Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
February 7th, 2021

A clean heart

The word for pure here Katharos (kahthar-Ros) means clean, clear pure.  And it was a word that the Jewish people of the first century were used to hearing, especially from the Pharisees, who emphasized ceremonial cleanness.

Focusing on their manmade rules had caused them to live their lives working against God, keeping people out of heaven who knew that they couldn’t follow all of the Pharisees rules and requirements, and so assumed that this meant that God just didn’t want them either.  The Pharisees liked it this way, because it left them with all of the power to control people’s lives, and all of the prestige and honor of being looked up to as a Rabbi.  Jesus condemns them repeatedly, and especially in Mathew chapter 23.  In 23:25-26 Jesus says 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may also become clean. It gives us big clues as to what Jesus means when He talks about having a clean heart.  And Jesus’ words emphasize that God is not interested in outward appearances. 

A pure/whole heart

This word katharos (kahthar-Ros) can also be thought of as those who are pure in heart.  Un-adulturated—whole-hearted in purpose and motive. 

And this means being sincere.  We often think of the word sincere as being truthful, but in the New Testament it carries the connotation of being Genuine.  The real thing.  This word refers to something completely clear, free from hypocrisy (deceit, wickedness) which stands in the full light of God’s approval.  A life truly transparent before God and men, without any deviousness, ulterior motives, or impure motivation.  Without wearing a mask, without playing a role, and without guile.  A person who has a pure heart is one who is single-hearted, not divided in heart.  Serving God faithfully, not serving God and something else alongside God. 

We can’t purify our own heart

Well, Jesus demonstrated that the Pharisees hadn’t been able to purify their own heart, despite working tirelessly at following man-made rules based on God’s law given to Moses.  God put our conscience inside us to guide us: Proverbs 20:27 says, “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart.” Our conscience is like a warning light on the dash of our car, but unfortunately, like the “low oil” light on some cars, once the light comes on, there is probably already damage being done.  As we give in to our sinful nature, it warps our conscience more and more.  Sin distorts the conscience, blurs the line between right and wrong, and blinds us to the truth.  A guilty conscience not only affects how we view ourselves, and what we’ll tolerate in our own behavior, it also affects the way we look at others. For example Mathew 7:3-5.

God does the cleaning and the purifying

God has already done what is necessary.  He sent Jesus to die on the cross not only so that our sins could be paid for, but so that our conscience can be cleansed by His blood.  The only detergent that is effective in cleaning a guilty conscience is the blood of Jesus. The Bible says, in Hebrews 9:14 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.

We believers also know that we still mess up from time to time, which of course messes with our conscience.  Well, our loving God has thought of this as well, and has provided for us.

Ephesians 5 v.26-27 says that He saved us the church 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  It’s the reading of the Word of God and applying it to our lives that God uses in this process of sanctification.  As Jesus prayed for the church in John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” 

So, God’s word will correct us, realign us to God’s standard, if we will conform ourselves to it, and allow God to transform us into the image of Jesus

We must be careful to let the Holy Spirit use the Word of God to re-calibrate our thoughts, our ideas, the way that we think things should be so that we will be in line with what the Lord wants us to do, and with what the God thinks is right and wrong.  We can have all sorts of ideas, but we must always make sure that they line up with the Bible.  We read in II Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s Word always points you to Jesus and He becomes your standard for right and wrong, and for how to live as a Citizen of the Kingdom.

For they will see God

Our applying the Word of God to our lives gets us ready to see the Word in person, Jesus.  This process of sanctification that happens in the Christian life is getting us ready to meet Jesus.  And it is important that we are ready to see Him, and have a presentable heart when we do.  David emphasizes that it is the purity of our heart that matters when we approach God, saying in Psalm 24 3-4 Who may ascend onto the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? One who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to deceit And has not sworn deceitfully.

So, begin a relationship with Jesus, let Him wash you in His heart, soul and conscious-cleansing blood.  Allow Him to wash you with the water of the Word, as you apply it correctly to your life, and cooperate with His plan for your sanctification, doing His work in sincere love for Him and for one another in preparation for meeting Him someday and hearing the words “well done good and faithful servant”





Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
January 31st, 2021

Blessed are the merciful,

Mercy, eleos, in the New Testament, is compassion for people in need.  It is an understanding of the wretched state that someone is in, combined with the desire to give them relief from their suffering. 

Mercy Starts with a Merciful God

Ephesians 2:4-5 says  4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), So, we see that it is God’s love for us that motivates His mercy for us, and our faith in Jesus allows Him to demonstrate that love by extending grace to us, making us alive together with Christ.  The kind of mercy that Jesus is telling us that we are blessed in is motivated by love. 

Our relationship with the merciful Jesus allows us to trust God to transform our character into one more like His, causes us to understand more about mercy on the inside.  And our love for Him causes us to want to demonstrate the mercy that we have been shown to others. 

Have Mercy on Sinners, Just like God does

Jesus gives us an example when He was dining at Mathew’s house in Mathew 9: 12-13, and the Pharisees were calling Him impure and incorrect for eating with tax collectors and sinners, [On] hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

The sinners came to Jesus to hear what He had to say.  They were sick with sin, and they knew that they were in need of the physician Jesus.

The Pharisees were all about abstaining from this and sacrificing that to show themselves and others how much they were giving up for God.  Jesus was demonstrating Heart-exposing mercies, Rebuking mercies, and I’m sure Uncomfortable mercies to the Pharisees.   He loved them too, but was frustrated that these men who devoted so much time to studying the Law didn’t understand this basic principle of mercy.  They were sick with sin, and did not realize it. 

Have mercy on those who are vulnerable or helpless

Jesus’ audience knew something about the value of mercy.  Jewish culture placed on the virtue of hesed, the grace, benevolence, compassion, and lovingkindness toward others, based in an understanding of the mercy and lovingkindness of God.  In Roman culture, mercy was weakness.  A Roman philosopher said that “mercy was the disease of the soul.”   But God cares about justice and mercy toward the most vulnerable Zech7:9-10  “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

Show Mercy to All who need it

Psalms 145:9 says “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works”.

God is not just merciful to saved people who believe in him and follow him, God is good to everyone.  But God also calls everyone to repentance, and to turn from their evil ways. 

We are accountable for demonstrating mercy

Jesus relates a parable in Mathew 18:23-35 which illustrates that forgiveness for Citizens of the Kingdom of God is a necessary characteristic, and that the nature of the forgiveness that we practice is not the “I’ll forgive you this once, but I won’t forget and you’d better not do it again” kind of forgiveness, but one that’s based on how our Heavenly Father has forgiven us. 

We all had this incredible debt that we owed God before we were saved.  In providing Jesus to pay for it, God forgave it.  All we have to do is accept the forgiveness of the debt that God has provided.  But, true acceptance of this payment means that our heart will be changed. We will begin to become more and more like Jesus, and He will begin to transform our character. 

He does not want us to harbor un-forgiveness in our heart.  He does not want us to have our heart poisoned by bitterness.   We weren’t meant to carry that around and we’re not supposed to carry that around. Asking questions like:  Lord, how many times must I forgive? Up to 7 times? Which types of people must I forgive?  My brothers only?  These questions reveal more about our lack of willingness to forgive, and let us know that God still has some work to do in our hearts.





Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied
January 24th, 2021

Righteousness

(Proverbs 4:18) The phrase “the path of the righteous” is the chosen steps that God has determined that we are to walk in, the way to God through Jesus laid out for each Citizen of Heaven individually, and yet we also get to walk our paths in parallel, beside other believers during parts of the path. 

Righteousness is a path, which means that it’s not so much for standing still on.  A path leads somewhere, which means that we’re meant to be moving along it.

Righteousness in the Bible has at least three aspects:  legal, moral and social.  Legal righteousness is justification, a right relationship with God that is only possible by faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. 

Moral righteousness is that righteousness of character and conduct that pleases God.  Right-living.  Life as a Citizen of Heaven depends on an inner righteousness not achievable by human effort.  It’s not about outer works, but the inner attitude of the heart, which will tend to overflow into outward acts of righteousness.  Jesus is teaching us what true righteousness looks like.  It’s obeying God and loving Him because He first loved us.  It’s trusting Him to lead, knowing that He knows what’s best for us.  And it’s this righteousness that we are to hunger and thirst after.

Social righteousness has to do with righteousness in dealings with others.  The Old Testament is full of examples demonstrating that God is concerned with social righteousness.  “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).  God is concerned about Justice, about liberating the oppressed, about integrity in our dealings with others, and conducting ourselves honorably in everything that we do. 

Hunger

If you’ve ever been really hungry or thirsty then you know how they are gnawing, immediate needs where it’s hard to think about anything else.  This is the kind of desire for the righteousness found in Jesus that we’re supposed to have.  It is an immediate need for righteousness and an awareness that we lack it in ourselves at the same time—which creates a hunger.  We aren’t hungry and thirsty for something we already have in and of ourselves.  In Romans 3:20 it says “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”  It can only be satisfied by Jesus’ righteousness, His perfect righteousness.

 Hindrances to this hunger and thirst include pride (lack of meekness), no desire to depart from sin (no mourning) and self satisfaction (not poor in spirit). We must continually let God keep us humble, continually mourn over sin, and refuse to accept anything but the true food to satisfy us.  As Jesus said in John 6:54-55 54 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  We must keep our hunger for Jesus, and not become complacent

Thirst

We, as the church, have been provided living water to quench our spiritual thirst, but so often we either take it for granted or refuse what the Lord provides for us.  Self-made attempts and schemes designed to find spiritual fulfillment apart from the Lord will inevitably result in failure–they are doomed from the start.

In John 4:13-14, Jesus makes this point when He is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, saying of the well water 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” 

One of the reasons that Jesus had so many hard words for the Pharisees is that their self-righteousness was blocking their way to true righteousness.  By setting up all these rules that they could keep, they were guilty of the same self-satisfaction of their thirst that their ancestors were in the time of Jerimiah.  And this self-satisfaction dulled their thirst for true righteousness.  It is not enough to have experiences some momentary satisfaction in the past, we must continue to hunger for future righteousness.

For they will be filled          

This word for filled (chortazo) means to be filled, completely satisfied.  This spiritual hunger and thirst creates a longing for the day that it will be completely satisfied. And this is something that we only know in a limited way during our life on Earth.  We get glimpses of it, we have moments of it, but we do not experience complete satisfaction of our hunger here, and we don’t have our thirst completely quenched here.  It is not until we get to heaven that we will ‘hunger no more and not thirst any more’ because we will continually be in the presence of Jesus.  David expresses it like this: As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalms 17:15) One day, this hunger and thirst will be satisfied, and we will be in His presence, in brand new ‘forever’ bodies, just like His.  Or as it says in 1 John 3:2 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.