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LESSON 7 - THE PURE IN HEART (MATTHEW 5:8)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION:  Certain words just naturally go together.  For
example, "pure" and "water" seem exactly right together.  Do
"happy" and "pure" seem right together to you?  The Beatitude which
is our study today starts out "Blessed [happy] are the pure in
heart...." Let's find out more about what it means to be "pure in
heart" and what that has to do with our attitude.

I. WHAT IS THE HEART?

     A. Read Matthew 5:8.  What percentage of your body represents
     your heart? Let's work it out!

          1. How much would you guess your heart weighs?

          2. How much do you weigh? (No need to shout it out.)

               a. You do the math. Let's say the heart weighs 5
               pounds and you weigh 200 pounds? (2.5%)

     B. Would you buy water that was 2.5% pure and 97.5% impure?

          1. So why does God seem to be satisfied when only 2.5% of
          your body is pure? (God is not talking about what pumps
          your blood, He is talking about your mind. See Matthew
          15:19)

               a. Do you think "heart" in Matthew 5:8 refers only
               to our mind?

                    (1) If not, what else do you think Jesus had in
                    mind? (In Jeremiah 17:10 it says, "I the Lord
                    search the heart and examine the mind, to
                    reward a man according to his conduct,
                    according to what his deeds deserve." The
                    heart is here referred to separately from the
                    mind. To further confuse us, the Hebrew word
                    translated "mind" in Jeremiah means "kidneys!"
                    Brown-Driver-Briggs tells us that the word
                    translated "mind," but really naming the
                    kidneys, is a reference to the "seat of
                    emotion and affection."  When we talk of a
                    pure heart, I think the Bible means both our
                    thinking process and our emotions.)

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CONDITION OF THE HEART

     A. Turn ahead a few chapters in Matthew to chapter 15. Read
     Matthew 15:1-6. We have Jesus and the Pharisees trading
     charges.

          1. What are the charges levelled against Jesus? (His
          disciples violated the historical teachings of the
          religious leaders.)

          2. Are these charges really levelled against Jesus?
          (Indirectly. They directly criticize His disciples. But
          they suggest that He is improperly teaching them.)

          3. So the charge is that the disciples do not wash their
          hands before they eat.  Didn't your mother tell you the
          same thing when you were a kid?

               a. Let's read between the lines.  What kind of men
               were Jesus' disciples? What are we taught by these
               charges? (They may have been unrefined, but they
               must have been pretty good if this is the worst
               charge the Pharisees can level against them!)

     B. What is Jesus' charge against the Pharisees? (He says that
     they are breaking God's commands (not just tradition) by
     excusing children from supporting their elderly parents.)

          1. You have heard children on the play ground yell out,
          "You're fat!"  Then the rotund kid yells back, "You're
          ugly!"  Then somebody else talks about how their "mother
          dresses them funny."  Is that what is going on here?
          Illogical name-calling?  The Pharisees say "You are a law
          violator" and Jesus retorts, "You're one too!" Is that
          how you see this?  (No. Look at the dialogue closely.
          Jesus is not just yelling back.  The Pharisees' charge is
          that Jesus is allowing (or teaching) His disciples to
          violate tradition. Jesus says that tradition is not
          something to be concerned about because their tradition
          is used to violate God's law. He is not calling them
          names. He is attacking the premise of their argument.)

               a. Wait a minute. Before we say Jesus' argument is
               perfectly logical, tell me, would washing hands
               before eating violate the law of God?  Now what do
               you think about Jesus' argument?

                    (1) I think we need to dig deeper!

     C. Let's read on. Read Matthew 15:7-11.  Did you notice the
     reference to "hearts?"  How would you explain the difference
     between honoring God with your "lips" and honoring Him with
     you "heart?" (It is the difference between just talking and
     your attitude.)

     D. Jesus further explains what He means by saying what goes in
     your mouth does not make you ceremonially unclean, what comes
     out of your mouth makes you unclean.

          1. How do you apply this statement of Jesus to the
          prohibition on eating unclean animals explained in
          Leviticus 11?

          2. Does this mean we are free to eat pigs now? Can we
          gobble those oinkers without becoming unclean?

               a. If you say, "No, no oinker gobbling," explain
               why?

     E. In the next few verses the disciples tell Jesus that He is
     insulting the Pharisees to which He says, "So?"  The serious
     problem is that Jesus' disciples are not sure about what He
     means, and I'll bet you are uncertain too. So let's read vv.
     15-20.

          1. Is Jesus referring to pigs? (Not specifically. He
          keeps it very narrow and refers only to hand-washing.)

          2. Is Jesus telling us something about purity of heart?

               a. Notice the list of "evils" in v.19. Did you ever
               take a test where they asked you to identify the
               item that did not belong in the list?  For example,
               if I gave you the list, "Ball, bat, glove,
               refrigerator, spikes," which one does not logically
               belong in the list (unless the person giving the
               answer is a couch potato)? (Right! Except for couch
               potatoes, who watch TV baseball, refrigerator does
               not belong.)

               b. Tell me, which evil does not belong in the list
               in v.19? ("Evil thoughts."  All the rest are
               actions and commandment violations -- just like the
               violation of the commandment to honor your parents
               that Jesus used at the beginning of this
               discussion.)

                    (1) So why are "evil thoughts" in Jesus' list?

                    (2) How does murder come "out of the heart?"

               c. How do (v.18) "things that come out of the mouth
               come from the heart?"

     F. I just asked you why "evil thoughts were on Jesus' list,
     whether murder "comes out of the heart," and how it is that
     things coming out of the mouth come from the heart.  Are these
     questions related?  Is there some "overall answer" to all
     three? (Yes! A person does not accidentally commit the sins
     listed in v.19.  Instead, these sins are preceded by a great
     deal of thinking about them (or lesser evils that lead to
     these sins).  You can get a pretty good understanding of a
     person by listening to him or her talk. (v.18) So sin becomes
     a matter of evil thinking, which leads to evil speaking, which
     leads to evil actions.)

     G. Is the reverse true? That evil actions lead to evil
     speaking, which leads to evil thinking? (No. That is what
     Jesus is talking about when He says (vv.17 and 20) that what
     goes in a man does not make him unclean.  He is saying that
     sin does not come from actions. Actions do not make the heart
     sinful. Sin comes from the heart!  The heart makes for evil
     actions!  If you believed it was sinful to eat pork, and were
     rebelling against God, it would clearly violate Jesus' rule
     because your actions would come from a rebellious heart. (See,
     Romans 14:22-23.))

     H. Do you see the flow of the argument in these verses in
     Matthew?  Can you see that Jesus is not trading insults with
     the Pharisees, and He is not talking about eating oinkers. He
     is teaching that evil comes from the mind.  That is why He is
     teaching his disciples about "heart issues" while the "blind
     guides" (v.14) are worried about externals like hand washing.
 
III. HOW DO WE HAVE PURE HEARTS?

     A. Since we have learned that evil is not caused by evil
     doing, but rather by evil thinking (attitude), how should we
     raise our children? Should we concentrate on what they do?
     (No. You would want to concentrate on what they THINK.  You
     would want to concentrate on their attitude.)

          1. How would you do that?

          2. Turn with me back to Matthew 5. Read v.28. What
          sequence for sin does Jesus suggest here? What starts the
          problem? (Adultery begins with the lustful look.)

          3. Is this true for all sins? (Yes. We just learned this.
          Sin begins in the mind.)

          4. Does Matthew 5:28 suggest an answer to how we should
          concentrate our fight against sin in the lives of our
          children? (Yes. This suggests that we need to concentrate
          our effort on what our children see and hear.  Consider
          the truth of E.G. White's statement in the book
          Patriarchs and Prophets p. 460 ("[G]uard well the avenues
          of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing
          that which will suggest impure thoughts.") Proverbs 23:7
          "For as he thinks within himself, so he is."(NAS); 1
          Peter 1:13-14 "Therefore, prepare your minds for action;
          be self-controlled ... do not conform to the evil desires
          you had when you lived in ignorance.")

     B.  I started out with your children to get you to agree to
     the principle.  Let me ask the "killer" question. Does this
     same principle apply to you?

          1. If so, is there anything that it is "OK" for you to
          watch, but not "OK" for your children to watch?

          2. If you do not take some "affirmative action" to limit
          the "avenues of your soul," will you be naturally
          inclined towards the right goal? (No. In Jeremiah 17:9
          the Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things
          and beyond cure." Genesis 6:5, referring to people before
          the flood, says, "that every inclination of the thoughts
          of the heart was only evil all the time.")

IV. THE STAKES

     A. Let's go back to where we started. Matthew 5:8. What is at
     stake in the battle for our minds? (Seeing God.)

          1. What do you think it means to "see God?" (Heaven.)

          2. Could anything be more important than what you see and
          hear if "seeing God" is at stake?

          3. How about what your children see and hear?

     B. We said that "seeing God" refers to going to heaven. Do you
     think that having a pure heart could in any way allow us to
     "see God" now? (Yes. A pure heart helps us to understand God's
     will right now.)

     C. Friend, how is your heart?  If you know your heart is not
     right, can you make it right by "guarding the avenues of your
     soul?" (No. "Guarding the avenues" is your cooperative effort.
     It is your obligation in choosing to serve God. David has it
     right in Psalms 51:10 when He identifies God as the one who
     creates "a pure heart" within us. See also Ezekiel 36:26. God
     is the purifier, but He cannot purify if we choose to have
     evil flood our hearts. Let us pray as David did for God to
     create a pure heart and a renewed Spirit within us!)

V. NEXT WEEK: "THE PEACEMAKERS." Study Matthew 5:9!