As we become merciful towards the weaknesses of others, we are moving one more step up the ladder of our spiritual growth, since a merciful person has a heart touched by God.
Our hearts are sanctified by God’s Spirit -He is the great Sanctifier. We do not have the capacity to sanctify ourselves and work for a pure heart. If we could, we would not need the Holy Spirit. Just as we couldn’t work for our salvation, we cannot work for a pure heart. It is God’s great work in the heart of the believer.
Long before the beatitudes were spoken by Jesus, God promised through His prophet Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:25-26)
It is written, “He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:8) and it is also written, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” Therefore, this beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” carries a double promise. First, the promise that God will create in us a pure heart for He is faithful and He will complete the good work He started in us. Secondly, after being sanctified and kept blameless, we shall see Him face to face. It also refers to “seeing” God in this life, in the sense that we become more acutely aware of His hand in everything around us, and our eyes are opened to see Him in His Word.
Being sanctified by God’s Spirit does not mean we are perfect and without mistakes. What it does mean is that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts illuminates what is lacking and what need to change. I like to use the analogy of a magnifying glass. The Holy Spirit has the capacity to bring to light even the deepest sins, hidden in the deepest recesses of our hearts, which we may never even have noticed ourselves. Then patiently, after showing us where we still need to change, He does His work gently and little by little, always guiding; never pushing us around or manipulating us.
When our hearts are awakened by His Spirit we develop an intense desire to please God in every way. No longer can we mindlessly continue in sin without so much as blinking an eye. Because of the illuminating work of His Spirit, the process of growing us into the image of God’s Son is begun (Romans 8:29).
Without holiness no one can see the Lord and therefore God will treat us as sons and discipline us to ensure that we will see Him. He will not allow the terrible sacrifice of His Son to be in vain, by saving us and then telling us to get a pure heart in our own strength. “Endure hardship as discipline,” writes the author of Hebrews. He is rooting out all the wrong and working in us what is pleasing to Him. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, but this doesn’t happen without some resistance from our sinful nature.
However, God is very patient. He is very determined to have us reunited with Him. He will ensure that nothing stands in the way of His purpose to have us eternally in His presence. Therefore, He is forever working and shaping and moulding us. He loves us too much to leave us over to our own devices. Just as a father disciplines the son he delights in, wrote Solomon, so the Lord disciplines those He loves. No parent will knowingly leave a young child to stick his head into a hot oven because it looks like fun. God will never give us a snake when we ask for a piece of bread. He will only give us what is beneficial to us. And He will also keep from us what may serve to eternal destruction. We are given pure hearts so that we can see God.
Clinging to worthless and heartless religious trappings and traditions that don’t have the capacity to give us a pure heart is a fruitless exercise -even if it includes “church work”. If we want to see God, our focus should be in the things that will give us a pure heart. Everything other than that will only serve as distractions to what really matters to God.