Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-3)
Jesus begins this famous sermon with the commendation that one is fortunate and fully satisfied who has the realization and understanding of their own poverty of spirit. It is important that we fully grasp the fact that in and of ourselves we possess no inward ability to please God. This poverty of spirit is ranked first among the Christian graces. Indeed, God’s kingdom of glory is prepared for such as these. The kingdom of earth is for the high and lofty, but the kingdom of heaven is for the humble.
The foundational principle of Christ’s kingdom is poverty of spirit. Anything else we may muster up will always come up short. All of our “righteousness,” Scripture states, is as filthy rags. We must possess an absolute sense of certainty that our “flesh” cannot even begin to experience any type of holiness. Those that embrace the knowledge that in and of themselves they are hopeless and helpless to stand before a Holy God, rightly have a firm understanding that they lack the power within to do anything to change their predicament. It makes no difference whether one is rich, poor, famous, gifted, intellectual, or whatever, the doorway into the kingdom of heaven is poverty of spirit. It is by our humility that Christ can accomplish His work. I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Church in Ephesus:
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)
Those who consciously and fully depend upon Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross on their behalf are blessed. We all fall short of God’s standard of holiness–there are no exceptions. Paul tells us in Romans:
What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Apart from belonging to Christ and being filled with His Spirit we are unable to stand before a Holy God. We are lost without a Savior. And that is precisely what Jesus is–our Savior! Often preaching in our day is focused upon a person’s determination, or the beauty of their character, or their gifting–things easily noticed and applauded by man. This, however, puts the emphasis on flesh rather than on Jesus. We can never enter the kingdom of heaven based on the virtue of our own goodness! One can only enter as a pauper. Jesus is the One who produces the inspiring in the commonplace. It is His treasure in our “jars of clay.” Believers in Christ have been rescued by God from the dominion of darkness through the blood of Jesus. We have been brought into His kingdom by the Son He loves and in whom we have redemption. Praise Him!
Paul tells us:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
Take It to Heart
“We comfort the afflicted sinner in this manner; Brother you can never be perfect in this life, but you can be holy. He will say, ‘How can I be holy when I feel my sins?’ I answer, ‘You feel sin? That is a good sign. To realize that one is ill is a step and a very necessary step, toward recovery.’ ‘But how will I get rid of my sin?’ he will ask. I answer: See the heavenly Physician, Christ, who heals the broken-hearted. Do not consult the Quack doctor, Reason. Believe in Christ and your sins will be pardoned. His righteousness will become your righteousness.” (Martin Luther)