"Blessed Are the Pure in Heart"#85-10
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 5, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:The Beatitudes)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Matthew 5:8
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I thank you for listening to today's program. Your time is precious, and for that reason I want to share with you something realistic, spiritual, and hopeful. The Bible is a book of promises. Jesus made a promise when He gave the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Today Jesus makes that promise to you.
Many people who go to church today will observe All Saints Sunday. It is a day when churchgoers remember people who have died in the Christian faith. The congregation where my wife and I worship has the habit of tolling the church bell as the name is read of every church member who died in the past year. If you are a churchgoer, someday the bell will toll for you because, well, because you died. If you are not a churchgoer, and fewer people are going to church these days than in the past, one day your name will show up in the obituary.
Now I am not trying to be depressing. Quite the opposite. Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," Seeing God means going to the endless bliss of heaven. Who doesn't want to go to heaven? Who doesn't want to have the blessing here and now of knowing that you have before you an indescribably wonderful future? Who will see God? Those who are pure in heart. Are you pure in heart? Am I?
One way I have learned to think about the question of my own spiritual purity is to think about medical tests. I've gotten to an age where the doctor, I should say doctors plural, because now I go to more than one, I have gotten to the age where the doctors regularly say, "Mr. Meyer, let me order a test." Maybe it will be a blood test. After the test is done, I get a printout of all that the tests showed. The creatine was okay, but the lipids are on the edge. What does that all mean?
My point is there's more going on with my blood than I realize. Same way with my physical heart. Every time I go to the cardiologist, the nurse begins by giving me an electrocardiogram. Then the doctor reports to me. "Here's what's really going on." Wow! I had no clue. I feel good. I exercise moderately, but the medical tests reveal more about my physical heart than I myself know. That's the way it is with our deepest spiritual being before God.
With the heart that Jesus talks about in this beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart." Heart means your spiritual being, your very deepest being. Just as most of us don't know all that much about our physical heart, so it is with our deepest being before God. It might be that I am not as pure as I'd like to think. How pure are you? We need an expert diagnosis. When Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart" that is the only time that statement occurs in the Bible. However, the Bible does talk about purity. It talks about purity a lot.
Scholars agree that we should understand what Jesus says in light of Psalm 24. Let's spend some time on Psalm 24. I'll try to put a picture in your mind. In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was known as the City of God. Jerusalem sits on a mountain. Sometimes it was called Mt. Zion. So, you go up to Jerusalem. You go up to Mt. Zion. On top of that mountain is the ancient temple. To that temple, devout Israelites would go up to worship.
Picture them streaming up to the City of God. Now let's hear from Psalm 24. "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord and who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully? He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob." Those who will be blessed on Mt. Zion are those who seek God, who go up with clean hands and a pure heart, that is, their life, day in and day out, is clean, pure. After all, what's in your heart is going to show in your conduct. That is inevitable.
The person who will be blessed by God is the person who seeks God above all else. Seeks His face and is humbly honest and true with all people. Do your thoughts, feelings, and interactions with others come from humility before God? Or are they driven by what you think is best for yourself? Is the depth of your heart seeking God? Or is it about you? Now we are getting to a real diagnosis of your heart and mine.
The Barna Group conducts surveys about the beliefs and practices of Americans. Now you may be listening to this program from Canada or the Caribbean or another country, but what Barna has found may well be true for where you live. Their surveys have found something drastically different about seeking God and being humble and honest with other people.
Barna put this statement before people, "The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself." Ninety-one percent of Americans agreed. Seventy-six percent of practicing Christians agreed. That is not seeking God. Barna also said, "To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire most." Eighty-six percent of Americans agreed. Seventy-two percent of practicing Christians agreed. Oh there's more, but your time is precious. I'll give you Barna's conclusion. There is a tremendous amount of individualism in today's society, they say, and that's reflected in the church, too. When we peel back the layers, we find that many Christians are using the way of Jesus to pursue the way of self.
While we wring our hands about secularism spreading through culture, a majority of church-going Christians have embraced corrupt me-centered theology. Barna calls it the morality of self-fulfillment. What's all around us is not anti-Jesus; it uses Jesus. Have you ever heard someone described as a user-someone who takes advantage of others for his or her own personal benefit? That's quite different from a daily motivation to seek God, to seek His face, and to live humbly and honestly with all people.
I will confess to you-this is Dale speaking personally-that I often don't do that-that I often put myself ahead of God and others.
Okay, doctor, I say, what are we going to do now? So now we go from the diagnosis to the treatment, from spiritually diseased and self-serving hearts to clean hands and a pure heart before God.
For the treatment, we go back to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Now I am going to make a move, an important shift in today's message. As we listened to Jesus, you and I are listening to the One who already sees God. Jesus is the one and only begotten Son of God. John 1:18 says that Jesus is at the Father's side, and He has made Him known. In John 14, Jesus says, "The words that I say to you, I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me."
Jesus sees God. So when He makes this promise that the pure in heart shall see God, Jesus knows what He's talking about. He sees God because He is pure as God is pure. Jesus has the clean hands and the pure heart of Psalm 24. He loves the Lord God with all His heart and soul and mind, and His purity shows in His sinlessness and in His love and servant heart for people, for you, for me.
St. Paul describes the Son of God this way in a famous passage from Philippians 2: "Though He was in the form of God He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
Do you truly desire to be pure-truly pure? Then seek the face of God. Seek Jesus. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shown in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Although you and I don't see Jesus physically with our eyes, at least not yet, we hear His words in the Bible now. Do you think Jesus' words are pale, empty, blasé? Not at all. They are the words of God. They purify your heart.
Jesus prays to the Father in John 17, "Sanctify them in Your truth, Your Word is truth." Therefore, as Jesus says in Mark 4:24, "Pay attention to what you hear." When you do, one day you will truly see Him with your eyes in heaven. Remember the Bible is a book of promises, wonderful promises. 1 John 3 says, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is, and everyone who thus hopes in Him, purifies Himself as He is pure."
As a professor, I give assignments to my class, and they have to do them. I can't do that with you, but may I suggest you do something for your edification? First, read the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5. Second, read Psalm 24. Notice how they complement one another. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs is a colleague of mine at Concordia Seminary. He is professor of New Testament and has written a commentary on Matthew published by Concordia Publishing House. Dr. Gibbs describes the parallels between Psalm 24 and today's Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount. "Both texts talk about going up a mountain. In Psalm 24, it's Mt. Zion, and in Matthew chapter 5, it's the mountain where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Both Bible passages talk about being pure in heart. Both passages promise that people who are pure in heart will see God.
Dr. Gibbs writes this, "Jesus speaks good news to those who know what it means to seek the true and living God and to go up on His mountain to worship. He blesses in the present time and for the last day, those to whom God has thus revealed Himself." So until that day, when the bell tolls, until that day when you and I will see Jesus face to face, until that day, the Word of God gives you a pure heart.
Martin Luther described it this way, in his down-to-earth style. He says, "What is meant by a pure heart is this: one that is watching and pondering what God says and replacing his own ideas with the Word of God. This alone is pure before God. Yes, purity itself, which purifies everything that it includes and touches. Therefore, though a common laborer, a shoemaker or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, still he may sit at home and think, my God has made me a man. He has given me my house, wife and child and has commanded me to love them and to support them with my work." Note that he is pondering the Word of God in his heart, and though he stinks outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense before God, but if he attains the highest purity, so that he also takes hold of the Gospel and believes in Christ, without this, that purity is impossible. Then he is pure completely. Inwardly, in his heart toward God and outwardly toward everything under him on earth." That's from Dr. Luther.
Your time now is precious. Your eternity is especially precious. Don't despair because the diagnosis of your heart is deeply sinful. Look to Jesus. Let His words create in you a new heart, a pure heart, and then you shall see God. On this All Saints Sunday, I close with the beautiful words of poet Martin Schalling. "Lord, let at last Thine angels come to Abram's bosom bear me home, that I may die unfearing, and in its narrow chamber, keep my body safe in peaceful sleep until thy reappearing. And then, from death awaken me, that these mine eyes with joy may see, oh Son of God, Thy glorious face, my Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, and I will praise Thee without end." Amen.
Nov. 5, 2017
Guest: Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus Title: The Beatitudes
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. As you may already know, Dr. Gregory Seltz has taken a new position in Washington D.C. where his voice and his leadership skills will be used to promote religious liberty. Pastor Seltz, his family, and his work will remain in our prayers. So we're now searching for our next Speaker who will carry on The Lutheran Hour mission of bringing Christ to the nations. As that process goes forward, we've invited some familiar voices to return to The Lutheran Hour microphone. We just heard Dr. Dale Meyer.
Ken Klaus: Dale and I go a long way back, since our high school days in Concordia, Milwaukee.
Mark Eischer: And I'm sure you recognize that other familiar voice as that of Pastor Ken Klaus.
Ken Klaus: I've known him longer than I've known Dr. Meyer.
Mark Eischer: Pastor Klaus is the author of our online Daily Devotions. He's also been our regular Speaker the last Sunday of each month.
Ken Klaus: But that's going to change now, at least for a little while.
Mark Eischer: That's right. Drs. Meyer and Klaus will each take turns at the microphone, each week. One will preach and the other will do something I think kind of unique. He'll give his thoughts concerning the text for the day.
Ken Klaus: Not a second sermon.
Mark Eischer: Definitely not a second sermon. It's going to be more along the lines of insight and perspective on those Bible verses, which could serve as inspiration for the day.
Ken Klaus: Okay, let's begin. Mark, do you remember a number of years ago when The Lutheran Hour was on a recording tour in the Holy Land? You and I and a bunch of our fellow pilgrims were on the hill where some say Jesus gave His Beatitudes, His uplifting words of blessing?
Mark Eischer: Right. I can picture it in my mind. You asked me to read those words of the Beatitudes.
Ken Klaus: That day, I watched the face of the people that were with us; some of them closed their eyes so they could concentrate; some tried to imagine they were there many lifetimes ago when Jesus first said those words. Most of the people in our group had a smile on their face as they nodded at the wonderful beauty of the things Jesus had said.
Indeed, you may study poets, philosophers, princes, and you will be hard pressed to find any words which speak more marvelously and convey ideas more clearly than did those short paragraphs uttered by our Lord. Still, as I was watching the people in our group, I noticed everyone was agreeing with what Jesus said. Nobody stopped you in the middle of the passage and said, "Do you think Jesus was really serious? Do you think He really meant what He was saying?" I'm surprised more people don't do that because quite frankly Jesus' statements are incredibly radical.
Mark Eischer: You mean Jesus' words really don't fit with what most people believe?
Ken Klaus: Absolutely. Think about it. Jesus said blessed are the meek. In what way is a meek person blessed? Mark, have you ever gone into a bookstore or library and found a book telling people how they can make their dreams come true by being meek?
Mark Eischer: Jesus didn't confine Himself to blessing the meek though. He also said a person who was a mourner would be blessed and comforted.
Ken Klaus: Yeah. You can understand if Jesus had said, "Blessed are those who find a gold mine; they will be comforted," or "Blessed are those who win a game show and pay off their mortgage; they will be comforted." But Jesus didn't say those things. I was amazed that none of these wonderful people on the trip seemed to find Jesus' words as puzzling or perplexing as I did.
Mark Eischer: Dr. Meyer today spoke about the pure in heart being blessed because they would see God. That doesn't seem so hard to understand.
Ken Klaus: You know, some time ago, I read about a pastor who was a good, upright, respectable, well, everything an under-shepherd of the Shepherd should be. One day a lady came up to him and said, "Pastor I just love you and your work. You are such a fine man." The pastor looked at her and very gently said, "I thank you most sincerely, but if you could see the things which are really in my heart, you would spit in my face."
Mark Eischer: That really rings true. A person could look good on the outside, but not be so much on the inside.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, we can take that a step farther. What looks good enough to a fellow sinner will not look good enough to a perfect God. Scripture says we've all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. Mark, think about the people mentioned in the Bible, all of them. Let me ask, how many can you name that didn't commit some kind of sin? Indeed, some of the biblical heroes committed some really serious transgressions.
Mark Eischer: So the book of Ecclesiastes is right when it says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." Does that mean no one is going to see God?
Ken Klaus: Yeah, that's exactly what it means. On our own, we are lost, doomed, and damned. Try as hard as we want, work as long as we wish, there is absolutely nothing we can do to get into heaven. That is why we need a Savior.
Mark Eischer: A Savior who did what we did not do and could not do.
Ken Klaus: Exactly. Each of us has broken God's commandments. We can't help ourselves. Our thoughts, our words, our actions show sinful nature and how much we're at variance with God's expectations.
Mark Eischer: But Jesus came into our world and kept those laws for us. The laws we break so easily, He kept perfectly, completely. He did that for us.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, He resisted every temptation to sin. Man, my heart isn't that pure. There are times when I might not do a sin, but I sure thought a lot about doing it. Jesus said no to Satan's seductions each and every time.
Mark Eischer: And there's even more. Not only didn't He sin, He also carried our sins to the cross. I know what I've done wrong. You know what you've done wrong. The weight of those sins alone would have been enough, but Jesus carried everybody's sins.
Ken Klaus: Carried them and then He died the death we deserved, the death we had coming. And still that's not all. If we end with Jesus being crucified and buried, we miss the point. Three days after his burial, Jesus comes out of that grave alive. Forget all that baloney about Him fainting or going into a coma. He had been dead, and then He was alive.
Mark Eischer: But now all who believe on Him as Savior and Lord are forgiven, which means in God's sight, we will be pure in heart.
Ken Klaus: Bingo! Forgiven, we are redeemed and rescued, and we shall when the Lord calls enter heaven where we shall see the Savior who made it all possible.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"On What Has Now Been Sown" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)