CMC Eps 15 – MATTHEW 5: 8 – A PURE HEART
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Hi.. I’m Gene Ort.. and you’re listening to the common man commentary..
This is podcast #15.. We will be looking at MATTHEW 5:8
The title for this podcast is: “ A Pure Heart ”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And once again in the message version
““You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
If there ever was a verse that seemed at first glance to exclude me from happiness and seeing God, then this is it! Pure in heart ! I don’t think so. That would not be the way I would describe myself.
I was so grateful to read Eugene Peterson’s message translation. But I was still left with the problem that my mind and my heart are still not put right, if put right means my thoughts and feelings were always kind and good. Not even close. The junk that goes on inside my mind and heart are far from pure. There is however something that has changed in my heart and mind since I became a Christ follower. I now care about what’s going on in my heart and mind. This can and does at times cause me pain. Awareness comes at a cost, but without it, nothing changes on the inside. Jesus used this phrase often: For those who have eyes to see, let them see and for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
Caring about what’s going on inside of you has to be a good starting point for any kind of self awareness which has any chance of transforming who you are. Caring is necessary.
We are again faced with a paradox, on one hand.. without a pure heart, you don’t see God. The word “seeing” in the Hebrew context meant possessing. So, we are right back to the religious viewpoint“ if you don’t check this box, you go to hell “ mindset. You know the drill.. “ sinners in the hands of an angry god “..
On the other hand.. what if it’s a promise, more like a vision of what’s to come.. In essence saying.. follow me.. learn from me… become like me.. you will have a pure heart.. because He creates it in you…and you will see God. Later in the gospel Jesus will tell them, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father “.
Jesus is already beginning to reorient his hearers to a different way of seeing God. They are used to lists of rules.. or laws. Jesus will redirect them to look at the motives of the heart.
David, a famous Old Testament womanizing murderer asked God to create in him a new heart.. he needed one. It’s in the book of Psalms chapter 51. The first part addresses his inward self reflection. Verse 6: “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” And then in verse 9 he makes his request of God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
In spite of Davids poor choices he seems to understand something about God. #1. He knows God likes truth, the real stuff, He hates pretense but obviously not the pretender otherwise God would have given up on him. Lets not sugar coat this, he steals a man’s wife, forces her to have sex with him, by the way, there was no “me too” movement around to accuse or prosecute him at the time and after that he then arranges to have her husband killed so he can keep her around and hide his dirty little secret. #2. He knows that God is the source of the wisdom he needs even though he clearly did not exercise any of it. And, #3. God is the source of what he really needs, a new clean heart and a new right mind. David knows what’s going on on the inside of himself is not good. Guilt and shame are horrible companions. David is not the first person nor is he the last person to do something wicked and realize it to late. He was feeling the weight of his wrongdoing.
David uses the word “clean “ in verse 9. He associates his bad behavior with filthiness. He feels dirty. We use words like guilt or shame to describe this unpleasant state of mind. Guilt meaning I did something wrong, a specific event, shame meaning I am something wrong, as in “I am bad”.
In Jesus day, the Jews were preoccupied with the word and concept of cleanliness. In order to maintain spiritual cleanliness, they had to keep a lot of rules. Keeping the rules was everything. The Jews had been given 10 commandments by Moses and turned them in to 613 commandments. They were legalistic over achievers! Outward appearance of moral purity was paramount. Don’t touch this, don’t touch that. They were constantly washing.
They created special sacred baths called Mikveh that they would use to obtain ritual purity. They were everywhere. They were basically a hole in the ground with steps leading down to a small pool. This is still practiced by modern day Jews. The modern Mikveh are like small standing pools. It’s such an important part of Jewish culture that it is still being practiced even in the midst of the covid pandemic. Without the ritual cleansing, wives and husbands are not allowed to come together intimately after the wife’s menstrual cycle.
I found this recent article in a Jewish paper, it reads in quotes : “ Found in virtually every significant Jewish community in the world, mikvahs enable Jewish women who observe religious law to resume physical relations with their husbands following the completion of their menstrual cycle. For Jews who observe the laws of mikvah most scrupulously, closing the women’s baths could mean not only no sex, but no hugging or touching their spouses in any way for the foreseeable future — an extreme privation and technical challenge for families stuck at home together. “ quote..
“To be stuck here in the midst of a global pandemic, where there’s a lot of people dying and it’s emotionally challenging, and to not be able to have human contact is something that my husband and I are very much dreading,” said one 24-year-old Jerusalem woman who declined to give her name.” Unquote..
In Jesus day,
The Pharisee’s were the rule police. They taught you the rules of outward behavior and kept an eye on you to make sure you weren’t breaking any rules. Breaking the rules could get you kicked out of the community which could mean complete isolation, relationally and financially.
This is a good picture of Jesus audience on the hillside overlooking the lake that day. What He is telling them is nothing short of extraordinary. He was introducing them to God, their real Heavenly Father, who wanted much more from them then an obligatory sacrifice and ritual check list. He wants their hearts. He wants their love. Jesus is here to show them who God really is and what He is like. The Jews were obeying God out of fear of being punished. That had been going on for centuries.
In a letter written by John the apostle long after Jesus departed, he says:
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:16-19 ESV
Perfect Love drives away fear, and thats the kind of love God loves with. The safer you feel with God, the less fear of Him you will have.
In the Old Testament or Torah as the Jews call it, there are endless stories depicting God in the role of the great punisher. This is the wicked lie perpetrated on all of humanity and Jesus was determined to bring the truth to light. The Jews gave God the blame or the credit for all kinds of human wickedness and empire building that He had nothing to do with. This history was written by the Jews, not God. If you are not solid about the loving character of God as displayed in Jesus, you will become very confused and even angry when you read the Hebrew bible. God did make a covenant with the Jews and Jesus fulfills it and then says this just prior to being crucified :
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.””
John 13:34-35 ESV
As the Jews saw it, every time you stubbed your toe, God was mad at you. If it didn’t rain.. He’s mad, if it rained to much, He’s mad. If you made a lot of money, He likes you, if you are poor, He’s mad at you. Outward circumstances… appearance is the measurement of perceived reality. Image is everything.
If your mother tells you as a child to brush your teeth so you don’t get cavities in them and you ignore her completely then, when you have to have all your teeth removed at 30 years old because of decay, is the removal of your teeth a punishment or a consequence ? This is a very important question. If you get this wrong, then you can spend your whole life thinking God is angry and mean because things didn’t go the way you hoped they would.
It’s like being angry at gravity when an apple falls from the tree. Gravity wins, every time.
Most if not all of the things that happen to us in life are consequential. If you find yourself in a pit, you likely were either pushed in, fell in by accident or you jumped in.
You can choose to believe God pushed you in.. because you did something bad. Or you can believe God did not protect you from the pit by warning you, or filling it in in the nick of time magically. Or God is mad at you because you jumped in the pit.
Another option to consider is you can chose to understand that in this world we live in, there is a lot of good and beautiful things happening and right along side it, a lot of bad and ugly is happening. There is a kind of order here, a gravity of sorts, a reality in the moment. Consequences as an outcome of choices made. Choices we make.. and choices others make. Jesus speaks of a beautiful coming kingdom where everything is perfect, that is clearly not our current reality here on earth. Jesus words, actions and character gives us a glimpse of this Kingdom. That glimpse is designed to create a yearning if not full out craving for it to come quickly.
Why would Jesus spend so much time and energy giving instructions for an abundant life if following the instructions was meaningless. Yes, there are consequences for our actions. You get to live in the wake of my actions, I get to live in the wake of yours. We all are impacted by the decisions of everyone around us. This is now true on a global scale.
Words like Covid 19, Pandemic and Wuhan paint a very clear picture of global consequences for our human actions. There will be those who try and blame shift the pandemic onto God. Some kind of Judgment. God does not do wicked. There are more than enough people who are willing to do that. Your perspective on the nature of God will decide where you land on that.
Jesus has a mission.. to show people the true nature of God and the true nature of His kingdom. Love, not fear. In the process of doing that, the true nature of the kingdom of this world will be exposed and It’s not pretty.
Jesus presents the path to see God .. to obtain Him.. to know Him and be known by Him.. just Maybe .. those who desire a pure heart will get exactly what they pursue ?
Pursuit has a consequence.
I found this prayer by Thomas Merton the other day.. I am going to read it slowly. I think he may have discovered something about himself , our journey on this earth .. and God.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Well thats enough to think about for now..
Until next time .. I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary.
I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :
Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.