pure heart O God, and put a new and right spirit within me." And Psalm 73:1 says that surely God is good to those who are pure in heart. The Lord wants single-hearted devotion. That is the first sense of the word pure hear. Think only of what James says in 4:8. "Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

The Lord Jesus underlines this truth in Matt 15. There he quotes Isaiah. These people honour me with their lips; but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. And later towards the end of his ministry, he pronounces woe to those whose religion is but external. Woe to you" You tithe not just your crops, but even the spices you grow in your gardens, mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law. Justice, mercy faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides: you strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel.

The Lord Jesus Christ makes short work of the legalists mere ritual and purity. They had no value then. They have no value now. The pure in heart are those who are blameless, upright, whose motives are unmixed, whose minds are sincere, whose emotions are ruled by love of God and neighbour, whose interest is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and his people.

And then we fall down in prayer before the Lord: "Make my heart one, make it single, simple, pure. Take out the folds, the hidden places, let it be whole. Let it be sincere, let it be faithful. Let it be pure." But there is also a further meaning to the word pure. There is a need for cleansing here. Not just single hearted and single minded devotion. But we also need to be cleansed. Scrubbed, purified. Without defilement.

Think only of the closing chapters of Rev where the Lord Jesus Christ speaks. Those who enter into the New Jerusalem must be without defilement. Only those who wash their robes may go through the gates of the city. Outside are the dogs, the immoral, murderers, idolaters, those who love the lie. Nothing impure will be brought into it. Not anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful"

And when we look into the heart of darkness then we are appalled. For we need cleansing. We are not pure in motive. We cannot claim singleness of heart. And yet we long to see God. We desire to see God.

Our 3rd point

In the Old Testament the expression to see God, refers first of all to the worship in tabernacle and temple. To appear before him. To experience his presence in worship. We can refer back to Psalm 24. Who can ascend the hill of God? The pure in heart. He will receive blessing from the lord. Such is the generation that seek him. Who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Or the closing verses of Psalm 17: When I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. Or 42, that song of longing for temple worship. When can I go and meet with God? Literally: when can I go and meet the face of God?

And so we long to be in God's presence. And yet it seems impossible. He dwells in unapproachable light, no one has seen God or can see him, Paul writes to Timothy. And yet this is the supreme desire of the undivided heart, to see God. It seems that scripture also teaches that we can and will see God. Read Hebrews 12:14 a verse certainly applicable to us as congregation. "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness now one will see the Lord."

So what is necessary for us to see God? Holiness, clean hands, pure hearts, undivided loyalty and sincerity of heart. This is not about rules, or decency, or morality, or some intellectual interest in the gospel. No, this is about our hearts: yours and mine. With God there is only light. There is no darkness with him. With him, there is only truth. There is no lie in him. In him is only faithfulness. There is no shadow of change. With him, there is only beauty, and glory, and honour and might.

There is no connection between black and white. Between Christ and Satan. Between the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Only those who are like him can see him. Be perfect like the father is perfect. Be holy like the father is holy.

Oh, impossible. Impossible. Woe unto us! Woe unto us!

And so how can this be possible? How can the Lord Jesus Christ say, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." How can we sinners, see God? Well, we can see him in worship. We can see him in the Word as it is proclaimed. We can see him in the sacraments which confirm the word. We can see him in our lives as we experience his presence.

Jesus has said that no one has seen the Father, but the Son who is with him. Yet the Lord also says, He who has seen me has seen the Father for the Father and I are one. The promise is partly fulfilled here and now. Just as in the other beatitudes. But there is more. A now and not yet. A fulfilment now and yet completed later in glory. With the eye of faith we see the works of God's hands. We see his work in creation. In history. In redemption. Think only of Moses as we read in Hebrews 11. Moses persevered because he saw him who is invisible. And we see God in his gracious dealings with us. He grants us grace and blessing. He sustains us in all our difficulties. Comforts us in all our sorrows. Lifts us when we are bowed down. Imperfect sinners that we are we do see him in this way. In our experience of his gracious dealings with us. Do we not say and confess that we see the hand of the Lord upon us?

But we look forward to something far more. But then we need to also experience that cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. He will lead us to glory. Even as we say in the form for baptism. We confess that the child, the adult baptized in the church will be cleansed. There will be a cleansing from our sins until he shall be finally presented without blemish among of the assembly of God's elect in life eternal. The Holy Spirit promises to impart to us what we have in Christ. Daily renewal. Cleansing from sin. Final holiness in glory.

Now we see only darkly, in a very limited way. In a mirror darkly. (In the Apostle Paul's days, mirrors were made of polished metals. And even they were not that shiny.) We now only see as if in a dark mirror. Distorted, wrong colours but then we shall see him as he is. Daily you are being prepared for this. Daily you are being prepared for this. Daily the Holy Spirit is moving us to greater holiness.

Set your hearts on things above. Store up treasure in heaven. Do we do that? Or are our minds caught up in this world and its struggles? Are we fixing our hearts on things unseen and eternal or are they fixed on the passing things of this world. Are our affections, our emotions, our love attached to everlasting things or do we long for the temporal passing things? Do we meditate on the coming glory that awaits us or are we wrapped up in the mundane. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

So how can we do this? How can we be pure of heart? Many have tried to do this by fleeing the world. Think of monks in the RC tradition. By leaving the world, they believed that holiness could be achieved. But Martin Luther learned the truth. Any attempt at self cleansing only exposes the foulness of the heart. No: create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.

The only way to a clean heart is by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only his presence can cleanse the heart. Only his work can purify the centre of our being. That is our only confidence. That is our only hope. And because of his work we can confess that there is a day coming when we shall be like Jesus. He has promised it.

You can say: "I will enter the city, the holy city, because he is cleansing me." That does not mean now that we can continue in sin. God forbid.

James says, "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you." The prophet says, "Seek the Lord while he may be found." Paul says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who work in you to will land to act according to his good pleasure."

Get to work in washing your hands and cleansing your hearts for God is working in you the will do to that. Do not ignore the work of the Holy Spirit. He is renewing you, so get rid of sin and all that entangles us so easily in the race.

Just because I know that I cannot ultimately cleanse my heart does not mean that I should continue to live a life of bitterness, hatred, and acrimony. It does not mean that I may live a life not learning of God and the doctrine of salvation. It does note mean that I may yield to my sinful inclinations.

"No! unite my heart and aim to serve you Lord." Put to death the sinful flesh. Put on the Holy Spirit, put on Christ. And then this promise is absolutely sure. You are going to see God!

Everyone who has this hope
Which rests in him secure.
From evil purifies himself
As he our Lord is pure.

we know that when our Lord appears
Then we like him shall be
For then his face, him as he is
We shall in glory see.

His face, we shall in glory see.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. John van Popta

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