What Does It Mean to Be Pure in Heart?


The Sermon on the Mount, the traditional name for what Jesus spoke in Matthew chapters 5-7, begins with nine blessings known as the Beatitudes. These blessings are full of rich meaning for our Christian life today.

In a previous post, we discussed the meaning of the very first blessing recorded in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

In this post, we’ll explore the meaning of another blessing. Matthew 5:8 says:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Today we’ll read verses and notes from the New Testament Recovery Version to help us understand what it means to be pure in heart, and how this results in seeing God.

The meaning of pure in heart

Let’s first see what it means to be pure in heart. Note 1 on pure in Matthew 5:8 in the Recovery Version is very helpful. The first part explains:

“To be pure in heart is to be single in purpose, to have the single goal of accomplishing God’s will for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). This is for the kingdom of the heavens.”

When we’re single in purpose and have only one goal for God’s glory, we’re pure in heart.

Now let’s read 1 Timothy 1:5:

“But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart.”

Note 3 on this verse in the Recovery Version says:

“A pure heart is a single heart without mixture, a heart that seeks only the Lord and takes the Lord as the unique goal.”

Here again we see that a pure heart is one that’s single, without any kind of mixture.

A substance is pure only when it’s not mixed with any other material. For instance, a gold ring may be described as pure gold if the ring has no other element besides gold in it. But if it’s gold plus something else, it’s not pure; it’s an alloy, or a mixture.

To be pure in heart means our heart doesn’t seek anything other than the Lord Jesus. It means we take Him as the unique goal of our life.

Why do we need to be pure in heart?

The next part of note 1 on Matthew 5:8 tells us why we must be pure in our heart:

“Our spirit is the organ by which we receive Christ (John 1:12; 3:6), whereas our heart is the ground where Christ as the seed of life grows (13:19). For the kingdom of the heavens we need to be poor in spirit, empty in our spirit, that we may receive Christ. Also, we need to be pure, single, in our heart that Christ may grow in us without frustration.

When we believed in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we received Him into our human spirit and were born again with the divine life of God. But Christ doesn’t just want to be received by us; He also wants to grow in us, in our heart.

The Bible tells us our heart is composed of our mind, emotion, will, and conscience. In order for Christ to grow freely in us, we need to be pure in heart, that is, single in our purpose and our goal. This is for the kingdom of the heavens and accomplishes God’s will.

What causes our heart not to be pure?

Our heart can be made impure by all kinds of things, not just sinful or evil matters. Actually, our heart is not pure if it seeks anything other than the Lord Jesus.

For example, let’s say we want to achieve a certain advanced degree, attain a certain career milestone, or possess something we long for. These things aren’t wrong or sinful in and of themselves. But it’s possible for us to allow any one of them to occupy our heart more and more. Eventually, it can become the main objective in our life, and then everything we do is driven by our desire to obtain it. We may even ask the Lord to help us, not realizing we’ve lost sight of accomplishing His will and seeking Him as our unique goal. We start living for that thing, and the Lord is frustrated from growing in our heart.

So how can we be pure in heart?

How to be pure in heart

We’d probably all admit that our heart can be very complicated. We may not even be able to tell when we’re not pure in heart. So what should we do?

Instead of trying to self-diagnose the condition of our heart, we should come to the Lord Jesus and open to Him. We need the Lord to shine on us and speak to us about anything in our heart that competes with Him for our affection.

John 1:4 says:

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

The light that can show us where we are comes from the life in us, which is just the Lord Himself. That’s why it’s so important to spend time in the Lord’s presence in prayer and in His Word. We can ask the Lord to make our heart pure by praying something like this:

“Lord Jesus, thank You for coming into me as life. Thank You, Lord, You are the light in me. I want to be pure in heart. Show me if I have any goal or aim other than You. Lord, I want my heart to be single for You and Your will so You can grow in me.”

When the Lord points out something that’s occupying our heart, we shouldn’t be discouraged. We should simply respond to Him in prayer and tell Him that we don’t want that thing to take His place in our heart.

As we respond to His shining in fellowship with Him, the Lord will continue to speak more to us. Responding to the Lord is how we cooperate with Him and give Him the way to make our heart pure for Him. Then He’ll have the opportunity to grow in us.

They shall see God

The Lord Jesus said that the pure in heart are blessed because they shall see God.

In the Recovery Version, note 2 on see God in Matthew 5:8 says:

“If we are pure in heart in seeking God, we will see God. Seeing God is a reward to the pure in heart. This blessing is both for today and for the coming age.”

The reward of seeing God is a tremendous incentive for us to cooperate with the Lord so He can have the room and the freedom to grow in us.

How can we see God?

But what does seeing God mean for us today? Does it mean we have some kind of an outward, supernatural vision of Him?

We can see God today in two ways. One is by seeing Him in the face of Jesus inwardly, and the other is by seeing Him in the Word of God. Let’s look at some verses that show us how we can see God in these two ways.

In the face of Jesus Christ

Let’s first read 2 Corinthians 4:6:

“Because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

The eternal God became a man, our Lord Jesus Christ, and lived on this earth among mankind. No one ever lived, acted, or spoke like He did. In every way, in every situation, and with every kind of person, Jesus expressed God. People saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But since Jesus is no longer physically on earth, how can we see Him today? Verse 6 says God shines in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So for believers today, seeing God isn’t something outward, physical, or supernatural. Instead, it’s something inward, in our hearts, since now Jesus dwells within us. When nothing in our heart competes with the Lord for our affection, we have an inward sensation of seeing and beholding the Lord. To see God in the face of Jesus Christ is an indescribable joy.

In the words of the Bible

In addition to inwardly seeing God in the face of Jesus in our hearts, we can also see Him in the words of the Bible.

In John 5:39, Jesus said:

“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that testify concerning Me.”

When we read the Bible with a pure heart while exercising our spirit, our deepest part, the Scriptures testify concerning the wonderful person of Jesus to us. As we read and pray with the words of the Bible, God’s light shines, and we see Jesus in all His beauty and glory. Then spontaneously we’re filled with love and praise for Him.

May the Lord help us open to Him daily so He can make us pure in heart. We’re truly blessed and happy when we have the delight of seeing God, and Christ is happy when He has the free way to grow in our hearts.

If you live in Europe, we encourage you to order a free New Testament Recovery Version here so you can read all of the enlightening notes and cross-references for the verses mentioned in this post.

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