Carroll FUMC August 24 and 25, 2019
Good morning fixer uppers. Back to work on the rehab project today. Which means back to work on ourselves. We are God’s rehab projects and remolding your heart is God’s favorite job.
We have talked about 5 of the beatitudes and you can almost see them as a process.
The first beatitude tells us that we have to admit that we are poor in spirit, which means knowing deep inside that we are empty, powerless, and completely unable to save ourselves.
The second beatitude challenges us to begin to regret or mourn the ways we have hurt God and the people around us.
Meekness, which is the third beatitude, means that we voluntarily give up our right to direct our own lives in favor of God directing us.
And then we develop a desperate hunger for God and God’s righteousness in the fourth beatitude.
Once we have been filled with God’s righteousness, the beatitudes start turning outward and talking about our faith in action like giving and receiving mercy.
And today we come to purity of heart. Let’s say todays beatitude together. “BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.”
Pure in heart… Let’s start with heart and we’ll come back to purity.
The heart is a very powerful organ.
Physicists tell us that in one hour the heart works hard enough to lift a 150-pound man to the top of a 3-story building. In 12 hours enough to lift a 65-ton tank off the ground 1 foot. And in 70 years, a common life span, the heart has done enough work to lift the world's biggest battleship right out of the ocean. I defy you to create a machine that can work continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week year after year that does not need lubricating, adjusting, and does not even need to be tinkered with over the course of a lifetime.
Our heart is amazing. Of course, Jesus wants us to take care of it. He is advocating a little cardio, good food and regular checkups, right? Was Jesus really ahead of his time with a degree in cardiology? I don’t think so.
When Jesus refers to the heart he is not talking in modern anatomical terms. He is using the ancient conception that the heart is the center of our being. The heart in biblical thought is the center of passions and emotions, thought and reflection, decision and will. It is the whole of our inner being from which come all our ideas, thoughts, feelings, desires, and decisions. We might think of it as our REAL character. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-20 that the heart is the source of the things that defile a person. 'But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a person'.
But wait… good things come from the heart too. What about good thoughts, generosity, faithfulness, truth, and praise? Yes, they come from the heart, but only a heart that is pure. Only when our true character is not concealed by sin. The selfish desires, the jealousy, all the hate, all the fear obstructs our view of life and God. … Only as our true character is cleansed from all these impurities, does goodness begin to seep out and then we can see God more clearly.
So, let’s talk about purity for a minute.
The Greek word Jesus uses for purity is 'CA-THI-ROS' Ca-thi-ros was used to describe clean drinking water, threshed grain, metals that were 100% a single metal. From it we get the words catharsis, catheter, and cathartic. Each one has to do with getting rid of stuff we don’t need.
Our hearts are like well water… it is indeed water but there are all kinds of minerals and solubles in it. You might like that the taste, but if you want pure water, someone has to filter it and distill it so there is nothing but H2O in your glass. This is the essence of 'cathiros' is to subtract the bad stuff until there is only one thing left. To subtract all the minerals from water until is 100% H2O. It is to chip away all the stuff in our heart that was not put there by God at our conception until our hearts are 100% the image of God.
What does it mean to be pure of heart then?
Does it mean that we are sinless?
Does it mean that we are perfect?
Does it mean that we never doubt?
No, it doesn’t. The emphasis here is not on PURE but on HEART. Let me explain.
You know that over and over again Jesus gets into trouble with the pharisees. There is a good reason for that. The pharisees were most concerned about right action in order to stay ritually pure. Therefore, they avoided pigs and dead bodies and a thousand other things. They ate only approved foods. They washed and bathed in ritual ways to make sure that they were ritually pure, and they thought that being ritually pure made them right with God.
These are the people Jesus called “whitewashed tombs,” pretty on the outside but dead on the inside. These are the people whom Jesus called a “brood of vipers” and asked “How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.” (Matthew 12:34)
It isn’t that the pharisees were really evil, but they wore their religion on the outside.
For Jesus, religion had to start on the inside. When Jesus says blessed are the pure in heart, he was pointing out that wearing your faith on the outside is not enough. It has to get inside you. Jesus wants to push us beyond outward religion to examine what is in the inside.
• A good pharisee would never commit murder. But Jesus says murder grows out of hate, which starts in the heart.
• A good pharisee would never commit adultery. But Jesus says, the sin doesn’t happen when you act on it, you have to trace it all the way back to the first lustful thought. Who has never had a lustful thought?
• The pharisee would say, “I am pure because I am very careful to ritually wash my hands or even my whole body whenever it is necessary.” Jesus says, “fine, but no soap can get to the source of your uncleanliness. God looks at what is in the heart.”
Notice that Jesus is not emphasizing purity …the pharisees made a science of ritual purity. He is emphasizing purity of heart over purity of the hands. Not purity in keeping the law but purity in loving, serving and forgiving.
Have you ever really listened to the first two vows in the baptism of confirmation service… DO YOU RENOUNCE THE SPIRITUAL POWERS OF WICKNESS, REJECT EVIL POWERS OF THIS WORLD AND REPENT OF YOUR SIN? Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? But we know from the first beatitude that we can’t do it ourselves so the second question is DO YOU ACCEPT THE FREEDOM AND POWER GOD GIVES YOU TO RESIST EVIL INJUSTICE AND OPPRESSION. Do you accept God’s help to have a pure heart?
You might say, I am “pretty pure”… I mean I would never murder, or cheat on my spouse, or steal, or any other obviously wicked behavior. Sure, I might have a vengeful thought, or a judgmental attitude, or misdirected anger. But I am almost pure.
If that’s what you are thinking you might be a little like the 10 year old boy who wanted to see an R rated movie. His mom said, “No.” The kid said, “Oh, there’s not a lot of bad stuff in it. There’s just a little bit of bad stuff.” The mom said, “Fine. First, I’m going to make you brownies.” The kid was pumped.
She went out in the yard, got a little spoonful of dog poop, mixed them in the brownies, made the brownies, and said, “Here you go. But before you eat them, you need to know there’s just a little bit of poop in the brownies.”
“I’m not eating that. That’s gross that’s gross.” She said, “No, no, no. There’s just a little bit of poop in the brownies, just like there’s a little bit of bad stuff in your movie.”
Would you eat the brownies if they were “almost” pure? Then why would you be satisfied with a heart that is “almost” pure.
We’re back to subtraction aren’t we?
Are you OK with your brownies being almost pure?
Are you satisfied with just a little bit of racism in your heart? If not, you and God need to purify your heart.
Are you satisfied with just a little bit of greed, or hate, or anger in your heart? If not, you and God need to purify your heart.
Are you OK with having just a little bit of unforgiveness in your heart? If not, you and God need to purify your heart.
When I was in youth ministry, I used to tell the girls don’t wear a swimsuit if you would be embarrassed to show it off to your grandpa. Purity of heart is kind of like that. If there is anything that you wouldn’t brag about to God (or your grandma) maybe it needs to be subtracted.
Purity of heart doesn’t happen all at once… at least not for most of us. It is a lifetime of searching out the stuff that isn’t brownie in the corners of our hearts and giving it to God. The traditional word for it is “sanctification.”
You can start right now. Close your eyes and imagine… Think about the last 24 hours of your life. Or ,,,if you have a purer heart than I do the last week… and hold it up to God. Is there anything you would prefer God didn’t see? Is there anything that makes you at least a little uncomfortable?
Now, sort out just that part of your heart that is not brownie, just the part you would prefer not God didn’t see.
Do you have it? Now… offer it to God.
Remember you are poor in spirit you can’t do this by yourself.
Hand the impurity to God. And pray out loud after me.
“God, I give this to you. And I never want it back. Purify my heart so I never do that again. Purify my real character and help me to fill that spot with your joy, or your goodness, or your love. Free the people sitting around me from their impurities so that together we will see you more clearly. Thank you for freeing us. Thank you for purifying us. Thank you for loving us. In the powerful name of Jesus, I pray… AMEN”