Saturday, December 05, 2009

Rich Poverty of the Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of darkness deals in violence, power, and even war. It is in their genes, and given enough time, they are predisposed to violence. Of course the darkness has categories for violence as well, defined as just and unjust wars. It is difficult to think in non-violent terms since we have been educated from birth to accept violence as a necessary evil that can provide an overall benefit sometimes. And to the natural man, one who lives, breathes, and makes his decisions solely based upon the observable logic of this world, it is true.

But we are commanded to be clothed in humility and poor in spirit. And how can we manifest such teachings in a world that applauds aggression and self elevation? And how can we be sure we are elevating our Master and not ourselves? Think about the implication of Jesus and His teachings called the “Sermon on the Mount”. Augustine viewed the Sermon on the Mount as the standard for the Christian life. Bonhoffer’s book “The Cost of Discipleship” was based upon the Sermon on the Mount, and even Gandhi was impacted by its profound message. The Russian premier Nikita Krushchev once remarked, “I’ll tell you what the difference between Christians and me is, and that is if you slap me on the face, I’ll hit you back so hard your head will fall off.” Even he knew the teachings of Jesus.

But it seems the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount have been discarded today and replaced by attitudes and behavior more in line with these modern cultural surroundings. Humility, meekness, and poverty of the spirit are more associated with Buddhist monks than followers of Jesus. Could it be possible that we have let authentic revelations of Christian living and Jesus Himself slip away, and now we are mirroring the world with little more than a thin veneer of Christian language?

So many desire to be John the Baptist today and do not seem interested in examining the life and teachings of Jesus. John the Baptist and others have fulfilled their mission and calling, but we are called to a selfless life free from the trappings of convenience, politics, and most of all self. That latter fellow is who troubles me most. The average believer is quick to respond to criticism; set to pounce upon weakness; and generally prepared to protect his personal space, to say nothing of seeking things about which he can attack. In these latter days, a sect of western Christianity has found spiritual satisfaction through outward strength rather than inward power.

And I have recently begun a new inventory of who I am, who I should be, and who He desires me to be. This type of personal investigation is lengthy and deep, and it requires more honesty that I believe is possible. In order to find a like that reflects the glory of the Son of Man, we must come to the end of ourselves. Can you really start fresh; breaking the hardened clay of tradition and accepted practice and allowing the Potter to remake the mold first and then the pot itself? I do not speak of some minor readjustment or a spiritual “spring cleaning”. This will take much time, many setbacks, and it will require a relentlessness that can rebound after excruciating mortal blows to the mind, the heart, and the self image.

And in full disclosure, I have no idea about which I speak; so I may be able to encourage and exhort, but I am no guide – just a fellow seeker who sees himself in the mirror and precious little of Him. I have way too much pride and self righteousness, and I think way too highly of myself and way too scarcely about others. In other words, I have been saved since 1975 and the usual testimony aspects of my life have been changed. Drugs, swearing, promiscuity, and a host of other things fit nicely into my overall testimony. But almost 35 years later, I feel I have too often relied on that initial, and glorious change, but at the expense of an impassioned pursuit of actually manifesting Him who I profess to know and follow.

And at the core of this spiritual malfunction is the fact that I am beginning to understand how inaccurate my “Jesus template” has been, even though I have been sincere. The startling and unnerving revelation in my spirit is that I must uncover the authentic Scriptural portrait of Jesus. Without preconceived ideas and without using any man or woman as a substitute example, I must completely investigate the genuine Christ, wholly removed and separate from a caricature formed by culture or religion. Please do not think that I am suggesting something complex and difficult, but I am suggesting something deep and valuable and something that is worth more than we can comprehend.

Matt.13:45-46 - Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

The story should be gripping. This man sold all that he had and bought one pearl whose value was above all that he had. Of course our Lord speaks of Himself and His gospel, and against that wonderful teaching where do we stand? When we preach that passage and everyone says “Amen!” to the glory of Christ, do we even consider the inherent lesson in that story? The story not only exalts the Pearl of great price, but is also lifts up the sacrifice by that merchant that is in keeping with the value of that Pearl.

So how is it we as believers get to applaud the Lord Jesus and escape the sacrifice? Why can we teach the greatness of His treasure without exhibiting the greatness of our sacrifice? Like a mother who is proud of her newborn son and shows him off to her family and friends; but she refuses to get up during the night, and she refuses to change him, and she refuses to sacrifice anything in order to care for this newborn. Does she really appreciate the worth of her son, or is her excitement misplaced and self centered?

What do we as western believers actually sacrifice for this Pearl of great price? Most of us live solidly where we can afford it and with some accompanying debt. Our lifestyles are mirrors of the unbelievers among which we live, and most would not even sacrifice questionable entertainment. And do we respond with the same defensive aggression that should identify those who have no hope? Do we speak demeaning and disparaging words against anyone who falls short; anyone from the President all the way to the most pitiful strip club dancer? Do we realize that without the grace of God we no better than the poor sinners of whom we speak evil? Are our words a healing salve or the weapons of death? Do we represent a sacrifice that vividly manifests this Pearl of great price or are our lives so unremarkable that the world considers us no more than a political perspective, which dishonors His Name and exposes us as frauds?

It is time that we readjust our compass and set a course of humble graciousness that shines a brighter light amidst a generation that violently seeks its own pleasures. Why do millions of believers walk with discontentment and unfulfillment beating in their hearts? The church has become a shill for this culture and our mission has been high jacked by the desires of our own flesh. And with homes in which to live and food that we can eat and clothes upon our backs…still we seek for more, all while lip synching that Christ is our all in all.

Until we become poor in spirit we will never become rich in Him.
Gal.6:3 - For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

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