Well, good morning, everyone. Good to see you this morning. And it's great that you're back. No, that's actually for me, right? I'm back. I was gone for about three weeks. And during that time Cathryn and celebrated our 15thwedding anniversary. We were so excited to do that with my beautiful bride. I leaned over to her a little bit earlier ‘cause I reached into my pocket and I pulled out the tickets that you gave us to the Kennedy Center, ‘cause we went to visit one of the performances there as part of our anniversary celebration. Thank you for that. And I said, “Let's go again.” So, and also, we took a little bit of family vacation. I don't know what you do to kind of relax and detox your mind and detox your heart, but for me it's the beach. For some of you it's the mountains. For some of you it's just to look out your backyard. I don't know. But for me, I'm kind of a beach bum at heart, and so we packed up in our family car and made the long drive to South Florida. Did I say it was a long drive to South Florida? And checked into a beach resort there thinking I could get away from everything here at the church for just a little bit and kind of refresh my heart. I checked into this wonderful beach resort and found that I really couldn't get away from it all. You've been through the routine before where the clerk at the desk there says, “How many keys do you want?” And I said, “Well, two is just fine.” And so they were the kind of credit card kind of keys, you know, just slide into the door and the little indicator goes green and you unlock the door. Well, she handed me the two keys in an envelope like this. And I know you can't see from where you're sitting, but on the front it has our room number, 3131, and then on the front of it, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this. It says, “Your key to happiness.”
Boy, we've been talking about happiness, haven't we? We've got a series that we're in from the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 called the Highway to Happiness. Now, I will admit, anytime I can get to the beach, there is something beautiful and blissful about it. It's a happy time for me. But it's not one of the keys to happiness. In fact, it's not one of the eight keys found in these eight beatitudes that we've been studying that Jesus gives to us. In fact, this has been a little bit of a surprising trip through the beatitudes, because the way Jesus defined happiness was in an upside down, other world kind of way. And we've come to Matthew 5:8 and to the sixth beatitude. And I want you to read it together with me. You're getting familiar with the cadence and the “Blessed are’s.” Let's read Matthew 5:8 together. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Now, I want to start on the backside of this beatitude first. That little phrase that says, “For they will see God.” Not everybody in this life has the same ability to see. Let's just start in the physical realm. Some people, wouldn't you agree, have limited vision? Some people are nearsighted. Some people are farsighted. Some people might be cross-eyed and have a difficult time seeing. Some people are totally blind. They live in a dark world and they can't see a thing.
I have severe nearsightedness. I was in kindergarten when I was given my first set of glasses. And at that age up until, well, many years later, my eyes were progressively getting worse about every six months. Until about the 4th or 5thgrade is had lenses in my glasses that were like the bottom of a Coke bottle. And back then the style was…and they're kind of coming back now, but these dark, kind of horn-rimmed glasses. All right? I looked like a distant cousin of Drew Carey. All right? See some of my early grade-school pictures. These glasses that I wear are actually kind of a set of readers that I wear over top of my contacts. Because at age 46, I learned about six or eight months ago, I couldn't read anything up close. So I'm not only nearsighted, meaning I can't beyond the tip of nose, but I can't see between here and the tip of my nose anymore because I'm losing my near vision and need a little help to read my Bible and to read my notes. All right? I would give anything…I mean, I'm legally blind. My prescription is, like, 2400, something like that. I would give anything after all these years to have perfect 20/20 vision like some of you. Unfortunately, Lasik eye surgery is not a medical option for me. I explore it all the time, but my eyes are too far over the edge. I have an astigmatism, which some of you know what that means. It means your eye is the shape of a football, and it just messes things up even more. I have a friend of mine in Houston who was my optometrist for many, many years. He was a personal friend. He was a professor at the University of Houston School of Optometry, and part of an eye practice that actually was down in Clearlake, Texas, and they worked with the NASA astronauts. Okay? And after I was his patient for a while, he says, “Do you mind if I take your file into my classroom at the University of Houston as one my study cases.” I said, “Nah, that's all right.” So anytime I find a new eye doctor I always go in and say, “Listen, I'm going to be your challenge case.” And that's the case.
Likewise, not everybody has the same ability to see God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” Jesus says. Some people have what I might call spiritual mud in their eyes. They can't see God. They're spiritually myopic. Charles Allen writes, “Certainly, not every person who saw Jesus with their eyes physically saw God. Mere physical sight of him revealed only a man. It is not even enough to understand his teachings and his life. Many scholars,” says Allen, “have studied his word without seeing him. Really to see God in Christ, one must experience him in the heart,” says Charles Allen. And so from this beatitude we learn that the pure in heart see God, they have a vision of the Almighty, they have a vision of Christ that the impure in heart do not have. The Apostle Paul said it this way in Titus 1:15 and 16, he says, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and their consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Tough words from the Apostle Paul, I know. But to the contrary, the God that we serve, and the God of the Bible is a pure and holy God without the slightest degree of impurity. And the prophet Habakkuk recognized this when he said to the Lord God, “Your eyes are too pure to behold evil.”
All that said, and in light of Matthew 5:8 in this sixth beatitude, which says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” I have two questions that I'd like for us to explore this morning. Two ways to sort of examine this sixth beatitude. The first question simply asks this; are you a temple or are you a trashcan? Now, this week I went down to the Home Depot, bought myself a brand new, shiny, pretty looking trashcan. And my neighbors are gonna be proud as I sit this on the side of my house. Nice looking trashcan. It's all clean and shiny on the outside, but we all know that it doesn't take very when you're using a trashcan and you're putting trash in there before the inside of the trashcan gets dirty and smelly and stinky and trashy. And when it gets that way, you would never think of taking this to the inside of your house. Oh, it might look clean and shiny and new and fresh on the outside, but on the inside, oh, just trashy and smelly.
Keep that image in mind as we go from Matthew 5:8 to Matthew 15. And I want to explore, with regard to this question, are you a temple or are you a trashcan, I want to explore one of the confrontations that Jesus had with the Pharisees. He had many during his ministry here on this earth. And one of the clashes, one of the confrontations he had with the Pharisees during his ministry upon this earth was over the ceremonial or purification laws in the Old Testament. Let's pick it up in 15:1. It says “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t’”—listen to this—“‘they don’t wash their hands before they eat.’” Now, that's an interesting question, isn’t it? And maybe some of you parents or grandparents, you have kids in the house to where every time you have breakfast or lunch or dinner, you say, “Okay. It's time for dinner, kids. Wash your hands before we eat.” Well, the Pharisees weren’t interested in the personal hygiene habits of the disciples. That wasn't their question. No, they were concerned about their apparent disregard for the law of God in the Old Testament. And not only the law of God, but the traditions of the elders that they piled upon the law of God in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament there are ceremonial or purification laws that covered a wide range of behaviors, like, “Don’t touch this or touch that. Don’t eat this or eat that. Wash your hands before every meal.” And the Pharisees were Phi Beta Kappa at keeping the purification laws of the Old Testament. And they believed that purification was all about keeping the outside clean and shiny and pretty and new. “Wash your hands before you eat, guys, because you don’t want to go into the holy presence of God with dirty hands. Don’t touch this, don’t eat that.” All kinds of laws, all kinds of traditions piled upon those laws. And finally, they had enough of it. And the Pharisees come all the way from Jerusalem out to Gennesaret where Jesus was with his disciples, and say, “Jesus, we have a question. Why don’t your disciples follow the tradition of the elders and wash their hands?" The implication was, “They're impure. They're not clean like we are.”
Well, Jesus is a master at getting to the heart of the issue, and he answers the question with a question. Verse 3 through about 9, he gets into this exchange with the Pharisee and basically accuses them of breaking the command of God for the sake of their tradition, and he calls them, of all things, hypocrites. That's not a way to win friends and influence people, but again, Jesus had these clashes, these confrontations with the Pharisees. About that time a crowd had gathered, and in verse 10 it says that “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand something. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean. But what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean.’” What you got to understand is, in that simple statement, Jesus rewrote the purification laws, certainly, the traditions that the elders had placed upon those Old Testament laws, and he sort of sent the Pharisees in to a bit of a frenzy there.
By then the disciples had kind of gathered around, and by verse 15 Peter’s saying, “Lord you got to explain this parable to us. We don’t quite understand this.” Jesus says, in verse 16, “Are you still so dull? Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean.” Now, he goes a little bit deeper into the heart here, and he says, “For out of the heart come”—oh, look at the list there—“evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean,” he says. “But eating with unwashed hands does not make a man unclean.” He had an uncanny way of getting to the heart of the matter.
Are you a trashcan or are you a temple? The Bible talks about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit, but sometimes we turn it into a trashcan, don’t we? Let's just look inside this trashcan. There all kinds of trash inside of here. Well, we got some murder, some false testimony, some adultery here. It smells. What else have we got here. Oh, reach way down in here. We've got some evil thoughts, some lust, some sexual immorality, some theft, slander, pornography, you name it. Are you a trashcan or are you a temple? “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Are you seeing God clearly today? Or have you got spiritual mud or trash in your eyes and you can't see him clearly?
Now, one of my favorite characters from children’s stories and from the Sesame Street gang is a guy named Oscar the Grouch. Remember Oscar the Grouch? Oscar lived in a trashcan. He loved trash. In fact, he had a song where he sang about how much he loved trash. Have you ever heard this before? It's really quite catchy. It's simply titled I Love Trash, and the chorus of the song, Oscar says this, “Oh, I love trash,” he says. “Anything dirty or dingy of dusty. Anything ragged or rotten or rusty. Oh, I love trash,” Oscar says. And you've seen it. He's a lovable character, but somebody help the guy. He's living in a trashcan. Do you love trash? Some people, even Christian people love trash. They love trashy novels, trashy movies, trashy thought life, they go to trashy places, they run with trashy people. They're not a temple where the pure and holy God that we serve is pleased to dwell, but they're a trashcan that needs cleaning out.
Jesus’ point with the Pharisees was simply this, religion is powerless to produce a pure heart. If you're just all about the externals, saying all the right things to all the right people in all the right places at all the right times, all clean and shiny and new and fresh on the outside, it's time to look inside the heart. And understand that the human is not just trashy, it's deceptive. According to Jeremiah, “Deceptive above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?”
The Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev said, “I do not know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I know what the heart of a good man is like, and it is terrible.” It's trashy. And you say, “Well, that would never happen to me as a believer in Christ. I would never be like Oscar the Grouch, clean on the outside but trashy on the inside, and living in a trashcan. I'd never be like the Pharisees, just putting on a façade. Look at me all clean and shiny and pure on the outside, but on the inside there's (0:19:00.0) trash. There's just trash.” And the Bible says, “Let you who think you stand take heed lest you fall.” There's fair warning for all of us here.
While we're on this subject, let me just delve into maybe a sensitive topic here relating to purity. And that is what the Bible has to say about our sexual purity. And the Bible has a lot to say about it. Okay. This beatitude does not say, “Blessed are the prudish in heart,” it says, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” And sexual purity is something that is very near and dear to the heart of God. 1 Timothy 5:22, Paul said to Timothy, “Keep yourself pure.” In that is a responsibility that you and I have to fight the good fight in the midst of a culture that makes it very difficult to maintain sexual purity today by (0:20:00.0) deed or by thought or by look or whatever it might be. He said to Timothy later in that same book, 1 Timothy 4:12, “Set an example,” he says, “for the believers,” and he lists a number of things there, one of which is, “in purity.”
1 Corinthians 6:18 and 20, Paul says, “Flee”—say the word “flee” with me. Flee. It means to run. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” Sexual sin is unique, friends. You know, we like to take sin and kind of lump it all into the same category, but here the Apostle Paul says there's something unique about sexual sin. He goes on to say, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” He says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” It reminds us that sexual immorality is not something we should play with. You say, “Well, it’d be cowardly to run from something.” No, it's never cowardly to run from something that could destroy your life. It is a smart thing to do. Joseph, when daily he received solicitations from Potiphar’s wife, “Come to bed with me, come to bed with me, come to bed with me,” the Scripture says Joseph ran, he fled. Okay? Smart thing to do.
Sexual immorality will burn you. Proverbs 6:27 and following says this, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife. No one who touches her will go unpunished.” I'm sure you raised your children as I raised my children, “Do not play with fire. Play with fire, it'll burn you.” Sexual immorality is like playing with fire, the Scripture says. The gift of sex is for the marriage relationship, and it's kind of like a fire in a fireplace. Okay? Contained in that nice little brick fireplace, the fire is a good thing and it warms and does all that we want it to. Take it outside its context, it will burn you. You take sex outside the context of its intended environment, which is the marriage relationship, and it will burn you.
Furthermore, sexual purity, we might say, is the will of God. How many of you want to know what the will of God is for your life? Well, sometimes that's a mystery and it takes some time and some prayer and some counsel to figure out what God’s will is for your life. Sometimes the Bible is really straightforward in saying, “This is the will of God.” And that's the case 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. It says, “It is the will of God that you are sanctified, set apart.” And then, it defines it even further. “That you should avoid sexual immorality. That each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God. And that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure,” Paul says, “but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
Now, many of those verses are familiar to a lot of us in the room. And the question is not, do we understand what the word of God says about maintaining sexual purity? The question is, how do we do it? And is there any hope for the person who has become sexually impure? The answer to that second question is, yes. The how is for, perhaps, another sermon. A longer one than this. But let me just say this, to the men first…and ladies, don’t think this doesn't apply to you as well…you need a strategy. And prayer is a place to begin, but it's not enough. You need a strategy when the bombardment of sexually-charged messages hits you from our culture. Now, we could talk all day long about a strategy, but you got to have a strategy. And the first thing you got to have, to put it in military terms, is you got to have your ammunition loaded up. And that starts with the word of God. So I created a resource we did for you this week that contains more than 50 Scripture verses, okay, on purity that will help us as a congregation, as individuals, as families, as couples to maintain, to keep ourselves pure.
David asked in Psalm 119:9, “How shall a young man keep his way pure? By living according to the word of God.” So it begins by loading up heart and your mind with your spiritual ammunition, because the battle begins in the mind and flows through the eyes into the mind. So we renew our minds with the word of God. And this resource, which is available on our website, you can download it this afternoon, a purity guide or resource with more than 50 verses of Scripture, some of which I just read, I encourage you to begin there. Not only to familiarize yourself with what the word of God says and what the will of God is regarding keeping ourselves sexually pure, but then begin to hide those Scriptures in your heart. And if you're struggling in that area, you need a radical strategy that begins with intense Scripture memorization so that you have the arsenal hidden in your heart, at your fingertips, ready to go when the temptation comes, when the bombardment comes. So please, go and get that resource, share it with a friend. You can download it from our website.
Now, I mentioned that there were two questions that I wanted to pose this morning. The first is, are you a temple or are you a trashcan? The second one…and this kind of the other way to come at this beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The question is this, do you have a singular devotion to Jesus Christ, pure in heart toward him, singular devotion to Jesus Christ, or is there a divided loyalty in your heart. And to explore this, I want to go now to Psalm 24. Go from Matthew 15 to Psalm 24. And although I do not have time this morning to read Psalm 24 in its entirety, let me give you a little bit of background. The Jewish tradition on Psalm 24 says that David wrote this psalm as he was returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And what a marvelous and celebrative time this was in Israel’s history, where the Shepherd of Israel, the king of Israel, David, brought the ark of God, the presence of God back to the holy city of Jerusalem and set it up there where King David, the Shepherd of Israel would reign and rule from the holy city. Great time in Israel’s life.
But scholars also believe that Psalm 24 has something else in view, because there's a reference to the king of glory. And it's a foreshadowing, a picture of things to come when the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of glory will return to this earth and establish his rule and reign on planet earth from the holy city of Jerusalem. And the question comes in this psalm, “Who is worthy, who is worthy to rule and reign from the holy city?” Actually, in verse 3 the question comes this way. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord, who may stand in his holy place?” And the answer is, “He who has clean hands”—and here’s our phrase—“and a pure heart.” And then, it's further defined, that pure heart is, by, “Who does not lift up his soul to an idol.” In other words, there's no duplicity in his life. No divided loyalty. There is single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ. He doesn't lift up his heart to an idol. And, or, rather, “Swear by what is false.” There's no hypocrisy, there's no duplicity. Remember the Pharisees who were hypocrites? Clean on the outside, but filthy and dirty and trashy on the inside.
Now, in one sense, in an eschatological sense, only Jesus Christ can fulfill this. And that's the beauty of Psalm 24, is that it pictures the day when the King of glory will return to this earth and set up his rule and reign in the holy city of Jerusalem, and only Jesus is worthy to ascend that holy hill and to be in the holy presence of God. But this psalm, if you look at verse 6 is also, “For such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face.” It's speaking to us as well. And the question here, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord, who may stand in his holy place,” is a question of who has the privilege of experiencing an intimacy with God where they see God and experience him in purity and in holiness with no spiritual mud in their eyes, no trash in their hearts that would obscure their vision of Christ. Who can do that? And the answer comes back, “He who has clean hands and pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol.” No duplicity, no divided loyalty. Single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ. What's an idol? Well we might say that an idol is anything that obscures our vision of Jesus Christ. And idol is anything that challenges our single-minded loyalty to Jesus Christ. That's what an idol is.
I was reading this week over vacation Randy Alcorn’s fine book called The Purity Principle. And in chapter 1 he talks about how a friend of his connected his thoughts to the subject of purity to a place he had never thought of before. And that was to the Old Testament character Jonah. Remember Jonah, the prophet who ran from God? Found himself in the belly of a fish, and he came to his senses when he was in the belly of the fish and Jonah prayed in chapter 2 of the book of Jonah. And one of the things he prayed was this, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” And Alcorn makes that connection between living a life of purity or impurity, clinging to a worthless idol either visually or otherwise, and forfeiting the grace could be ours. Forfeiting the intimacy that we might experience. Forfeiting the privilege of ascending the hill of the Lord and standing in his holy presence because we're trashcans, not temples. Because there's a divided loyalty in our heart, not a singular devotion to Jesus Christ.
But it doesn't stop there. Actually, we could find an example of this singular devotion to Christ in the New Testament if you go with me to Philippians chapter 3. I love the Apostle Paul on this. While you're turning there to Philippians chapter 3, Sinclair Ferguson defines a pure heart this way, he says, “To be pure in heart is to be uncompromisingly and singularly dedicated to Christ. This is the way to truly see God.” He got that idea from a Danish philosopher and theologian named Kierkegaard, who wrote a book titled Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. I love that. Say that with me. One thing. Hold your finger in the air and say, “One thing.” And then, let's go to Philippians 3:12. The Apostle Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained all of this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. Brothers,” he goes one, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do”—speaks of Paul’s singularity of focus and vision on his relationship with Christ—“one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Blessed are the pure in heart.” Blessed are those who are single-minded in their devotion to Jesus Christ, where life has come down to one thing.
Remember the movie City Slickers? Watch this.
“Do you know what the secret of life is?”
“One thing. Just one thing.”
“That's great, but what's the one thing?”
“That's what you've got to figure out.”
Hold your finger in the air. One thing. You've got it figured out. The Apostle Paul had it figured out. “This one thing I do. There's no division in my heart, there's no duplicity in my heart. There's not a divided loyalty. I'm not clinging to worthless idols. I'm clinging to the one thing that really matters, and that's Jesus Christ.” The Apostle Paul, when he considered his dossier, his resume in verses previous to that, he says, “All that I had going for me, I was a Pharisee of Pharisees, I was taught by the best of teachers.” You know what he says, “It's all trash.” Isn’t that interesting? He calls it rubbish, “Compared to the privilege of knowing Christ in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his sufferings.” Here's a man whose life had come down to one thing, and that was pursuing Jesus Christ. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
They don’t cling to worthless idols, they don’t swear by what is false. Brings us full circle to the Pharisees and that confrontation about the purification rights. They were hypocrites. Why? Because they were all clean on the outside, but smelly and trashy and dirty on the inside. Okay? And when that is true of us, we walk down the path of falsehood and lies and hypocrisy in our life when the outside doesn't match the inside.
Will you bow together in prayer with me? Father, thank you for my friends and neighbors here today. Thank you for this beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Oh, Father, we want to see you. We want a clear and holy vision of the Almighty. We want to see you in ways we've never seen before. Father, clean us up, clean us out. Like David, we pray, “God, create in me a clean, a pure heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” God, turn us into temples where your Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell. And put your finger on those areas of our life that may be dirty and smelly and trashy, and that need the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ applied to it. Give us, Father, a singular devotion to you, where only one thing in life really matters. And that's our commitment and our relationship to Jesus Christ, and everything else is rubbish and trash by comparison. Father, we love you. Thank you that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.” There's hope for the impure heart at the foot of the cross and with the blood of Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Total Time 0:38:45.8