The Pure See God

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” –Matthew 5:8

I have read this verse for years and it was only recently that the full weight of it hit me. Lack of purity, in heart and ultimately in deed, can keep us from seeing God. So often when we talk about purity with young people we focus primarily on behavior modification. It is not wrong to tell kids not to have sex and that “true love waits”. In fact, telling them what not to do is a form of instruction and necessary in shepherding and guiding. But it must be more than that. And I think the Bible tells the same story.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is speaking about behavior, but he is also getting at something more integral to what it means to trust in Christ and be a believer. Jesus is speaking about the heart. When he addresses lust later on in Matthew 5 he actually makes the command to not sin sexually much harder, essentially saying to every human being who has ever lived “by your lustful thoughts you all are adulterous, even if only in your mind.” In Jesus’ mind there is no difference between what we desire and what we actually do. It’s the principle he speaks of elsewhere that out of our hearts comes who we really are (Luke 6:45).

So what’s really going on when we talk about purity? Jesus is getting at what we worship. John Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories. Our depravity ensures that we will naturally gravitate towards propping up idols to worship, rather than bowing down at the feet of King Jesus. The reason the impure can’t see God is not because they are having sex outside of marriage, although that is enough to condemn them. They can’t see God because the idol of pleasure is blocking their view of the greatest pleasure they could ever know—fellowship with their Creator. The Bible consistently teaches that those who continue to practice sexual immorality are living as those who do not know God (Ephesians 5:1-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). This is why messages of behavior modification will never be enough. We must get at the heart of what people worship before we can begin telling them how to live. Otherwise we will be left with empty moralists who no more see God than the girl who had sex with her boyfriend last night. They have to know and believe in the God who made them before they can begin learning how he wants them to live.

The culture would have us believe that pleasure, love, and security awaits you if you just give in to your feelings and follow your heart (i.e. live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle). In fact, even this week there was talk around the web about Tim Tebow’s commitment to remaining pure until marriage. To the outside world, it is laughable. But to us, it is commendable. Why? Because according to the Bible pleasure, love, and security do await us, but not in the way the world prescribes. God’s standard for holiness and purity is designed to protect us, and give us maximum happiness in our obedience to him. It is more about our worship of him alone than our desire for sexual fulfillment. It is in the losing of ourselves and our desires that we actually find ourselves.

Just look around at Hollywood actors. A quick survey of their marriages and relationships reveals that even though they often portray sexual activity outside of marriage as the norm and blissfully risk-free, their personal lives tell a very different story. While they promise lasting happiness in their films, the proof is in the true Hollywood stories of their actual lives.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he gave Eve to Adam and blessed the marriage covenant (Genesis 1-2). God knew what we has doing when he told the Israelites, and now those who are in Christ, to be holy because he was holy (Leviticus 11:44). God knew what he was doing when he said that there must be not even a hint of sexual immorality named among us (Ephesians 5:3). And he knew what he was doing when he declared that only the pure in heart will see him. He made us for himself and for his glory. When we live outside of his commands and boundaries we make a mockery of his good design and we lose the fellowship we were made for. We can try all day long to fill the God-shaped void with pithy idols like sex, boys, pleasure, and false security but they will never be enough. That’s why we always need more but feel so lousy afterwards. With God, we never can get enough but we always feel satisfied.

Don’t believe the lie that sexual activity outside of marriage is really no big deal. If you were honest with yourself, you would probably say that you don’t really believe that anyway. Every act of impurity is leading you further away from the God who made you and loves you. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The One who spoke the words of Matthew 5:8 made a way for you to be pure. He died for your idolatrous worship of sex and pleasure. He died to make you pure and blameless in the Father’s sight. He died so that you would no longer be a slave to unrighteousness, but would bear his righteousness. And by his work, you can be cleansed from your impurity and see the perfect and holy God in all his glory. Only then can you truly be blessed.