Summary: 6th sermon in an 8 part series on the Beatitudes. This series challenges us to "Shift" our thinking in what really brings true happiness. (*Rewritten and refreshed in 8/08. Powerpoint and Video Clips available on request)
The Heart That Sees
The machine that usually did the job was broken. And so they hired a man to paint lines on a newly resurfaced portion of a remote highway. The first day he painted 9 miles, and the supervisor, impressed by such an effort, told him he would hire him full time and give him a big raise if he kept up that pace for the next few days. But the next day he was able to paint only 5 miles. On the following day he did only one mile, then the next day a half a mile. The supervisor fired him but asked what had happened. "It isn’t my fault," the man muttered as he walked away shaking his head, "I just kept getting further and further away from the can."
I’m sure that story is not true but here’s something I know that is. Our happiness depends on the purity of our hearts. The Bible teaches there is nothing more important than preserving a pure heart. Prov. 4:23- "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do."(NLT) You see, the further we get away from maintaining the heart, the more distance is placed between us and God. Ultimately we find ourselves shaking our heads and muttering how it isn’t our fault that we are so miserable. So, Jesus gives us the 6th piece of our happiness puzzle and says: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Notice the order, 1st purify the heart, then you will see God. Attitude over action, happiness from the inside out. That’s opposite of what we usually do. We typically try to change the inside by altering the outside. Jesus, says, “No, you don’t get a pure product without cleaning out the refinery first.” Since that is true, let’s take a close look at this sixth beatitude.
I. THE DEFINITION:
American’s are increasingly concerned about purity. We want to breath pure air, we want to eat foods without chemical contaminants, we want to drink pure water. But as important as those things are Jesus addresses none of them. Instead He says we must have a pure heart. What exactly does that mean? Well, let’s break it down and begin by understanding His definition of purity.
The word Jesus uses for pure is the Greek word "Karthos." In its simplest form it means, "clean, without defect or blemish." In Jesus’ day the primary use of the word had to do with ceremonial purity. This conception regarded purity as a matter of ritual obedience to a set of regulations. For example: Before a Jew could sit down to eat, he not only had to wash his hands but he had to cleanse them in a certain way. Not in the interests of hygiene, but in the interests of ceremonial purity. William Barclay: "First of all a person had to hold each hand with the fingers pointing upwards, and pour water over the hands until it reached the wrist; then he had to cleanse each palm by rubbing it with the fist of the other hand; then he had to hold the hands with the fingers pointing downwards, and pour water from the wrist so that it ran down the hand and off the fingers." The slightest deviation from that process rendered a man unclean. Parents, can you imagine trying to get your kids to wash their hands before a meal that way? You’re just glad they wash theirs at all. There were hundreds of regulations that a Jewish person must keep in order to be pure. You see, for them, purity was completely externalized. Purity, was a matter of observing certain ceremonies. Jesus completely contradicted that concept with 2 words.. “You must be pure... in heart. He used the word, not as applied to ceremony but to the inward being. "Karthos" in Jesus’ context it means, "unmixed" or "undivided," without pollution in reference to a man’s relationship to God.
We know that because of the meaning of the Greek word for heart that Jesus uses: "Kardia." You can hear the English words we get form it. Cardiac, cardiology. Why did Jesus say a person needs a pure heart? Obviously not all of us have pure physical hearts. Several of you here have had procedures to clean out some of the arteries in and around your heart. None of us thinks our relationship to Jesus is dependent upon the physical condition of our heart, so what exactly does Jesus mean? W.E. Vines, explains it: "Physically, the heart, the chief organ of life, occupies the most important place in the human system. It was an easy transition from the physical to the spiritual.. Spiritually, the word Kardia came to stand for the central part of one’s personal life. Their entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and emotional elements. In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life." We use the word heart in a similar sense even today. We say, "Don’t break my heart." A hit song many years back was, "I left my heart in San Francisco." Now, the song writer wasn’t talking about a transplant at some hospital in California, but how he left his inner self, his yearnings and longing back at the Bay. For Jesus, the heart was the totality of our person, the cockpit, the control tower, the seat of character, the origin of affections, perceptions, intentions, purpose, will and faith. Do you see what Jesus was trying to get across by using these two words together?