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Blessed are the poor in spirit…

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Over the next several days I am going to be sharing my thoughts about The Beatitudes. Like many of you, I love these rich teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, and their application to our lives is as real today as they were to the crowd gathered on the side of a Galilean mountain nearly 2000 years ago.

My sincere hope is that these basic, foundational truths as taught by Jesus will give us pause to spend time reflecting on what is most important. I have found in my own life, for example, that there are times when I just need to step back, slow down, and revisit the basics from this sermon. It’s kind of like when your GPS needs to reorient itself, if that makes any sense to you.

Found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter five, the Beatitudes contain some of the richest teachings of Jesus, giving us a very concise revelation of God’s principles for how to live our lives in a manner most pleasing to him.

The Beatitudes all begin with the key word “Blessed”. This word, as spoken by Jesus, indicates a fullness, or spiritual well-being coupled with an inner sense of joy and peace.  His love, caring, and daily presence in our lives is meant to give us a sense of contentment, or what we might call blessed.

It is important to note that the “Blessed” that Jesus speaks of here is not referring to the modern “churchianity” interpretation of the word that centers around prosperity or wealth. Jesus is not saying to those on the mountain side that they will all be getting a new camel in their driveway if they toss a few shekels in the offering.

No, Jesus is teaching about an entirely different kind of blessed.

With that being said, I’d like to dive into the Beatitudes in the order they are written, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

When we see or hear the word “poor”, most of us automatically assume a condition of lack. That is because we typically think of the poor primarily in terms of money or worldly possessions. While that may be true, there are other types of poverty, such as being spiritually or morally poor or bankrupt.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very interesting that Jesus used the words poor and blessed together. Today we would call that an oxymoron, because we cannot comprehend how someone who is poor would also be blessed at the same time. They just don’t go together.

Or do they?

Because Jesus was not referring to wealth and possessions, these two words fit together like a glove when you consider that the poor he is referring to are those who are humble before God. They understand that on their own they have nothing to give in exchange for being granted access to the kingdom of heaven. They need help!

People who are “poor in spirit” are not arrogant or puffed up within themselves. They know that if there is any good in them, it is because of the Jesus that dwells within them. They are not self-sufficient but dependent upon the Lord. Self-righteousness is not a part of their DNA.

The question then is why are they called blessed?

They are blessed because they have had their eyes and hearts opened to one of the greatest truths ever revealed to man: the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

This blessing from Jesus tells the poor in spirit that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Again, his focus is not on material poverty, but upon the condition of the hearers heart. If you really think about what Jesus is saying here, you come to the conclusion that the kingdom of heaven is made up entirely of those who are poor in spirit and have a contrite heart.

The message that Jesus is teaching here in the beginning of his sermon is clear. If anyone is to inherit the kingdom of heaven they must become poor in spirit, which requires a repentant heart. Those who humble themselves and declare their need of a Savior, to them is given the kingdom of heaven.

There is no other way to get there!

Up next is “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Until then, be blessed and have a great day!

Ron

 

 

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Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron