The salutation to Believers.

Grace, peace, and mercy to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Thank you once again for joining us in our video Bible studies.  Currently we are in a series on the Beatitudes.

Please get your Bible out and turn to Matthew chapter five. I am going to read Matthew 5:1-16. Read.  Now, let’s ask our Lord to bless His word to us, to help us understand it, love it, and practice it in our lives. Pray.

The blessed in Christ.

This is our third study, but this is the first Beatitude.  Christ says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt.5:3)

Luke’s gospel just says, blessed are the poor. (Lk.6:20) But the context will teach us this is spiritual soulish inward heart poverty or emptiness before God – apart from Christ.

The mind of God.

Most of us have read the Beatitudes so many times that they have somewhat lost their impact.  In this way, this is like the Lord’s Prayer.  Most of us can recite or say the Lord’s Prayer without blinking an eye, almost like a parrot.  Beloved when things are well known to us we need to guard against treating God’s holy things as common things.

Stop and slowly read over this first beatitude, blessed are the poor.  Before we speak on spiritual poverty, mediate on the strangeness of what Jesus just said, the poor are blessed of or by God.

The rebellion of unbelief.

Natural Man says, blessed are the financially rich. Blessed are the physically strong. Blessed are those who are strong in themselves!  Listen to this poem by William Earnest Henley. It epitomizes the heart of unbelieving man.  Unbelieving man refuses to admit that he or she is poor in spirit, and they dare God to prove that they are!  The name of this poem is Invictus, it means unconquerable.  A secondary title is, Song of a Strong Soul. (1875)

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,        (he mocks the words of Christ!  Mt.7:13-14)
How charged with punishments the scroll,    
(he mocks the Bible teaching on hell!)
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

This is unconverted man. This is Romans 3:10-18.  Oh beloved if this man died believing this, I can assure you he had the words of another apostate on his lips. Julian the apostate, a rebel against Christ died with these words on his lips, Thou hast conquered O Galilean! (died: June 26, 363)

As an aside. Timothy McVeigh the man who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma choose the poem Invictus to be read just before the state executed him justly for his murder (on June 11, 2001). What does this teach you about natural man?   

The truth of God.

Beloved, God is revealing to us in the Beatitudes that His view of blessedness is radically different than unbelieving man. (Isa.55:8-9, I Cor.1:18-25, Mt.23:7-12, Rev.2:9)

God is saying, in some way, poverty produces riches and mourning produces joy!   

James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, the poor have a high position and the rich have a low position.  Amazing.   

James 1:9.  But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;  10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.  11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

The members of Christ.

Remember the Beatitudes are the blessings of Christ for those that believe in Christ.  God blesses all those that He has subdued and brought to Christ. We have been joyfully conquered by Christ. He subdued our enmity and warfare. Jesus made peace for us.  Now we belong to Him. No longer wolves. But His lambs.

We share His nature or His life.  Of course, we do not become divine.  We are always creaturely.  But we are in Him. And His life is in us.

Galatians 2:18.  For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.  19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.  20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

The Beatitudes also teach us that we share in His sufferings as His Lambs who live among wolves. And all that we endure for His name testifies we are blessed in Jesus. (Rom.8:17, 2 Cor.1:7-8, Heb.10:33-34, Col.1:24, Heb.2:14, Heb.12:10, I Pt.4:13, WCF 18.2)

Martin Luther said this, the first beatitude is, blessed are the poor and the last beatitude is, blessed are the persecuted.  With this Luther concludes, every true saint is an heir to the cross.

Listen to what Jesus says.

Matthew 16:24.  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

The example of poverty.

Now let’s take a look at our great example of spiritual soulish heart poverty. (Phil.2:1-11) Of course, Christ is the One we look to. Christ is represented to us as the Lamb of God.  We want to imitate Jesus. We want to follow in His footsteps. (I Pt.2:21-25) We want to be lamblike in our hearts, words, and actions.   

Christ’s entire earthly life was an expression of His spiritual poverty and humility.  Think of this one instance; Christ manifested poverty of spirit when He rode into Jerusalem.  It was not on a war-horse, or a chariot, or a king’s carriage, but on a donkey, on the foal of a donkey. (Mt.21:5, read also Phil.2:1-11)

Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, (Himself represented as a dove -we want to be dove-like in all our life), says this:

2 Corinthians 8:9   For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (I Pt.2:20-21)

Read Hebrew chapter eleven to see the outward estate of many of God’s children. But see their faith and their spiritual poverty on display to encourage us.

The definition of poverty.

Let’s say a few things about what this kind of poverty is not and then what it is.   

What it is not.

Jesus is not here speaking about material poverty.  We can be materially poor for non-sinful reasons. By some providence of God we are brought low in the world’s goods, as is often the case with God’s children in the world.  Again read Hebrews chapter eleven.

And we can be materially poor because of our own sin.  For example, we can be foolish and or lazy and or profligate with our time and talents and so reduce ourselves to poverty.  But Jesus is not calling all men to voluntary material poverty.  Jesus is not saying to all Christians, you must renounce every bit of material possessions that you have and live in a monastery, then you will earn your blessings. No. Without faith in Christ, we could give all our possessions away and we would be un-blessed. (I Cor.13:1-4, Jn.3:36, Ps.73)

Jesus is not denouncing all those who are rich materially.  There are materially rich people that had soul-poverty and thus inherited the kingdom of heaven.  For example, Abraham, David, Joseph of Arimathea. (Mk.15:43, Mt.27:57)

But there are plenty of passages in the Bible, which warn against trusting in riches, or falling in love with riches, the deceitfulness of wealth. And some of the requisite duties of those that are rich in the world’s goods. (Mt.19:23, Lk.12:21, I Tim.6:17, Jas.1:11, 5:1)

What it is.

Spiritual poverty teaches us that man has two parts to his nature: physical and spiritual.   (Gen.2:7, Ezek.37:14, Jn.6:63, WCF 4.2, 6.2, WLC 93)  Our great need is a soul need. Our souls are meant to be filled with God.

The poverty of heart that Jesus is speaking about is gracious or evangelical.  Meaning that it is a gift of God.  And it is a gift of God for all those who come to Christ for salvation.  Christ’s Good News is for the poor in spirit. Think of the prodigal son.  He comes to Christ in rags. He has nothing. Christ has everything. (Lk.15:11-32)

Isaiah 61:1.  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;  2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

The distinguishing traits of this poverty are that the people know they are destitute of any goodness to bring to God. They know that they are heartbroken for their sins against God.  They despair for any good in themselves. They account their best righteousness as a filthy rags before a holy God.  (Isa.64:6, Lk.4:18-19)

Those with soul-poverty know that they have no hope in mere man. They rely wholly on the mercy of God in Christ.  (Read: Luke 18:8-14) They say, God be merciful to me the sinner. (LK.18:9-14)

Listen to how the apostle Paul expresses graced heart-poverty.

Philippians 3:7.  But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,  9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,  10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;  11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  

Isaiah 66:2  But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isa.57:15, Ezek.36:36-37)

The deceitfulness of material riches.

I think it might be helpful here to say a word about material riches and our spiritual poverty or heartfelt lowliness.  While Christ is not speaking against the materially rich, the Bible does sometimes speak about the potential harm that material wealth can have upon our soul.

When Israel was materially poor, they often did better spiritually. When they got into the Promised Land and became materially prosperous then they became spiritually destitute. Their wealth fed their pride and their sin. And their wealth starved their faith. They were Jeshurun. (Dt.32:15)  

James 2:5 does teach that often God does in fact choose the materially poor of the world to be also those who are humble of heart and hence rich in faith. (I Cor.1:27-31)

Also, Christ does say, it is hard for a (materially) rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  (Mt.19:21-27) God speaks about the deceitfulness of wealth. (Mt.13:20-22, Lk.12:20, Lk.16:13-22)  The love of money has caused many to miss salvation in Christ.  (I Tim.6:5-11) Remember Judas.

The book of Revelation has a clear picture of how, one can be materially rich yet spiritually poor and how one can be materially poor yet spiritually rich (rich toward God).

Laodicea.    Revelation 3:17.  ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,  18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich.

Smyrna.     Revelation 2:8.  And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:  9 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Remember Beloved, the earth has been cursed by God and is consigned to perish. (Gen.3:17, 2 Pt.3:1-11, Lk.12:15) Let’s not find our blessedness in that which is destined to burn. (Mt.7:27, I Cor.7:29-31, I Jn.2:15-17, Prov.23:1-5)

The helps to spiritual-poverty.

Let me give us a few things to help us to maintain a Christ-pleasing soul-poverty.   

Think highly of Christ.

Walk by faith in Christ, rely upon the Holy Spirit.  Read your bible daily. Pray daily. Fast as your can. Worship weekly in the house of God. Practice what you know.  Repent daily. Believe more.  Rely on God’s grace.   

Fundamentally true poverty of spirit is the work and gift of the Holy Spirit in our effectual calling.  Recognize that you are just a branch you are not the Vine. Christ IS the Vine and all saving and sanctifying efficacy comes from Him.  All is grace.

1 Corinthians 4:7   For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Think highly of others.

Do not judge you gifts and your Christian walk by other Christians, but rather use Christ as the great exemplar. This will go a long way in keeping us poor in spirit, constantly needy of Christ. (Lk.17:10) When you do consider other Christians, strive to think of others higher than yourself, try to see the good in your fellow Believers. (Mt.7:5, 12) Even of your fellow man. (Gal.6:10)

Romans 12:10   Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.

Philippians 2:3-5  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

Think rightly of self.

Have a proper estimation of who and what you are before God.

Don’t think too highly of yourself.  But don’t think too lowly of yourself.  Think often of how Christ has saved you from your sin. Think often of His continual mercies on you for your continual sin. Recognize you new standing in Jesus. Labor to live worthy of your high calling in Jesus.  You are a saint, justified, adopted, being sanctified, soon to be glorified!!

The blessedness of soul-poverty.

Finally, Christ pronounces a blessing on his tender lamb.  Here we see the tender sympathy of our Shepherd.   

Jesus knows our frames, even as Believers we are apt to recoil from hard or painful things such as soul-poverty, so Jesus quickly adds a blessing for those who so humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.  (Isa.66:2, I Pt.5:5-6) The spiritually poor shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.   

Christ’s lightens our load with His loving promises.  (2 Cor.1:20, Rom.8:31-32)

The Puritan Thomas Watson says here we see the connection between duty and reward.  Not reward as something of strict merit, but everything by the grace of God.  In other words, God does not have to reward obedience, but He does it according to His own goodness and mercy. (I Cor.3:11-15, 2 Cor.5:10, Rev.20:12-13)  

The kingdom of heaven.  Four Senses.

There are four ways in which we find “the kingdom of God” being used in Scripture.

  1. When Christ becomes Incarnate, wherever the King is, there also is the kingdom.

Matthew 10:7.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

  1. When Christ enters into the heart of a man upon conversion.

Luke 17:21.  Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.  (Jn.3:5)

  1. The Church is Christ’s kingdom upon the earth.

Matthew 13:47.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind;

  1. Finally, we await the future coming of the kingdom of God in consummation. (Jn.18:36, Mt.25:34)

Think of this Beloved…

You are God’s beloved royal child.

The spiritually poor are royal children and we inherit a kingdom because of our King.  The Bible talks about our ‘royal standing’ before God, though the world does not recognize it.

I Peter 2:9.  But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (Rev.5:10)  

You will be glorified like Christ at His return.

And when Christ appears, we will be made like Him, and our royal splendor will never fade.

I John 3:2.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (I Pt.5:4, Rev.7:9-10)

You will sit with Christ upon His throne of judgment.

Revelation 3:21.  He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  22 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” (I Cor.6:2-3)

Is this to say, yes and amen, as He passes out the sentence?  I do not know.  We do not usurp His divine right in any way though.  The idea is that we who once were judged by the world, will now in Christ be vindicated by Christ.  (WLC 90, WSC 38)  

You have received and will receive the best of kingdoms.

The founder is God.

Hebrews 11:10.   for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (2 Cor.5:1)  

The Splendor cannot be outdone.

Revelation 21:22. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

The perfections are endless.

Revelation 21:3-4   And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,  4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

You will enjoy the immediate presence of God forever!

Blessed are the poor in spirit who are rich in Christ!!

Amen

Study Questions  

  1. How do the Beatitudes reveal the difference between God’s ways and valuation of things versus man’s thinking? What does God value? What does Man value? (Mt.5:1-12, Isa.55:8-9, I Cor.1:18-25, Mt.23:7-12, Rev.2:9, Rev.3:17-18, Jas.1:9-10)
  1. How do the Beatitudes reveal our union and fellowship with Jesus Christ? How do the Beatitudes testify that we belong to Christ, that we are His disciples? (Mt.5:1-12, Rom.8:17, 2 Cor.1:7-8, Heb.10:33-34, Col.1:24, Heb.2:14, Heb.12:10, I Pt.4:13, WCF 18.2, Mt.16:24-26)
  1. Describe some ways in which Jesus Christ revealed His spiritual poverty? How did Christ manifest His perfect humility?  How should this affect us? (Phil 2:1-10, Luke 1:31, Jn.1:1-18, Gal.4:4, Lk.2:7, Mt.26:56, Mt.27:4, Isa.53:1-3, 2 Cor.8:9, I Pt.2:20-21)
  1. Is Jesus equating material poverty with spiritual poverty? Is Jesus saying, if you are financially poor then you are blessed?  Can materially wealthy people be spiritually poor?  (I Cor.13:1-4, Mk.15:43, Mt.27:57)
  1. Are there potential spiritual snares associated with material wealth? What does this teach us?   (Mt.19:21-27, Lk.12:20-21, Lk.16:13-22, I Tim.6:17, Jas.1:11, 2:5, 5:1, Rev.3:17-18, I Tim.6:5-11)
  1. Define spiritual poverty or poverty of heart. What does this teach us about the two aspects of Man’s nature?  What does this teach us about true needs and out true source of happiness?  (Lk.18:8-14, Phil.3:7-12, Eph.2:1-9, Isa.66:2, 57:15, Ezek.36:36-37, WCF 15.2, WSC 86 and 87)
  1. How does the promise of a kingdom help us embrace our spiritual poverty? How does Christ’s promise show His tender sympathy and wisdom towards us?  (Isa.66:2, I Pt.5:5-6, 2 Cor.1:20, Rom.8:31-32, I Cor.3:11-15, 2 Cor.5:10, Rev.20:12-13)
  1. Describe the four ways that the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ is used in the Bible. How does this affect us?  What is Jesus promising to us?  (Mt.10:7, Lk.17:21, Jn.3:5, Mt.13:47, WCF 25.2, Jn.18:36, Mt.25:34)
  1. Describe some of the blessings you enjoy by being a member of this kingdom?(I Pt.2:9-11, Rev.5:10, I Jn.3:2, I Pt.5:4, Rev.7:9-10, Rev.3:21-22, I Cor.6:2-3)
  1. Why is this kingdom you receive better than the kingdoms of men? (Heb.11:10, 2 Cor.5:1, Rev.21:21-22, Rev.21:3-4)
  1. Extra credit. Interact with the poem Invictus by William Earnest Henley.

 

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