SPIRITUAL CHARACTERISTIC NUMBER SIX-“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8)
PURE IN HEART
Christian doctrine emphasizes the heart! Jesus baffled the scholars of His day because He bypassed the intellectual mechanics of the Scriptures and zeroed in on their effect on the heart. The Pharisees were interested in the outside more than the inside. They made the way of life and righteousness a mere matter of conduct and ethics.
“Heart” refers to the core of our being. It includes our mind, will and emotions. It is also the seat of all our problems. Jesus put it this way: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thought, sexual immorality, theft, murder, and adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:20-23).
Even if we had a perfect environment, it would not solve man’s problems. It was in paradise, the Garden of Eden, that man fell. Problems in life always come from an unworthy desire in the heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). To be pure is to be without hypocrisy, which is the worst of all heart problems. It is a lie that has an attractive cover to hide the truth. It causes us to be dishonest, insincere and self-deceiving. The hypocrite may even claim a share in Christ and His righteousness. He might be involved in religious activity and appear to outdo the committed Christian. But God looks at the heart; He knows better. Judas confidently sat down with the apostles at Passover as if he were the holiest guest of all. Yet his heart was evil, and he went out and betrayed Christ.
A divided heart has always been a problem. One part of our being wants to know, worship, obey and please God. But because of our sinful nature another part wants to do its own thing. A pure heart in a person is shown by the degree to which the heart is less and less divided. Psalm 86:11 defines a pure heart: “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
The more pure our heart is, the more it will merge with God’s will. Even when our best effort fails, the willing spirit of a pure heart means success to God.
SPIRITUAL CHARACTERISTIC NUMBER SEVEN
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)
The history of mankind reflects that whatever ambitions a person may have, inner peace is one of the top priorities he strives to possess.
As members of the Kingdom of God, Christians are the only people who are able to give mankind the peace that everyone seeks. “The fruit of the Spirit [who lives within all who have been born again] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a).
A peacemaker does not seek peace at any price; rather, a peacemaker has a different view because he is being delivered from concern for self. His interest is focused on bringing true inner peace to mankind regardless of personal sacrifice. He sees a much bigger and more important purpose in life. Jesus was the supreme example of this. He sacrificed His rights and went to the cross to bring peace to the hearts of mankind.
The blessing promised to a peacemaker is a great tribute. Jesus said that “they will be called sons of God.” You know the saying, “like father, like son”? When the characteristic of peacemaking becomes part of our nature, we will truly be acting like a son of God. This once again demonstrates how different the Kingdom of God is from the kingdom of the world.
Nothing else in Scripture so thoroughly condemns the humanistic way of bringing peace as does the Sermon on the Mount. In the world’s kingdom, mankind will always experience international tension, threats of war and discord among people. Self-centeredness, greed and lust will always show themselves. They are an inherent part of man’s sinful nature. Therefore, man’s way of bringing peace—by political, economic, and social means—does not work. The only way is to go to the heart. That is the theme of all of Jesus’ teachings. We must be made new from the inside out.
SOME POINTS TO REMEMBER
These seven spiritual characteristics mark the unique differences between what is to govern our way of life under Christ, and that which marks the life of a non-Christian. They show us just how dependent we are on the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and how useless is the power of our flesh in living out the life of Christ. The degree to which these characteristics are developed in us is not the criteria for our salvation, but they directly impact how successful we will be in fulfilling God’s mission of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
We are in the world, but we are no longer members of its kingdom. Therefore, we are to separate ourselves from its standards. This is essential if we are to declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
THE CHRISTIAN AND PERSECUTION
After Jesus lists the seven spiritual characteristics of those in the Kingdom of God, the very next verse is “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). I believe Jesus put things in this order because as these characteristics become more a part of our character, this is how we can expect the world to react. Just as the world did not know how to handle Jesus because He dealt with matters of the heart, the same has been true throughout history regarding His close followers. Therefore, the response of the world system is to try to extinguish this bright light that illuminates their darkness.
Although most American Christians have been able to avoid persecution, there are growing indications that the safety and ease we have experienced could change in the coming years. Therefore, it is important we understand Jesus’ comment.
WATCH FOR PART 4 of “Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God” on July 5th, 2010.Tags: Holy Spirit, light of the world, peacemakers, persecuted, pure in heart, righteousness, salt of the earth, sons of God, spiritual characteristics