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Dr. Rick Mandl - July 25, 2020
Blessed Are The Pure In Heart
Sermon Manuscript: Upside Down Message 6- Blessed Are The Pure In Heart
Sermon preached by Dr. Rick Mandl, Eagle Rock Baptist Church, July 25 & 26, 2020
Hey church family. Great to be joining with you virtually today. Wherever you are and however you may be watching I hope you’re doing well. You know with everything going on in the world, you might have missed a milestone that we passed this week which is that we are now less than 100 days from the next Presedential election. I know 100 days is a kind of an artificial benchmark, but typically it’s a place where the media pauses to take inventory of where things stand, because barring any big surprises, once election day arrives, often things windup playing out very much the way they looked 100 days before the election. All of which started me thinking about another presedential election that was held 44 years ago.
The year was 1976. The candidate was a Georgia Peanut Farmer by the name of Jimmy Carter. Jimmy was the democratic party nominee. He was hoping to unseat the inumbent Gerald Ford. And in his campaigning, Jimmy Carter was doing lots of TV appearances and interviews, including an interview with Playboy Magazine. And it was in the course of that interview with Playboy that Jimmy Carter said something that made headliness. Maybe he was trying to demonstrate that he was a man of the people. Maybe he was trying to identify with the readers of Playboy. But for whatever reason, Jimmy Carter said, and I quote, “I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.” Fast forward 44 years. If any candidate for President today said those same words... If a candidate today said, “I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.” Our response would be... And? And? And? I mean, that’s it? That’s not news. You’re only telling us something you’ve done in your heart, and what you’ve done in your heart isn’t important. Or is it? Today we’recontinuing our look at the Beatitudes and we come to Matthew 5:8… “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Of all the things that Jesus could have focused on, Why The Heart? Probably the most significant reason is that the people to whom Jesus was speaking, were very concerned about the external. They had all kinds of rules and regulations, and rituals, regarding CLEANLINESS, and what you could touch or not touch, and how you needed to wash in order to be clean enough to approach God in worship. They were meticulous in their observance of rules and rituals regarding the outer-person but they didn’t worry nearly as much about what was going on inside. And yet throughout his Sermon On the Mount Jesus is driving the focus deeper. You’ll find a formula that he uses throughout Matthew 5 in which he says “You have heard that it was said” and then he followed that with “but I tell you” and in each case he was contrasting what we do on the outside, with what’s really going on in the heart.
For example... In Matthew 5:21 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” In Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Jesus is talking about a different kind of righteousness, a different kind of purity than the people of his day worried about. When the Bible talks about the heart it’s talking about the control center for our Intellect, Emotions and Will. It’s the place from where everything else comes. The writer of Proverbs counseled, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If you pollute the heart, everything else is polluted as well.
When the Bible talks about the heart, it’s talking about what we are deep down inside – at our core. We look at people and we can be fooled by what we see on the outside, but God is not fooled because he sees things that we don’t see. 1 Samuel 16 tells us, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7) The psalmist asks the question in Psalm 24, "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4). Clean hands are important, but they’re not enough. What’s on the inside needs to match what’s on the outside. How will I know if I have a pure heart?
If I have a Pure heart it will reveal itself in three ways... My MOUTH. Jesus says that the MOUTH can be an indicator of what’s going on inside, beneath the surface where nobody else can see. This is a tough issue, because it goes against our culture. In our culture we pay very little attention to the kinds of words that we use. You can almost use whatever words you want to and get away with it, but Jesus said that what comes out of our mouths is a great revealer of who we actually are on the inside. This is why the Apostle Paul writes, ‘Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" (Ephesians 4:29). When it comes to the words you use, you have a choice... You can be PROFANE, or you can be POSITIVE. Some of you hear that and when it comes to profanity you say “I can’t help it.” “It’s ingrained in me.” “It’s a habit” “I can’t turn it off” To which I would simply reply, “Really??” “You CAN’T turn it off?” So when you go in to interview for a job, you just let loose with a string of profanity at the person who is conducting the interview? No, you turn it off. When you sit down with your elderly grandmother, you just let the profanity roll? I don’t think so. The question ISN’T “CAN I turn it off?” The question is “WHY DON’T I turn it off?” If we want to be obedient followers of Jesus who are pure, we’ll put a muzzle on our mouth. If we’re not concerned about being obedient followers, but are content to be enthusiastic fans, we’ll say “Jesus can have the rest of my life, but my words are mine!” It takes work to cut it off, because we learn this stuff from a very early age. Take a look at this. (VIDEO CLIP – CHRISTMAS STORY) If I’ve got a pure heart it will reveal itself in my MOUTH.
And it will reveal itself... MY THOUGHTS. Paul in Romans 12 says, “Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think“ (Romans 12:2). The things we feed our mind matter. The writer of Proverbs said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). But the Bible says that just as important as what we keep out of our minds, are the things we choose to fill it with. Fill your mind with God’s Word. A good place to start would be Psalm 119 There the Psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Reading, studying and memorizing the things in God’s Word is a good way to allow good things into your mind, so that those things will be there when you need them. When God gave us His word, he didn’t do it only for INFORMATION, but for TRANSFORMATION. Set aside some time each day to get into God’s Word. . . allow His word to get into you and it will do its work in you.
When I have a pure heart it will reveal itself in MY WORDS... MY THOUGHTS... MY ACTIONS. Look at Matthew 15... Jesus said, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you” (Matthew 15:19-20). Jesus is sharing two truths in those verses. To people who thought that the most important thing was the externals, he said, ”You’ve got the priority wrong... it’s not how much you wash, or the things you touch that are what pollute you.” But on the flip side he said, “Whatever is in your heart will show forth in your life.” A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree produces bad fruit. Whatever the fruit, is a direct reflection on the root. The heart. He says the same thing in different words in Matthew 23. “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. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean" (Matthew 23:25-26). Again the emphasis, on WHOLENESS, INTEGRITY... Making sure that what you see on the outside, matches what is on the inside.
One of my favorite illustrations of this involved a case that was being handled a few years back and involved the recovery of a stolen car that was recovered by the Customs Department at the port of Los Angeles. The car was in a container, about to be shipped to the Netherlands when the Feds intercepted it. What made the story unusual was that this car had been STOLEN 23 YEARS EARLIER. When authorities ran the V.I.N., they learned the car was reported stolen in Las Vegas back in November of 1988. And in November of 2011 - - 23 years after it was stolen it was recovered here in Los Angeles. As you can see by the photos, the car is in immaculate condition. In fact the only thing missing, is the engine. It looks pristine on the outside, but there’s nothing under the hood. That’s a great picture of a lot of people. They look good on the outside, but inside they are empty. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to pretend that there’s no value in living a good life, even if you’re empty on the inside. This Porsche, even without its engine is worth over $30,000 dollars. It’s just that it would be way more valuable, if the inside matched the outside. Again, the Porsche is a great picture of a lot of people. Looking good on the outside, but with a heart that hasn’t been transformed.
If you are one of those people, I’d love for you to be my neighbor. You’re probably the kind of person who would take great care of your property, participate in a neighborhood watch, all the things that a good neighbor does. But in terms of how God measures goodness, you still would fall short. Which leads to the key question when it comes to a pure heart... How Pure Is Pure Enough?
Remember last week when we were looking at mercy, and the man who came to Jesus wanted to know... “Who is my neighbor?” If I have to love my neighbor, I need to know who he is so that I don’t waste any love, loving anyone I don’t have to. In a similar way, if God requires purity from us, how pure is pure enough? 1 Peter 1:15 says, “You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15). Hebrews 12:14, “...be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:1). We see those words and we still wonder... How holy... how pure do I have to be? The good news is that there is a whole department of the Federal Government, that measures purity. And of course I’m talking about the... The FDA. Which is the branch of our government that is devoted to the PURITY of what you eat. Yet even with the FDA, the standards that they set may not be as high as you hope they are. Let me give you a couple of examples
Mushrooms. Any of you watching like mushrooms? As a topping on your pizza, or sautéed with onions on your steak? If so, you’ll be glad to know that mushrooms cannot be sold, they are considered impure if there is an average of 20 or more maggots per 15 grams of mushrooms. I guess you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. 19 maggots is okay, but 20 maggots is one maggot too many. Coffee. Coffee beans cannot be sold if an average of 10% or more are insect infested or if they find two live insects in the bag of coffee beans. You just don’t want more than one live insect sharing your morning brew. Fig paste!!! By itself, not the most appealing substance, but fig paste if there are more than 13 insect heads per 100 grams of fig paste the FDA ruthlessly tosses the entire batch - - what’s intriguing about this requirement is - why specify insect heads? Apparently any other insect part is okay but you just don’t want too many insect heads staring back at you when you bite into that fig newton. Apple Butter, if it averages four rodent hairs per 100 grams or if it averages 5 or more whole insects - - it’s gone. Two or three rodent hairs on your English muffin not a problem. Hot Dogs!!! Trust me - - - you don’t want to know. My point is, even with a regulatory agency like the FDA that measures purity, they figure, this much impurity is okay. Any more than that, it’s not.
That’s different than God’s standard. Do you remember the religious leader who came to Jesus and tried to trap Him with the question? “One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap Jesus with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:35-38). How much of our heart, soul and mind did Jesus say we needed to devote to him? ALL of it. 100%. It’s not enough to be 99 44/100% pure. We need to be completely holy. Because, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord” How Can I Become Pure? I love what Isaiah 1:18 says, This is God’s promise to us. It says, "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Notice, God doesn’t say “YOU can” he says what “I can.” He says it three times. In fact, I want you to go ahead and underline the three times in that verse that he says, “I Can.” He says, “I can remove it…." I can make you clean as freshly fallen snow. I can make you as white as wool. That’s what’s different about being a Christian. Other religions tell you how you can make yourself better by changing the externals – but the problem is if you could have done that on your own you probably would have already. The cross of Jesus Christ is for those who know they can’t do it on their own, and they need God’s help for changing their heart.
God is a heart specialist In Ezekiel 36 God says, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:2). If you’ve never said yes to that offer from God, you can do that today. If you’ve never invited Jesus into your life you can do that right now. All you have to do is say a simple prayer, and ask Jesus to come into your life and he will take all the garbage that has been in your life and he will get rid of it. He’ll forgive you and it will be as if it never happened, and you will be as white as snow. And when that happens you will be able to see God and hear God’s voice in your life in ways you never have before. And not only that you’ll become a member of his forever family, and you will have a place that is secured for you in heaven forever. Many of you here today did that long ago... But if the truth were known, you’ve been living a life that has been anything but pure. Maybe your prayer needs to be the one that David prayed in Psalm 51. David was a believer when he prayed this prayer - - but he had blown in big time and he knew he needed to get back on track - - - back on the right path with God. And so he prayed a prayer that is our memory verse for this week. It’s in your notes and it’s on the screen, would you read it out loud with me? "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). All you have to do is ask Him and He will begin that new work in your life today. Let’s bow our heads and spend some time in prayer together.