Topic Scripture: Matthew 5:8
There are three tame ducks in our back yard,
Dabbling in mud and trying hard
To get their share, and maybe more,
Of the overflowing barnyard store.
Satisfied with the task they’re at,
Eating and sleeping and getting fat.
But whenever the free wild ducks go by
In a long line streaming down the sky,
They cock a quizzical, puzzled eye,
And flap their wings and try to fly.
I think my soul is a tame old duck,
Dabbling around in barnyard muck,
Fat and lazy with useless wings.
But sometimes when the North wind sings
And the wild ones hurdle overhead,
It remembers something lost and dead,
And cocks a wary, bewildered eye,
And makes a feeble attempt to fly.
It’s fairly content with the state it’s in,
But it isn’t the duck it might have been.
I don’t want to be a tame duck. You don’t, either. You want your life to have purpose and passion, a reason for being which transcends the hum-drum routine, the workaday world. You want to believe that your life counts for something bigger than yourself, that you are more than a dot on the screen of the universe.
How do we escape the barnyard?
Choose to have a life purpose
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” our Teacher says.
Greek scholar Fritz Rienecker defines “heart” as “the center of the inner life of the person where all the spiritual forces and functions have their origin.”
“Pure” means here to have integrity, to be consistent, to be of one mind.
So to be “pure in heart” is to have a single purpose to your life. Kierkegaard was right: “purity of heart is to will one thing.” To choose to have a single life purpose.
Not everyone believes you can. Many think that life has no real purpose or meaning.
Philosopher Martin Heidegger says you’re an actor on a stage, with no script, director, audience, past or future. Courage is to face life as it is.
French philosopher and playwright Jean Paul Sartre titled his most famous play, No Exit, and his autobiography, Nausea. In Existentialism and Human Emotions, he ended the chapter titled “The Hole” with these words: “Man is a useless passion” (p. 107).
“Postmodernism” says there’s no absolute truth, which is itself an absolute truth claim. Life has no real purpose, just what you make of it. Life is chaotic, random dots produced by the coincidence of evolution and the chance occurrences of life.
Why not share this chaotic worldview? Why seek to be “pure of heart,” to have a single purpose?
One answer is practical: greatness is only possible through commitment to a single purpose.
Lance Armstrong explained his fourth straight Tour de France victory with the words, “Racing is what I do. It is my passion. It is my life.”
Winston Churchill in June of 1941: “I have but one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby.”
Brilliant scholar and author William Barclay: “A man will never become outstandingly good at anything unless that thing is his ruling passion. There must be something of which he can say, ‘For me to live is this.'”
A second answer is logical: if the universe were chaotic, without purpose or meaning, you and I would never be able to know it or say it. Think with me for a moment.
If reality were truly chaotic, there would be nothing we could “know.” Red today would be green tomorrow. Stand before a Jackson Pollock painting, splotches on the canvas, and tell me what it “means.” Or before a Marc Rothco, a canvas painted all a single solid color. Again, no meaning. Both artists committed suicide, by the way.
If the world were chaos like their paintings, there could be no objective truth, not even the objective statement that there is no objective truth. And we couldn’t speak of truth, for language could have no common meaning between us.
A third answer is biblical.
Jesus made this statement about human experience: “No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).
James added this command: “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (4:8). To purify our heart we must not be “double-minded.” We must have a single life purpose.
A fourth answer is spiritual: we must be “pure in heart” to see God. Jesus’ beatitude makes this fact clear. Let’s explore here for a moment.
We cannot see God with our physical eyes: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:2).
But we can “see” God spiritually. Hebrews 11:27 says of Moses, “he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Exodus 33:11 states, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”
We can know God this intimately. But only if we are pure in heart. Hebrews 12:14 warns us, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” But Jesus promises: if we are “pure in heart,” we will.
Campaign contributors will pay $10,000 for a table at a dinner, hoping just to meet the president or their candidate. Imagine knowing intimately the God who created the universe. You can. But you must be pure in heart. You must choose a single life purpose.
Choose the right life purpose
So how do we become “pure in heart.” Assuming that these practical, logical, biblical, and spiritual arguments are compelling, what do you do next? What single life purpose will lead us to “see God”?
We’re not the first to ask Jesus.
Remember the lawyer’s trick question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). Which of our 613 commandments will you neglect, so we can convict you of breaking the law?
And remember his answer, summarizing all the law and the prophets, all the word and will of God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … Love your neighbor as yourself” (vs. 37, 39).
The two are one, Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s request for the greatest single commandment in God’s word. They are two wings of the same spiritual airplane, both essential for the soul that flies into the presence of God. Examine them for a moment.
Love the Lord “with all your heart,” by walking in the will of God. Remember that your heart is the center of your life, the origin of your will and actions. The Bible instructs us, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Flee evil; pursue righteousness. Walk in the will of God and you’ll be “pure in heart.”
Love the Lord “with all your soul,” by practicing the worship of God. With your spiritual life, your daily worship: “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). To “fear” God is to reverence him, to honor him, to worship him. The “undivided heart” is the pure heart. Love God with your daily worship, as you commune with him, walk with him, praise him. And you’ll be “pure in heart.”
Love the Lord “with all your mind,” by knowing the word of God. Know and obey his revealed truth: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth … love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Know and obey the truth of God’s word and you’ll be “pure in heart.”
And love your neighbor as yourself: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Share God’s love by living your faith. As Francis of Assisi suggests, preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.
Share God’s love by caring for hurting souls. Show them God’s love in yours.
Share God’s love by explaining your faith. Share with them God’s salvation, and urge them to experience his grace. And you’ll be “pure in heart.”
Thursday morning during our 6 a.m. prayer time I was asked about the sermon for today. I said I would be preaching on the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” A very dear friend to my side said under her breath, “O dear.” We all agreed. To be “pure in heart” seems beyond our reach. But it’s not.
Choose to have a single life purpose, for practical, logical, biblical and spiritual reasons. Choose Jesus’ purpose: love the Lord your God with your heart through his worship, with your soul through his will, with your mind through his word. Love us as yourself. And you will be “pure in heart.”
And you will see God.
Your soul can be a tame duck. Or it can be a wild eagle. The choice is yours.