Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Matthew 5:8

Tom Pennington  •  November 6, 2011
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

Some of the little sayings and aphorisms that are a part of our lives that we repeat thoughtlessly really aren't true. For example, you remember when you were kids (and your kids still say things like this) sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, what? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Words will never hurt me? They hurt far more more and leave far greater scars than sticks and stones ever will. There are other sayings however, that I think are true, and that we sense the truth of them. For example, sometimes you'll hear someone say "a picture is worth a thousand words." There's a very real sense in which that is true. And so it's not surprising that even though God communicated to us through words in the Scripture, a lot of those words paint pictures for us. They draw pictures in our minds. So it's not surprising then, that even the Old Testament law is filled with thousands of pictures.

One of the pictures that God gave His people had to do with the issue of cleanness vs uncleanness. Some of the laws of cleanness and uncleanness that you read about in the Old Testament law had to do with issues that are truly moral issues. For example, sexual sin of various kinds rendered a person unclean. That's not ceremonial uncleanness; that's moral uncleanness before God. But other laws that are included in the Old Testament–if you read it at all you understand–had to do with issues that frankly were not moral issues. For example, if you lived in Old Testament times, touching a dead body could render you unclean. Having a menstrual cycle, having a skin disease, and countless other everyday occurrences. Another example of those laws of cleanness and uncleanness that aren't moral issues, has to do with the food laws that were given to Old Testament Israel. Certain kinds of animals were considered clean, and others unclean. If you ate the unclean, then it rendered you personally unclean as well. It wasn't moral uncleanness except for the fact that you had disregarded what God had said, but there was nothing inherently unclean about eating the flesh of that certain animal, eating the flesh of a pig for example. For which those of us who live in barbecue land in northern Texas can be grateful. It was ceremonial uncleanness. But the question is why.

Why would God have laid down those laws of cleanness and uncleanness and included things in there that were not moral at all? These laws that determine whether you were ceremonially clean or unclean were very important because they pictured something. They pictured that there were those who could approach God and there were those who could not approach God. Only a person who was clean could enter into God's presence to worship at the tabernacle, or later the temple. If you had lived in Old Testament times, this would have deeply penetrated your everyday life, because there would have been many different ways, almost countless ways you could have become ceremonially unclean. In some cases that meant that you had to remain outside the camp of Israel, away from your family and friends. And more importantly, uncleanness always meant you had to stay away from the tabernacle or temple, where God's presence was physically represented. So throughout your life, through these ceremonial laws of cleanness and uncleanness, you would have had before you constantly, a three-dimensional living-color picture of one absolutely crucial spiritual lesson. Here's what the laws of cleanness and uncleanness taught. Only a person who is clean by God's standard can enter God's presence. Let me say that again. Only a person who is clean by God's standard can enter God's presence. That is a timeless, unchanging law of God's moral universe. So the picture God provided in the Old Testament law made a deeply, profoundly spiritual point. But, sadly for the Jews, eventually the picture became the reality. They began to think that the external, including what foods you ate, became the source of real spiritual cleanness or uncleanness. So, Jesus, you remember, during His earthly ministry waded into that and set that straight. Jesus said the real source of uncleanness is not what a person eats, or interacts with externally. What truly renders a person unclean before God is his what? His heart. To enter God's presence, you have to have a clean heart.

That's the point of the next beatitude that we come to today. I invite you to turn with me to Matthew 5:8. We find ourselves in a slow journey through our Lord's most famous sermon, and in the middle of the beatitudes which begin that sermon. The beatitudes are intentionally descriptive ways of identifying, of marking, those who truly belong to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. You want to know whether or not you are in Jesus' spiritual kingdom? Look at the beatitudes and see if those things describe you. So, with that in mind, let's look at verse 8. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Jesus says spiritually healthy are those who are characterized by a pure heart. Now, again, this brief statement that appears so simple on the surface is absolutely filled with profound truth. So how is it that we can mine the truth that's here? Well, in our time together this morning, I want us to consider several key issues about a pure heart–several key issues that help us understand a pure heart.

The first issue we need to consider is this: the place of purity. Notice verse 8 again. "Blessed are the pure in heart." The pure in heart. Right away we discover that Jesus is not talking about some kind of external purity. He's not talking about legalism. He's not talking about mere externalism. There are always people in every generation who claim to know God, who think that God is happy with externalism—with a kind of hypocrisy that does what God wants on the outside, but preserves the inside for themselves. If I just do the right things, then God will be happy. We can be guilty of mistaking this false kind of cleanness with true spiritual purity. It really demeans God, because it thinks that God is easily satisfied. God will be okay if I don't smoke and I don't chew, and I don't run with girls that do. You know, if I don't listen to certain kinds of music, and if I don't watch certain kinds of entertainment, if I don't do the things I shouldn't do, and if I go to church, and it doesn't matter if I'm sitting there and my mind is a million miles away, I'm there, and God will see me there and He'll be okay with me.

In Scripture, genuine purity does express itself externally. For example, in Psalm 24:4, from which our Lord may have drawn this beatitude, it says this. "He who has (not only a pure heart but also) clean hands" That means what you do, your behavior, how your heart expresses itself. But true purity doesn't start in the behavior. True purity starts in the heart. Proverbs 30:12 says there are people who are pure in their own eyes yet have not been washed from their filthiness. They think they're pure because they do all the stuff on the outside that's right, but inside it's not true. If you want to see a case in point, turn over a few chapters to Matthew 23. On Tuesday of the passion week our Lord confronts–on the temple mount, during the week of Passover, with hundreds of thousands of visitors there for Passover–our Lord confronts the spiritual leaders of the nation of Israel with a series of blistering denunciations. We call them woes. He's basically saying, may you experience God's wrath because of these things. We could even say, with Paul, may you be damned because of these things. Notice what He says in verse 25. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees" Stop there. Listen, when we hear scribes and Pharisees we think, oh yeah, those guys. And we have this sort of demeaning perspective of them. That would not have been true in the first century. These appeared to be deeply spiritual people. And Jesus says woe to you scribes and Pharisees. And here's why—you're hypocrites. What you are on the inside doesn't match what you appear to be on the outside. "For you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence." I love that. Notice how Jesus talks to them first. Right there in the middle of this crowd He says to the scribes and Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish. And then He turns to the crowd and He says but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You clean up nicely on the outside, but it's not your heart. Verse 26 "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish so that the outside of it may become clean also" Worry about who you are inside and not just who you look like on the outside. Verse 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (here's another picture) You also are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." So, you, too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. The problem isn't what happens outside. The problem is what's going on inside. Our Lord makes that point in Mark 7. He says, you know, don't think it's the unclean foods you eat going in that defile you. Remember this? He says it's not what goes into a man that defiles a man. It's not what touches you externally that defiles you. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, and adulteries and murders. Your real problem and my real problem is our heart. If we could be locked away from birth in a padded room with no visitors, we would still be wretched sinners and would find a way to manifest that sin because of our hearts. The Pharisees of Jesus' day had made purity about all things external. But Jesus says, listen, that external purity is not enough. Not nearly enough. Blessed are the pure in heart.

Now, this is one of those times when the English word gets in the way of what the Bible's trying to say, because the English word heart has very little resemblance to the Greek word heart. When we use the English word heart, what do we most often mean? When do we most often use it? February. Valentines Day. Right? What do we mean when we use the word heart like that? We use it primarily of the emotions. We contrast the head and the heart. In English, we think with the head and we feel with the heart. That is completely contrary to the biblical meaning of the word heart. Both in Hebrew and in Greek, both in the Old Testament and in the New, the word heart refers to the center and source of the entire inner life of a man. It includes your intellect, your will, your disposition, your emotions, your desires, your virtues, and your vices. It is the real inner you. That's your heart. It's where you think. It's where you make decisions. It's where you experience emotions. It's where you desire things. It's where you love. It's where you manifest, in your soul, before it comes out, your virtues and vices. Jesus says that to belong to His kingdom, and to be spiritually whole, true purity must reside in our hearts—in our entire inner self. So the first issue that you have to consider when you look at this beatitude is the place of purity. It must characterize the heart: the entire inner self

But what exactly is this purity that Jesus is talking about. Now, let's examine secondly the meaning of purity. It's to be in the heart, but what is it? Look again at verse 8. "Blessed are the pure" The pure! What does that mean? Well, the concept of a pure heart wasn't new in Christ's day. It is in the Old Testament on several occasions. For example Psalm 24:3-4 says "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?" In other words who, what human being can approach the presence of God. Speaking of the tabernacle or the temple. Who can come into the presence of God? And the answer is:"He who has clean hands and a pure heart," But what does that mean—a pure heart? Well, the Greek word that's used for pure here in Matthew 5 is katharos. Several of our English words are simply transliterated straight from Greek into English from this word. For example, the word catharsis. The English word catharsis is essentially equivalent to the Greek word. Both the Greek word that's used here and the corresponding Hebrew word in the Old Testament scriptures have two primary senses, and I want you to get this. Mean two specific things, two primary senses. First of all it can mean pure as it's translated here. And by pure, this is what they mean. Not having foreign particles or impurities, unadulterated, unmixed. For example, if you go back to the end of Exodus where it's talking about building the tabernacle, over and over again God says, when you use building materials, I want you to use pure gold. He uses this word. What do you mean by pure? He meant unmixed with impurities, unadulterated, gold that isn't mixed with other substances. Now, if Jesus was using this sense of the word here in this beatitude in a metaphorical way, this is what He was saying. Blessed are those whose hearts are undivided, whose loyalty to God is unmixed, whose loyalty is single-minded. That may be what God is saying–a person who is wholly devoted to God in their heart. That's possible. But I don't think that's likely, because the second meaning of this word is by far the most common in both testaments.

And the second sense of this word that permeates the Scripture is clean. Clean. It means to be free from what is dirty and defiled. Now, that kind of cleanness can manifest itself in several ways. It can manifest itself physically. A moment ago I read to you Matthew 23, where Jesus talks about cleaning dishes, cleaning cups to make them clean. Cleaning the outside, cleaning the inside. A physical item can be clean in the sense that it is physically free from dirt and defilement. Later in Matthew's gospel, in chapter 27, he talks about the cloth that was used to embalm Jesus as being a clean linen cloth. Same word. So it can be physically clean. Another manifestation of this idea of clean is ceremonially clean. For example, you go back to Leviticus, not that you have your devotions in Leviticus, mind you, but if you were to go back to Leviticus and you were to read the accounts that are given there, you would find that there are things that become ceremonially unclean if they're touched by something else. They might still be physically clean. They might harbor no contamination physically, yet they are ceremonially unclean. The third manifestation of this word, and the one I think Jesus means here, is morally clean. For example in Habakkuk 1:13, the prophet Habakkuk says of God, "Your eyes are too pure to approve evil" He didn't mean physically pure. He didn't mean ceremonially pure. He meant morally pure. God, Your eyes are so free of defilement and sin, that You can't look on sin with approval. So, based on how Matthew uses the word, and based on its primary meaning throughout the scripture, I think its far more likely that Jesus was using this second sense of the word, the idea of clean. And it's obvious that He wasn't talking about being physically clean, or ceremonially clean because He talks about being clean in our hearts. Right? So by process of elimination you can see that what we're talking about here is the third idea of clean, and that is morally clean. So here's what Jesus is saying. Blessed are those whose hearts are not dirty or defiled by sin. Jesus was saying that those who are truly blessed, those who belong to His kingdom are without the moral defilement of sin in their true inner selves—in their wills, in their emotions, in their thoughts, in their disposition, in their desires. Their hearts are morally clean.

Now, before I go on, let me just clarify something. Especially for those of you who are younger than thirty. Because the word clean has been redefined in recent years. If you ask a person who's younger about a movie and they say it's clean, what do they mean by that? They mean that there is no explicit sexual act in the movie. That's not what the word clean means. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, clean in this sense means free from spiritual or moral pollution. Free from spiritual or moral pollution. Chaste, innocent. That's what Jesus means. He means that, in our hearts, we are to be completely free of moral or spiritual pollution. So let me put all that together. Really listen to Jesus' point here. Jesus is saying, those, and only those, who are truly spiritually clean in heart, by God's standard, will ever enter God's presence. Wow. That's a pretty high standard.

So where does this purity come from? Since it's so important. We now know what it means. But thirdly we need to consider the means of purity. How does that become true of me, and of you? If you're thinking with me, and I hope you are, at this point you realize that not just some of us, but all of us in this room this morning have a huge problem. Because the elephant in the room is the reality that that describes none of us. Not a single one of us is by nature pure in heart. As the church father Origen used to say, every sin stains the soul. Or as the nineteenth century Russian author Ivan Turgenev said, "I do not know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I do know what the heart of a good man is like, and it is terrible." This is the testimony of scripture. Over and over again in Job, Job and his friends are dealing with this issue. In Job 4:17, "Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his maker" What's the answer? No. Job 25:4 "How then can a man be just with God, or how can he be clean who is born of a woman?" Proverbs 20:9 "Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'" Obviously, the answer is no-one. The prophet Isaiah in 64:6 says this: "For all of us (every single person here—all of us) have become like one who is unclean, (before God) And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;" Your best deed in your entire lifetime—my best deed in my entire lifetime is like a menstruous rag to God. So how can man, who in God's eyes is not pure in heart, become pure of heart? How can any one of us become morally clean? That's the key issue isn't it? Because blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. So how do I get from where I am, which is not pure, to where I need to be so that I can someday be in God's presence?

As I studied this issue this week, I chased the entire word group of this word pure throughout the scripture. I looked at it used as an adjective like it is here and in the beatitude. I looked at it as a noun. I looked at it as a verb. I traced the Hebrew equivalent in the Old Testament. I traced the uses of it in the Greek Testament (the Greek New Testament.) And as I did that, I found that the scripture identifies three means of moral or spiritual purity. If you want to move from where you are to purity, here are the three means to move to moral purity.

Number one. At the moment of salvation, God completely cleanses the heart of the believing sinner. If you are in Christ, if there was a point in your life when you acknowledged and came to realize your sin before God, that you deserved nothing but His eternal wrath; and you threw yourself upon His mercy, you were willing to repent of your sin, to turn from what you knew to be sin in your life, and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; at that moment in time, God made you clean. Let me show this to you in the promise that was made back in the prophet Ezekiel. Turn back to Ezekiel 36. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel give us what they call the New Covenant. And Jesus, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews, all tell us that you and I, as New Testament believers live under the New Covenant and its terms. Here in Jeremiah and Ezekiel it's given to the people of God in the Old Testament, Israel, but it's not exclusively for Israel. Again, Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews say that you and I participate in the New Covenant, whether we're Jewish or not. Look at Ezekiel 36:25. Here was the stipulation God made in the New Covenant. ". . .I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be (what?) clean;" I, notice the subject of the verb. God will do this. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. "Moreover I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone (that hard heart, that unresponsive heart to God. I'm going to take that heart out, and I'm going to) give you a heart of flesh." –a heart that's tender and responsive, that loves God and wants to please Him and to know Him. Verse 27 "I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." That's the New Covenant. That's what, if you're a believer, you have experienced, and it happened at the moment of your conversion. It happened at the moment you repented and believed. At that very moment God cleansed your soul. He washed it clean. Now, notice in these verses, there are two aspects of the new birth. In verse 25, God cleans away the defilement of our hearts—the stain if you will—the multiple stains we have laid layer upon layer on our souls by our sin. And in verses 26 and 27, God recreates us. He takes out one heart and He gives us a new heart, a new kind of life, a life and a heart that loves God, and wants to obey Him. This is what God did to you the moment you became a follower of Jesus Christ. The New Testament makes this clear as well. Let me just give you a few examples. Acts 15:9. The apostle says God made no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles, but He cleansed all of our hearts by faith. That's what happened at conversion. He cleaned our hearts. Ephesians 5: 26 speaks of Christ sanctifying His church, but He does that because in the past, He cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. That refers to regeneration. It refers to that new life, that new heart, that washing and cleansing that God does at the moment of conversion. Hebrews 10:22 speaks of those of us who are in Christ having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. It's already happened. I Peter 1:22 Peter writes of our responding to the gospel. ". . .you have in obedience to the truth, purified your souls" At the moment of conversion, when you responded in obedience to the truth of the gospel, God purified your soul.

So a Christian, then, is by definition one whose heart God has made clean or pure. According to 2 Timothy 2:22, Christians are those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. How did that happen? How does God cleanse the heart that is completely unclean, that is stained beyond recognition? That's what each of us did to our hearts. How does He do that? Well, there's only one way. He does it through His grace because of the death of an innocent substitute. That's it. It was true in the Old Testament. If I were to take you back to Leviticus and to the Day of Atonement, you remember, that annual day when atonement was made for the sins of the people of Israel. Listen to what Leviticus 16:30 says. ". . .on this day (the Day of Atonement) atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD" That animal had to die as the substitute for the sinners who deserved to die, and through that, God could extend cleansing. But that animal didn't clean anybody's heart. That animal's blood was not sufficient to do that. It was merely a picture of the sacrifice that would come. Look at Hebrews 9. There we learned that it was Jesus, in His blood, that brings true cleansing from sin. Hebrews 9:11. "But when Christ appeared as high priest of the good things to come, (that is, the promises made in the Old Testament) He entered into the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is to say not of this creation" Just let me short circuit all of that and explain. All the writer of Hebrews is saying is, Jesus didn't minister in an earthly temple. His ministry took place in God's presence. And, verse 12, not through the blood of goats and calves. He didn't offer God the blood of animals, but His own blood. Through that,

He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,

Again, all that is, is a picture from the Old Testament. Before they could use the temple, and all the stuff in the temple, it had to be specially, ceremonially cleansed. And he's saying, if by following God's directions, that could happen, (there could be a ceremonial cleansing) then, verse 14. "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." It was through—Old Testament and New Testament—it was through the death of an innocent substitute that God could bring cleansing to the one who was dirty. So, at the moment of salvation, God completely cleanses the heart of the believing sinner.

There's a second means to purity. God continues to cleanse the hearts of believers in response to their own ongoing confession and repentance of sin. It doesn't stop when you're saved. It doesn't stop at the moment of conversion. God cleans your heart then, but you need ongoing cleansing because you and I still sin. Turn back to Psalm 51. It's one of my favorite Psalms; it's such a magnificent expression of repentance. I was enjoying it this week (myself separate from my preparation for this message) and I was struck by a couple of verses here. Now, remember how David had sinned. He's a believer. He's a true believer before this happens, and he, first of all, had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Secondly he had arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed—second degree murder. And then he had waited nine months. He lived in hard-hearted rebellion for at least the nine months that she was pregnant. And into that, God confronts him, and this wonderful poem is the expression of his repentance. But notice what he says in verse 2. He says, God in response to my sin, I want you to "wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin". God, I have stained my soul with my sin. Wash it out of me. Cleanse me from my sin. But I need even more than my heart to be cleansed. Look at verse 10. It's so bad, the stain I have brought on my soul is so bad, David says, I want you to recreate my heart and make it clean. Start from scratch as it were. That's confession and repentance. That's asking God to respond to your sin day in and day out, believer, with cleansing. And He'll do that. Isn't that what 1 John 1 says? 1 John 1:7. ". . .if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light (and that's true of all believers) we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son keeps on cleansing us, day in and day out." How? In response to our confession. Verse 9. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

So, understand this. Being pure in heart does not mean the total absence of sin—at least in this life. You can be pure in heart and be a part of Jesus' kingdom in this life and not be completely free of sin. Lloyd-Jones puts it like this. "Who are the pure in heart? They are those who are mourning about the impurity of their hearts" Well, it takes us right back to the first couple of beatitudes doesn't it? Blessed are the beggars in spirit, who mourn their sin. That hasn't changed.

There's a third means to purity. We are to cleanse our own hearts of the patterns of sin. This doesn't mean I can really make my own heart fully clean. But here I mean clean in the sense that we refuse to tolerate that which is unclean in our lives. To use the language of the New Testament, we're talking about sanctification, or as the Puritans used to call it, mortification. Kill the sin in your life. Don't tolerate it. Cut it out. Excise it. Find a way to get rid of it. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul puts it like this. In the context he's talking about idolatry. To the Corinthians he says: "Therefore, having the promises (God has made us in the Old Testament) beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." He's saying, get serious about your sin. Kill it. Put it to death. Work hard to cut it out of your life. Be willing to take radical steps to get rid of your sin. James puts it like this in James 4:8.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; (in other words, get rid of those sins in your life,) and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.

Be repentant. Pour out your heart in mourning. Confess your sin. But don't stop there. James says I want you to cleanse your hands. In other words, work at cutting the sin out of your life. Let me put it to you like this. The fact that you and I cannot truly cleanse our own hearts doesn't mean that we just give up, and that we just live in the gutter waiting for God to cleanse us. Instead, we are responsible, biblically, to do everything we can–to expend maximum effort. And when we expend maximum effort, understand that it's not enough—that you can't cleanse your heart and neither can I. But God will not cleanse our hearts if we are unwilling to expend the effort. There's one passage where the idea of our cleansing ourselves in repentance and God cleansing us come together, and you can see what the relationship looks like. Turn over to Isaiah 1. Isaiah is confronting the sin of the people of Israel. They have this externalism. They were doing all the right things externally but their hearts weren't right and therefore, even though they were doing the external practice of religion, they weren't living righteously, and in their hearts, they weren't righteous. So notice what he says to them in verse 16 of chapter 1.

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from my sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless. Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow"

In New Testament terms, this is John the Baptist saying bring forth the fruit of repentance in your life. You say you're repentant? Okay, put up or shut up. In response to that repentant heart–we don't earn God's forgiveness; we don't earn His cleansing. But in response to that repentant heart, notice what God does in verse 18. "Come now, let us reason together says the Lord. Though your sins are as scarlet (in other words, though you have stained your heart beyond recognition), it can be as white as snow; Though your sins are red like crimson, they will be like wool". Where there is a repentant heart, where there is a longing and desire to do what's right, and a pursuit of what's right with whatever power we have, God responds to that with true cleansing.

So to have a heart that is pure, or clean morally, God has to clean you. He has to wash your heart. And such a person is pure in heart, even though there are still the remnants of sin. I love what Thomas Watson, the English Puritan writes in his book on the beatitudes. Listen to what he says. He says we have to distinguish the various kinds of purity. He says there are different kinds of purity. First of all, he says, there is primitive purity which is what is in God. He is essentially pure, as light is in the sun. That's who He is. Second, he says, there is created purity. This is the holiness that's in the angels, and was once in Adam before the fall. Thirdly, he says, there is an evangelical purity. That is, there is a purity that's gospel caused. Listen to this—this is us. "Where grace is mingled with some sin like gold in the ore. This mixture God calls purity in a gospel sense. As a face may be said to be fair which has some freckles in it. (I love that) Where there is a study of purity,( that is where there is a desire for, a longing, a pursuit of purity and a loathing ourselves for our impurity,) this is to be pure in heart." That's exactly what Lloyd-Jones says as well. In other words, what we need, putting all of this together, what we need is the purity of regeneration—that initial cleansing God does when we come to Christ, and the purity of ongoing sanctification. We confess and repent our sins daily, and we work to cut the sin out of our lives knowing we can't cleanse our hearts; only God can.

You can see these come together in an amazing illustration our Lord gives in John 13. Look at John 13. You are of course familiar. This is the night of the Last Supper, just before the Last Supper, and it's before the crucifixion of Christ. And in that context, Jesus washes the disciples feet. Now, in the washing of the disciples feet, Jesus was doing two things. One, is He was illustrating humble service of others. We understand that. But He was doing something else, and He explains it here. Look at verse 8. He comes to Peter, and you're familiar, Peter, meaning well says, you know, thinking, Lord, it's not right, you're not my slave. I'm your slave. Never will you wash my feet. It was well motivated. But Jesus answered him, because He's got something else He wants to illustrate. He says "If I do not wash you, you have no part with me".

So Simon said to Him, okay Lord, then don't wash just my feet but my hands my head– give me a bath. Jesus said to him–here's the point. "He who has bathed already needs only to wash his feet, but is already completely clean. And you (and the pronoun in the Greek text is plural. He talks to all the disciples) You are clean, but not all of you." Or better, not every one of you. And the reason He said that, verse 11, is because Judas was still there. He knew the one who was betraying Him. For this reason He said not all of you are clean. But the other eleven were clean. Now remember, folks, these are the very same guys who have been arguing about who is the greatest. These are the same guys who are going to deny Christ that same night. And He says to them, you are clean, because you've been bathed. What you need to understand is that when you came to faith in Christ, God gave you a bath—a soul bath. But you still sin and so do I, as we walk through this world. What we need is, as we live out our lives, we need Jesus to do for us what He did for the disciples. We need Him to wash our feet. We need Him to deal with the sin every day in our lives. We've already had the bath. We don't have to go back and be bathed again. But we need our feet washed. Every day you and I ought to be at the feet of Christ, begging for Him to wash our feet. We already have been bathed in regeneration. We need our feet washed in ongoing confession and repentance. So those are the mans of purity. Regeneration, ongoing confession and repentance for the believer, and sanctification. Cutting sin out of our lives.

Now there's one last issue about purity in this text. Go back to Matthew 5:8. It's the promise to the pure. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". This is what true believers have always longed for, always desired. We want to be in His presence. We want to see God. But in this life that's impossible. If you or I were to see God today, we would be incinerated like that. That's exactly what God said to Moses. Moses knew God as no one else has, face to face, the scripture says. When Moses asked to see God, you remember what God said to him in Exodus 33:20. You cannot see my face, Moses, for no man can see Me and live. If I showed you My full self, Moses, you'd be incinerated in a moment. I'm too holy and you're too unholy for that to happen. And yet, the desire to see God face to face has always been the desire and expectation of the saints. Job, in Job 19:26 (I love this) He says "even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God, whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another". Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 says, now, as believers, it's like looking in a mirror dimly, but then, we'll see God face to face. 1 John 3:2. "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it's not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is." Like Moses, as we are, we cannot see the Lord's face and live. But when the Spirit has completed our sanctification, when we are completely clean, we will see His face. Christian, just stop and think about that for a moment. You and I, creatures of the dust, will one day stand before the sovereign God of the universe and see His face. That ought to put everything else in this life in perspective. It's going to happen. It'll be one of the greatest blessings of the future.

But what exactly does it mean to see God? Well, theologians have answered that in two ways. Now, right now today, as Christians, we see God by faith. That's what the writer of Hebrews meant when he talks about Moses. He endured all the stuff in Egypt, as seeing Him who is invisible. We see God by faith today. We see Him in creation. Unbelievers don't. We see Him in His providence over the events in our world, in history, in our own lives. Unbelievers don't. We see God in His word. Unbelievers don't. We see Him now, but dimly, as in a mirror. But in the future, and this is what Jesus is primarily talking about here, we will see God face to face. How can that be? In the universe, there are two kinds of substances. There is material substance or matter, and there is immaterial substance or non-matter. The Bible teaches that God is, in essence, immaterial. In His essential being, God has none of the properties that belong to matter. Jesus says in John 4, God is spirit. God is not material. So what does it mean that we will see God? It has to mean one of two things. It means either that we will see the second person of the Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ, who as the God-man eternally will have a human body that can be seen. Or it means that God will, just as He did in the Old Testament, choose to reveal His non-material self in some physical manifestation like perhaps blazing glorious light. We just don't know. But we will enjoy what theologians call the beatific vision. That is, we will gaze on God. Whether it's the human form of Jesus Christ, or whether it's some physical manifestation of God, it will forever be a moving, enrapturing, compelling, life changing vision.

Turn to where it all ends, over in Revelation 22. In the new heavens and the new earth, this is how it's described. This is the end game—the end of the story, or the beginning of the story, is probably better. Revelation 22 verse 3. In that new heaven and new earth

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in    it, and His slaves will serve Him; they will see His face,

But notice the end of the previous chapter, Revelation 21:27. In that place there will be nothing unclean. No one who practices abomination and lying, those things that are abominable to God, including lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life—those who've been made clean through regeneration. D. A. Carson puts it like this. "The pure in heart will see God. Now with the eyes of faith and finally in the dazzling brilliance of the beatific vision" Let me ask you this morning, has God cleansed your heart by faith? Have you experienced the radical cleansing of the new birth? Has God bathed your heart? If not, all you can do today is cast yourself on the mercy of God and beg for Him to radically clean you from the inside out. You need to repent of your sin. You need to put your faith in Jesus Christ who died as a substitute for all of those who would ever believe in Him. Christian, let me ask you, are you daily repenting of and confessing your sin like David did in Psalm 51? Asking God to cleanse you—the stains you put upon your soul? Are you seeking to put off those patterns of sin in your life in true repentance, understanding you can't change yourself—you can't cleanse your heart? But struggling simply to obey the commands to cut those things out of your life? And as you do that, God will change you and cleanse you.

I want to conclude with this quotation from Thomas Watson. It moved my own heart this week. I want to share it with you. He says to Christians "pray for heart purity. Job propounds the question, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. God can. Out of an impure heart, He can produce grace. Pray the prayer of David. Create in me a clean heart O God. Most men pray more for full purses than pure hearts. We should pray for heart purity fervently. It is a matter we are most nearly concerned with. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Our prayer must be with sighs and groans. We often pray so coldly, as if we would teach God to deny our request. We pray as if we cared not whether God heard us or not. O Christian, be earnest with God for a pure heart. Lay your heart before the Lord and say this (and here's what I want you to hear—listen to this prayer. I'm going to put it in more modern English so you aren't lost in the language.) Lord, You who have given me a heart, give me a pure heart. My heart is good for nothing as it is. It defiles everything it touches. Lord, I am not fit to live with this heart, for I cannot honor You, nor to die with it for I cannot see You. Oh purge me, let Christ's blood be sprinkled upon me. Let the Holy Spirit descend upon me and create in me a clean heart, O God. You who bid me give You my heart, Lord, make my heart pure, and You shall have it." Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Let's pray together. Our Father, how we thank You for Your grace. Lord, we would never see You if you left us on our own. We thank You for the grace of regeneration. Lord, those of us in Christ, we thank You that there was a day when You brought us to repentance and faith. But before that, before You gave us those precious gifts, You changed our heart. You sprinkled clean water upon us and You cleansed us from all our sins, and then You gave us repentance and faith and we expressed those as a result of that radical change that You had produced. Father, help us to live in light of that. Help us who know You, to live in a pattern of continual confession and repentance like David, asking You to cleanse our hearts. And Father, help us to be diligent, not to change ourselves, which we can't do, or to cleanse ourselves truly, which we can't do, but Father, simply to seek to obey you by cutting the sin out of our lives. And Lord, our prayer is, as we make our feeble efforts to obey, that You would do what we can't do—that You would cleanse and forgive and sanctify. Father I pray for the person here—undoubtedly there are a number here this morning—who have never experienced that kind of radical cleansing. Father I pray that today, they would cry out to You to take out their heart of stone and to give them a heart that's tender toward You, that loves You, longs to please You and obey You. Father, may this be the day when they turn to Christ, who alone can do it by His sacrifice. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.