Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

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

This is directly from my sermon notes so it may not be the best 'blog format.' But as we go through the Sermon on the Mount here at Immanuel Baptist, I will attempt to share what we are learning.

What then does it mean to be poor in spirit?

First, let me emphasize that this is key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount. This verse is NOT a command. It is simply a statement of truth. When interpreted rightly it helps us to understand the rest of the sermon.

None of the commands given in the Sermon on the Mount are carried out by anyone other than those who are poor in spirit. No one possesses the Kingdom of Heaven other than those who are poor in spirit.

So, it is vital for us to understand rightly what this does mean:

1. Poor in Spirit is opposite of those in the kingdom of this world

Self. Self-sufficient. Self-confidence. Me. Me. Me. It is impossible to be full of self and full of Christ. You cannot be rich in self and poor in spirit at the same time.

2. Poor in spirit means we acknowledge our guilt – (see Mt. 4:17)

To tell someone to repent is not popular! Let me be clear: calling someone to repentance isn’t devaluing them as a human. It isn’t saying that they are less of a person than anyone else.

It is simply calling them to acknowledge their guilt before God.

The poor in spirit acknowledge their guilt. They know that they cannot plead ‘not guilty’ before the judge. The evidence is stacked against them. Guilty as charged. Any sentence God could execute on us, we deserve. The fiery flames that would torment our immortal souls for ages upon end are but our just desserts…

3. Being Poor in spirit is an acknowledgement of our corruption

A lot of people who claim to be Christians will agree on the previous point. But on this point they may have an objection. Maybe some of you will have an objection. To be poor in spirit not only means you acknowledge your guilt, but also that you acknowledge your corruption.
Not only are you guilty before God, but you are broken. In and of yourself you are vile, wretched, and an inventor of evil. If we can lie to save ourselves & not get caught we will. If we can cheat & not get caught we will. We will justify ourselves in our sinful actions any way we can.

There is nothing in your natural self not tainted with sin. The highest thought you can think on your own is putrid. The best prayer you can pray on your own is worth 10,000 eternities in hell. Now, look, you are not any less valuable than any other human being on the planet. But we aren’t comparing one another to other humans are we?

We are comparing ourselves to God. And when we see that picture, we say with Isaiah: WOE IS ME

4. Poor in spirit is an acknowledgement of our bankruptcy

Not only are we guilty. Not only are we corrupt. But we are also helpless.
We are bankrupt. Is this not the common understanding of the word poor? We are impoverished in spirit. We do not have the resources necessary to change anything about our condition.

Think of a man in prison. He is on death row. He has lost everything. A real estate agent comes to him and says “I will give you a great deal on a beautiful island in the pacific. It is everything you could ever dream.” The inmate can do nothing about that. Not only does he not deserve the island but there is nothing within his power to obtain it. He is bankrupt.

5. Poor in spirit is an inward humility

Of course inward humility leads to outward humility. But outward humility can also be false humility. (For example: Mt. 6:1)

It is possible to put on a show of our so called ‘humility.’

But for the poor in spirit, the humility wrought by the Holy Spirit begins in the heart. When we compare ourselves to God we understand we deserve nothing but hell. We don’t deserve tomorrow’s sunrise, let alone the pleasures of knowing Christ…

AW Pink said “To be poor in spirit is to realize that I have nothing, am nothing, & can do nothing, & have need of all things.” We sing the song don’t we? Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the Cross I Cling...  The poor in spirit are the only ones who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven! (see also Isaiah 57:15, 66:2)

Look, those who give a tip of the hat to God and acknowledge maybe they need Him for some things are not poor in spirit. Each breath God gives is not something we deserve but a sheer act of mercy. We need God! We need Him and we do not deserve Him! This sheds a light on the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus commands us to do in the Sermon on the Mount is not hard. It’s impossible in and of ourselves. I can’t look within myself and turn the other cheek. I want revenge. I can’t fast without trying to manipulate God or be showy. These standards are impossible for any natural man!

And yet, this is why Jesus begins here. No man has been filled with the Gospel unless He has first been crushed by God’s Holy Law.

As Lloyd-Jones says “the Gospel condemns before it releases.” Are you poor in spirit? – If not, the kingdom of heaven is not yours. Have you looked to Christ and felt the crushing weight of His holiness? Have you seen yourself as nothing, as less than nothing, and justly deserving of the full measure of His wrath?

To be filled you must first be emptied. To be healed you must first be broken. But look at the sweet promise mentioned from the lips of Jesus:

“BLESSED are the poor in spirit FOR theirs IS the Kingdom of heaven!”

Nothing in us deserving of God’s love. Of God’s Grace. Of God’s forgiveness. And yet, what did He do? – He came to rescue us anyway. He taught us the way is through Him. And He went to the cross to take our sin, our unworthiness, our failure, our guilt, our corruption upon Himself. God judged Jesus on the cross as if He were us!

As the Holy Spirit brings the truths to our eyes we must repent. We must acknowledge our poverty of spirit and turn to Him knowing He is full of grace and will in no wise cast out. Look to Christ! Cast yourselves on His mercy! Salvation is only by the sheer grace of God.

Can you see how being poor in spirit is essential?

You can listen to the entire sermon HERE

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