What Does It Mean to Be Pure in Heart?

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

Many of us have heard these words of the Lord Jesus from Matthew 5:8. But what did He mean? Did He mean that a person who is pure in heart would physically see God, or have a mystical vision of God? What does having a pure heart have to do with seeing God? And isn’t God unapproachable and therefore unseeable?

How do we see God?

We have the answer in 2 Corinthians 4:

“In whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelievers that the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine on them.” (verse 4)

“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.” (verse 6)

Verses 4 and 6 point out that Christ is the very image of God, and that we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The very God became a man, our Lord Jesus Christ, and now in Christ, we can see God.

But since the Lord is no longer physically on earth, how and where can we see Him? Let’s look again at the last part of verse 6. Our seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is in our hearts. In our hearts, inwardly and subjectively, we see and know God today.

Once we realize that this inward seeing and knowing of God is in our hearts, we can begin to realize the importance of the Lord’s word about being pure in heart in Matthew 5:8. The condition of our heart determines whether or not we see God in our fellowship with Him.

What is a pure heart?

Let’s look at the meaning of pure in Merriam-Webster:

“Unmixed with any other matter”

When something is pure it is unmixed. For instance, when something is described as being pure gold, that means it is nothing but gold; it has a single ingredient with nothing added. So what is a pure heart? Two notes from the Recovery Version are helpful here:

“A pure heart is a single heart without mixture, a heart that seeks only the Lord and takes the Lord as the unique goal.” (Note 3 on 1 Timothy 1:5)

“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).” (Note 1 on Matthew 5:8)

When we’re pure in heart we seek the Lord only, take Him as our only goal, and have the accomplishing of God’s will for God’s glory as our only purpose.

What makes our heart mixed?

The Lord’s Word to us is not “blessed are the clean in heart” but “blessed are the pure in heart.” Our heart may be clean, not dirty with sin, but it may not be pure, unmixed, and single toward the Lord. Anything, not just something sinful, can cause our hearts to be impure, or mixed, toward the Lord.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we seek many things besides the Lord Himself, we have other goals besides the Lord, and we aren’t single or absolute when it comes to God’s will being accomplished.

We may still aim at the Lord, but at the same time, we aim at other things. But even physically, it’s hard for our eyes to focus on two objects at the same time. We end up seeing neither object clearly. In the same way, when we focus on things we’re seeking or aiming at and not on Christ only, it’s hard for us to see God in our fellowship with the Lord.

For instance, things in the world such as wealth, success, material objects, and entertainment can attract our hearts. And when we seek them, our heart is impure toward the Lord. Often we don’t even realize our heart has become divided until we notice how dry and unhappy we’ve become, and how far away the Lord seems.

Perhaps the goal of obtaining a certain kind of degree or career claims more of our heart, and we’re no longer undivided in our loving and seeking of the Lord Jesus. Maybe we even ask the Lord to help us obtain our goal, not realizing we’ve lost sight of accomplishing His will. And although having such a goal perhaps isn’t sinful, when it becomes our main goal in life, it distracts us from seeking the Lord Himself as our goal.

Even seemingly spiritual things can make our heart impure. For example, studying the Word to know many things in the Bible may become the goal in our heart, rather than knowing the Lord Himself. Or we may pursue good conduct, or take good works as our goal—even in service to God—rather than the Lord only.

How to be pure in heart

Because we’re fallen, we’re all susceptible to having a mixed heart. That’s why it’s so important for us to have daily time with the Lord. As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, He is faithful to enlighten us concerning any sins we need to confess to Him. But in addition to confessing our sins to Him and experiencing His forgiveness and washing, we can pray for our hearts to be made not just clean, but pure, so that we seek Him only. We can allow Him to show us anything that distracts us from Him by praying like this:

“Lord, save me from having a mixed heart. Purify my heart. Show me anything in my heart, good or bad, that has become my goal or aim besides Your dear Person. Show me anything that competes with You for the focus of my heart. Lord, make my heart pure toward You and Your will. I love You, Lord.”

As the Lord purifies our hearts, we will experience one of the greatest blessings—we will see more of who He is and know Him in a deeper way. What a joy it is to see God!


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