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 (Living Waters 1981 Volume 2)
Pure In Heart
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Y. T. Percy

It has been a notable phenomenon during the past years that more and more people are arduously searching for the genuine experience in God.  They are motivated either by spiritual urgency or by intellectual curiosity.  Unfortunately, most of them have failed to achieve their end simply because they are unable to find the way of salvation.  In a final analysis, those spiritually or intellectually, thirsty people are very much like the fervent Jews in Jerusalem who, after having listened to Peter's testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ and felt greatly alarmed, asked the Apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37).

Indeed, "What shall we do?" has become a universal exclamation of those who have painstakingly sought God.  At the outcry of failure to reach God, people, thus, may begin to doubt the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ's promise: "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Mt 7:7-8).  Our Lord as the Absolute One is always faithful to what He says.  The problem after all lies in us.  Unless we are willing to change our own attitude toward God, we will not be able to find Him.

The Bible points out that "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8).  Here it clearly attests to the truth that purity of heart is the very first key with which one may open the door to God.  Other scriptures testify as well as reinforce this important message: "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" (Ps 24:3-4).  To be pure in heart signifies a mental state in which reverence and piousness reign supreme.  A person with a pure heart is able to extirpate his preoccupied concepts and to humble himself before the Lord.  This emptying process is accomplished in a manner of self-annihilation.  Jesus Christ summoned His disciples to follow Him on the condition that they had to deny themselves (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:24, Lk 9:23), because only by doing so could they virtually witness their Master's true nature.  Self-denial, therefore, is another synonym of "the pure in heart."

However, we cannot but hesitate for a moment.  It is a difficult task for us to be pure in heart.  We are born with desires and emotions, and are constantly under their sway.  We often find ourselves vulnerable to the attractions of worldly power, material wealth, and knowledge.  Three Biblical characters may illustrate these aspects.

King Nebuchadnezzar, after having enjoyed the peaceful and sumptuous life in his palace for a long time, once uttered the following remark in an extravagant manner: "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30) He forgot that all his power and glory were from God.  His hubristic manner immediately invited divine punishment.  Accordingly he was driven out of the palace and made to graze in the wild fields.

Another example is the wealthy young man recorded in the book of Matthew.  This rich young man came up to Jesus and asked about the way to eternal life.  Jesus told him to keep the commandments.  He replied with confidence that he had done so. Then Jesus further encouraged him to pursue perfection by distributing all that he had to the poor.  Upon hearing this, "he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mt 19:22).  His original good intention was entangled by his wealth, so he lost the opportunity to come close to God.

The third example is Saul, who later became the apostle Paul after he had been called to follow Jesus.  Despite his great learning, not only was he unable to understand the truth of Christ, but he persecuted many Christians (Acts 26:24, 22:34). The mundane knowledge became merely a barrier that shadowed his insight.  Consequently he had been blinded for three days by the Lord, a symbolic reflection of his inner plight (Acts 9:8-9).

These three figures, though different from one another in circumstances, share the common characteristic of self-conceit.  Thus they were barred from recognizing the true nature of God, not to mention seeing His face.  By extension, people at present are suffering from similar problems.  Even though some are very zealous and anxious in their effort to find God, they are shut off from the door for a lack of purity in heart.

Jesus Christ on an occasion settled the disciples' arguments by referring to a child and said: "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:1-4).  In other words, only those who are spiritually innocent and whose heart is not entangled in the worldly affairs are qualified to enter the heavenly kingdom.  In God's sight, it is not he who possesses material riches or mundane knowledge that is valuable (I Cor 2:8), but it is rather he who vacates his mind and submits himself entirely to His will that is highly regarded.  In this sense, it is clearly understandable that Moses, after he had discarded his worldly attachments and undergone austere training in the wilderness, was qualified to speak to God face to face (Ex 33: 11).  The Ethiopian minister mentioned in the Acts serves as another example.  He humbly and politely asked the evangelist Philip to interpret the scripture for him.  The high-ranking official eventually grasped the word of God and was baptized into Christ (Acts 8:26-40).

The first three chapters of the First Corinthians explicitly state that God saves those who, from the viewpoint of ordinary people, are foolish, weak, low, and despised (I Cor 1:27:28).  On the contrary, the wise and powerful are separated from God's salvation, because they regard themselves superior.  Preoccupied with this nation, they consequently lack the penetrating spiritual insight (I Cor 2: 10-11).  We must worship God in spirit and truth, because He is spirit (Jn 4:24).  A person must first empty his/her heart to behold His very nature, follow His commandments, and come to an intimate communication with Him.

The foregoing examples draw for us an edifying lesson.  There is indeed nothing in the world on which we can depend, nor by which we can hopefully be led to the way of salvation.  It is only at the moment when we cast aside egoism and human ways, and humbly and unreservedly kneel down before the Lord can we be enlightened.  This is the way to find the contact point of God and man.