Our world offers continual distractions that overwhelm us and keep us from purity of heart, and therefore hinder our sight of God. To have purity of heart is to have a single-minded focus on one thing, the one thing that matters.
In this sermon, Osheta addresses the meaning of Jesus’ teaching on purity of heart, contrasting it with two ditches where we can easily miss the point. In one ditch is the experience of rule-driven purity, where a person seeks and validates his or her purity by all the things done or not done. This ditch fosters a purity culture which ultimately leads to shame because we end up following the rules to impress others, to develop a reputation of purity.
The other ditch defines purity of heart by good intentions and inner faithfulness. While those in the first ditch focuses on outer actions, those in this ditch focus on an internal experience with God that is not connected to outer actions.
Purity of heart, which lies between the two ditches, is a single-mindedness on God and God’s love that then informs our motives, our actions, our words and our deeds. In living this way, we will see God at work in our lives on a more regular basis. This view is promoted by Psalm 24:3-4: “Who may ascend to the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Jesus here is not teaching people that they should try harder to become more pure or that they should follow more rules to live up to certain expectations. Instead, Jesus is offering a new way of being, one where anyone can have a singular focus upon God and allow that focus to reveal who God is. This is what James says in James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
To put this single-minded focus on God in practical terms, we might define a pure heart as having two facets:
- First, a pure heart is an undivided heart. We are focused on what matters most, not dividing our attention to a million different things.
- Secondly, a pure heart is an undeterred heart. We are relentless in our pursuit of that which matters most, no matter what bars the way. Even if it is hard, we stay on the path.
We can move into purity of heart by first recognizing the fact that we live in a world of constant distraction, which means that we are under continual pressure to be divided and deterred. Therefore, we need spiritual practices that will help us focus. One such practice is called The Daily Examen, a time of reflection that involves the following steps:
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- Review your knowledge of God.
- Recognize where God has been present to you.
- Reflect on any feelings that emerge.
- Repent for the moments you missed God’s invitations to serve, to love, to give, to hope.
- Recommit to walking in a greater knowledge of God and self.