Good morning – my name is David Vaughan, and I am so excited you’re here in person or watching on a screen today…especially since you lost an hour!
One time, when I was in Bible college and living in the dorm, I went away for Christmas vacation for two weeks…a good thing. The bad thing - I accidentally left an open carton of milk and some left over Mexican food in the small frig, and the door wasn’t shut all the way. A-huh. So, when I got back and opened my dorm room door – I noticed! It smelled worse than normal.
I got a rag and some Clorox and water, and started really cleaning the outside of that frig. It could have passed a Marine boot-camp inspection. It was sparkling…but, it still smelled to high heaven! I know what you’re thinking. Who would concentrate so much on the outside of a frig when the problem is on the inside? Funny, I ask the same thing about people. We can look so good and so blessed on the outside, but what needs attention is transformation on the inside.
I think that’s why Jesus said this in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Jesus made it clear that the way to transform your life and to be blessed is by changing the inside of you – your heart! This is one of the most important of The Beatitudes. So, whether it’s your first time here or you’ve been a Christ-follower for decades, this is a part of a formula for joy and blessing that is the missing ingredient in so many lives today.
The question I’d like to pose today is this: What does it mean to be “pure in heart?” This is good to know or answer because of the huge payoff – “…they will see God.” So today, let’s unpack those three little words in this beautiful Beatitude of blessing (say that fast three times!).
Purity is a wonderful thing. The words that come to mind are undefiled and uncontaminated. We are quite serious about some forms of purity in American society - COVID has revealed that for sure!
So serious are we in our society, that a whole department of the federal government - the Food and Drug Administration, is charged with monitoring and protecting the purity of what we eat. However, our standards of purity are not always what we might hope for!
Purity is important right now, and it may surprise you to know purity is a word greatly prized in the New Testament, too. Unfortunately, in our sophisticated and erudite day, it has been largely lost. It sounds quaint, Victorian, and prudish.
The word pure in the Bible means unmixed, unadulterated, and unblemished. Gold that has all the dross removed is pure gold. Wheat that has all the chaff blown away is pure wheat. A pure heart is one that is not perfect, but it is one not continually polluted by deception, double dealing or deceit.
It doesn’t pretend to be an angel on Sunday but act like the devil all week. It doesn’t pray piously around Christians and then curse continuously on the golf course. I’ve played with a few of you or maybe you’ve played with me!
There is a two-word phrase that describes the pure in heart – transparent integrity. The pure in heart are honest to the core… not perfect, but pure in motive/heart/intent. King David was called “a man after God’s own heart” but, he also committed adultery and murder. Yet it says post-Bathsheba that “David served God’s purposes in his generation.”
Being ‘pure in heart’ is so difficult because all of us wear masks or makeup to conceal our flaws, but the blessed life demands we live spiritually with no cosmetics. One of the defining moments in any dating relationship is the first time the man sees the woman without make up. A great gal my buddy was dating in Bible college wore a ton of makeup. They were getting quite serious, so I asked, “Have you ever seen her without her makeup?” No. I suggested that this occur. They broke up not long after that, so I guess I’m not a very good counselor!
Make-up is simply the art of facial management. Makeup is designed to make eyes look bigger, lips look fuller, noses look nosier. It enhances your face by hiding the blemishes and flaws. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. It’s OK to wear makeup. Women or men!! I’m not against it. I’m sure it helps.
But, if I’m honest, I wear too much makeup…not the Mary Kay or Revlon kind, the spiritual kind that makes me want to appear better and lovelier than I really am.
So, the move I want to make is toward more authenticity and away from vanity or duplicity. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” The Bible calls it being ‘double-minded.’
The apostle, Paul had a wonderful line to a church in Corinth about how it is possible for people to live. Paul uses this line in retelling the story of Moses meeting with God on Mount Sinai, which made Moses’ face just light up. In our day, we talk about happy people having faces that beam and people have always used one adjective to describe a bride - radiant.
Well, Moses’ face was radiant, and I’m guessing the people around him were impressed by this. He was glowing. It was special. But, one morning, Moses woke up and looked in the mirror while shaving with his new Gillette Pro-glide and notices his face was not glowing quite so much. He was losing his radiance, the way those of us in Ohio lose our tan come September. It’s fading.
Moses knew when people recognized this, they would be less impressed with him and he wouldn’t be so special anymore. So, Paul writes that Moses put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. We don’t know how long he wore it before he finally decided to take it off. My guess is it was when his wife said, “Moses, take off that stupid veil!” What a relief it must’ve been for him to finally take off that mask, that veil, that makeup, to let people see it was just plain old Moses.
Paul uses this story of Moses’ view to convict the Jewish people that they also need to remove their legalistic veils and their resistance to Christ. 2 Cor. 3:15-18 says, “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” See - you don’t have to live with a mask or veil on either friend! You don’t have to pretend you’re better than you really are. We can all live with unveiled faces…no concealing, no masks, no hiding.
Let me pause here and ask a very personal question. What do you hide behind to keep you from being alone or being real? What things are you hiding behind to conceal your impurities? Some people hide behind superficial conversation. Some people hide behind humor. Some people use their intelligence as a veil, others hide behind business success or their net worth. Some hide behind hi-tech veils of cells phones or a mouse. Veils protect us and impress people. The irony is we are drawn to people who live with unveiled faces.
Alan Mcginnis writes that Pope John the 23rd, one of the most beloved religious leaders of the 20th century, elicited admiration and warmth from people everywhere he went, in part because he completely lacked pretense. He never pretended to be more than he was. He struggled with weight all of his life and he was the son of a poor peasant family. One of his first acts after being elected pope was to visit a large jail in Rome. As he was giving the prisoners his blessing, he remarked that the last time he had been in jail was to visit his cousin.
One time the pope was at a party when a woman wearing a low-cut dress walked in. John commented afterward that one of the hard things about being pope is, usually if a woman like that walks into a party, everyone looks at her…if I’m at a party and a woman like that walks in - everybody looks at me! Don’t you love his down to earth and unveiled approach to life?
So, what’s your veil? If you’re not sure, the people closest to you would be glad to tell you if you just ask them. What God wants is the real you, to meet the real Him in real relationship.
I heard a man say one of the things he loves so much about children, is they haven’t learned to manage their faces yet. When the ice cream truck comes, or they have the spinach, or there’s a monster under the bed, their faces tell you what’s in their hearts. When we get older we learn to manage our faces. We teach them to conceal and guard. We practice face and veil management.
All of us are used to wearing masks, both physically and spiritually. But, being pure in heart demands we live spiritually with no cosmetics. When we’re pure in heart, we don’t have to cover up our past because it is buried in the deepest sea by Jesus Christ. We don’t have to mask our motives - they are an open book. With Jesus and then others, we’ve got nothing to lose and nothing to gain by our mask or veil.
Jesus is asking us here, “Do you want to be more joyful and blessed? Then live a life of purity and transparency.” It’s a lot easier than living everyday covering things up.
Ten years ago, my wife planned a surprise 50th birthday party for me. She invited out of town family and friends along with the entire Whitewater family. Afterwards, my best friend, John Hampton, who was in on the secret planning said to me, “I’m glad this day is finally here, it’s been exhausting living a lie!"
Some of you know exactly what I mean. A sure formula for misery is to live a life of phoniness and pretense.
Notice our goal is to be pure in HEART. We normally use the word heart to refer to our emotions. (I love you with all my heart. I love my Church. I love my Reds, my Skyline or I love my coffee – remember what’s really in there now! But, the Bible uses the term heart in at least three different ways:
1. The first way does indeed refer to our emotions. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
2. The Bible also uses the word heart to refer to our intellect. In Mark 2:8, it says, “Jesus knew what they were thinking in their hearts.”
3. A 3rd way the Bible uses the word heart is to refer to our will. Daniel 1:8 tells us, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.”
So, the Bible uses the term heart to describe the entire inner man with all of his functions – the emotions, intellect, and the will. Proverbs 4:23 says, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. All you do flows from it.”
The problem with our heart is that it can fool us. Jeremiah 17:9 says that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” which means we can even talk ourselves into compromise or condoning things that are wrong in the name of right.
Country music star, Willie Nelson at one time owned a golf course. He said the great thing about owning a golf course was he could decide what par was for each hole. He pointed at one hole and said, “See that hole there? It’s a par 47! Yesterday, I birdied it!” Sometimes people doing something wrong or behaving badly, will say, “I just don’t see what’s wrong with this or that.” They have diagnosed their problem beautifully – ‘I can’t see.’ Sin cuts the optic nerve of the soul.
But, if we become pure in heart, Jesus tells us we will enjoy a huge reward. We will see God! Wonder what He looks like, huh? (That’s a whole other message!)
Did you notice that the ‘purity comes before the seeing’? That’s because we see what we are trained to see. A painter can immediately walk into a room and see a cracked place that needs to be caulked. A specialist can look at a sonogram and say, “There’s the baby’s feet. There’s the head. Do you see it?” My dad was a brick layer, and he could instantly see whether a brick row was straight or a mortar line was vertically aligned correctly. Years ago, I invited a fire chief to our service and asked him what he thought. “It was great, but all during your message, all I could notice was that one of your Exit lights was out!” We see what we are trained to see.
Those trained and not hindered or blocked by a mask or a veil are able to see God at work in multiple ways:
The “pure in heart” can see God in creation. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work on his hands.” The world looks at creation and sees a cosmological accident. The Christian – the pure in heart – looks at creation and sees the handiwork of God.
The “pure in heart” can see God in circumstances (even COVID). The world may look at an event and say, “that’s an obstacle,” but a ‘pure in heart’ person can say, “that’s an opportunity!” The world may look at some circumstances and say, “coincidence.” The ‘pure in heart’ look at those same circumstances and see providence at work. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
The “pure in heart” can see God in people. Jesus said if we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned, we see and serve him. So, when we serve in humility and integrity, others can see Christ’s love in us – if you look closely, you will see God’s hand, his heart, and his work. Eventually, the ‘pure in heart’ will be truly blessed because they have the promise that one day in heaven, they will see God face-to-face.
As I close, let me share how we can attain and maintain this purity of heart. Let me give you two simple ones today.
Psalm 119:9 and 11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
You are not going to hide God’s Word in your heart with just one hour of church each week. There has to be a daily saturation of Scripture - a daily renewal of your mind – keeping in tune with God’s Holy Spirit. Let the Word wash over your mind every day!
Hebrews 10:22 gives us the 2nd way, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior – when we repent of sins, when we confess Him as the Lord of our life, and when we are baptized into Him, we experience a spiritual cleansing that can only come from God. In fact, God gives us a brand-new heart! That’s why we’re planning and praying about doing lots of baptisms here in a few weeks on Easter Sunday. The theme will be Graves and Gardens, and that’s a perfect metaphor for going All-In. (Email us through the website or use the Connect tab on the app.)
So, you get pure by being baptized. You stay pure by a Bible and a buddy that can keep you accountable. You get washed by the word and water! That’s what it means to be blessed, so you can be ‘pure in heart’ and see God. The first step is simply, humbly coming to God, and he will accept you. Friend - there is no healing in hiding today - in masking up.
I know what some of you are thinking, especially people with a scandal or a story. David - I know you say this, but you don’t know the whole truth about me. If you really knew who I was or what I did, you’d stone me. Trust me – His love and grace are real.
Or maybe you don’t have that kind of testimony. That’s cool. too. Let me ask those of you in this category a question – Is there anything you’re hiding or hiding behind that is keeping you from seeing God more clearly? Any scars or secrets that are keeping you from living a more blessed life. Thought so.
One of the most unique and attractive aspects of Jesus was his utter transparency. He showed and experienced all the human emotions. He let his closest friends see him in unveiled moments of joy, sadness, anger, fatigue, and suffering.
On the cross, his own vision of the Father was veiled as the Father had to look away, so much so that he cried out, “My God - why have you forsaken me?” And when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two. Jesus specializes in tearing down veils. And that’s what we’re going to remember right now as we experience communion…