The Blessing of Seeing God

How’s your eyesight? Have you ever had an eye trauma that required retina detachment, cornea abrasion, or cataract surgery? I’ve had two of the three, one requiring some extensive surgery. If you’ve also required surgical intervention, and if it was successful, you, like me, know the radical improvement after surgery. Colors are more vivid, lines are sharper, and everything is brighter. However, even with corrected vision, we still don’t focus on things around us. How often do we go about our day and never look up at a brilliant blue sky or the ground where little insects are busily running around? And then looking does not equal seeing. It’s possible to look at a person and not recognize them because you’re not where you usually see each other. It’s also possible to stare at a map or an address and misread it because we’re not seeing what’s there but what we think should be there. I made that mistake yesterday when I parked near the address I thought I saw on my phone, only to realize that I had inverted two of the five numbers. We go through life seeing only a portion of what’s visible, because of our weak nature. So how can we “see” God, who is invisible? We see him through Scripture because that is his means of revealing himself to us. God reveals himself to believers because they have blessed heart-purity from Jesus.

Who Are The Pure in Heart?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). To know what Jesus meant, we first have to understand who the pure in heart might be. It’s important to remember that he was preaching to his disciples, who had the faith to be with him and sit at his feet. So who are the “pure in heart?” Was Jesus referring to those who knew him and merely restrained themselves from sins and impurity? John Stott writes, “The popular interpretation of this beatitude is to regard purity of heart as an expression of inward purity, the quality of those who have been cleansed from moral—as opposed to ceremonial defilement…This emphasis on the inward and moral, whether contrasted with the outward and ceremonial or with the outward and physical, is certainly consistent with the whole Sermon on the Mount which requires heart-righteousness rather than mere rule-righteousness. Nevertheless, in the context of the other beatitudes, ‘purity of heart’ seems to refer in some sense to our relationships. It is single-mindedness, having a single heart. More precisely, the primary reference is to sincerity. The pure in heart have their whole lives, public and private, transparent before others. Their very heart—including their thoughts and motives—is pure, unmixed with anything devious, ulterior or base…[but] Only Jesus was absolutely pure in heart…Thank the Lord for being [our] perfect example of purity of heart. Ask him to show you areas where you have mixed motives or any hypocrisy.” (1) God reveals himself to believers because they have blessed heart-purity from Jesus. Do we rejoice in our blessing of knowing God, relying on his revelation of himself in Scripture through Christ’s incarnation and the Spirit’s illumination of the Word?

Why Is Purity of Heart So Important?

Heart purity can’t be found in the “wisdom” of the world, our gut instincts or reactions, philosophies, mindfulness, or restraint alone. Purity of heart is certainly more than what we don’t do, think, or feel. “In the Bible, the heart is the center of the personality; it involves the mind, the will, and the emotions…In Romans 5:5 he writes, ‘And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ In this verse the heart is the seat of the emotions. A reference to the heart of man is therefore a reference to the center of man’s personality, and it is this that is the source of man’s problems. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9)…And if that is the case, we may well ask, ‘How can a man be pure in heart?’ The answer is that only God can make him pure. You can begin by trying to cleanse your own heart; but whether you turn to ethics, religion, asceticism, fetishes, or whatever it may be, you will find that your heart is as corrupt at the end as at the beginning. Only God can cleanse your heart from its impurities. David knew this and prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10)…As we do, we come increasingly to see him as he fills our being and makes himself known to us. We take our place with those countless others who endured “as seeing him who is invisible.” (2)

How Do We See God?

“To debate at length how we may see God is the mark of idle curiosity. Since God’s essence is spiritual, we cannot behold him with our physical eyes. Nor, strictly speaking, do we attribute sight to spirit-beings…The joy of seeing God which our text speaks of here cannot be ours before theist day, when we will conformed to God’s glory…Let us resolve simply to press on, knowing that, once our course is finished, God will show us how it is in his kingdom. We…are already on our way. So let us continue on, always on, as long as we are in this world, and when we have reached our inheritance, then we will know what heaven is like…Is there not ample reward in the fact that God declares that he is ours, that he desires to be our inheritance and to make us his? Where else is true happiness and blessing to be found if not here? Christ thus applies the metaphor of sight, according to normal scriptural usage, because he is speaking here of a heart which is pure. The more our heart is cleansed of evil, the more honest and upright it is, and the less prone we are to sinful dealing…So here our Lord uses this metaphor to teach that, if we fail to ‘see’ what men naturally covet, God will indeed reveal himself to us; as we lay hold of him, he will give us rest.” (3) In the prolong to his gospel, the Apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:14-18) We see God in Jesus Christ, in his gospel grace and mercy, promises, and teaching. 

The Blessing of Seeing God

“Everyone readily agrees that the best quality anyone can possess is purity of heart and complete honesty. Without these things, every other virtue, however highly regarded, is but stuff and nonsense in God’s sight. If the world mocks our innocence and if by our innocence we seem to lose more than we gain, we should rejoice in a greater reward—seeing God. Our eyes many never be sharp enough to show us where worldly advantage, comfort, convenience, pleasure, and prestige lie, nor how we might reach for them. When we fix our gaze on other things instead, we will be given that clearer vision which is promised to us here; we will rejoice in the presence of God, in whom are found all our blessedness, joy, and glory.” (4) “Happy they are, [who enjoy] communion with him, both in private and public, in the several duties of religion, in the house and ordinances of God; where they often behold his beauty, see his power and his glory, and taste, and know, that he is good and gracious: and in the other world, where they shall see God in Christ, with the eyes of their understanding; and God incarnate, with the eyes of their bodies, after the resurrection; which sight of Christ, and God in Christ, will be unspeakably glorious, desirable, delightful, and satisfying; it will be free from all darkness and error, and from all interruption; it will be an appropriating and transforming one, and will last for ever.” (5) Where is our focus? Do we have singleness of heart, relying on his revelation of himself in Scripture through Christ’s incarnation and the Spirit’s illumination of the Word? “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalms 24:3-5)

Related Scripture: Genesis 22:17-19; Job 22:30; Psalms 51:10; 73:1; Isaiah 56:1-2; Ezekiel 18:5-9; Matthew 5:27-30; John 6:46; 14:6-9; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 John 3:1-3.

Notes

  1. Stott, John, The Beatitudes—Developing Spiritual Character, pp. 40-45, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
  2. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 5:8, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. Calvin, John, Sermons on the Beatitudes, pp. 49-53, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006.
  4. Calvin, Ibid.
  5. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Matthew 5:8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html 

September 8, 2022

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