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Friday, March 26, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

I have a friend who constantly reminds me to check my motives. She helped me understand that you can do the right thing for the wrong reason. While it is true that right is right, when our motives aren’t pure, we suffer.

Our family has seven seats for the Jacksonville Jaguar games. Each week, phone lines buzz as we decide who is going to the weekly game. One Sunday, it worked out that we were only using 3 tickets. My 17-year-old nephew Jim was taking his girlfriend, and my father, Grandpap.

The night before the game, my daughter Kelley got engaged. We invited family members not attending the game to Sunday lunch to make the surprise engagement announcement. Jim found out about the secret announcement and told Granpap that he should probably miss the game and go to lunch instead. Grandpap complied which meant Jim got to spend an afternoon at the game alone with Alex. Our entire family joked about Jim’s motives when Grandpap showed up for lunch.

The next day at piano lessons, I teased Jim about encouraging Grandpap to miss the game. Jim grinned and sheepishly asked, “Did I do something wrong?”

I laughed and said, “I guess that depends on your motives. Were you really concerned about Grandpap missing the engagement announcement or were you just trying to get an afternoon alone with Alex?”

Jim got quiet a moment and finally said, “The truth is, both were true. I was worried about Grandpap missing the announcement but I also wanted to be alone with Alex. Is that bad?”

Perhaps the reason the Bible talks so much about a pure heart is that it’s hard to tell when we have one. Our behavior might look the same either way. We often benefit either way. The promise that goes with a pure heart is our ability to see God. I told Jim, “Maybe the real test about your motives being pure is whether or not you saw God that afternoon.”

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:8.

Matt 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. NIV

Think of the many ways you serve God.

• Are your motives pure?

• Do you see God in your service to Him and others?

• Let yourself gaze “wide eyed” at His glory.

• If you have trouble seeing God, let Him purify your heart.

Morning Prayer

Ask God to help you check your motives for purity.

• Ask God to help you have a pure heart.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

The Greek word for “see God” used in Matthew 5:8 can actually mean to stare with wide-eyed wonder. Read the following paraphrases of Matthew 5:8.

Matt 5:8

You're blessed when you get your inside world — your mind and heart — put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. The Message

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. NLT

What does it mean to have your inside world put right?

• What do you think having your inside world right has to do with seeing God in your outside world?

Like any good pastor, when Jesus preached this particular sermon, He was quoting the Bible. Read Psalms 73:1.

Ps 73:1

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! NASU

Who was God going to be good to?

Read Psalms 24:4-5.

Ps 24:4-5

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation. NASU

What is the definition of a pure heart?

• What is the reward of a pure heart?

Read Psalms 18:24-27.

Ps 18:24-27

Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes. With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, And with the crooked You show Yourself astute. For You save an afflicted people, But haughty eyes You abase. NASU

What does God show those who are kind?

• What does God show those who are blameless?

• What does God show those who are pure?

• What does God show those who are crooked?

• How does God treat those who are haughty?

The interesting thing is that God’s work can be done even if our motives aren’t pure. Read Philippians 1:15-18.

Phil 1:15-18

It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better — they think — for them.

So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! The Message

Read the first paragraph of the above scripture. What are the motives of the two groups of people?

• Now read the second paragraph. What was Paul’s reaction to their differing motives?

When I travel across America, I often hear the words, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” I always ask what they mean by that. Invariably, the response has spirituality as good and religion as bad. I always suggest that they look to the Bible to find the definition of “pure” religion. Using that definition, no one can find fault with religion. Read James 1:27.

James 1:27

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. KJV

What is pure undefiled religion?

Unfortunately, not everyone who calls himself or herself religious has a pure heart. Apparently, the churches Paul mentored had similar problems. Read 1 Timothy 1:5-7.

1 Tim 1:5-7

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.


What is the goal of our churches instruction?

• What happens in some churches?

While having wrong motives may harm others, the consequences to us are worse. Read James 4:3.

James 4:3

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. NASU

What happens when we ask with wrong motives?

As with everything, we must remember that these scriptures are to us. It is our job to check our own motives. It is not our job to check or ever suspect the motives of others. Read 1 Corinthians 4:5.

1 Cor 4:5

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.


Whose job is it to bring to light what is hidden in darkness?

• Whose job is it to disclose motives of our heart?

• Where does our praise come from?

Being honest about our motives often takes hard spiritual work but it is worth the struggle. The promise for having a pure heart is that we will see God.


I have a confession to make. In my service as a church musician, my motives have not always been pure. I grew up taking piano lessons in a competitive environment. Playing piano was about being on stage, impressing an audience, and winning competitions. It often puzzled me that people seemed to actually enjoy it.

In my early adult years, I occasionally served as church pianist. Those were not happy times as I obsessed about preparation, stressed over each mistake, and thrived on affirmations. My motives had little to do with service and everything to do with impressing the congregation with my skills and willingness to serve.

No matter how hard I worked, I was unhappy with myself. I certainly didn’t see God in the worship services. I was too busy seeing myself and judging what I now know were performances. Eventually, it became so burdensome; I dropped out of musical service.

About the time I dropped out of playing for services, my husband dropped in. He started singing in the choir and playing bass guitar in our contemporary service. I was astounded by how much he enjoyed it. For him, every service was worship and he participated with a servant’s heart. He actually said, “I love singing in choir. It’s a place where I don’t have to be the best or in charge. I just serve.” I was confused. One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy singing in the choir was that I would never be the best singer. I had some work to do.

I got honest with God about my music. I confessed my motives and asked God for a servant’s heart. My church asked me to play for a small mission they were starting. I knew God was giving me a chance to practice serving with humility. For a year, I was faithful to that mission, learning weekly how to offer my music to God. I prayed about every selection. Instead of picking the hardest offertory to perform, I picked something that I could easily prepare and that would help the congregation quietly worship. The pressure of a good performance was gone and suddenly I could see God through my music.

My attitude about serving as a church musician is now completely different. I play when asked but don’t compete for positions. Usually my piano playing is used for nothing more than accompanying a Sunday School class in the singing of a simple hymn but I feel as if I am playing for the King of Kings. I love singing in the choir and grieve the times when I am unable to participate. What joy I was missing when my music was for nothing more than showing off!

Think of how you are serving God. Get honest with yourself and check your motives. Perhaps the most valid test is to ask yourself if you can see God in your service. If your heart isn’t pure, do yourself a favor. Confess and ask God for help. He is faithful. He will bless you beyond anything you can imagine!

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