Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed. The word has so often been confined exclusively to material gifts. The prosperous man exclaims, “I am blessed” when in fact he has misrepresented God’s spiritual blessings. The world’s richest men and women are those who know not Christ, and it rains on the just as well as the unjust. But the world “blessed” is a description of contentment and favor that can only come from above and that is birthed not by the material but by the attitudes and intents of the heart.
Oh that the church would again enter into the safe house of divine contentment and experience the wealth of “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ“. Instead of settling for the passing exhilaration of earthly pottage we should be consumed with the gracious contentment and inward joy that can only come from a divine birthright that is completely untethered to this present world.
It is this blessing that is given and experienced by those who are “poor in spirit”. How counter that is to the world’s way of thinking. The spirit of this world elevates oneself and exhorts us all to display individualism and a personal broadcast of our talents and worth. But that is not the Spirit of God and His kingdom. God’s experiential blessing comes through a profound poverty of the spirit which admits fully in complete dependence upon Christ and acknowledges its worthlessness without Him. This is eternal wealth disguised as humility and it is birthed and maintained by an impoverished will that is devoid of the desire for personal gain or personal praise.
This poverty releases its grip on the material as well as self aggrandizement of any kind, and lives with a profound sense of daily, as well as eternal, dependence upon the Redeemer. The humility that God describes as “poor” is much more profound and remarkable than just allowing a car into a line or relinquishing your place in the grocery store line. This kind of spiritual poverty exhibits attitudes and actions that are pictures of a public and humiliating crucifixion. This humility counts your own welfare as subordinate to all others. In fact, this humility renders yourself as dead.
Not only have we lost the desire for humility, we have long since lost the template for the kind of humility that can accurately be described as “poor in spirit”. We have assigned such a spirit to Gandhi or Mother Theresa, but to the average believer it is both foreign and undesirable. I have often heard preachers and others proclaim that we are not supposed to be doormats to people. Have those people ever been to the cross? Have they ever read Fox’s Book of Martyrs? The times where we are called to be doormats are many times the most sacred prisms of all through which Christ can be seen.
Love chose to be a “doormat” upon the cross providing redemption for those who violently stepped upon this “doormat”. It is exactly this spirit that we are called to cultivate and exhibit. Followers of Jesus should be the most humble people within any culture. Our humility and poverty of spirit should be remarkable and observable and even bewildering to those who walk in darkness all around us. This spirit cannot be found in politics or nationalism. It cannot be found in competitiveness and ego. It cannot be found in award ceremonies and halls of fame. This spirit violates all the norms of western society and a capitalist culture. This spirit has been lost in the modern demonstration of what it means to be a crucified follower of the Lord Jesus.
To be poor in spirit is also to be prepared to suffer injustices to your very person, both small and egregious. Retaliation is unthinkable, and in fact any persecution or indignity must be an avenue for grace toward your detractors and praise toward your Savior. They spit on His face and yet we demand respect? To suffer as a humble servant of God is a high honor indeed, but you will receive no earthly reward or recognition aside from the penetrating joy and contentment that comes with the “fellowship of His sufferings“. And in an exhortation that seems almost unbearable, you will be called to both intercede in prayer for your enemies as well as to “do good to those who persecute you”. As you can see, being poor in spirit is a most inconvenient calling.
But Jesus tells us that those who are poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not found on some far away planet; the kingdom of heaven is found within us and is presented to the world through us. The kingdom of heaven cannot be separated from the King of that kingdom. It is precisely this King and His kingdom that can only be manifested and revealed through the prism of a crucified life that is polished with such personal meekness and sacrifice that its insignificance is what draws sinners to its significance. And its significance is always Him. It is the ultimate paradox.

To be last is to be first.
To have nothing is to have everything.
To reject being honored is to receive honor.
To deny yourself is to embrace Him.
To be dead is to be alive.

To be poor in spirit is to have the kingdom of God.

1 comment:

Radiance said...

I was struck by this point in post marking the new year and take it to heart:

"You might be better served to choose a portion of Scripture, perhaps the Sermon on the Mount, and for one entire year read it many, many times with an open and thirsty heart and a willingness to conform to whatever the Spirit reveals to you."