Archive for the ‘The Beatitudes’ Category

Beatitudes 41: Peace 3

August 29, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

The past two newsletters have focused on man’s enmity with God and then the Gospel as being the only way to have true peace with God and other human beings. There will never be peace with God apart from the Gospel. There will never be true peace between human beings apart from the true Gospel. In our day there are many running around teaching things that are different than the Gospel of the Bible and the Gospel that thundered forth in Europe during the time of the Reformation and then in the formation of the United States. But there is another aspect of the beatitude that we are dealing with. The text says “blessed are the peacemakers.” There is the brilliant and shining point that human beings are to be peacemakers.

We live in a world where it seems as if the vast majority of people hate God and His people. We live in a world where we see people hating each other by being part of each other’s sin and leading others to sin. We live in a world where it seems as if people that want change are focused on laws to carry out that change. Without arguing against good laws, we can simply note that a law does not change a person’s heart and put that person at peace with God. The Gospel is the only way that there will be peace in the world with or without new laws. But how is that Gospel to go out to the world? How is that Gospel to be proclaimed? It is to go out and be proclaimed by human beings. In one sense those who love the Gospel are living letters of Christ and of the Gospel as they go out into the world (II Corinthians 3:3). But believers are to go out and proclaim the Gospel as agents of peace. No one else is going to proclaim the Gospel in the world but those who believe the message of the Gospel of peace.

Surely we can see the point already. The whole world is at war with God and has enmity with Him. The world’s enmity with each other is because it is at enmity with God. Since enmity with God is based on self-love and selfishness, each person that does not love God is at war with each person that does not love him as he loves himself. Without the central idea of God as the only source of love and the only true object of love, humanity is locked into a war of the gods and there are six billion or so on earth. This is one reason why Jesus tells us (in several places) that a person must deny self in order to follow Him. He also tells us that a person must be turned and be humble as a child to enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:1-4). The peacemaker is one that goes into a world that is at enmity with God and each other and brings the proclamation of peace with God. That peace with God is seen when the person loves God and those made in His image out of love for Him (Greatest Commandments).

It is also true that when we try to get people to see that they are at war with God that they realize that they don’t like us very much either. In other words, their enmity toward God comes out toward the peacemakers. It is in recognition of this that believers and false believers start with things in a backward way. Believers will at times begin to try to make peace with people in order to get them to hear the Gospel. However, that is simply impossible. There will never be true peace without the Gospel. Romans 12:18 is still true: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” However, we are never called to make peace with the profane or professing believers in any way that will compromise the Gospel. While many want peace and unity before or at the expense of the Gospel, the Gospel alone brings peace. A true peacemaker is one that will not strive for peace in any way other than the Gospel allows and which is consistent with the Gospel.

If the people of the earth are at war with God, then what sense does the message that is common today (God loves you) make to people? They need to know that the denial that they are at war with God is part of the war. What does it mean to go out with the message that people may have peace with God in the Gospel if they believe that there is no war between them and God to begin with? If they believe that God’s love for them is the same as it is for believers, then they will never recognize the enmity they have toward God and others. Jesus tells us that “even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). If we go out with a message that starts with how God loves people, they will believe that they love God simply because they hear that He loves them. It is vital to the message of the Gospel of peace to have people understand that they are at war with God from the beginning. Part of being at war with God is that people deny that they need peace with Him because He loves them and therefore they love Him. They are suppressing the knowledge of God and so they suppress the war with God as well. The message of true peace must always begin with the message of war. If the true nature of the war is not seen, the true nature of peace will not be understood as needed.

There is also the problem of people not listening to or understanding the nature of their enmity to God and their being at war with Him. If they think of the war as just being the outward actions, then they think that they can simply stop certain actions and start other ones and that will be enough. Psalm 81:15 points out this danger: “Those who hate the LORD would pretend obedience to Him, And their time of punishment would be forever.” The world will cease apparent hostility from self-interest, but they do not have real peace with love and goodness. People can run around trying to get hostilities to cease and still not care about true peace. There is no peace until we love & are concerned about the peace of the other with God.

We simply must understand this issue or we will not be true peacemakers. People are deceived and people love to be deceived. If they do not understand that it is not just their actions that are at war with God but that they are by nature at enmity with God, they will not understand the true nature of sin and therefore miss the Gospel too. If we do not understand that people will pray a prayer and make an outward reformation of life in an effort to convince themselves and others that they are at peace with God, we have yet to understand the deceptive nature of the human heart. Human beings are able to talk themselves into just about any belief that they want if it will deny something they utterly hate and even fear. A true peacemaker desires true peace and so goes to the heart of the person which is the location of the true enmity. It is only there that the peacemaker is able to show the person the nature of true enmity with God and of how the person is deceiving him or herself in the matter.

Romans 5:1 sets out one connection between justification and peace: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As peacemakers we must notice some important parts of this text. It is only when a person has been justified that a person has peace with God. It is not a justification that is obtained in various ways, but it is a justification that is obtained by faith. We know from Romans 3:23-4:25 what this means. A person is only justified when he gives up on his own works and righteousness and so trusts in Christ alone. A person is only justified when he gives up all efforts to pay God back in any way and believes in the propitiation accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ. It is by the life, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ alone that a person can have peace with God. It is by faith alone in order that this salvation may be by grace alone (Romans 4:16). A person that has been justified by faith is justified on the basis of Christ alone and of grace alone (Romans 3:24-26). This justification that grants peace with God is only through the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is an absolute dictum that we must never, never, never give up (shades of Churchill) the Gospel of Jesus Christ for any reason. It matters not how much there is an outward call for peace with human beings, churches, denominations, political parties or anything else, there is no real peace apart from the Gospel and a true peacemaker knows that true peace will never happen apart from the Gospel. A true peacemaker will never try to proclaim or negotiate a peace apart from the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in order that it may be by Christ alone to the glory of God alone. God is sovereign with perfect rights over each and every person. He declares the terms of surrender and the terms of peace. There is no other way.

Romans 5:10 points us to the truth of what we were saved from and yet the truth of the life of the believer: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” A saved person is one that has been saved from being the enemy of God and is now reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Christ Jesus). If we have truly been delivered from enmity with God and now have peace with God in this way, how can we try to make peace in another way? This is not just stubbornness or pride on the part of the believer; this is revelation from Scripture and a reality of the heart. Another way to put it would be to say that the believer knows it is true from Scripture and the application of the Scripture to the heart by the Spirit.

There are requirements for being a true peacemaker. It requires that one has peace with God first and foremost. It requires that the peacemaker fear God more than man and because the peacemaker loves God s/he will love others even when s/he is being treated with hatred. A peacemaker must have humility and be willing to be treated as a sheep to be slaughtered in order that others would have peace with God to the glory of God. A peacemaker must be one that has enough love to be considered and called stubborn and various other names as s/he stands firmly on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The peacemaker is called to suffer for the Gospel in order that other people may hear the Gospel of peace to the glory of God. A peacemaker will not compromise the Gospel as it is the message of peace.

Beatitudes 40: Peace 2

August 23, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

Last week we looked at one background of peace and that was the enmity of man with God. There will be no peace apart from peace with God and that includes true peace with men. There are all kinds of ways that men try to find peace and unity and yet those are not possible apart from peace with God. That is why any form of unity or peace is nothing more than an illusion if it is not founded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No peace is possible apart from the Gospel: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21). All men are wicked if they do not have the true Gospel because they are at enmity with God and others even though they may have much religion. Throughout history there have been many cessations of active hostility between nations. But we all know that just because people are not shooting at each other does not mean that a true peace has occurred. There is no true peace where true love is not present. The very nature of peace is that love must be present. Love is a necessary ingredient to peace and without it there is no true peace. We can at least catch a glimpse of this in the verses below.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Ephesians 6:23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can look at this from a biblical theology of sin as well. We know from all the texts given last week that humanity is born with enmity in the heart and at war with God. This shows the results of the Fall. In this each person is born a selfish and self-centered individual. There is no love for God and each person does all that is done out of love for self. This is why Titus 3:3 speaks of unbelievers like this: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Even when an unbeliever is outwardly nice to another person, the unbeliever hates the other person. Why is that? Because no unbeliever loves God and so is not doing what is truly good for other people with true love as the intent. God is what is best for another person and loving God and God alone is what is good for any person. If we are not leading another person toward love for God, we hate them in reality and practice.

The world is against God and the nicest of people leading others to do outwardly good things are acts of people that hate God. Anything not done out of love for God and His glory is being done in a way that is opposite to and opposed to God and His purpose of humanity in creation. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Morality is not determined by outward things and pleasing people, it is determined by whether it is out of love for God and whether it is an expression of the glory of God through human beings intended for His glory. There simply must be true love as defined by the love of God poured out in the soul by the Spirit (Romans 5:5) and a true working for the goal of other people to love God for there to be true peace.

What is being written here may sound very shocking to some people. But it will actually become even more shocking when this is seen in more detail. This is not given to shock or offend, but is done in an effort to show how important the Gospel is for there to be any peace at all. The Gospel is not just something that people hear and then are saved, but it is the only way there will be any true peace on this planet and universe at all. A peacemaker is not one that goes around and gets people to stop the outwardly bad things they are doing, the true peacemaker is only an instrument in the hands of Christ seeking true peace with God and then other humans. All war between people or nations is caused by war with God and so the only hope for peace is the Gospel which brings peace with God.

Did Christ do all that He did to bring peace? “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34). Luke puts it like this: “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (12:51). There will be true enmity and division on earth because the Gospel brings division. The Gospel necessarily brings division because those who have peace with God no longer love the world and are like God while the world loves the world and hates God.

Because of the fact that true peace is only found with other human beings when one has peace with God, there will be much division in the world. In all areas of life true believers will be at war. We know that we are at war with the devil and his children work for him. The believer who loves God and is at peace with God will find that there is no true peace with those who hate God in all that they do. II Timothy 3:4 tells us that unbelievers are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Believers are to be lovers of God rather than the pleasures of the world. In fact, I John 2:15 sets this out and why this is true: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” No one loves the world if the love of God is in him or her.

We may think of things that go on at what we call “church” are surely the things of peace. We may think that things that go on within a denomination are things of peace. However, religion is also one way that men express their enmity to God and true peace. Jeremiah 6:14 demonstrates this point: “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.” There are many within the visible church that are running around crying out for peace. But many of those same people do not have peace with God and are in fact at enmity with Him. The result of that is that “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). Without the true Gospel even those within the visible church are at enmity with God while work at church, sing songs and profess love to Him.

The world ceases from hostility out of nothing but self-interest, but they do not have real peace with love built on love. When worldly people become religious, those people may be very religious but still not have a change from a worldly heart. “Worldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centered way of thinking; it proposes objectives which demand no radical breach with fallen man’s nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a ‘fool for Christ’s sake.'” When we understand that, we will know what it means when Christ tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23).

True peace will never happen apart from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. People can strive for peace within a denomination in many ways, but it will not happen apart from the true Gospel. Without denying that people will cease hostilities and work together in certain ways, the Bible is clear that there is no true peace apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There can be no true unity in a church or denomination that is not founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When peace and unity are attempted apart from the Gospel, even if it is said to be for the sake of the Gospel, it is nothing more than the world’s way to obtain peace. The Gospel of Jesus Christ divides people because it demands that people repent of their very self. The practice of outward religion goes on and in great numbers because it pleases people as they do all for themselves in intent and motive. Preaching is done for selfish reasons and self-love too. Preaching in churches and work in denominations can be done out of self-interest and the things done for self rather than truly out of love for Christ. “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives” (Phil 1:15-17).

John 14:27 tells a different story: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” Jesus has a different kind of peace than the world offers. Jesus was also speaking to religious people when He said this. There is a kind of peace that people within churches and denominations seek that is truly the kind of peace that the world gives and is not the kind of peace that Jesus gives. The word “gospel” can even be used in an effort to find worldly peace, but the peace sought not be of the Gospel. The children of God seek a peace founded on the Gospel and therefore are true peacemakers and are blessed by being called sons of God. In the big scheme of things peace within churches and denominations can be nothing but a hiding of what brings true peace. Let us never forget that the true Gospel alone can bring true peace. Peace that is found apart from the true Gospel or with a watered-down version is something that will deceive souls into a false peace rather than find it. Those who are true peacemakers seek true peace with the true Gospel because that alone is the only method to find true peace.

Beatitudes 39: Peace 1

August 17, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

We have reached the last beatitude that we will deal with. This should take a few weeks as there are several issues that need to be dealt with. First, however, we need to try to clear the air and ask what kind of peace is being spoken of here. The United Nations seems to think that peace between the nations is what is being thought of here. Liberals within external Christianity seem to think that outward peace is the issue as well. But we must realize that Scripture must speak on its own terms and this beatitude will only make sense in light of Scripture as a whole.

What kind of peace is spoken of here? It could be peace between nations, peace between friends, peace in the church, or perhaps peace with God. Without trying to make an argument as to which one this text is speaking of directly, I will simply set out that if there is no peace with God there is no true peace with anything or anybody else. Peace with God is required for there to be true peace at any point in the whole of life. Therefore, I will argue that we cannot even speak of peace in any other way apart from having peace with God in reality.

In Scripture the big issue is that people hate God and are at war with Him. That means that people are at war with others made in His image, so they go around hating and being hated. To speak of being a peacemaker presupposes that people are at war in some way. Until people are reconciled to God, they will not really be reconciled with each other. It is laughed at in the world when it is said that unbelievers hate God and human beings made in His image. It is laughed at in the church when it is said that unbelievers hate God and human beings made in His image. It is hard to imagine these outwardly nice people hating God, but in truth when a person does not love God that person hates Him. Let me list several verses that will show this position.

Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death.

Tit 3:3 4 we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts & pleasures, spending our life in malice & envy, hateful, hating one another

James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Rom 8:7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

John 15:23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.

2 Tim 3:4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

Romans 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,

Psalm 81:15 “Those who hate the LORD would pretend obedience to Him, And their time of punishment would be forever.

John 7:7 “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.

Exodus 20:5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,
Deuteronomy 7:10 but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.

Deute 32:41 If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.

While it may be hard to accept or believe that men hate God and human beings in His image, it is hard if not impossible to deny that Scripture teaches this. One may reject Scripture because it teaches this, but it does teach this without apology and without watering it down. But back to the issue at hand which is the beatitude concerning peace. All of these verses give demonstrable and irrefutable evidence that Scripture shows that unbelievers hate God and human beings made in His image. It is in this light that the real intent of this particular beatitude becomes clear. The real peacemaker is one that is an instrument of making peace with God and other human beings.

A true peacemaker, then, is one that has the Gospel. No matter how nice a person is and how good a person is at helping people who are at odds with each other, that person is not a peacemaker in the biblical sense if she or he does not have the Gospel. True peace is only found when one has peace with God. True peace between human beings is only found where there is peace with God first. We will never be at peace with God until we love what He loves and seek what He seeks. The world is His and all things in it. We will never have true peace with other human beings until we are seeking the same things with them either. Until both sides have peace with God there will be no true peace with each other because no two people will ever truly seek the same thing with the same motivations unless they are seeking God and His glory out of love.

One cannot really be a broker of peace until one brings people to God. There can be no real peace until we lay down our weapons of pride, self, and selfishness. Then Christ is in the heart and is the umpire or ruler. Then people have the same Umpire instead of a different one. It is hard for there to be real peace when people do not have the same love and the same Umpire. We must not be people who cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace. We must not be people that settle for a cheap peace when people have not thrown down their weapons of pride, self, and self-centeredness. Within this beatitude there are lessons for true evangelism as well. The practice of true evangelism is the practice of being a peacemaker.

The list of Scriptures given above should impress upon us the real issue in peacemaking and evangelism. It is not that people have done a little wrong here and there, but that they are enemies of God. It is not just that they have violated a law by a little, but in breaking the holy laws of God they have hated God and demonstrated that they are His enemies. It is a vital issue to get the fact that people hate God and are His enemies across to them. Sure that will mean less people will want to listen to us when there are times without revival and true spiritual understanding, but it will also mean that less people will be deceived. It seems that many of God’s enemies are running loose on the earth today believing that they have peace with God while they act with hatred for Him. They are also running around teaching a false gospel and convincing others that they have peace with God too. It is vital to get this issue across.

It is important to understand what two things keep people from seeing that they hate God. First, people will not understand that they hate God until they understand something of the character and glory of God. Second, people will not understand that they hate God until they understand the doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of the nature of sin. Without some understanding of these things people will go on in their blindness about who God is and about who they are. They will walk around in their hatred of God living in enmity toward God all the while thinking that they have peace with God and are living in holiness to some degree.

Those who are peacemakers, interestingly enough, must start off with telling people who the God they hate really is. Then they must describe to people who they really are. Teaching these issues can be enough to show people that they don’t like you and don’t like what you teach. Instead of taking this personally, we need to understand that people who hate God do not want to see what He is really like. They also, being people who love themselves instead of God, do not want to see what they are really like. However, to be a true peacemaker that loves God and others we must teach these things. There can be no other way to true peace and there is no other way to believing the good news of peace.

Beatitudes 38: Seeing God 7

August 14, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

This is the last article on this beatitude. We have looked at several things regarding purity of heart and what it means to see God. This week the focus will be on growing in our vision of seeing God and motives to seek the sight of His glory. With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that the blessedness that is spoken of is the sight of God and the soul’s taste of God. We must desire God for Himself rather than thinking that we can pursue God for a blessedness other than Himself. To put this a different way, if we are going to pursue a growth in our vision of God, we need to make sure that we are pursuing God for God. If we are going to pursue God, we need to check our motives in what we do. If our motives are wrong, we are trying to use God to obtain something we love more than God.

The first thing to understand is that to see God we must have a pure heart. Cleaning up the outward person is not a bad thing, but what Jesus taught us is that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles us. No matter how much we clean and apply whitewash to a tomb, inside that tomb are death and bones. We must never mistake outward morality with a clean heart. That is exactly one of the errors that the Pharisees fell into. It is the inward person that we must primarily deal with and that will take prayer and meditation. It will take much self-examination and much dwelling in the sight of His glory which transforms us into His image. It will take much prayer, humility, and brokenness to be cleansed and for Christ to dwell in the heart with glory. That point must be burned and driven into our inward person so that we may look at the depths of our hearts. It takes a pure heart to see God and that is far different than just outwardly moral behavior.

Two, we must know seek to be done with sin in all ways. Jesus says to cut off the hand and foot and even to pluck out the eye. Without going into what that means, we know that it means that we are to cut to the depths of our being in order to repent of sin. We must seek to be done with sin of the body and of the heart. Whatever it is that displeases our God, we must be done with it and that at all costs. If it is what the older writers called a darling sin or a beloved sin, then that is something that we are not repenting of and so love it more than God. If we truly desire God, we must repent of all known sin and then any sin that the Lord reveals to us. Jesus said to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23ff) which is to deny anything of the self and take up the cross as a slave of Christ to follow Him.

Three, we should seek a devoted heart to God. While we must flee from sin, we must realize that this cannot be truly done apart from pursuing God Himself. If we are not pursuing God, we are leaving one sin for another sin. It has been said that we should be too full of God to pursue sin. II Timothy 2:22 gives us this principle: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” A proper fleeing from sin is only done when we are pursuing God. Notice that this also includes a pure heart. There is no pursuing true faith, love and peace without a pure heart or without growing in the purity of heart. But our hearts must be fully devoted to God and not the world if we are going to truly pursue the sight of God and His glory.

Four, we cannot see the glory of God apart from Christ. Last week I tried to set out the truth that we will never see God’s glory apart from seeing Him in Christ. There is no other way. However, there are many ways of being sidetracked from this. We are told that God can be seen by reason or by moral issues. We are told that the glory of God can be seen in other religions. Without disputing that entirely since God’s glory is seen in all things in some way, there is no way to the Father but through Christ. We must never get away from the basic truth that God is to be sought through Christ and cannot be seen in truth apart from Christ. As Jesus in John 17 tells us, He manifested the name of the Father to men: 5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” We must continually study the Person and works of Christ in the hope that the Spirit will open our eyes to the glory of God in all of His ways and attributes.

Five, it is not that we can earn the sight of God by our scholarly actions in the pursuit of an academic knowledge of Christ. No, all that we do must be done in prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in this. No man can understand the things of God unless God shows Himself to that man. God alone reserves the right to open the hearts and eyes of men so that they may see Him and His glory. I Corinthians 2 sets out the truth of this for us: 10 “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.” We must seek the sight of the glory of God in total dependence upon the Spirit. He alone can reveal the thoughts of God and God has given the Spirit in order to show men His glory.

Six, we must understand that we must have strong cravings for this, though those are also the work of grace in the heart. The writers of the Psalms spoke of the longing soul as one that craved God as a deer in the wilderness would pant for water (Psalm 42:1-4). They also spoke of the lovingkindness of God as being better than life itself (Psalm 63:3). We must learn that this is the true language of love. If we are to love God with all of our being, then we must seek God for love in order to love Him. There must be the craving and aching of the soul in its desire and pantings after God. But this cannot be worked up, it must come by grace. We must look at our little desires after God and begin to cry out to Him for greater desires. It is not until we ache and long with strong cravings will we begin to see more of His glory. God does not reveal Himself to those who are lukewarm.

Seven, we must preach to ourselves and others that there is nothing greater in life or in eternity than the blessedness of seeing God. We are surrounded with the world and the things of the world, but we must tell ourselves constantly that those things will perish and we must know God and we must see God. This sight of God is the blessedness of the Beatitudes. It is in this that we will find true happiness which is to share in the joy of God. It is in this sight and taste of God that we find life that is truly life or the abundant life. We must preach to ourselves and pursue purity of heart because there no thing in the world is worth more than a glimpse of the glory of God. God alone can fill the soul with that which satisfies it because He alone created the soul and He created it where it could not be filled with anything but Himself. There are the deceptions and lies of sin and the world, but the greatest blessedness is the sight of God.

Eight, we need to tell ourselves that when we follow the lusts of the flesh and eyes we are given over to sin. When we choose those things we are trading the sight of God which is what is best for the soul for sin which is the very worst for the soul. When we are given over to selfishness or coveting we are actually pouring filth on the heart which is like throwing dirt on our spiritual glasses. When our glasses or hearts are covered with filth, we have no way or seeing the glory of God. What we are doing, then, is exchanging the glory of God for idols. Oh how we need to look at the depths of our hearts and our motives in this. We may always rationalize and excuse our sin, but we need to fight through that and realize that our hearts are motivated by the very things that God hates and that Christ died for. Christ died in order to give us the knowledge of God and we go out and do the things that hide the sight of the glory of God.

Nine, we need to remind ourselves that heaven awaits all who have a pure heart, a sight of God, and then those that love that sight of God. What is heaven but to see His glory and to have Him shining His glory in and through us? What can heaven be but a filling of our souls with a sight and taste of His ravishing glory? We must also tell ourselves and others that if we truly don’t desire a sight of the glory of God now, what makes us think that heaven will be a place that we would enjoy? Heaven is a place where God alone shines and His glory alone fills all that are there in all of their being. Those in heaven are filled with the love of God which gives them a love for God and they re ravished with Him. If we don’t long for a sight of God now, heaven would be an awful place. Yet the rewards that we seek are not monetary riches, but a greater sight of God. What we are to work for on earth is a greater sight of God now and also for eternity. Jonathan Edwards pictured our time on earth as developing a capacity for heaven. When we arrive in heaven we will be filled with the love of God to our capacity. That should motivate us to pursue God now.

Ten, the doctrine of hell should motivate us too. People in hell will see God to their eternal displeasure. They will never have a pleasant view of God, but instead the God they hated on earth will fill the sight of their soul with His perfect justice, holiness, and wrath. The more of God they see the more they will hate Him. This should motivate us to seek a true sight of the glory of God from pure hearts always remembering that people earn hell from their works while those in heaven obtain all that they have by grace. We must run the race with endurance fixing our eyes on Jesus, yet knowing it is all by grace. There is nothing but unpleasant things if we do not obtain pure hearts by grace in order to see and taste of His glory. There is nothing but glory beyond our present conception if by grace we obtain pure hearts and a sight of God. What do you really love? Your pursuit of a pure heart or of the world (though maybe in a religious way) will show you the true nature of your soul and eternal destiny. Don’t be deceived.

Beatitudes 37: Seeing God 6

August 2, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

Last week we looked at how it is a sovereign God that must open our eyes to see and also to shine His glory in our hearts. In other words, it is not that we are to pursue a pure heart and think that it is something we can work up to merit a sight of God. Seeing God is the work of His grace in the hearts of His people. God alone can cleanse the heart by faith and God alone can sanctify the soul by His continued and sustaining grace. While human beings are to seek a pure heart, they are to seek it by way of grace and not by works or merit. It is much the same thought of Augustine who said that God rewards His grace with more grace. Believers never obtain anything spiritually beneficial from God based on anything but grace. We are saved by grace, cleansed by grace, and then enter and enjoy glory by grace.

This week we will look at the lens we need to see God. The real lens that we must have to see God is Jesus Christ. It is true that the Spirit must illuminate our minds and the Word, but the lens that needs to be focused in order to bring in the sight of God with sharpness and clarity is Jesus Christ. There is no sight of the true and living God in His beauty and glory apart from Christ. It is true that unbelievers know God and see something of God. What they see should give them nothing but sheer terror, though it is true that they have suppressed the knowledge of God so far that they are no longer afraid and have the idea that He is something like a God of love that they have imagined and worked up in an effort to suppress the truth of God.

We will start off with John 1:14 and how it explains this truth to us: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The eternal Logos, the Word, took human flesh to Himself. In this, then, what the text is teaching is that the divine Person took flesh and in that flesh the eternal Logos is said to tabernacle or dwell. The fleshly body of Jesus Christ was the very tabernacle of God. It was through that flesh that all who were there were seeing something of God, but those that had eyes to see saw the very glory of God. That glory was a glory full of grace and truth. That is exactly what Moses saw when God shined forth His glory in response to the cry of Moses to see His glory. Exodus 33:18 has the cry of Moses and verse 19 has God’s response: “Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

What God was telling Moses was that He would show Moses His glory. That glory consisted of grace. In Exodus 34 we see what happened when God came down and shone forth His glory to Moses: 5 “The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” In this text the Lord adds the word “truth” to what He shows to Moses. Without any real question, then, the glory of God in the book of Exodus is the glory that shone forth in Christ in the New Testament. However, in the New Testament the glory of God takes on a different luster. We are now enabled to see the glory of the Lord in action in a different way in the life of Christ.

John 1:18 leaves no doubt as to how one comes to know God: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” It is only through Christ that God is explained and seen. While Moses saw God in one sense, the text goes on to tell us that “no one has seen God at any time.” In some way, then, Christ explains the Father and gives His people a sight of God that is superior to what Moses saw. In fact, in Hebrews 1 we are told that God had spoken or revealed Himself in many ways in former times. But now in Christ He has spoken in a new and different way. It is in Christ that God has shined forth His glory because Christ is the shining forth of His glory. “1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” One must see the glory of God in Christ to get a true sight of God in His glory.

John 14:4-12 teaches us the same thing in a different way. “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Here Jesus is clearly teaching that He is the only way to the Father. But what does He mean by that in this context? Indeed there is no way to the Father apart from the cross and resurrection of Christ, but is that what He means in this text? Again, we must remember back to Exodus 33-34 that we mentioned earlier. God shone forth His glory in grace and truth to Moses. Here we see that Christ is the way to the Father. He is the way of understanding the Father and the only way to love the Father. He is also the truth in the sense that He is the truth of and about the Father. He alone has explained who God really is. He is also the life in the sense that apart from Him there is no life of God in the soul of human beings. Christ is the only way to the Father because He is the truth of God and the life of God. No one will ever see the glory of God apart from Christ because they will not have the truth or life of God apart from Him.

Jesus continues on in verses 7-11 to verify the interpretation given above: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” What powerful and searching words. What He said was that if Philip had really and truly known Him he would have seen the Father. To truly know Christ is to know the Father and in fact is the only way to know the Father. Christ was saying that both His words and His works were in reality the Father speaking and working through Him.

We see these words in terms of the Gospel and of eternal life from John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This gives us more insight from John 14:6-11. Not only is Jesus Christ truth and eternal life and not only does one have to know Christ to know the Father and the way to the Father, but it is in knowing the true God through Christ that one has eternal life. Jesus tells us there that eternal life is to know the only true God. But we cannot know that God apart from Jesus Christ who is the truth of God and the life of God. There is no escaping the basic and foundational truth that God can only be seen and known through Christ. Jesus Christ is the very outshining of the glory of God and the very explanation of God. How can anyone claim to know or see God apart from Christ? People do claim it but they are quite deceived.

What we must see, therefore, is that the blessing of the sight of God is only found in Christ. If we want this blessedness promised in the Beatitudes we will never find it by seeking it by works or in any other way than through Christ. It is the glory of God that makes the soul blessed and not some sight of the physical eyes. While God can manifest Himself in physical ways if He so desired as He did in the Old Testament, He has given us the perfect sight of Himself in Jesus Christ. We are to look for no greater sight of God than found in Christ. While God is “eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (I Timothy 1:17), He is visible in one sense in Jesus Christ. It is Christ who is the perfect “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and so we do not need pictures, idols, or anything else to see God in His glory. To see God is to see Him in Christ and Christ alone.

Seeing God is an immediate understanding of God’s glorious excellencies. We cannot give others or ourselves a sense of the beauty and delightfulness of God in His holiness. Rather than giving it to ourselves it is an understanding of His love and an apprehension of His presence in Christ. We see in the Old Testament that it is a blessed thing to see the face of God. In the New Testament it is in the face of Christ that we see the glory of God. Man might think that this sight is speculative and notional, but it is far more than that. It is the sense of the heart; the sense of beauty, sweetness, amiableness and delight in the presence of the glory of God. The difference is between reading in a dictionary about chocolate and then tasting it. In Christ by grace we can taste it. The way of obtaining spiritual sight is a pure heart. A pure heart is humble because God gives grace to the humble. We must be humble not to rest in our own wisdom and pursue the knowledge of God in the foolishness of Christ and His cross. Humility is necessary because a humble heart will not want knowledge to lift up itself with and God will not give His glory to another but focuses that glory and access to the sight of that glory in and through Christ. In Christ and by the indwelling Christ we see and taste the blessedness of His glory. That is the sight of the soul and the experience of eternal life.

Beatitudes 36: Seeing God 5

July 26, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

Another issue that we must deal with in this subject of seeking a pure heart in order to see God is that of works versus grace. A pure heart will never be gained if it is sought out of a motive that is not love for God and a desire for God. Some might think that we have to work hard in order to obtain a pure heart and in return God gives a sight of Himself as a blessing. This is a fundamental error and a huge mistake. A pure heart will only come by grace alone and the sight of God will only come by grace alone as well.

In this as in all things God is sovereign in giving this sight to people. It is not something that people earn; it is something that is a sovereign act of God that He gives by grace. No one can obligate God to give this sight of Himself as it is God’s giving of Himself and not just giving a thing. A sight of God in this sense is God’s giving Himself and an understanding of Himself. This is seen from several texts. I Corinthians 2:10-12 tells us that God has to reveal these things to us in the Spirit for it is the Spirit that knows the depths of God and so can reveal those to men. Believers have received the Spirit in order that they may know the things given to them by God. Verse 14 then goes on to tell us that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” To put it bluntly, only God knows Himself and only God can give us the understanding of Himself. No man or woman has the power or understanding to know God apart from God giving them that power or understanding. No amount of works will ever bring God under the obligation to open His heart and imprint Himself on the souls of human beings. All that God does in terms of giving benefits as the self-existent God is by grace and grace alone.

When a person comes to faith in Christ, there is far more going on than meets the physical eye. Acts 26:18 sets out one perspective of how this happens: “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'” The eyes have to be opened so that they may turn from darkness to light. The eyes have to be opened so that they may turn from the dominion of Satan to God. Does a mere human being have the power to turn himself from Satan and to release himself from the bondage that he is in to Satan? No, that is a work of grace. Without question this opening of the eyes is a work of grace and so this whole picture of salvation is of grace.

Another picture of the Gospel is seen in 2 Co 3:15: “But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Until people see the glory of the Lord they have a veil over their face. That veil has to be taken away and the face has to be turned to see that glory. It is in beholding that glory that a person is transformed to be like Christ. In one sense this is the Gospel and in another sense this is sanctification. But we know that this is all of grace. No one can ever bring God under obligation to where He shows him or her His glory. We only know God and see His glory by grace and it is nothing but grace that does this.

Perhaps the clearest picture of this is in 2 Cor 4:4: “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In this text it is the devil that blinds the unbelieving so that they will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. It is the devil that does this and it is the devil that must be overpowered for anyone to see the light of this glory. We then see in verse 6 that it is God is the One who has shone in our hearts. Notice that it is not that God is the One who has shone something else in our hearts, but God shines Himself in the heart. God is the One that overpowers the god of this world and one way that He does that is by shining Himself in the heart of the person. Can anyone argue that this is done on account of anything but the glory of His grace? Can anyone really argue that God shines in the heart of a person because that person has earned it? How repugnant that is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ where sinners are saved by a pure and sovereign grace. If grace is not sovereign, then it is not the biblical grace. God saves to the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6) and not by works.

Ephesians 1:17 shows us that this is true for believer and unbeliever alike. Paul prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Another word or term for seeing God is the knowledge of God. Paul does not pray for the people to obtain this by works, but that God would do this of Himself because it is God alone who can do this. All ways of seeing God and all knowledge of God is by grace because there is no way of bringing God under the obligation of human beings and that is how all things are done to His glory.

The believer must always realize that everything that he or she receives from God is from God as grace. There is nothing the believer receives from God that is not by grace. The sight of God is the highest form of blessedness and it too will only come by grace. The great promise of the believer and of the beatitudes is to see or experience the life of God in the soul in some way. It is not just that the Beatitudes are ways to live a happy life or ways to live a better life, but instead they teach us the way of grace. A pure heart is a heart that has been cleansed from the stench of dead works and the desire for those dead works to please God. A pure heart now lives by grace. It has been stated before that even if a believer could obtain something by works the believer would refuse to do so in order to live by grace. It is the delight of the believer’s soul to live by grace because that shines forth the glory of God while works do not. It is a vile thing to suggest to a believer that loves the grace of God that she or he may know God by works.

A pure heart wants to see God so it can glorify and enjoy Him rather than see Him for selfish reasons. The pure heart wants to see the display of the glory of God and wants to please God through displaying His glory for His pleasure. Holiness is to be set apart from the world and set apart for the purpose of being filled with and then displaying God. A heart that wants the display of the glory of God is a holy and pure heart and will never be satisfied with anything but the beauty and glory of God displayed in and by grace. The desire to do various works as a way to manipulate God in any way would be abhorrent since the goal is to display the glory of His grace. This is simply the opposite of what a heart that loves God would want. It would not be a pure heart.

A man-centered approach to this beatitude would be to devise ways to work for a pure heart so that a person could see God and be saved. The God-centered approach is to look at all the ways of self as works and know that God will never do anything but by and through grace. So the soul that truly wants to see God from a God-centered view will determine to seek a pure heart in the way of grace so that the sight of God would also be by grace. In reality this is the only way that this will happen. A heart that selfishly desires God is not a pure heart and will not see God in His glory. A selfish heart must be humbled and broken in order to be pure. So a man-centered approach will never obtain a truly pure heart and so will never give a true sight of the glory of God. It is only the humbled soul that will ever be broken from its man-centered ways and so seek God for a pure heart that it may see God in His glory.

It is hard to read Matthew 11:25 without seeing the main point of it all: “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” As we see the glory of this, we can see that the revelation of God and His truth comes only by His sovereign choice and so it is all by grace. God hides these things from the wise and intelligent and so He hides Himself from the proud and those that try to find ways to understand God without humility. But God reveals Himself to the infants or to those that are humble rather than proud of their own wisdom and intelligence. This is nothing but a stamp of sovereignty and of grace. This is another way of saying that God gives the pure in heart a sight of Himself and that is to them alone. We know that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). One way God opposes the proud is by not giving them wisdom and knowledge in the spiritual realm. Those without humility and without a pure heart will not see God because He opposes them. Works to know God is simply pride and impurity and He does oppose them. However, He gives grace to the humble. It is grace to open their spiritual eyes and heart and give Himself to them. In fact, it is a grace that exalts His glory. That is what a pure heart wants.

Beatitudes 35: Seeing God 4

July 18, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

Last week we looked at how the blessings of the pure heart in seeing God fit with other beatitudes. The big view of lets us see that a single beatitude is linked with the Beatitudes as a whole. The Beatitudes set out the true nature of heart religion and shows that rites and externals are far from the heart that God dwells in and shines forth His beauty and glory. This week we want to look a little deeper at what it means to really see God. While we have looked at that previously, it is a good idea to go some deeper into this wonderful blessing which is really sharing in the life of God.

In a world that lives by its five senses and can hardly believe that anything that does not come through those senses or science can be true, what we are about to enter into will seem like the height of absurdity and a crossing into the irrational. When we talk about seeing God, we are not talking about what we see with our physical eyes and not limited to the eyes of the soul in a literalistic sense either. What we must see is that seeing God is really a term that at times stands for the entire experience of the soul. It is by faith that the soul is enabled to see, but we are also told to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). It is by tasting that we see in that text. In Psalm 119:103 the text tells us “how sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” When we read or hear the words of God and they are sweet, this tells us of the delight of the soul. The taste of the soul is referred to as its delight. This means that seeing God is really the experience of the soul in all of its aspects.

We know this is true in other aspects of life as well. When we have a hard time understanding something and then finally get around to understanding it, we say something like “now I see.” Seeing is a word for understanding. If one spouse sees the second after a long absence, he or she might say something like “I was so glad to see you.” By that term the words do not refer to physical sight alone, but of the joy and pleasure in the soul of seeing the person and then talking to and embracing him or her. In other words, in common language we use the word “see” in a far more encompassing way than just a plain sight of the eyes.

Hebrews 11:1 seems to muddy the waters a bit with a surface reading. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is said to be a conviction of things not seen, so surely one would think that faith is not part of seeing God. However, it is speaking of a physical seeing as the context of the chapter makes clear. In verse 3 we are told that “by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that which is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Surely that verse makes clear that verse 1 is talking about the things that are seen by the physical eyes. But now we see something else. It is by faith that we understand. Whatever faith is it enables people to understand things that the physical eyes cannot see. Understanding spiritual things is through and by faith rather than the physical senses. It is by faith that we see in the spiritual realm.

We then see in Hebrews 11:6 that a person cannot please God without faith because one must believe that God is “and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Here we see that faith understands the character of God and that God is one who rewards. Then in verse 7 we see that it was by faith that Noah prepared the ark when warned by God about things not yet seen. Again we see that in some way faith perceives the spiritual realm and operates upon it as more real than the things that the physical eyes can see. Faith sees God and functions by that belief, understanding, and sight rather than operating by things in the physical realm. We see this again in verse 8 where by faith Abraham left his home and went out “not knowing where he was going.” Faith is, so to speak, the spiritual organ of perception in the spiritual realm. When people live by faith, it means that they live by the sight of God rather than by what worldly wisdom and the physical senses tell them.

We really begin to see what is going on in verses 9-10. “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise.” Why did Abraham do that? What was it that faith saw? “For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Verse 13, speaking of those mentioned previously, tells us that “all these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance , and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Without question, then, the sight of the soul is faith. It is that faith that all the Old Testament saints saw God and obeyed what He said in contrast to all that worldly wisdom and their own eyes told them. The clincher for this view is in verses 26-27 of Hebrews 11. Here Moses is said to consider “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” How was he looking to the reward when Christ had not been born yet? Surely it was by faith. Then verse 27 says that “by faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” In other words, by faith he saw God who cannot be seen and so did not fear the king that he could see with his physical eyes.

At this point some might try to understand all of this as an intellectual sight only. However, we must not misunderstand this as that only. The verses in Hebrews do not fill in all the blanks, but surely we can understand Abraham and Moses as being human beings that operated like other human beings. Human beings operate by the things or persons that they love. Human beings operate by affections, the spiritual senses, beauty, excellence, and glory. While the movies and certain aspects of society have forced a picture of an objective person making decisions based on the evidence and nothing but the evidence, that is quite opposite of what Scripture and evident reason teach us. Human beings make choices and live as whole beings and not just part of their being.

Did Abraham and Moses just have a bare sight of God and then make choices on what was the most reasonable? Of course they didn’t. We are told that they had reverence and that Moses looked ahead to the reward. It said that he considered “the reproach of Christ as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (11:26). These are not the words of a bare reason. These are words that give us insight into the soul of these men. They loved God, hoped in God, and treasured God above all things. It takes a discovery of the glory of God to have a taste of worldly riches and then to prefer Christ to those riches.

Faith is more than just a rational decision, it is the tasting and delighting in God. I Peter 1:8 describes faith in this way: “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” The context of this verse is that of faith. This verse describes what a strong and purified faith does. It loves God and believes in Him. It rejoices in Him with a joy that cannot be expressed with words and a joy that is full of glory. In other words, coming back to the pure heart, a pure heart is one that has been tried and it has a pure faith in God. The sight of God that the pure heart has is indeed a spiritual blessing and does fill the soul with great joy. The fire of trials (context of I Peter 1) purifies the heart and so purifies the sight of the heart. That heart has true joy because it sees God and tastes of the glory of God. This seeing of God is not a bare sight, but a sight that fills the soul with the joy of the Lord and gives the soul a burning love for God. This is the soul that is truly blessed. The soul that is blessed in this way is blessed with the life of God in the soul and that is true sight and true spiritual riches.

We must be careful not to fall into some form of a hyper-intellectual approach. There is the bare truth of the proposition that is set out about something, but then there is the sense and taste of the heart. There is the factual information, but then there is the experience of the information. It is the difference between hearing a scientific statement about the taste of chocolate and the taste of chocolate. There is a massive difference between the theological statement of the sovereignty of God and living before God and walking in the light of the beauty, excellence, wisdom, and glory of His sovereignty. There is a difference between telling someone that God is sovereign and tasting God in the soul as beautiful and glorious.

All believers must learn that they can learn many bits of factual information and store it in the head. However, that is far different than learning a truth from the core of the soul and tasting that the Lord is good. All believers must learn the truth of God, yet all believers must learn the beauty and glory of that God. Unbelievers can learn many things about God, but only believers have God in their souls giving them a true sweetness of the sight of Him and His glory. The unbeliever may have delight in musing upon the information about God but only as it is focused on himself and his gain. The true believer delights in God as God. All of this is simply a description of the sight of God that a pure heart has. It is an understanding, but not just the intellectual understanding. To see God as the promise in Matthew 5:8 sets out is to see Him in His glory and for the soul to taste and see that He is good. It is a sight that He gives of Himself and a sight that cannot fail at some point to bring delight and pleasure to the soul. He is, after all, the standard of all beauty. He is also true love and true holiness. To see God in His glory is to see the highest beauty, love, and holiness. To see that in the soul is to taste and be delighted. To see God is for the soul to be ravished with Him. This is a true blessing and should give all believers the desire to pursue God and His glory from a pure heart.

Beatitudes 34: Seeing God 3

July 12, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

This beatitude with the promise of seeing God should not be separated from the other Beatitudes but instead should be seen as fitting with the others much like a puzzle. This individual beatitude is a part of the Beatitudes as a whole and only with this one can the others make the fullest sense. It is also true that this particular beatitude will only make sense in light of the others. This is reflected in the Trinity in that we see the glory of the one God when we see the glory of the three Persons. We should take some space and time to reflect on this beautiful truth.

The poor in spirit are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. But we also know that the kingdom of heaven consists in the reign and rule of God in the heart of believers and then in eternity where the reign of God is perfect apart from sin. What would the kingdom of heaven be like without a sight of God? What would it mean to have the kingdom of God in our hearts if we could not see or understand that kingdom and its operations? What would it mean to see God if we could not see or understand His operations in His kingdom? It should be apparent at this point that each of these two blessings cannot be had without the other. In fact, they are so related that I cannot see how one could have one without the other. The promise to see God cannot be true apart from having the kingdom of God in us and being able to distinguish that kingdom and its operations from the deceiver’s.

In light of the previous paragraph, the article from last week’s newsletter can be seen in a different way as well. Last week we looked at how God is seen and how believers can see the glory of God in others and in themselves. That glory being worked in and through other people and ourselves is the kingdom of God in this world. This kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit, yet it cannot be seen apart from being pure in heart. The pure in heart see the kingdom of God wherever it is and are not just focused on self and what happens to self. This again shows how related the blessings of these two beatitudes are.

Now, if we look at how the same two beatitudes are linked in the nature of what they are, we can see that it takes a person that is poor in spirit to be pure in heart. Sinners are justified through faith alone by grace alone in order that it may be by Christ alone to the glory of God alone. A justified sinner is one that has given up all hope in his or her own righteousness and trusts in the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. In order to do that the sinner must be humbled and broken and as such not trust in any righteousness of his own. But more than that, the sinner must see that he has no righteousness of his own at all. But even more than that, the sinner must see that he has no possibility of earning any righteousness by his own works. That is what it means to be poor in spirit. It is only when sinners are broken from any hope of their own righteousness that they will trust in the righteousness of Christ. It is only when one is trusting in the righteousness of Christ that the life of Christ is lived through the person and that the person is free from seeking self in his works to loving God through Christ in those works. Being poor in spirit, then, is necessary to having a pure heart because love is necessary to a pure heart.

Proud people that are religious want to do things for their own honor and glory, though perhaps that will not be admitted to self or others. But the poor in spirit want to see the glory of God rather than their own. The poor in spirit have no way of obtaining righteousness and so they are able to love God rather than self. The poor in spirit want to see the glory of God rather than that of self. So they are not blinded by their pride and desire for self to be exalted, so they are enabled by grace to see the glory of God and His kingdom in and through others and self.

This is seen in Paul as an example in Philippians 1:15-18: “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” In this text Paul desired Christ to be exalted even when men were doing it against him. How can we explain this? In one sense we must see that Paul was unconcerned about the appearance of his own righteousness, but instead was concerned about the glory of God that shines through the Gospel. He loved the truth and glory of God as displayed in the Gospel rather than his own honor, status, and righteousness. He was able to see something of the kingdom of God even when men were preaching in an effort to cause him distress. He was poor in spirit and pure in heart.

The Holy Spirit will not dwell in an unclean heart and not with those who are proud of their own righteousness as the Pharisee, even if they are professing believers and even if they hold to the orthodox confessions. Instead, as seen in the second beatitude, these are those that mourn over their sin. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, illuminates the eyes of the heart, works in believers the fruit of the Spirit and thus works sorrow in the hearts of believers for sin. It is this working in the heart that produces a pure heart in practice and so puts into practice what Christ has done for the soul. We see a form of mourning in Paul in Romans 9:1-5 when he agonized over the lost condition of his fellow Jews. It is a mourning that love for others produces when we see that they don’t have Christ.

But again notice the connection between mourning and seeing God. It is the pure heart that is able to see God but only those who can see God in truth also are able to see where God is not. While this is not an infallible sight in all cases, it does teach us an important truth. Those who are able to see God are really the ones with the clearest sight to see where He is not. Because Paul had a pure heart and was able to see God he could also see where God was not and that brought mourning. Thus we can see where mourning for our own sin and the sin of others brings a pure heart which enables the pure of heart to see that God is not in others and mourn for that. This is connected with last week in that the pure in heart desire to see the glory of God in self and others and when that is not seen they mourn for that. It is a definition of sin that we fall short of His glory (Rom 3:23). Those who mourn are those that see how far short of His glory they and others fall. They mourn over that and desire to seek His glory more.

The next beatitude is meekness. The meek are promised to inherit the earth. Without any real issues to deal with it is clear how meekness and the sight of God are linked. Meekness is the emptiness of self and the presence of God in the life so that when the believer is insulted or harmed the believer responds in love. A meek person shows us one aspect of the pure heart that sees God and also what the true love of the meek person is. We can use the teaching about Stephen in Acts 6-7 for this. Stephen was chosen as a deacon to serve the widows so that the apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the Word (6:1-5). But Stephen was also a man that spoke the Word of God as well, and before long he had the Jews upset with him (6:7-10). They brought false charges on him and brought him to trial (6:11-14). Instead of a selfish anger being displayed by Stephen, when the Council looked at him they saw something very different: “And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel” (v. 15). That face was surely one of peace and love shining with the glory of God. That is a picture of meekness which is being content with God’s will despite what men are doing.

After the false charges, Stephen did not answer the charges directly but went through the history of Israel and pointed out how the Israelites had constantly resisted God (7:1-50). At the end, instead of defending himself, he told them this: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did” (v. 51). Instead of defending himself in a way that would be called “gracious” or “winsome” today, he preached the Word to them and applied it to their hearts. As a meek man he did not defend himself directly but preached to them for the good of their own souls. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

We see the meekness of Stephen also displayed in a pure heart. He was not there to defend self, but to put Christ on display. That was the issue in his preaching before he was arrested and that was the real issue at that point as well. Notice that this meek man with a pure heart saw the true kingdom of God throughout the Old Testament and not just what was going on with the nation of Israel. He then was enabled to look into heaven and saw the glory of God. He was then stoned to death as he prayed for the forgiveness of those who stoned him (7:57-60). In this beautiful and powerful story we see true meekness and purity of heart. We also see a man that saw the kingdom of God here as well as being given a sight of the glory of God in heaven as he went to be with his Lord. A meek heart is the opposite of a defensive heart and a selfish heart. A pure heart is one that is not selfish and focused on the glory of God. Both of these hearts are really one and the same. The meek heart desires the glory of God and not that of self and the pure heart is to some degree free from the love of self so that it can see the glory of God. Thus we can see how the Beatitudes all speak with the same language and aim at the same point. They all direct a person away from the interests of self-love and point to having a heart that the glory of God will flow into and then through. It results in the blessedness of seeing the beauty of that glory displayed through others and ourselves.

Beatitudes 33: Seeing God 2

July 4, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

We continue on in the delightful privilege of what it means to see God. Let me ask a question to start this week’s newsletter. Is seeing God the reward for having a pure heart or simply a continual result of what a pure heart does? But of course this leads to another question. Can we have a pure heart without seeing God first? These questions lead us to see some different aspects of what it means to see God. The heart is said to be cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and also that God opens the eyes so that people can see and are turned from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). It is in regeneration that a person receives a pure heart and as such sees the glory of God in the Gospel for the first time. In this sense it is having a pure heart that leads to seeing God and without that heart one cannot see God in His glory at all. However, our text seems to imply seeking a pure heart in order to see God. This would teach us that we should seek a pure heart in order to see God better.

If it is true, then, that the pure heart is a new heart and that a new heart is able to see the glory of God, we must ask what that means as well. Do the pure in heart walk around with their eyes upward (so to speak) just looking for something of the glory of God? Could it be that what is really meant is that those who are pure in heart are also able to see the glory of God shining in what they are doing and what other believers are doing as well? The pure in heart see God because when they do an act that is strengthened and motivated by the life of God in them that means that it is God doing it and so His glory is displayed. This is one way the pure in heart see God. When we do an act that is moved by self we see self even if we try to give the credit to God. Something is seen in what we do.

Let us explore the thought from the previous paragraph. What is being said there is that the pure in heart are able to see the glory of God as it is worked through themselves and other people too. The purity of the heart is the heart that God works through and then enables people to see what He is working. One example is this: “Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18). In one sense the law said terrible things about the people but in other ways it manifested the glory of God. It was only when God opened their eyes were they able to see wonderful things in and from the law. Those wonderful things were and are the character of God.

We also know that it is God’s prerogative to show forth His glory or not. It is only God in the shining of His beautiful sovereignty that can open the eyes to see Him in the beauty of His glory. It is also the prerogative of God to shut eyes and send blindness as judgment. Matthew 13:13 shows that God does blind: “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 16:17 shows that it is God that opens the eyes: “And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” It is from God each moment to blind or to open the eyes. The pure in heart are blessed because they are the ones that God opens the eyes to see His glory. It is not that they just see an occasional glance of it, but they are enabled to live and walk in a sight of that glory though there are times when the Lord withdraws to teach them that He is still sovereign.

Mat 11:25-27 shows this basic thought once again: “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” What we see from this text is that there is a certain type of person that God hides the things of His kingdom to and those that He reveals the things of the kingdom to. He hides the things of the kingdom from the wise and intelligent. In other words, these are the type of people that trust in their own wisdom and intelligence. They think that they see but are blind because they are trusting in their own wisdom and intelligence. Thus they are blinded by pride. If a person has true spiritual understanding, it is given by God and God alone.

Those that have spiritual sight are the infants because God reveals the things of His kingdom to them. A spiritual infant is not so much a new believer in this picture, but that of one that is like an infant in that he or she trusts in what God gives rather than in self to obtain things from God for the purposes of self. Matthew 18:1-4 gives us this truth. In verse 1 the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him who was greatest in the kingdom. They were really asking if one of them was greater than the others. Jesus responded like this: 2 “And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The contrast in this passage is between infants or young children and those who want to be the greatest. Infants and very young children do not desire greatness in life. They do not care what others think of them and simply receive things from their parents. The infant or very young child is the one that instead of trusting in self or looking to the wisdom of self relies on what is told to him or her or what is given to him or her.

What an infant is in Matthew 11:25-27 is informed from Matthew 18:1-4. The picture each passage gives is parallel to the other passage too. The greatest in the kingdom is the one that is humbled as a small child. Those that God reveals Himself to are not those that are wise and intelligent in their own eyes, that is, those that desire greatness for themselves, but those that are humbled and desire for His greatness to be seen. Those that truly have spiritual eyes and see His kingdom are those that wait quietly before God and He gives light to them to see His kingdom. We see this beautiful picture emerge as we see things in this light. Who are those who are pure in heart? Surely those are the people who are like infants and are not those that trust in their own wisdom and intelligence to obtain a sight of reality and of God for them. The pure in heart are those that have motives and intents to glorify God and not to glorify themselves with what they learn.

Let us step back for a moment and apply this basic teaching of Scripture to ourselves. We know that God reveals Himself to the humble and not to the proud. We know that the pure in heart see God and the impure in heart do not. We have seen that those who seek God according to their own intellect do not see Him while those who are like small children do see God. With that in mind, let us deal with whether the glory of God is seen by those that the glory of God shines through. Did Jesus see the glory of God as it shone through Him? Did Paul see the glory of God as it shone through Him? Was it only the other people who saw the glory of God and not them when it came through them? How does that apply to the believer that is pure in heart today?

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead He told Martha this in John 11:40: “Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Did Jesus see the glory of God when He raised Lazarus from the dead or not? Jesus had as pure a heart as one can have. Surely He saw the glory of God in whatever He was doing. When He turned the water into wine, the text tells us that “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11). Are we going to say that Jesus did not see the glory that was manifested there? Surely He saw the glory manifested too.

What I am trying to assert at this point is that the pure in heart are those that see the glory of God shining through them on a constant basis. The purer the heart is the more the person sees the glory of God. The purer the motives the more we see of the glory of God as it shine through us. If the heart leans toward pride and desires the glory of self, then that heart will not see the glory of God as much and will perhaps be blinded toward it for a time. In this sense God does not give His glory to another because it is neither in line with His holiness nor toward the good of His people for them to seek glory for themselves. But to those that are pure in heart His glory will shine through them and they will be spurred on to more love and good deeds because they desire to see His glory in all things. Those that love God want to see His glory and want Him to obtain all the glory in the shining forth of that glory.

The Great Commandment is to love God with all of the heart. We are told in I Corinthians 10:31 to glorify God in all that we do and that even in the eating and drinking. The heart that loves God wants God to be manifested in all that it does. If the heart does not see the glory of God in what it does, how does it know that God is manifested? In one sense the heart that does all to the glory of God is satisfied in what it does by loving God in all that it does. But in another sense it longs for the glory of God to shine out through it. The pure heart loves to see the glory of God shining through it because it delights in the glory of God manifested and not itself as the instrument. When we try to take credit for the glory of God shining through us, that is pride and the heart is not pure. However, the pure heart is one that God shines through and the pure heart is also one that sees the glory of God. If you don’t see the glory of God, then seek a pure heart. Perhaps there is too much pride and self in your heart for you to see God. You might also be deceived about having a heart that is purified by faith. Either way you must seek God for a humbled heart which is a pure heart. Without that, you will not see God in this life of the eternity to come. After all, eternal life is to know God. Can we know God unless we see His glory? That glory is what the devil hides (2 Co 4:4).

Beatitudes 32: Seeing God 1

June 30, 2007

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

We finally reach the point where we can talk about the greatest aspect of the blessing of this beatitude. There are differing ways to understand this blessing, though a few of them are certainly linked. This is certainly linked with the Old Testament beatific sight of the glory of God. But we must also not miss the New Testament bringing of the sight of God in Christ. In the Old Testament there was the belief that if a person ever saw God that person would die. There is an element of truth to that but it was primarily in the physical realm. But there is also the great and wondrous sight of God given to the soul.

We must first ask what it means to see God. Is this sight physical, mental, or spiritual? 1 Pet 1:8 gives us an idea of this: “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, & though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” There is the sense from this text that the people had never seen Him and still did not see Him. However, they still believed, loved, and greatly rejoiced in Him with joy inexpressible. Clearly the way that Christ was not seen was with the physical eyes and yet He was perceived by the soul. Not only just perceived, but they saw Christ and were utterly certain in the way they saw Him.

1 Timothy 1:17 sets out the impossibility of seeing God with the physical eyes: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” God is invisible and cannot be seen, though we must stress that His invisibility is to the physical eye. Hebrews 11:27 tells us how Moses saw God: “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” Surely this was what he was praying for in Exodus 33:18: “I pray You, show me Your glory!”

David saw God in this way too in Psalm 63:1-3: “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.” We then have the majestic passage in Isaiah 6:1-5 where Isaiah saw the Lord: “”Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” While some might argue that Isaiah did see God in this passage, John 12:41 and its context tells us that it was Christ that Isaiah saw: 39 “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.”

We also know that Adam walked with God in the Garden, but that does not mean that Adam saw God in the brilliance of His uncreated and infinite glory. It might mean that God was with Adam in an especial way or it might mean that God appeared in some form as He did many times in the Old Testament. We also know that Jacob is said to have wrestled with God, but again it was a theophany of some sort and not the infinite and spiritual God. There is simply no way a person can see God in this world with physical eyes as I Timothy 6 sets out: 15 “which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” No man has seen that part of God with his physical eyes and can never see God with physical eyes.

Clearly Holy Writ does not allow for seeing God with the physical eyes. Yet the promise in this beatitude is that the person that is pure in heart is blessed because he sees God. We must stop once again and try to grasp what is going on here and try to focus on some of the implications of this. If this is true, then all of our efforts at trying to see God in the physical realm and to see physical manifestations of Him are simply worthless at best and deceptive to the soul at worst. If we do not understand the nature of what it means to see God, then we are going to be running around trying to see God in the wrong way. If we see Him in the wrong way we will pursue spiritual growth in the wrong way and perhaps be deceived about our own salvation and the salvation of others. Those with charismatic tendencies should take note on this point.
However, let me try to encourage anyone reading this to pursue the true sight of God. The great promise and hope as Christians is to see God. It is not to have great riches and all the things that the world offers; it is to have a sight of God. These are the beatitudes and this sight of God is called the beatific vision, that is, blessedness that comes from seeing God. As Christians we are to pursue our blessedness in God. Our greatest blessedness and reward, at least we try to say, is God Himself. We cry out as Moses did to have Him show us His glory. Eternal life is the knowledge of Him (John 17:2-3). God can give us nothing greater than Himself. So we can desire nothing greater or better than God. Our desire is to see and know the Beloved. That drives us on and on to pursue holiness and a pure heart that we can and may see Him. Let us not grow weary in this, but let us strive to know what Scripture teaches us about what it really means to see God.

II Corinthians 3:15-18 points us in the way this is done and the blessedness of seeing God. 15 “But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The sight of God that we see is not just any sight, but it is of His glory. We cannot see God in the very essence of His being, but we must see the shining forth of God in His glory. By analogy we never really see the very essence of the sun and in fact if we moved much closer we would be burned up by it. But instead we see the outshining of the sun and we see by its light and feel its warmth. The basic point here is that the promise to see God is really a promise to see His glory and not His very essence.

John 11:40 is very instructive in this: “”Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” It is by faith that a person beholds the glory of God in the events that happen in the world. The context of John 11:40 is the death and resurrection of Lazarus. Many people saw what happened, but only those with faith saw the glory of God in it. The others saw the miracle but did not see the glory of God. Now we can see the centrality of faith in Scripture. Faith is the “organ” of the soul that sees the glory of God in the world. Faith is that which penetrates through the clouds of the world and focuses on the things that are spiritual and are ultimate reality.

Let us back up a bit and read II Corinthians 3:15-18 again (see two paragraphs up). It is when we behold the glory of the Lord by faith that we are transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another. It is not just having an academic understanding of this glory that changes us into His image, that is, to be like Him and to share in that glory, but it is to see it by faith. It is not only to see it by faith, but to drink in His glory and for the Spirit to change us to be like that glory. That only happens by faith. But there is another side to this as well. If there is no true faith, there is no sight of the glory of God. If one does not see the glory of God, then one does not know God and so does not have eternal life (John 17:3). If one does not see the glory of God, then there is no true spiritual growth no matter how moral the person is. If true faith must behold the glory of God in order to see God, then true faith must shine forth the glory of God as its morality. We were not made to be moral, we were made to be like God and He is a God of infinite glory.

Surely it is obvious why a person must pursue a pure heart in order to see God. One reason we can “see” God with a pure heart is that the heart is the vision of the soul. A pure heart has unclouded vision to the degree it is pure. A heart is like the glasses or lens of the soul. Sin gets the glasses dirty and out of focus which obscures the vision, but purity is like clean and focused glasses which help us see. Another reason is that a pure heart is the work of the Spirit working the character and life of God in us. So the more we are like God the more we can see Him. The blessings of the pure heart are in the ability to see God and the more pure the heart is the more of the glory of God it sees. That in itself is a blessing, but the blessing continues in seeing and drinking in more and more of His glory.

Do you have a pure heart? Do you desire a pure heart? If not, why are you settling for such insignificant things rather than the glory of God? Why are you content to settle with religion, theology, worldly riches and honor when the glory of God is shining forth? The reason that you are willing to settle for so little is that your heart is impure because of self-love. Your heart sees the glory of self and desires more. It does not want to be abased and do nothing but live for the glory of God. Here we see man’s utter helplessness before God and the need for a full grace. God only opens the eyes to see His glory by the glory of His grace. Works will never do it.