What Does it Really Mean to Be Pure in Heart?
- Stephanie Englehart stephaniemenglehart.com
- 2021 11 Feb
Apart from God’s grace, there is no happiness. It is because of God’s common grace, (meaning His undeserved kindness bestowed to all people regardless of their love and belief in Him) that all people whether Christian or not—can experience one degree of happiness or another throughout the world that is. Delicious food, pleasure in sex, a beautiful sunset, and a good friend are all examples of God’s goodness and common grace. True and lasting happiness, however, is rooted and overflows from experiencing God’s saving grace. The saving grace of God satisfies our souls and offers joy no matter what surrounds us. We only find this kind of lasting happiness through belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Meeting death without God leads to eternal separation from Him. Common grace will not exist without His presence, and all happiness will cease. Those—who in faith submitted their lives to Jesus—will experience eternity without tears, sin, shame, or brokenness—finding all happiness and fulfillment in the Lord. But those who do not believe, those of an impure heart will find condemnation and separation—eternity unfulfilled and devoid of any glimpse of joy. It is only through God’s saving grace that we can come to have a pure heart before God. His blood purifies our souls and grants us the ability to see God—partially now and fully in eternity. Those who are pure in heart, are happy in God because they have seen God in Jesus and eagerly anticipate the joy of seeing Him fully face-to-face.
What Is the Meaning of 'Blessed Are the Pure in Heart'?
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus teaches His disciples, (in what have now been coined, “The Beatitudes”), “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Being blessed is a state of well-being or happiness in relationship to God. The pure in heart are happy because their sin has been pardoned, and they’ve been granted access to God the Father. In our culture, the word “blessed” often refers to receiving immeasurable riches, material goods, or fame. But in the kingdom of God, to “be blessed” refers to our satisfaction in God and the joy of our salvation. King David demonstrates this truth as he understands the weight of sin, and asks for a renewed delight in God’s salvation:
“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” - Psalm 51:8-12
David accepts that when his sins are hidden from the face of God, joy and gladness are found amidst brokenness. He’s made the connection that a pure heart and spirit restores joy. If we have put our faith in the gospel, then our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and our lives are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:17, Ephesians 1:7).
Who Are the Pure in Heart?
Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, all sinners who put their faith in Christ alone are granted a pure heart. Those who have been called and redeemed by God—who “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) are those who are pure in heart.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly calls us to a life of purity—a life without sin and defilement. Many believe that sin is an outward behavior or action taken, but Jesus teaches that sin is what comes out of the heart. Our sin is revealed through our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-22).
Those who are pure in heart will “put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:12-13).
Those who are pure are not just those who clothe themselves in compassion but are primarily those who God has forgiven by His Son on the cross. We understand that those who are pure will see God and be happy. But our lives are not fully about being happy. On earth what matters most is our holiness. For without striving for holiness, we will not see God, thereby negating our happiness (Hebrews 12:14).
How Can We Become Pure in Heart?
We can’t become pure in heart on our own. It is only by an act of God’s grace, that He cleanses us and makes us pure in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. By God’s grace, we recognize that we are sinners in need of a savior, turn from a life of impurity, and give ourselves to walking in purity and holiness, (aligned with the will and Word of God). In Psalm 24:3-4 David writes,
“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may 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.”
Our hearts were made to have one allegiance, and that one allegiance is to Christ alone. If deceit, hypocrisy, and double-mindedness are found within us, our hearts are not pure. The facade we hide behind on social media, in our community, or in our professions may fool some, but God is not swayed by the fake we placate. God knows when we sit and rise. He can perceive our thoughts and knows our words before they ever hit our tongues. There is nowhere we can flee from His presence (Psalm 139:1-7).
We demonstrate that we are pure in heart by being transparent before God and others about our sin. God already knows all the sin we ever have or ever will commit, but those who desire a pure heart will confess it to Him, turning from their unfaithfulness, and resting in His grace. When we begin to be honest with God and others, there may be repercussions, but grace that is functional will free us from the enslavement of deceit and tether our hearts to the mercy and goodness of God. Living a transparent life of faithfulness removes fear and shame, and offers sweet joy even if we face consequences.
Faithfully loving God exemplifies our purity of heart and looks like casting aside all other idols. We cannot be divided in our devotion to God but must stand firm in our faith in Him. Our lives should not reflect a ‘Jesus and’ mentality. We become pure in heart by ridding ourselves of all other ties and submitting ourselves to Christ alone. We love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind acknowledging that everything we have is a gift from Him. We utilize our time, talents, and treasures to glorify God, and humbly submit our lives to Him. As we do this, obedience to His commands grows as we love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Ultimately though, we cannot grow in purity, if we do not know God’s word. James 1:22-24 says:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
In order to love God, we must know Him, and in order to know Him, we must hear the Word and do what it says. This is why it is so important to study and obey the Word of God diligently. If we want to have a pure heart, we must start at the foot of the cross, putting our faith in the Savior, and following all He commands. For the great gift of becoming pure in heart, is the joy of seeing God.
How Can We See God?
As believers now, we see God through the medium of Jesus Christ. We experience His goodness and grace through the Spirit working in our lives and the lives around us. We see His glory and common grace through the created world, and we see Him most fully through the Word of God in Christ’s work on the cross. Even Moses as He asked to see God was refused. For God’s glory is too much for us to bear in its full force. Moses was privy to see only God’s back (Exodus 33:18-32). He saw Him partially, just as we see Him partially. But one day, Jesus will return “coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Revelation 1:7).
As John Piper said in his sermon Blessed Are The Pure in Heart:
“Virtually all of our spiritual sight in this life is mediated to us through the word of God or the work of God in providence. We “see” images and reflections of his glory. We hear echoes and reverberations of his voice. But there will come a day when God himself will dwell among us. His glory will no longer be inferred from lightning and mountains and roaring seas and constellations of stars. Instead, our experience of him will be direct. His glory will be the very light in which we move (Revelation 21:23) and the beauty of his holiness will be tasted directly like honey on the tongue.”
As we love God, we grow in purity, and as we become pure in heart, we see God. We see Him in all His glory, and wonder, and power, and authority, and love, and justice, and mercy—and in him, we find the fullness of joy.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” - John 15:8-11
Who Can Really Be Pure in Heart?
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/ksenija18kz
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.