Summary: We can con our coworkers, fool our friends and family, play charades with church members, and even deceive ourselves, but we can’t masquerade before the Lord because He sees right through our masks.
Pursuing Purity in an Impure World
I remember seeing a cartoon that shows a pastor and his wife deep in conversation. The wife says, “Today let’s do something different. Why don’t you be charming at home and grouchy at church?” Ouch. That really doesn’t apply to me…because I’m often grouchy in both places! I think I’ve used this one before but it reminds me of the wife who said, “Sometimes I wake up grumpy…and other times I let him sleep in.”
We all wear masks, don’t we? As believers, many of us have learned how to behave in such a way that people don’t really see what’s taking place on the inside. We can con our coworkers, fool our friends and family, play charades with church members, and even deceive ourselves, but we can’t masquerade before the Lord because He sees right through our masks. I want to confess this morning that just because I’m preaching on the Beatitudes doesn’t mean that I’m managing to perfectly live them out. Unfortunately, I wear a mask. Do you find yourself behind a mask, too?
Last Sunday we learned about the two sides of mercy. One half involves releasing people from debt through forgiveness and the second part challenges us to restore the downtrodden through acts of compassion. Immediately after the second service, a gentleman came into our building from his travels on I-55 and wanted some help with gas money. I asked Pastor Jeff to talk to him and then Jeff came back and asked if we had any gasoline gift certificates. I told him we were out, but in my heart I thought something like this, “People can’t just come and expect us to meet all their needs. Can’t he see that we’re having church here?” I’m thankful that Jeff had compassion because I sure lacked love for that man in need. I can’t believe what was in my heart so soon after speaking about the Good Samaritan! I feel like Paul did in Romans 7:21, 24: “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me…what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
In his book called, “Rumors of Another World,” Philip Yancey concludes one of his chapters with a quote from Malcolm Muggeridge to show the subtleness of sin: “It is precisely when you consider the best in man that you see there is in each of us a hard core of pride or self-centeredness which corrupts our best achievements and blights our best experiences. It comes out in all sorts of ways – in the jealousy which spoils our friendships, in the vanity we feel when we have done something pretty good, in the easy conversion of love into lust, in the meanness which makes us depreciate the efforts of other people, in the distortion of our own judgment by our own self-interest, in our fondness for flattery and our resentment of blame, and in our self-assertive profession of fine ideals which we never begin to practice” (Pages 123-24). That last line really rings true, doesn’t it? As Christians we do a pretty good job of “mask management,” but if the truth were known, we often make “self-assertive professions of fine ideals which we never begin to practice.” Can you relate? I sure can. I want you to know that I make mistakes on a regular basis, my wisdom is at times suspect, and my heart is often unholy.
The bottom line is that the Lord can see our hearts; and when our hearts are pure, we can see Him. That’s what the sixth Beatitude teaches in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” After manifesting mercy to my neighbor, the attention moves from my neighbor to me, from charity to purity, from external compassion to internal holiness. I like the Message paraphrase: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” The emphasis here is on what’s inside us.
A Passion for Purity
The term “pure” is the Greek word from which we get “catharsis,” which means a cleansing of the mind or emotions. Scholars suggest that the word basically has two meanings. First, it means “to make pure by cleansing from dirt, filth, or contamination” and was most often used to describe metals that had been refined by fire until they were free from impurities. It was also used for soiled clothes that had been washed clean, and of grain that had been carefully sifted to remove all impurities.
Second, it refers to being “unmixed, as having no double allegiance.” In his commentary on this passage, Warren Wiersbe writes that the “basic idea is that of integrity, singleness of heart, as opposed to duplicity, or a divided heart.” Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:33: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Jesus wants us to be single-minded in the depth of our being. James 1:8 teaches that the double-minded person is unstable in all his ways.