July 21, 2016

Poor in spirit

God is the revealer of truth and He does it though creation, His Word, and the words and lives of His people. Sometimes the writer of a devotional book opens my eyes to a new understanding of Scripture, but more often, the Scripture itself does the eye-opening.

This is reasonable because devotional reading is not so much a study in theology as it is listening to God speaking to my needs. The Greek language even has a word for this way of hearing God. It is ‘rhema’ which comes from Jesus’ words in this verse. . .

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:4)

‘Rhema’ means something like: ‘a word that suits the need of the moment.’ While doing theology explains the meaning of the passage, ‘rhema’ explains what is going on in my life and what God wants me to think or do about it.

Today’s verse is a familiar one, the first verse of Jesus’ sermon on the mountain. He is talking about the qualifications for entering into His kingdom. He lays the foundation with . . .

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Theology usually defines this verse as the need for deep humility. To enter the kingdom, I must realize my bankrupt spiritual condition. I have no merit before God and can do nothing to be worthy of His blessings. Any attitude that I can earn or deserve His saving grace disqualifies me. Theology would say this is a pre-salvation verse.

Yet even those of us who have been redeemed and are part of God’s family and in His kingdom need to remember the importance of living in that same poverty of spirit. I cannot boast that I have ‘arrived’ nor can I act as if I am a better person than others because of my position in Christ. That would be contrary to the attitude of a kingdom person.

These past few days with my sister have been a blessing. She is also a Christian. She has that poverty of spirit. This does not mean she continually puts herself down. She is not self-depreciating. She can talk about her accomplishments without any sense that she is bragging or competing. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in her.

On the other hand, I can drift into pride, self-aggrandizement, feeling inferior around others who are superior, and all those things that are opposite to being poor in spirit. In other words, this verse is not just for those standing outside the kingdom; it is also for me. I’m in it by the grace of God and I need to remember that — and always think and act as one who knows I would not be here if it were not for Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection.

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