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Thankfulness Project: Blessed are the Pure in Heart

I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. -Matthew 5:8

Pure in heart is a difficult concept. Who is or even can be pure in heart? Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Mark 7 continues to list the wickedness of our hearts: “For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, selfishness, deceit, debauchery/drunkenness, envy, slander (gossip), arrogance, and foolishness.” Who is not guilty of at least two or three items on that list, more than once in their lifetimes? Romans 1:21 lays out our shortcomings even more detailed: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.” Who is not guilty of complaining daily, of instead being thankful daily in prayers to the Lord? That’s a practice I still struggle to maintain.

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So what does it mean to have a pure heart? “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear deceitfully.” -Ps. 24:4 Someone who does not worship idols or lie or deceive. Even if we stop lying and deceiving, idols are a tricky temptation, something we’re easily deceived into thinking we’re immune to. It seems easy to say we don’t worship idols, since most of us don’t have metal or wood statues in our homes that we pray to (Ex. 20:3-4). But what if we broaden the definition of an idol? “a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered” more than we revere or love God. Is there anything or anyone you would be furious with God for taking away from you? Anyone you may be angry enough that you would turn your back on God and then say “forget you God; I’m done doing things your way now”? If we live in a hot region, do we not get angry with God when our AC goes out, or our heat if it’s the middle of winter, or if our car doesn’t start, or if we don’t get the accolade/praise/job/promotion/bonus/tax return/gift/house/car/etc. we wanted and had been daydreaming about? What thing do I daydream about happening most? What person do I think about most? That’s an idol. What person or thing makes me happiest? That’s an idol. What activity is most important to me (or do I even demand to be allowed to do without interruption or guilt or any other obligations), especially at the end of the workday or when I’m stressed or upset—food, sports, drink, a TV show, a book, a smoke? That’s my idol. Whatever soothes me, or consumes me most, is my idol. A very simple definition of idol I found is “whoever or whatever we think about or desire most is what we worship.” Wow. That could be anything, any activity; it could even be a whole host of things, a combination of activities and people. The thing or person itself doesn’t isn’t necessarily a “bad” activity, just a higher priority than all others, something we live for, daydream about, always return to, forsaking all others, including God.

Having any idols, anyone or anything higher in priority than God, or His desire for us, makes our hearts impure. So how can anyone have a pure heart before God and be blessed, happy, joyful, lightened?

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Put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires -Eph. 4:22

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. -Ps. 51:10

When we pray these things in full sincerity, after we admit we have failed to put God first, that that is our true and deepest desire, and admit we need His help to do it, then our gracious Father promises:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. -Ezek. 36:26

He’s the One who makes us pure, when we realize we cannot be on our own, we need Him to do it for us, to even give us the desire (because it’s so easy to make idols of the people and things we love! Especially when we’re hurt, tired, discouraged, frustrated, etc.) God is so loving, so generous, so gracious! He knows our quick, easy tendency to fall into idolatry and wickedness of heart. He knows we’re weak humans made of dust (Ps. 103:14). So He makes it simple for us. We admit our lack, our failings. We ask for His help in our weakness. He gives His help to those who are sincere and gives us new, clean pure hearts. And then, as if this weren’t enough blessing already (and it surely is), the gracious, abundant Father then blesses us AGAIN by calling/making us blessed—joyful, lightened of burden, smiling, triumphant, happy. And THEN He gives ANOTHER promise: we will see God. “To the pure you show yourself pure.” -2 Sam. 22:27

We get to see God’s purity. Purity: freshness, cleanness, virtue, goodness, clarity. These are the things our eyes become open to see. The thick, crusted mud on our eyes of selfishness, bad habits, wasting time, idolatry, my way, my ungratefulness falls off, and I see the pure blessings all around us. Instead of being frustrated that a small child wants to play with me and interrupt my sports game/movie/drink/book I was looking forward to all day, my eyes open to see that this child loves, admires, adores, looks up to me so much, all they want is to play dinosaurs or tea party with me. And I set down my desire, and walk with them to delight in their delight, to hear their giggle and see their smile. I set aside what I wanted, and see my spouse’s smile, and I remember the day I fell in love with it. I set aside my tiredness, ask for God’s purity, and appreciate the parent who is still alive for me to call and tell them about the good/funny anecdote that happened to me today and hear the pride or laughter in their voice. I set aside my idol and schedule a dinner or brunch with that friend I’ve been missing and talk about that new book release.

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I set aside my morning idol of email, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, and open up the Bible instead, or that Bible study so and so has been talking about that was so great. And suddenly, this Word hits me. Fresh. Peaceful. Powerful. God’s Words, His truth hits me right in the heart of the issue I’ve been struggling with. The lie I’ve been battling against believing since childhood or my teen years. The fear I struggled under the cloud of. And suddenly a weight is lifted. I hear God, feel His presence in a way I haven’t in years, maybe not ever. He tells me the real, unbending, undeniable truth in a way I was never ready to hear before. It silences my fear and doubt and insecurity. And I’m overcome by a sudden lightness of being. The weight of a burden, of a lie, of a fear, falls away and my eyes open and my heart feels lighter, purer, as I confess my sin, my lack, to God, and He washes me clean. The Father makes me new. He gives me a clean heart, a right spirit, a giving, kind, joyful spirit.

I see His face, His heart, His desire for me, His goodness, His love. I find myself smiling, eager to tell someone what God just did for me, what He could do for them too. God and I, we can tackle anything together that this day holds. I’m confident, excited about today. It feels like hope, like joy. I’m so thankful. I feel blessed. I know I am in my head, but my heart knows it now too, not just a legalistic head knowledge from a crusty, dry religion based on works. No, this is genuine heart knowledge, faith. I’ve seen God.

I know God is good because I’ve tasted and seen it; I know how empty everything else always has been, always wanting more of what never satisfies. But God is overwhelmingly satisfying, more than anything ever has been, all the pursuits and desires of my life. I know He’s trustworthy and faithful and I really believe it; I’m not just saying it because it’s the churchy answer. Jesus made me pure and I know it because I’ve heard His voice, felt His presence, seen His face and all the goodness He is and gives and replaces with. God makes me pure in heart, and I get to see Him and be renewed by Him at any time I choose to open up to Him in prayer or Bible reading or worship or giving thanks to the Giver of all things. I see God, God is the One who has blessed my life abundantly with so, so many good things; my eyes now see clearly that it overflows.

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© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo

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