This is the next installment of Rebekah’s ongoing series about the Beatitudes. Read previous blog posts here.
The sixth Beatitude of Jesus, “blessed are the pure of heart,” is perhaps the most difficult one to emulate. It’s not easy to write about, let alone live, a life of purity in a world that increasingly idolizes the “self,” claiming the gratification of individual desires as an inherent right. Against this backdrop, the concept of sexual purity seems archaic.
But is it? Jesus was revolutionary when it came to chastity. He took the Mosaic law which condemned adultery one step further, instructing his followers that, “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Don’t these words apply to us today? Some would counter that people back then were unenlightened – forced into prudishness by strict religious laws – whereas we today have come out into the light of self-expression. Others maintain that ancient peoples had it easier than us; after all, they didn’t have to contend with the temptations that bombard us in today’s technological world.
Certainly, times have changed. iPads and smartphones have catapulted society into a virtual age where the latest perversions are just one click away. But are we really more enlightened than past generations?
Anyone attempting to uphold Jesus’ call to purity in our post-Christian world is like a salmon swimming against the tide, denounced as out-of-touch with reality, if not discriminatory, in a society that gives free rein to the individual’s every whim. But just as the salmon is driven by an inborn compass to the waters of its origins, we, too, possess an intuitive desire for that which is pure and godly.
The Old Testament laws were given to God’s people to keep them faithful to his ways. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus acknowledges that he came not to abolish but to fulfill the law. He instructs us to obey the law and commandments. In fact, he says, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
Jesus fulfilled the law not by eliminating the need for self-discipline nor by promoting the indulgence of our carnal appetites but by paying the price for our sins so that we might be purified and made like him.
Why is purity not only virtuous but essential for anyone desiring God? God created the first man and woman “in his image,” infusing them with his living spirit. And he continues to create each person born on this earth as a unique expression of his love. It is, therefore, our calling as human beings to bear God’s spirit within us. To radiate Christ.
To bear Christ within, a person must be pure as Christ is pure. Darkness cannot persist in the presence of light. When light enters a dark room, the darkness is illuminated; it no longer remains dark. So it is with God’s pure love when it enters a soul. By its very nature, it overcomes all that is impure, selfish, and godless.
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul states that we cannot gratify both flesh and spirit; we must choose one or the other (Gal. 5:17–21). The fruits of the Spirit are described as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Together, these fruits compose the purity that springs from a heart that is centered on God rather than itself.
Our lives will only bear godly fruits if we earnestly strive for them. Resolute, we must confront the selfishness, greed, and ambition which threaten our souls, choking out the budding fruits of God’s spirit. This is not a one-time process; it requires ongoing struggle. Holiness is attained gradually through daily repentance for our sins and renewed faith in God’s unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness.
To be pure is, no doubt, difficult. Left to ourselves, it is virtually impossible for us to attain true purity of heart. But before we give up the attempt as hopeless, let us consider Jesus’ words to his disciples who, like us, despaired at the impossibility of Christ’s demands: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
In my experience, a pure heart is only found through repeated surrender to Christ. At the cross, Jesus – the only pure person – bore unimaginable torture of body and soul as he paid the price for our corruption and sin. We must humbly acknowledge our failures and embrace the forgiveness he offers.
As I explore and expand this theme in my next few blog posts, you will meet the wise and insightful guides I have encountered on my own journey toward God. I will also introduce specific messengers of God who, through their innocence, radiate the purity of which Jesus speaks. These heralds are truly blessed. Free from guile, they possess an inborn purity denied the rest of us.
And what of us? Might we also be numbered among the pure of heart despite our sin and guilt? I believe that there is hope for even the most wayward of sinners if we cry out for God, trust him with childlike confidence, and obey his commands. I’ll end with perhaps the best advice how we can obtain the blessing of purity, from J. Heinrich Arnold’s classic from the 1970s, Freedom From Sinful Thoughts:
Jesus says, “Everyone who hears my words and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock foundation.” It is in doing God’s will we prove our deepest will. No matter how confused or fickle our emotions, our heart’s longing must remain sure: we will either hunger and thirst for Jesus, or we will avoid him. The difference is decisive for each of us for all eternity.
Check back in two weeks as I continue my exploration of the blessing of purity.Comments
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