Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.(Matt. 5:8)
The Greek word often translated “blessed” and used repeatedly in the string of beatitudes, literally means happy. Happy are the pure in heart. But so often, when we think pure, we think prudish, stuffy, or pristine. At worst, we think holier-than-thou and inaccessible; at best, we think naive.
But those who are holy-in-Christ are far from those things. The pure in heart are usually the most sore in heart. They are holy because they wholly know their desperate need. They are pure because their deep knowledge of their deep impurity has led them to the pure one. They see God because they see their sin. And seeing their sin, they see and savor the one who saved them from their sin.
We’re declared pure by imputation—that is, Christ’s purity is credited to us through no merit of our own. But we become pure by Spirit-led conviction. The more convicted we are of our sin, the more convinced we are that we need a Savior. The more convinced we are of the love of God for us, the more we’re convicted to strive solely after him.
When my middle school boys say that someone’s basketball shot is pure, they mean that it seems to flow effortlessly. But what seems so natural to NBA players has been habitually practiced and hourly-honed. While we come by purity simply by way of a Savior, we do not come by it cheaply. A purity so expensively purchased is meant to be intentionally practiced. “You were bought with a price,” the apostle Paul writes, “So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Purity comes by way of practice. Singular focus comes by way of straining and striving. Paul, writing to his protege Timothy—who is already pure in Christ—commands him to strive toward purity and righteousness. But before Paul commands Timothy to live as a man of God (imperative; do), he reminds him that he is already a man of God (indicative; done).
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things…to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.(1 Tim. 6:11-14)
Note the active commands Paul recommends to one already commended by God: flee, pursue, fight, take hold, keep. This means that the pure in heart sorely moan and groan. The pure are pierced by sin and boxed by their efforts at becoming the pure ones they already are in Christ. They struggle with the hazardous waste they find in their hearts. But their pollution leads them to the pure one. The reality that they are impure begs them to run to the holy one who has already done the work of cleansing them on the cross.