The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

August 16, 2013

To be ‘pure in heart’ includes discerning things of God

From the Pulpit

By Rev. Jim Erb

---- — We are living in a season when God seems to be demanding that His sons and daughters of the faith deal with secret inner sins. It seems He is getting us ready for hard times ahead and possibly for the second, soon coming to earth of Jesus.

The way Christians are to live is clearly expressed in Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew chapters 5-8.

One of His directives is expressed in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” For most, this is tough, bordering on impossible. Only Jesus, the Holy One, in us, can cause this to be.

Perhaps the first related thought is to clear our hearts of unclean sexual thoughts and actions, i.e. stop lusting. No pornography, etc. That may be what is intended in part. So men, “Stop undressing (in your minds) the ladies in church and elsewhere. And ladies, give us men a break! A few more flesh-covering clothes would take off some of the “man pressure.”

However, I believe “pure in heart” may have other meanings. How about our motivations for doing “church things?” In these last days, I believe God wants to raise the level of discernment among His believers to discern that which is truly of His Spirit from mere religious stuff.

For example: Let’s deal with man’s idea of success in the church world. Man’s idea of success in church ministry seems to be based upon achievement, accomplishment and performance.

If you have large congregations and lots of money coming in, that’s success.

If you have been able to build nice new, perhaps large buildings, that seems to indicate success.

If your leaders have written books, that’s a plus.

If you have a TV broadcast, you must certainly be successful.

A large mailing list surely helps.

If your leaders are talented, i.e., they can preach, sing, and possibly be great athletes, these could likely impress as successful.

Oh yes. If leaders happen to be nice looking, that could be a plus.

Do you have a ministry headquarters? Wow! That would indicate greatness.

Are important people in your congregation --- like doctors, attorneys, educators, politicians? That should impress us.

And on it goes. Man’s ideas of success in the church world.

Based on these criteria, I must tell you Jesus, the head of the Church, didn’t fare so well.

Jesus never wrote a book. He just used the old one they had.

Jesus never built a building. How can one have church without a building?

Jesus had no TV program.

Jesus had no ministry headquarters.

He had some significant people in His following, but evidently many of them left in the crunch?

He seems to have had the gift of reduction. We know He preached to large crowds. He fed 5,000 men, plus the women and children. That could have been many thousands. However, when He taught what it really meant to be His follower, i.e., things like, “Take up your cross and follow me,” or “Eat my flesh and drink my blood,” the crowd seems to have disappeared. He even turned to His own disciples to ask if they would leave also. Thank God they said, “Where else do we have to go?” They stayed. At the end only 120 were faithful to wait for the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Poor Jesus. He needed to go to a modern-day church growth seminar.

In the end His Father, in essence, said, “Well done, Son. You did everything I told you to do and said everything I told you to say. Now (John 13:3) I will give all things into your hands.” Wow! That sounds like real success to me – based on His intimate relationship with His Father.

How pure are our motives for serving Jesus? Do you walk with Jesus at a distance, or press into the place of intimacy with Him?

Lord, purify our hearts. Amen!

The Rev. Jim Erb is overseer of Antioch International Ministries, New Wilmington.