30th July 2023

Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Passage: Matthew 5:1-12, Luke 18:9-14, John 15:1-4
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Anyway, this morning we're in the Beatitudes in the book of Matthew in chapter 5, so if you want to read the scriptures in front of you, chapter 5 verses 1 to 12 is the spot where we're at. And I'm planning on going through the Beatitudes, but not so much racing through the whole of them, but just one at a time and see how we go. So in this particular chapter, we have Jesus going up onto a mountain, now it's not a big enormous mountain, but it's high enough up for him to have some elevation, and he sat down, which was what teachers did in that era, whether they be Jewish or whatever, they'd sit down sometimes and teach, if they were in the temple, they'd stand up and teach. But his disciples came to him and he opened his mouth, which is the best way to teach, and he taught them saying, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I want to talk about what Jesus meant.

You know the word blessed comes originally, at least our English word, blessed, comes I think from England and the Welsh side of things, the fair-headed people, and it comes from their word for blood, which was blod, and step-by-step across various language jumps it comes to mean blessed. Now why is the idea of being blessed linked to blood? I have a very good reason, I know that for back in 20 years ago when I had a heart problem, I remember I was doing an assignment for overseas at Della Seminary and stayed up all night finishing it, and the next day I had to catch a plane, and I was going over to an evangelism conference in Amsterdam, and getting on the plane you have to sit up straight, and I discovered I just couldn't sit up straight, nothing wrong with my back, but sitting straight my heart wasn't pumping to make the blood go round, and I was desperate, sitting in a row, nowhere to go, kept trying to tug on the sleeve of the hostess, I can't sit here but they weren't understanding, and the plane went from Brisbane to Perth and then on to Amsterdam, and it was an agony sitting there, and I prayed for help, actually in Perth one of my friends who is an evangelist also got on and had been assigned to sit next to me, and I could get him to see that the hostess has helped, and that was an agony that conference for me. Later on coming back I was invited to be preaching at Helensvale, they had a pastor who left, I had my teaching at the college to do, but they said come down we have three services on Sunday, you don't need to be here during the week, so I get in my car, and how I could get down there was to roll the seat all the way back until I'm leaning right back and just my little eyes could see over into the forwards, because when your body is like this you can get enough blood to go around.

I get down there and they had an office no longer used by a pastor who'd gone, and had a couch in there and I'd lie on the couch and I'd wait for the service to go through to this moment of the preaching and come out, speak, then go back and lie on the couch, the people would finish the service and the next service would come in, I'd wait for the same moment and come out and preach and go back, lay on there until the evening service came, come and do the same thing, and when it was over I'd get back in my car and make sure the seat was rolled back and drive on up here from Helensvale to home. And having blood sufficient to do anything was the physical provision that you need, and if you've never been through a time like that, then you don't understand where that word blessed has its physical parallel to. It's having the provision to have been given the sufficiency to do what needs to be done, or live.

Now this is not meant by Jesus physically alone, he's meaning it in all senses of course, but he's particularly meaning it spiritually. And this is about the fact that you're blessed of God to have the wherewithal for life to be meaningful and for you to be able to do what has to be done. And that's where the word blessed actually comes from, having enough blood to get around from the original English and Nordic languages. Blessed, God wants you to have what you need to have in order to be the person that he's called you to be. And that's what the word means, blessed. Well we'll move on, that's the first point. I've got three today, you can count them, I hope you can. But the first one is, that's blessed is God's provision of your sufficiency. As a matter of fact, down through the ages, not only individuals needed the blessing of God, we should be praying for our nation, that our nation may be blessed and provided by God.

One of the things we need these days is a spirituality in the politics of what's going on, for our nation is heading in the wrong direction. We should pray hard for the chaplains in schools and for the groups like Scripture Union, who seek to bring the Gospel to young people. We should pray for those who are involved in evangelism. If we don't evangelise, we'll disappear. Evangelism is not an option, a little extra to put on. Evangelism is not just a little thing that you do as an extra. Some people think it is, churches largely this and this and this and this, oh we'll have an evangelism committee. Now evangelism is our central task. And although we all differ in the gifts that God has given us, they all add up to a body of Christ that can succeed in the great commission that he's given us. Well that's the first one, blessed. The second word that's there, we're looking at verse three, says blessed are the poor in spirit.

Now I have a few hobby house or hobby, what will I word it? Things that I don't like about how some people think Christianity is on. And there's some people who interpret this saying of Jesus that the people who are poorly humanly, God has a smile on them. Now that's not wrong because he has a smile on everybody but I want to tell you that when they make those Jesus films and they put him as some individual with a problem or two and someone who swears when he can't control his tongue, there are some horrific films about Jesus. I liked the one that Mel Gibson put on with an actor who was strong for Jesus. And I don't believe the idea when the scriptures teach that he has no comeliness that we wouldn't desire him. That's descriptive prophetically of Jesus on the cross bearing our sins, that his visage was marred beyond recognition. He'd be by the wounding of the crucifixion of course but Jesus was a magnificent man because he was human without a fault. Because he was human as God originally intended we should be.

There was nothing about Jesus that was problematic in his humanity. Jesus was a beautiful personality. Campbell Morgan has a fantastic sermon about Jesus and his attractiveness and how he was the sort of person that all the mothers of Nazareth would be proud to have had as a son. He was the sort of person that charmed people when he spoke like the ones who were sent to arrest him and they went back empty handed and the Pharisees who'd sent them said, why didn't you bring him? And they said, no man speaks like this man. Jesus, one of the most beautiful personalities that you could ever read about. And Jesus is the one who is speaking about blessedness and when he says poor in spirit, he's not saying some people who don't measure up to, you know, they've got various things wrong with them and their teeth are crooked. I should be careful what I say. But no, Jesus is perfect. But what poor in spirit needs us to understand where that comes from? First of all, the poverty being spoken about is a spiritual poverty and the poverty being spoken about is one that will never allow you to succeed.

It's a poverty because all of us are sinners and in all our best attempts, we don't make it. That is what the Bible reveals was the purpose of the giving of the law. The book of Galatians, if you want somewhere to follow up from what you've heard from me this morning, read the book of Galatians and see how the law is useful to show us how we need Christ. The law is useful to show us that we have failed under when God set out his righteous law, nothing wrong with the law. The Bible tells us it's spiritual and good, but when God set out his law, all it does is show us that we're failures. There is no righteousness that comes by completing the law because we don't complete it. There's no righteousness that you can get because you go to the Old Testament and you live well. I want to tell you that what you think is well turns out not to be so well by the law. The book of Galatians, beautiful how it shows that the book of, not the, the era of the law was given. This is the law of Moses I'm talking about, that we would be kept in captive as it were, we'd be kept in school, under discipline until the coming of, now tell me the next word, the coming of, there's two things you could say that would be correct.

That is, three words, okay, because Messiah is Hebrew for Christos, Greek, Christ, yes, so Jesus was one, and the law was there to keep us in school until Jesus came, but there's another spot, and I'll give you some homework to look in the book of Galatians, see if you can find it, because the other thing the book of Galatians says that the law was to keep us in school, under discipline, until the coming of faith. Now interestingly, there's plenty of faith in the Old Testament, but it's faith in Christ, and the law was to keep us captive until faith has come, that faith in Jesus, the new covenant on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given and forgiveness of sins became the central offering of the gospel along with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The law was to keep us as children under training until the coming of Christ. It didn't mean that the law was incorrect, there were some applications just for the Jewish religion and the old covenant, but nonetheless the standards of the law were God's standards, but the idea of the law being there was to show us our failures, and to show us how much we needed Christ, and the effect of that was to make everybody very, very poor in spirit, because the law would show how much a failure you are, and true conversion to Christ comes to us when we understand that the law was in what we're not.

The Bible uses the word about repentance from dead works, and the dead works are all the works that we do without Christ, all the works we do in our attempt to satisfy God when we're failures, all the attempts that we do with the humanity that was bequeathed to us from Adam and Eve who fell, they didn't fall just for a little trip to get up and try again, but they fell and the whole human race fell with them, and one of the chief things of the book of Romans is the fact that in Adam, all die, all are dead, and what they do out of Adam's humanity that you've got from your birth will get you nowhere, and that's why the gospel calls on us to have repentance from dead works. The law was given to lead us to that point of understanding, and the gospel is good news of a gift. One of my favourite verses, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Some translations even say free gift, but to emphasise I think it's only one word meaning a free gift. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, and the sooner we wake up to the fact that you can't earn it, when you study evangelism like evangelism explosion, that way to trade people to witness by going to their homes, one of the things you learn to say to the people in the homes is to ask them, what would you say to God if he asked you when you die, why should I let you in? And the answer that's only really a true Christian answer is nothing about you. The answer is Jesus, because he brings a free gift that cannot be earned or bought or deserved, and the recognition of that being the case with you is what it is to be poor in spirit. Now if we want some proof of that, the best way is to go to the scriptures and see something else where the Lord has taught, I'm on point number two, the first one was blessed to have the sufficiency that you need, the second one is to be poor in spirit, but if we turn to Luke in chapter 18 verses 9 to 14, did I give you that one? If I didn't you'll have to chase a bit, Luke 18, 9 to 14.

Okay, this is the right spot, thank you. Now in this parable that Jesus gave, Jesus was very apt in putting out an illustration that made it rather stark. There's only two people, one represents the right way to get justified and the other represents the wrong way. It's a parable, and just like Jesus, the people who are represented by the wrong way are the Pharisees. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves. Now trusting in yourself is the heart of not being poor in spirit. They trusted in themselves that they were righteous. They said we're pretty good spiritually, and treated others with contempt. Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Now the tax collectors were commonly known back then as really rotten types of people because they were siding with the Romans and they were cheating their fellow Jews, getting money without a care to what they were doing. The Pharisee standing by himself prayed thus, God I thank you that I'm not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector standing afar off wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven but he beat his breast and he's saying God be propitious to me a sinner.

I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. And when we recognize the spiritual truth that the Bible teaches through and through, that every one of us as children of Adam, every one of us who are sinners and can't not be a sinner of our own doing, we are poor in spirit. And there is a spiritual principle that when you have confidence in yourself, particularly when the self you have confidence in is a sinful fallen one that God will never accept. He's not in the business of renewing people without there being regeneration. And the regeneration is when he plants us into Christ. If any person be in Christ he is a brand new creation. All things have passed away. Behold all things, not half things, all things have become new. And the only answer to the poverty in the spirit is Christ. And having the moment of him making you a part of his humanity. Leaving Adam, taking on Christ. And even that is not what you scramble and achieve, it's what he does at the moment you recognize your irreplaceable need of Christ and you respond to the gospel to receive Christ as the answer of your life and nothing else.

And in that moment you demonstrate you're poor of spirit. I think it's a fantastic thing to recognize that in the gospel and the gospel of Matthew has this letter of beatitudes, how to be blessed, how to become sufficient. And it starts from blessed are the poor in the spirit. There's only one way to be blessed. It's to acknowledge what you don't have and to cry out to God. And as it is true in the general way for every person to come to Christ in a moment of repentance from dead works, so it's true in little things. I don't know how many times I've had to relearn the same lesson that there's something asked of me to do. And when I think I can do that because of whatever reason you have in your background, why you think you're good at something and why you might be able to do things easily, I have to confess I've never had any. That's not true. The one moment I couldn't talk was when I got baptised and I went to give my testimony before the people of the church. This was in Adelaide and no words came out. And I had to get baptised without my testimony being heard. That's the one time. But generally speaking thereafter, standing up and speaking isn't hard for me to do. But my speaking doesn't necessarily bring results when I think, oh, I can handle this. And it was a real lesson for me to learn through Youth for Christ actually when opportunities I had and when they came suddenly and they were too big for me and I had to go up on stage before a big crowd and feel of myself, I don't have what this takes. But nonetheless, to lean back into Jesus, I don't, but he does.

I can't, but he will. And the same lesson that is involved in your conversion in the first place when you recognize your poverty and spirit is actually the secret to living the Christian life. And you gain a confidence of what Jesus can do in you, which is really quite different than the confidence of you with your personality or your gifts or your training. One of the problems of theological students, I used to see lots of problems with theological students when I taught there, was that the students came in humble and keen for Christ and they went out so many years later puffed up, thinking they had it all, going to change the world with what they can do, and as flat as a tack. And the same lesson that applies to us getting in the door with God in the first place applies to how we walk with him. Not I, but Christ. We have a song that we teach ourselves to sing about the life of Jesus, but not I, but Christ. That was Paul's understanding about I'm crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, but not I, but Christ. It's not my life continuing that does the blessing Paul was saying, it's not me, but Jesus who lives in me. He's the one.

How many times I have to relearn that lesson? Some people, some Christians, I don't know that they ever do, they think they're the ones called on to do it. Now it has a flip side when you realise that when God puts something rather big in front of you and you think boy I'm not sure I can do that. Just breathe easy because you're not the one called to do it. You're called to put a foot out, let him worry about the rest of the steps. There is something very beautiful about a church that understands the same principle, and when Cameron and I were talking about how we were going to sort of, what will we do to celebrate about the toilets, not have a line up down there, it suddenly occurred to me that the same principle applies to us as a church. We need God to keep providing us things that we can't do, but they're bigger than us, and in an attitude of poor in spirit, we trust him for what we don't have. It actually needs the people of the church to do the same in their own personal lives, to recognize that he's not calling on you to do things because of how wonderful you are. He wants a little boy to give little fishes and loaves. What about Philip, the fellow who was the disciple that was asked of Jesus, you feed them, and he says what can we do? We've only got the little boy's lunch, but the little boy's lunch in Jesus' hands fed the crowd, and we can do the same in this church.

With who we are in Jesus' hands, there's something very beautiful about the metaphor of the church, that we are the body of Christ, but don't think that's just a lesson on democracy, or don't think that's just a lesson on it's all done by body life. You've heard my story about that book, Body Life, and the fellow who wrote it asked me to come along and be one of his preachers, and he said we'll get you a salary, we've got 80 elders, and you can be one of them, and I said no, how can that be? I've read your book, where it's not having elders with a ministry, it's about, and he said well I've changed my mind. The idea of the body life is that the body's on earth and Christ is in heaven, and when each of the body does what Jesus says, and uses the varied gifts that they have in the right place, then Christ is the one that produces the life of the church.

We're all built up into the one man, Ephesians says, it's Christ who's the man, we are a part of his body, and we participate in his leadership, the head in heaven. Anyway, this is about the poor in spirit. My third point, can you remember the three? I'm not good at remembering to have points. The first one was blessed, the second one is poor in spirit, but the third one is the blessed of the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Now if you've been reading the bulletins and the eConnected, you might have noticed my comment that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are two ways of saying the same thing, because it was a habit of the Jewish people to refer to heaven, but in reverence they often wouldn't use the word God, but just say heaven. And it was a way of speaking whereby they referred to the same thing. You want another proof? Well go on, look up Matthew verses like this one that says kingdom of heaven, then look up the other gospels, and you'll find sometimes the same occasion has Jesus recorded as saying kingdom of God. Because kingdom of God was the most formal way of saying it, but kingdom of heaven was the nicer way of saying the same thing.

Although there are plenty of people who are good Christians who believe there's two kingdoms, but I don't. Well anyway, you'll inherit the kingdom of heaven, blessed of the poor in spirit verse three, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. When did Jesus, what other occasions did he refer to his kingdom not being of earth? It was when he was talking to Pilate, and Jesus said if my kingdom was from earth, then would my disciples fight? But his kingdom is derived from heaven, but don't think that that means it's only you're going to heaven when you die. That's a part of being in the kingdom of heaven is going to heaven when you pass away, but the kingdom of heaven is on earth, which is what Christ was down here to do, and in talking to Pilate, the whole business was what Jesus came to do to make it possible for us to be in the kingdom of heaven on earth. That's why the Lord's prayer has the words, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So the kingdom of heaven is down here, but it's a spiritual thing. It's not calling us to take up guns and somehow beat off the people that don't believe in God or shoot the people in parliament who make the wrong rules. We're not called by human means, but it's a kingdom that is spiritual, but it is definitely on earth. You will end up in heaven, but it is the God of heaven who rules on earth, and the kingdom of heaven is led by the Messiah, and the prophecy that the Jews had would be one day there would come a man anointed of the spirit.

They didn't understand he'd be the son of God, but they did understand that he'd be a human man, and by having the spirit on him, he would lead in God's power. So it would be the kingdom of heaven on earth. Well, this kingdom of heaven is where God does it, rather than it being just a human force. And the kingdom of heaven is when, instead of it being you managing to do things by your great managerial capacity, or you're doing things by the charm of your personality, or you're doing things because of the diligence of your discipleship, the kingdom of heaven is when the spirit does it. That doesn't mean that there isn't a place for a spirit-anointed personality that has a gift of management. There is a gift of gubernicence. I can't remember the exact word in the Greek, but it means the person who's got the rudder at the back of the ship. And there is a place for someone who works in the church who has that gift of directing where the ship goes. And there are gifts of preachers. There's gifts of people who have gifts of encouragement. And when it's the spirit that does it, that's the kingdom of heaven. And to be able to discern the difference, which unfortunately many religious people can't, and many people who set up organisations or set up missions are trying hard by what they do to make the kingdom come.

There's even a whole movement that's called kingdom preaching or kingdom churches. And you suddenly realise there are some preachers who think that they're in a special set because they're doing kingdom things. We're all doing kingdom things. It's only kingdom things when the Holy Spirit's involved. And it may be a practical edge that's needed. I'm not ruling that out. I'm just saying that the kingdom of heaven is when God is engaged by his spirit. Now one of the things I discovered is that there are people in churches, more than you might imagine, who have a touch with God spiritually. And down at Helensvale, that church where I was driving down from the college just on Sundays, there was a man, I won't say his name, but a godly man who's been the heart of all the blessings I've had at that church across the years because he's in touch with God. And he had a group of people around him who saw my preaching and I was running out of pep. And they were used to listening to me previous times when I'd have my energy and now they saw I didn't. So they just informally said, we're going to pray for Jim. And across the year that I was with them, I got more blood. Till the day came my heart specialist did the ultrasound and all the rest, got the pictures and he looked at them and we're sitting in his office.

And he got up and ran. I didn't know why I was running. What was so bad about my x-rays or about the ultrasound pictures that he got up and ran off. It was a rather unusual moment but he came back with the previous year's pictures and he got them like this. He said, it's changed. Within another year, the same man, the same test I used to start doing every year, he said, well today Jim, I can tell you some good news that I can pronounce you normal. There was only a technical normal when you get an ejection fraction that goes above a certain level. They call that normal then. But that was God's answer to prayer. In a church. I'm not going to tell you more illustrations but my life has been a list of times that God has stepped in. I owe that perhaps to my mother who was an intercessor and my dad who loved the word of God and taught me that. But when God steps in, it's the kingdom of heaven. When we have not the money to get the toilets finished but people take a faith step and somehow, Cameron doesn't tell me how, I don't know, whether one person gave a lot or a whole lot of different people did. We actually have a church that's got lots of young people and I think it's true that much of the giving comes from young adults. There are others as well, I know. But normally in church life, if you have a church with lots of young people, they don't give much because they haven't learnt to.

We better think of that and learn how to teach them. But I want to say, that's the kingdom of heaven. And giving and finance and God providing is done by the kingdom of heaven. It's God's resources coming down to earth. And it is a part of Christian life when you're involved in serving the Lord. It's a part of Christian life that is such a joy when suddenly God does something that you know couldn't have come from anywhere else. I'm grateful for the times the Lord made me do a difficult thing like going overseas to study, having no money, being wanting. I've been times when I had no food. Couldn't go and get a meal ticket at one of the institutions I was at. And other people must have known somehow because they kept putting tins of spaghetti outside my door. And when God acts like that, you are so happy. So happy because it's the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus says, blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Don't think you're good, wicked when you can provide it all yourself. You're missing out. You know what you better do? Start giving more. Keep giving more. There are some individuals who must have a special gift in their giving. And they do that, just what I said. They keep giving to God.

They keep giving more and he keeps giving back. And they write books of how God provided. Or they're like the person Ebwenor who wasn't in giving. God asked him to ride out of town on his bicycle and go wherever he told him. He had a mother dependent on his one salary. He and his mother lived together and he said, all right Lord, but you've got to help me look after mum and send money back regularly. And he rode the bicycle out of town in Ireland. Ended up going around the world of God providing. He wrote a book, Can God? Can God look after you if you'll trust him? Now the lesson is, don't ride your bike out of town if God hasn't told you to. I have met people who've followed Ebwenor's example and that book, they read it and say, oh, I'm off overseas to do this and that. When the Lord hadn't told them and they were pretty well starved, one man told me. Do what he tells you to do. Jesus said it to the wedding feast. No, Mary said to the people there, do what he tells you to do, do what Jesus tells you to do. And he told them to fill up all the jars with water and that turned into wine. The connection is the kingdom of heaven and the joy of being a Christian is that you're included in it by virtue of having come to Christ. Trust him. It's experimental. Don't go and start a great big project that has you start your own mission when the Lord didn't exactly say that. Take little steps at a time. Join somewhere where there's a need and say, Lord, I'm going to help if I can. See if you're in it. He'll soon confirm whether he wants you there or not. And as God blesses, keep giving more. See where it leads you. Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for they shall inherit. The kingdom of heaven.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I'm just so happy to talk on this topic because there's such an adventure of joy and wonder at being in your kingdom. Thank you for Jesus' words. No one can even see the kingdom until he's born again. But when we're born again, we're born again, not by our sufficiency. Poor as spirit as we are, it's because of Jesus and what he has done. It's not only the sufficiency by his death and the cross and his mighty resurrection, but his sufficiency in the person that he is that we can sing those songs, not I, but Christ. It's Christ in me. Lord, may we all, as Christians in this church, go deeper and deeper into what it is to give our poverty in spirit to you, and let you provide the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. We thank you in your name. Amen.

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