The first five Beatitudes are things that we do. We humble ourselves and go to God. We mourn over our sin. We choose meekness, quiet strength in following our Lord. We develop a hunger and thirst for His righteousness to grow in us. And we show mercy toward others.
(Matthew 5:8) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
The end result of choosing these attitudes is a growing purity of heart, of our minds. God can start changing us into His image, and showing Himself to us more and more.
Some people live with barely a thought for God during the week, live without even trying to live the first five Beatitudes. Then they go to church on Sunday, perhaps get an emotional lift during worship service, even feel the goosebumps and shed a few tears, and then think they know God, that they are seeing God move in their own life.
Maybe God is revealing a bit of Himself, in hopes that they will be drawn into pursuing Him for real rather than just lip service. But more often than not, it is really the old nature making them feel good for their religious service, to keep them deceived into thinking they know God. Or perhaps, in some cases, they are feeling the overflow from those who ARE striving to walk in the Spirit daily. Depending on the church, it could even be the manifestation of a false spirit that works to keep them in deception.
Scripture says that the just will walk by faith (2Corinthians 5:7), not by sight or feelings. I sometimes hear someone argue against Scriptural doctrine by saying, “I feel that God would not….” That immediately tells me that this person is, at the best, a baby Christian.
The ones who really begin to see God are those who seek a pure heart. They purify themselves (James 4:8) through seeking God in humility and desiring His righteousness to be manifested in them. It is God who does the work of purification (Titus 2:14), also called sanctification, but He does so through our obedience to Him in our daily lives.
1John 1:9 says believers should confess their sins to God, that is, agree completely with God that they are sins. Then He will not only forgive us, but cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we really agree with God about sin, then we will desire to do His will and to be free from that sin. God will begin the process of purifying us as we start turning away from our sin.
This is a maturing process. Just as a child grows into an adult and begins acting like one (presumably), so we grow into greater purity of heart, into spiritual maturity.
1John 2:12-14 describes this spiritual growth. First are the babies, the little ones. Their sins are forgiven for His name’s sake, and they know the Father. Just as a human father should raise their children by teaching, correcting, and disciplining them, so does our heavenly Father. (In another place, it says that if He doesn’t do this for you, or if you refuse to receive His discipline, then you are not His.)
As we grow, we should become “young men,” who have learned to overcome the wicked one, both Satan and that sin nature that is in our flesh. We become strong, standing in God’s Word and His Word living and moving in us.
Eventually, we will become spiritual “fathers,” and will know Him who is from the beginning. We will really begin to know God personally and at a deeper level than can the little child or the young man.
The little child is the one who is just learning to come to God in humility, just learning to seek Him. They know God as their daddy. The young man has been learning from God for a period, has learned much of His ways and walk in them. They have developed meekness (quiet strength). The father has continued to grow in spiritual maturity and has developed a pure heart to serve God in all things. He shows that he really knows God.
When we are children we know our parents – but because we have the mind and understanding of a child, there are many things we are not capable of knowing. We don’t really understand the work and discipline it takes for parents to raise their children. We don’t really understand how adults think – because we are children.
But eventually, most children grow up, and often have families of their own. It is only at this point that they can really understand what their own parents went through. Then they can know their parents in a deeper way that they could never grasp as a child.
In the same manner, we start off knowing something of God our Father, but it is only in growing to spiritual maturity that we will really know Him.