Sunday Services at 10:00am
1155 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield
Date: March 6, 2022
Speaker: Eric Stillman
Scripture: Matthew 5:8–5:8
This winter, I have been preaching through a sermon series that I have entitled Revival. This series came out of a conviction that God has so much more available for us individually and as a church, but if we choose complacency, if we give ourselves to worldly pursuits while relegating him to an afterthought, then we will miss out on all the power, the joy, the love, and the wonder that He had for us. Oh, that we would not live our lives and never experience the power and reality of our great God! May we give ourselves to Him and earnestly plead for a revival of our souls and of our church, that His kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Earlier in this series, I mentioned what Richard Lovelace calls in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal the two preconditions of revival: an increased awareness of the holiness of God, and an increased awareness of the depth of our sin. By holiness, I mean that God is transcendentally separate from us in His perfection. By sin I mean our rebellion against God, our inability to measure up to His holy standard, and our brokenness. The more we are aware of the greatness of God, the high expectations of God, the incredible promises of God, along with our own inability to live up to His expectations and the terrible effect of our sin on ourselves and others, the closer we are to revival. You want to see revival in your life and in the church? Pray for those two things – Lord, increase my awareness of your holiness and the depth of my sin.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to dive deeper into the second part, the awareness of the depth of our sin, and to do so by looking at the Beatitudes, the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes describe the blessed life, the characteristics of the man or woman who is favored by God, what a life touched by revival will look like. So far, these are the beatitudes we have looked at:
Matthew 5:3-8 - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
This morning, we will be looking at Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
To begin with, this is an incredible promise. You will see God. We were created for that kind of intimacy with God, but it has been lost ever since Adam sinned. To see God’s face is part of the great blessing that God told Moses to teach to Israel:
Numbers 6:24-26 - "'"The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."'
To have God’s face turned towards you is to have His blessing, His favor. But despite our need for God’s face, it’s not that simple. Whenever God appears, his people fall down as if they are dead – Isaiah, Ezekiel, John at the beginning of Revelation.
In Exodus 33:18-23, Moses is asking God to really see Him and not just hear His voice. Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." 19 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." 21 Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."
But in the Beatitudes, we have Jesus, promising that the pure in heart will see God. And when we fast forward to the end of the Bible, we see that the promise will come true.
Revelation 22:3-4 - No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. It’s a very abstract, hard to grasp promise, I understand. Can you see God? Does God have a body? Is it like looking at a very bright light? What does this mean?
Let me try to bring some understanding. Think of what it is like witnessing something majestic or glorious like a sunset or a waterfall. The awe, the beauty. You want to gaze upon it, enjoy it, praise it, share it with others. Think about what it is like witnessing something beautiful, like a bride walking down the aisle, or a smiling baby. Think of what it is like sharing an uplifting or emotional group experience like at a concert. You want it to pass in to you, to become one with it, to slow down time, to enjoy it, to share it.
All of those experiences point to this promise, that we will see God. To see God will be to experience the majesty of all majesties, the most awe-inspiring sight, the most beautiful being, to experience and share in the greatest glory, to experience true ecstasy. To see God will be all of that rolled up in one, plus more, I am sure.
1 Corinthians 2:9 - as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"
But there is a huge problem with this promise. Jesus promises that the pure in heart will see God. The pure in heart are those who are without hypocrisy, those who are sincere, who are single-minded in their devotion to God, whose only desire is to glorify God and to be holy as He is holy. The problem, of course, is that we are not pure in heart.
Proverbs 20:9 - Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?
Remember, the Beatitudes began with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are those who know they are spiritually bankrupt, who know that they are completely dependent upon God for everything good. The problem with the promise is that no one is pure in heart. The more honest we are with ourselves, the more we know that we are far from pure, that even our most holy moments are stained with sinful self-centeredness.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Our hearts are divided. One part of us wants to love and serve God, and another part wants to be self-centered.
Romans 7:15-25 - I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So how are we to be pure if the first step is to realize just how impure we are? Is Jesus just telling us to try harder to make ourselves pure, to get rid of our sin? No amount of effort, education, policies, laws, or anything else can change a human heart. We will not become holy by becoming monks and separating ourselves from society. So how do we make sense of this promise?
The provision –
How are we who are so impure to ever see the face of God? The answer is that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came from heaven, where he lived face to face with the Father in perfect beauty, joy, and harmony. But as Jesus hung on the cross, crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, the Father hid his face from his only son. Jesus willingly gave up the Father’s face, his favor, his blessing, and took our sin, the punishment we deserved. And he died.
But he rose again, and now, because Jesus lost the Father’s face, we will see the Father face to face.
He gives us a new heart and the ability to choose purity
Ezekiel 36:26-27 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Jeremiah 31:33 - "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
When we confess our poverty of spirit, our sin, and trust in Jesus, He gives us a new heart, putting His Spirit in us so that we would desire Him. And so we pray:
Psalm 51:10 - Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
The pursuit - And now we can pursue purity
We pursue purity not in order to be saved, but because we have been saved. Jesus’ focus is on the heart, not external behavior. Notice that he focuses on the heart, the center of who you are, the fount out of which everything else comes. Not the intellect. Not your external behavior or conduct. Blessed are those who are pure in the center of their being and at the source of their every activity.
Matthew 23:25-28 - "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Pursue purity and you will see God. Go after God and you will find Him.
Yes, the promise is that on that day that we are with Him forever, that we will see God. But what does it mean to see God in the here and now?
See God in nature (who earth is full of his glory)
Isaiah 6:1-3 - In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
In the thunder, the flowers, the animals, the wind.
See God in Scripture
John 5:39-40 - You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
See God in church and in others
Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
1 Corinthians 12:27 - Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
See God in circumstances
Genesis 28:16-17 - When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." 17 He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven."
Blessed are the pure in heart. Those who are single-minded in their devotion to God. They will see Him.
1 Corinthians 13:12 - Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
One day we will see Him and be like Him.
1 John 3:2-3 - Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.