Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Matt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Much of what I will say here are from thoughts I am gleaning from "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, here on referred to as "L-J". I have paraphrased and condensed it down, but I hope you will get the idea.

The first of the Beatitudes is "poor in spirit". It seems there are many different ideas about what being "poor in spirit" means. Some of those ideas are things like, actually being in poverty, a monastic life style, nervous or lacking self confidence.

It is interesting that Jesus starts with this one. Jesus doesn't say anything without having said it perfectly, which means He had in mind an order even to these character traits. "There is no one in The Kingdom of Heaven who is NOT 'poor in spirit'. We must first empty ourselves of all that we are before we can be filled with all of the other beatitudes and this is the 'emptying point'". L-J.

The Gospel, The Good News, always has 2 sides; a pulling down before a raising up, conviction and conversion, repentance before true joy and condemnation before sweet fellowship.

If you look at the people in the Bible whom God chose to lead His people, these definitions don't work. David was a man after God's own heart and he certainly wasn't in poverty, nervous or lacking self confidence. Peter and Paul didn't lack confidence and it doesn't seem they were nervous about anything previous to seeing Christ. So what does Jesus mean by "poor in spirit"?

Jesus doesn't tell us that the rich man is farther from Heaven than the poor man, with regard to earthly possessions. Because we in America have much more than much of the rest of the world does not mean the rest of the world is closer to Heaven. Earthly possessions just have a way of distracting us from what is truly important, so we must be more careful when we have them. Poverty doesn't guarantee spirituality. I have seen many people absolutely destitute in India, who are not closer to Heaven.

Being "poor in spirit" is more about how we see ourselves, and our attitude toward ourselves, then it is about our financial status.

L-J says, "you will never find a greater antithesis to the worldly spirit and outlook than that which you find in this verse. This is not only NOT admired by the world, but despised by it". The world doesn't look to its leaders to have this character trait. The world is looking for self confident, ego centric, even cocky people to lead. This is quite the opposite. 

As an aside, I think this is why Tim Tebow is finding it hard to be loved by the media because he is not boastful and proud. (My opinion).

Saul was probably that person before he met Christ on the road to Damascus, but as soon as he saw himself up against all that Christ is, he saw how low he truly was. The world was looking to follow a guy like Saul, but Christ turned him into Paul, with just one look into who He is.
L-J says,"If anyone feels anything in the presence of God save utter poverty of spirit, it ultimately means that they never faced Him. That is the meaning of this Beatitude".
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Is. 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
"I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Jesus is always our best example of what each Beatitude will look like. Jesus, being God, left all the pleasures of Heaven, He became poor, for us. He is every bit as much God as God the Father, but while He was in human form He subjected His will to everything the Father wanted. He repeatedly said that even His Words didn't come from Him, but from His Father. All the times He was praying we are able to see His reliance on the Father and not His own strength. If Jesus needed to rely on the Father, then we certainly do as well. We need to see our lack and His abundance.

There is no way for us to truly look at who God is without seeing our absolute need of all that He is and all that we are not. When we compare who we are to all that God is, we are forced to fall on our faces and beg for Him to work in our lives and change us. Until that happens, we can not be "poor in spirit", we will still be full of ourselves and there will be no room for the balance of the Beatitudes in our lives.

Father, work in me and work in Your Church that we all might be emptied of ourselves and all that we think we are and filled with the knowledge of who You truly are. Without Your working in our lives we will continue to be looking at ourselves and not toward you. Make us like Your Son, wholly reliant on You. We are reliant on You, but let us see it. Give us the desire to lose ourselves in You and to be submissive to Your Word.

There is no repentance that You have not given, no faith that You do not impart, no love for others that You do not bestow, no forgiveness of others that You have not first given. All that I have and all that I am and will be are only because of Your gracious gifts to me. Let me love You more each day as I see Your working in my life and as I measure my life up against who You are.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Hey, that was a great post - thanks.