What would you say is the secret to happiness? Pretty big question isn’t? A lot of people are looking for it. Someone might say, “Well, it’s a good marriage Ð happy wife, happy life!” Someone else might say, “The secret to happiness? It’s being financially secure, debt free!” Someone else might respond, “The secret of happiness is having good health.” Others might say that the secret of happiness is attaining the American dream.
Lately I’ve been hearing that it’s grandchildren. My daughter Martha and her husband Andrew are expecting a baby boy any day now. Those who have already entered the grandparenting club tell us it will be the happiest time of our lives when that little one arrives, and we can’t wait!
In the Bible, the word for happy is blessed. Jesus used that word in the Beatitudes, a poetic section of his Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Recently I came across some modern-day beatitudes taken from the messages TV commercials communicate to us about happiness. Basically they are telling us that their products will make us happy, right? Well, here are just a few I thought might entertain you . . .
☺ Blessed are those who fly to luxury vacation spots on tropical islands where they lie in chase lounge chairs, the only two people on an enormous white beach, for they shall be satisfied.
☺ Blessed are those who drink much beer for they shall be surrounded by carefree, football-watching buddies, and highly attractive, socially-gifted women in their first half of life, and they shall be satisfied.
☺ Blessed are those who have the latest smart phone for they shall gaze on the screen swirling with color and get all the information they need just when they need it, and they shall be satisfied.
The sad thing is, people actually buy into this line of thinking.
However, Jesus turns these philosophies upside down as He announces, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” His Beatitudes describe happiness. They are beautiful and poetic. We love to hear them and recite them, but they are so much more than poetry. They are words loaded with a punch and meant to awaken us like lightning in the sky on a dark night. The Beatitudes usher us into a new world with new values Ð Jesus’ vision for your life and mine, of people receiving gifts. Wonderful gifts!
We see people entering the kingdom of God, being comforted, inheriting the earth, receiving mercy, finding satisfaction, and being adopted into God’s family. All of this is very traditional language. Expectations date way back to the Old Testament times. People were hoping for this. The surprise comes when Jesus names the beneficiaries of these promised blessings.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are the persecuted.
This is not exactly what we would attach to happiness in our minds.
Jesus is really not talking about spiritual virtuosos or the religious elite. He is looking at ordinary folk who are inspired to seek God’s rule of righteousness in their lives. Instead of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, He is talking about the lifestyles of the repentant, those who repent and follow Jesus.
Today’s verse says this: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We shall see God! Being in the very presence of God and having access to Him is the apex of a religious experience, isn’t it?
Who shall see Him? Jesus says the pure in heart.
Who are the pure in heart? The Bible tells us the heart is a way of talking about the inner person, our mind, our will, our emotions. They all work together.
Walt Disney World Resort has a theme park called Epcot, which had a place I loved to visit called Cranium Command. It took you inside the head of a teenage boy who is getting ready to step into a new day. It was an entertaining and amazing thing to go through.
A few years later Disney put out a movie called Inside Out, which is about getting in touch with the inside of a teenage girl. It is very entertaining and insightful. We learn in that movie that it is what’s on the inside that counts.
This is what Jesus is saying. The heart is what makes me who I am. So the heart is the mind, the will, the emotions of an individual. Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart . . .” Pure means unmixed, the same through and through. Notice it doesn’t say, Blessed are the prudes in heart or Blessed are the perfect in heart. No it says the “pure,” the unmixed. It means to be single-minded. To be pure in heart is talking about a personality that is neither divided nor confused in its affections, devotions, and commitment. Jesus talked about this in His Sermon on the Mount in chapter 6. He said, “No one can serve two masters.” It is impossible. James picks up on the same sort of theme. “Purify your hearts, you double minded” (James 4:8).
To have a pure heart is to have single-minded devotion, commitment, mind, will, and emotion toward God. It’s the pursuance of one thing Ð God. I’ve even heard the “pure in heart” described as a person with an undivided heart.
Years ago a movie called City Slickers came out about a young guy who is trying to figure out life. He meets this old cowboy who tells him the secret of life is one thing: chasing after that “one thing.” That is what Jesus is telling us.
S ren Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian said, “Purity in heart is to will one thing.” To be pure in heart is to will one will, to love God, to pursue His will in my life. It’s being all in with God, knowing that I need Him and He holds the secrets to what makes my life work.
When Jesus describes this Beatitude in His sermon on the Mount, He is describing the person whose focus is totally on God. It’s a mind and a will that is undivided. It is playing for an audience of One. It is the person who is “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
One problem I have heard people say is they have is so many competing commitments in their life. We have so much junk in our hearts, and our sinfulness cries out, Satisfy me; my will be done. It gets us off track.
When I think of the pure in heart, I think of a young man in my congregation named Christian. A few years ago he had a spiritual awakening and asked Christ into his life. It is so inspiring to just sit and talk with him now as he pursues Jesus in his life. He is not perfect; his wife will tell you that. He is not a prude either; he’s a lot of fun to be around. He is very focused and wants to get close to God and his relationship with Jesus. They just left for Trinity seminary in Chicago, and I look forward to seeing what this single-minded devotion of Christian is going to do for the kingdom of God.
I think of a young lady named Gabby who is on fire for God. She is anxious to get closer to God, to understand His heart, His mind, and His will for her life. She is a fun kid and can get herself into trouble. However, she has a pure heart for God.
Jesus promises that the pure in heart will see God, and we wonder when that will happen. We know we will see Him when He returns and we have a new heaven and a new earth. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Now we see in a mirror dimly; then we shall see face to face” (I Cor. 13:12). John tells us we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2). The book of Revelation reveals to us that His servants will worship him and they will see His face (22:3, 4).
So we will see Him face-to-face when that great day arrives. But how about now? In the benediction we sometimes hear, “May the Lord make His face shine upon you,. . be gracious to you, . . . lift up His countenance upon you, and give you His peace.” We know that as a person turns to God and begins to seek Him, not only will God see him, acknowledge him, and lift His face upon him, but that person will also see God.
A few months ago, my wife, Julie, and I were looking for a new car. We found a car that we were really taken with. I was ready to buy it right on the spot, but Julie wanted to look some more. After we left the car lot, it felt like I was seeing this car every time we turned the corner. Isn’t it funny how, when your desire something, you begin seeing it all over the place.
Likewise, when you desire God, you start seeing Him everywhere Ð even, for instance, in the creation. Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.”
We see God in the faces of those we reach out to help. “As you did it for the least of these my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40). We see it in the faces of those who walk along side of us during sad times and glad times. We see Him as we sit at the table and look at the food before us and when we see that check at the end of the month from our place of employment. We thank God for His provision.
You Ð the pure in heart Ð shall see God.
So let me ask you Ð How is your heart these days? Somebody may be listening this day who wants to see God. How do you do that? The step toward a pure heart begins when we confess our sins and turn to Jesus Christ. We are made pure by the blood of Jesus Christ who died on the cross to cleanse us of our sinfulness. He purifies us.
For those of us who have turned to Him and call Him our Savior, we need to turn to Him and drown the old self in repentance, daily surrendering ourselves to Him and His leadership. Adopt this attitude: I want to know You, God. I want to follow You. I want to please You. I want to be close to You. I want to understand You. I want to see You in my life.
An old hymn speaks of this desire as a prayer:
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life, anew.
that I may love all that you love,
and do what you would do.
Breathe on me, breathe of God,
Until my heart is pure.
Until with thee I will one will
to do and to endure.
What is the secret of happiness? It’s found in that prayer. Ask Him in. Follow Him.