On Our Side | Pure in Heart

geometric_heart_lightstockIn February of 2010, I felt something that I’ve never felt before. I felt my heartbeat. Certainly, I’ve felt my heartbeat, but I’ve never felt it throughout the course of the day. I’ve never felt it as I lay in bed or when I would drive my car. Every once in awhile I could feel my heart skip through my chest.

I went to my doctor who was able to catch the leaping heart on the EKG. I had to wear a heart monitor for a few days and then I went back to the doctor. I was diagnosed with a benign arrhythmia- my heart was skipping beats. On the diagnosis, I remember being told long ago that my pediatrician had been aware of this condition, but in my 32 years up to that point, I had never felt my heart like that.

The doctor and I spoke and she told me to cut out caffeine (which I wasn’t even drinking coffee regularly yet) and to find ways to relax. I laughed at that because as I would lay in bed at night, feeling my heart leap through my chest, I would get worked up wondering if my heart would give out. Not necessarily the most rational thinking. But I was terrified. I would think about Andrea, Abbie (who was 3) and we would soon find out about Chloe. My doctor’s advice was to relax.

I experienced these symptoms for about three months. Then, one day, it just stopped. I don’t know whether I relaxed more, whether I lost weight, or whether or not the prayers I prayed were answered. But just as quickly as my heart started leaping out of my chest, it stopped.

For each of us, our hearts are important. Not only do they pump the blood that keeps us alive, they are the seat of our emotions. They are the center of who we are as individuals.

As we continue in our series on the Beatitudes, Jesus says in Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Our hearts are at the center of who we are. Fredrick Dale Bruner says that when Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure of heart” that what he means is “blessed are the ones who are centered on God.” I find this helpful because, in my own life, I know when things get out of balanced and off-centered. I can recognize, sometimes slowly, when my heart is not centered on God because it is focused on other things. Blessed are the pure in heart- Blessed are those who are centered, focused on God.

We see the importance of purity of our hearts in Jesus’ teaching. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”[1]

 When our hearts are not pure, when our hearts are divided, what is in our hearts eventually comes out. In many ways, it is the garbage in, garbage out principle. If we put sinful, lustful, prideful things in our hearts- that is going to come out of our mouth. The opposite is also true if we fill our hearts with the things of God- grace, mercy, love, forgiveness- that will come out of our hearts as well. We cannot do both. Our lives, our words, and our actions reflect what is in our hearts.

Leon Morris writes: To be pure in heart is to be pure throughout.

There is a civil war going on inside of our hearts for where our focus and our affections will be fixed. There is a battle to keep our hearts pure. King David provides a good example of this.

In 2 Samuel 11, we are told that during the time when kings go off to war, King David remains in Jerusalem (which is our first sign of trouble). While there, he goes out to his rooftop terrace, which would have been the highest point in the city and observes a woman bathing. This woman, Bathsheba, is the wife of one of David’s soldiers, Uriah. Rather than turn away from temptation, David lingers and his temptation gives birth to sin- by engaging in adultery with a married woman and then having her husband killed to cover up his sin.

What is compelling about this story is that in 1 Samuel, David is called a man after God’s own heart. David has this faith in God that we see throughout the Psalms. David is exemplary in many ways. And yet, David loses focus. David goes from single-mindedly focusing on God to have his heart and affections tempted into something illicit and sinful.

The prophet, Nathan, approaches David and confronts him about his sin. When David realizes that his sin has been brought to light, he confesses his sin to Nathan and to God. This is where most commentators believe Psalm 51 from. It is a Psalm of someone who has been confronted by their sin and seeking forgiveness from God.

“Have mercy on my, O God,
According to your unfailing love;
According to your great compassion
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.

 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”[2]

 David’s heart had become divided. In praying “create in me a pure heart,” David is praying that God would restore to him a heart that is undivided- purely focused on and desiring God.

This prayer is so vital for each one of us. Who among us has a heart undivided for God? Who can say that their heart is clean? Is pure? This prayer is key to Kingdom Living- it is Key to seeing more and experiencing more of God in our lives. We must have pure hearts.

Our heart is the dwelling place of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the condition of our heart is extremely significant. Psalm 24 asks, “Who will ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts.” God blesses the pure in heart; they are the ones who will see God. They are the ones who will experience God.

To be pure in heart is to be pure throughout. To be pure in heart is to see God.

This morning, we hold up the mirror of scripture to our lives. When I look in the mirror and ask the Holy Spirit to point out and convict me of my sin- I see the real condition of my heart. It’s often not very good. We can look at our hearts and see pride, lust, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, idolatry, cheating, complacency in light of human suffering, fear, a puffed-up ego, and so much more. What do we do? We must invite God to perform heart surgery.

Ten years ago as I lay awake at night with my heart leaping out of my chest, one of my fears was that I would require some sort of heart surgery. It was an irrational fear, for sure, because my doctor told me I wouldn’t require anything. But for those of you who have had heart surgery, where the doctor cuts you with a scalpel, separates your ribs, and works on your heart. There is a lot of pain associated with the procedure. But it is necessary to have a properly functioning heart.

It wasn’t comfortable for King David to have his sin exposed by Nathan, but it was necessary to begin the spiritual healing. It is not comfortable to have the Holy Spirit look into our lives, but the promise of the beatitude is that the pure of heart will see God. If we want to see God in deeper ways, then we must pursue a pure, undivided heart.

We will see God move in our personal lives and in our church in new ways as we pursue a pure heart through our encounters with Jesus and The Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Great Physician, mends our broken and divided hearts so that are able to focus our heart’s desires and affections on God.

This morning, there may be sin in your life that needs to be confessed. Perhaps, like David, you need to declare, “Against you alone have I sinned.” It is our sin that keeps us apart from knowing and seeing God in the ways that we desire. So we join together in praying:

Create in me a clean heart, a pure heart, O God
And renew a right spirit within me
Cast me not away from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And renew a right spirit within me.

Because of our sinful nature, we are divided. Yet through Jesus, we can have an undivided heart. God is on the side of the Pure in heart- and they will see God.

[1] Luke 6:45, NIV.

[2] Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12, NIV.

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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