Written by: Phil Zinck
The Beatitudes; a Challenge to Change: The Pure of Heart
One of the most famous of messages given by the Messiah is recounted in Matthew 5, verses 3-11. In some respects, this is the most misunderstood and misapplied of messages, from that day to now. “The Sermon on the Mount”, the “Beatitudes”, can easily be received as a feel good message, and to be fair it’s easy to see how this can happen, with those repeated “you are blessed” proclamations. However, when you cast a more critical eye on these verses you will see that this message was more of a warning, a “shot across the bow” in seafaring parlance, to smarten up, stop dishonouring God, to change their ways.
Change; the ultimate affront to one’s independence, one’s self-sufficiency, our very human nature. In this passage Christ lays out in plain view those practices, habits, and failings that needed to change if a truly genuine relationship with a loving Creator was ever to be experienced.
This was – and is still today – a tough-love message. After all, when you read of the life of Christ you will see that He never wasted time preaching to the choir. In fact, He did the exact opposite, addressing the chasm in relationship between God’s chosen people and God himself each time He had the mic. And the only way to a restored relationship was for people to change their ways.
The Beatitude that challenges me more than any other is in verse 8, the need to maintain a pure heart. I love the interpretation offered in The Message:
”You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.”
So, what does it mean to be pure of heart, to have “your heart and mind put right”? Simply put, it means to be intentional in your pursuit of holiness, to be singular in purpose, in every aspect of our life and in every interaction with the world that we live in. And that purpose is to demonstrate to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, that our passion is to make Him Lord first, always, all the time, in everything. Seems obvious, yet we cannot lose focus on the fact that this significance of purpose brings with it a significant challenge. That challenge is not found in reaching that place of singular purpose, but in staying there.
In our heart we desperately want that intimate relationship with God, that singular pursuit of holiness, yet how many times have we treated our heart like a multi-purpose venue. With the best of intentions we start “committing” each day to keep God first and foremost; “Holy Spirit, please give eyes to see, ears to hear what You want me to see and hear”. Yet so easily the busy-ness and distractions of life overwhelm to the point where this becomes stale, lifeless, vain repetition. Weeks pass at a dizzying pace and singularity of purpose quickly erodes into something like this:
Monday – Friday: “well, you know God, life is crazy busy. I know that you’re there and that you see how crazy my life is, so I’m sure you understand why I can’t just drop everything to spend quality time with you.” (Ouch!!!).
Saturday: “God, even you took a break after creating everything. Granted, I may not have achieved in my week what you were able to do, but I’m only human and you are God, and, you know, I need my down time to decompress. That’s what Saturday is for. Remember, God, tomorrow is Sunday and I’m going to give you a solid 3 hours to make me feel good about being in church” (Wow! This is painful, only in that it can be so darn accurate!)
Sunday: “God, Here it is! That quality time that I am able to carve out for you. I can give you 9am to noon. After that, well, you know, it’s the only day when we can spend time with family and friends. How can we be salt – n – light of we don’t spend time with those who we are close to (don’t forget, God, every year I spend a Sunday afternoon feeding the homeless a Christmas dinner – that’s gotta count for something, right?)?”
A bit extreme? Perhaps so, perhaps not. I pray that none of you reading this would say “this is MY life!!!” I would dare to wager, however, that we all can recall specific periods where our relationship with God has slipped into this spiral of betrayal and deceit. Thankfully, God is merciful, His grace has no end, His love everlasting, and when we realize where we are and confess this counterfeit relationship as the sin that it is, He is most willing and able to forgive and restore us again to that right relationship with Him that He do cherishes and we so truly desire.
The last part of verse 8 from The Message reads:
“Then you can see God in the outside world.”
Why is it so important to strive for singularity of purpose? Simply put, to see God in the ups and downs, in the blessings and the difficulties of our everyday; to see Him work in and through our lives and in and through the world around us. Oh to experience His favour as we live in that place where His Lordship is all that matters!
“Holy Spirit, I need you to shine the light on the path that you would have me follow in my pursuit of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. But even more so, Holy Spirit, I need to know your presence so intimately that my heart will be pained, my conscience shaken, at the slightest sign of losing my focus on this most holy pursuit. I want my inside world to know the reality of your outside presence every moment of every day. In the name of the eternal and everlasting God and to His glory I make this plea believing that You are with me always, Amen.”