Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5:1-10; Luke 19:28-40 “Blessed to be Pure in Heart”

  • Sermon Details
  • Pastor Name: Rev. Daniel J. Commerford
  • Date & Time: March 20, 2016

I think it’s safe to say that the last few months have been some of the most stressful of my life, albeit in a good way. Since January, Rachel and I have had to juggle our work schedules with raising a baby. The other night, we were discussing how, between the adjustment of both of us working, Rachel’s busy season, and a Lenten season that’s hit early this year, we feel more stressed out than we ever had before. At that point, I started to reminisce about my years in seminary and told Rachel that, as much as I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything, I do miss the good old days of seminary when I did not have as much stress. Rachel took one look at me and said, “Really?!? You were always stressed in seminary! When you weren’t in class, you were in the library studying for class. You had little free time and always had deadlines you were working against. Seminary was not a time when you had les stress.” Once she said that, I realized that I have probably been looking back to that time with rose-colored glasses.

This is a behavior that all of us do from time to time. We look back on a period of time or an event only remembering the good times while forgetting the hard. And I feel like I’ve been seeing it more and more in the church world. Many people look at the state of the church and the world today and cringe. All across the nation, church attendance is in steep decline as more people choose to stay home or go to their kids’ soccer practice rather than go to church. Outside of church, many of us lament what we feel to be the moral decline of America. Violence is more prevalent than ever, narcissism is everywhere, and we seem to be getting more and more depraved. For that reason, I hear many people wishing we could get back to the “good old days” of the 50s or 60s, when everyone went to church and everyone shared Christian values.

But were those times really the good old days? I wasn’t alive back then, but I have read a lot about those times. It was a time when women and African Americans had limited legal rights, and even less social rights. It was a time when rapes and spousal abuse were at an all-time high, even though most of them went unreported. It was a time when drug use was so rampant that it led to a season of disease afterward. So if we take off our rose colored glasses, we would see that those times were not any better than they are today. No matter what the time, we are sinful people who make our world a depraved one. tHis goes all the way back to Genesis 3-4, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and Cain killed Abel a generation later. No matter what the time, our world has almost always been ensnared in sin.

This is important to remember when we look at Jesus’ words when he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” We are going to focus on those words as we continue our series on Jesus’ Beatitudes that we started all the way back in February. Today, we will see what Jesus meant by “pure in heart,” and see what we can do to be pure in heart. And by doing so, We will explore together how we can be blessed  by seeing God.

If we wanted to know what Jesus’ definition of pure in heart was, we could find it by looking at the rest of his ministry. Looking at the totality of Jesus’ ministry, we can see that being pure in heart means that 100% of our heart is completely clean and without blame. Anything less than that is not pure, and anything less than that disqualifies us from being able to see God. No matter how much we try to be pure in heart; no matter how much we read the Bible, go to church, try to be good people, all it takes is one second of sin to become impure. If we, even for a second, give in to pride, cruelty, greed, vindictiveness, greed, dishonesty, or wrath, we have made it impossible for us to be pure in heart. I don’t know about you, but I think I disqualified myself for that a long time ago.

As we can probably see by now, being pure in heart on our own merit or our own strength is impossible. We just can’t do it. But Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” And that means that it has to be possible for us to be pure in heart, or he wouldn’t say it otherwise. So how can we be pure in heart? The answer is that we can’t on our own. But if we completely surrender all of our heart to Christ, he will come in and make our hearts pure. It’s only through the righteousness of Christ that we are able to be righteous. Anything we give to Christ, he makes pure. Anything we hold back from Christ will remain impure.

But even though it seems so simple, is that not the most difficult aspect of following Christ? As Christ-followers, we know that Christ doesn’t require only the parts of our heart that we choose to give to him. Christ requires the complete, unconditional, and unequivocal surrender of our entire heart. And that can be hard because all of us have a piece of our heart that we like to keep for ourselves. We may give Christ most of our heart, but we all try to hold on to something so that we can control it. Maybe it’s that part that wants us to be the final arbiters of right and wrong. Maybe it’s that part that that wants to decide what we should and should not do on a Friday night. Maybe it’s that part that wants to keep us thinking about our own interests instead of others. No matter what part it is, any portion of our heart that we do not surrender to Christ will inevitably rot in sin.

But Jesus gives us words of hope! He tells us “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” The hope we have is that, the more we surrender our hearts to Christ, the more we can see what God is up to in our lives and in our world. Sometimes it takes complete immersion and submission to learn about something. When I was 13 years old, I spent a month in Italy staying with a family who wanted their child to learn English. At the beginning, I knew no Italian and he barely knew English. But because he had no choice but to speak English to me, and I had no choice but to learn a little Italian to talk to people there, by the end of the month, we had both picked up a lot. But it took a complete surrender of our situation and a recognition of our immersion to get to that point. In the same way, we can only see the world through God’s eyes if we completely surrender our hearts to Christ and Christ alone.

Today is Palm Sunday, which observes the day that Jesus came into Jerusalem. And when he came in, he was met by a crowd who loved to submit some of their hearts to him. They loved the idea of a savior, which is why they yelled “Hosanna” win the streets. But sometime throughout that week, they begun to realize that Christ demands all of our heart, and when they realized that, they began to change their tune. Instead of yelling “Hosanna,” they began to yell “crucify him!” Their failure to submit to Christ led to their desire to crucify him.

This week, we enter into Holy Week. We will be observing Maundy Thursday and Good Friday here, and I hope y’all will make it to those services. IT’s important that we don’t skip from Palm Sunday to Easter because Jesus had to endure a week of hell before he got to the empty tomb. He did that for us. Christ submitted himself to us so that we can surrender our hearts to him. So let us spend this week surrendering all of our hearts to Christ. And I mean all of our hearts. As we make our way to the cross, I want to challenge all of us to use this week to give up what we need to give up, surrender what needs to be surrendered, and give all of our hearts to Christ. The empty tomb is just around the corner, but until we get there, may we remember to give to Christ what is his, so that we an be pure in his sight. To God be all glory, honor, and praise, amen.