Miles & Mar's Devotional - Volume IX
Martha and I decided that, beginning in this newsletter, our devotionals will feature a series we are going to write about one of the most poignant and crucial passages in all of Scripture - the Beatitudes. This passage is what some Bible scholars call "The Manifesto of The King." It has changed the way that we look at the Bible and thus, it has changed our lives. All of our devotionals are posted online in the newsletter archive where you can go visit them at any time to catch up.
To set the stage: Jesus has just arrived on the public scene and made his presence known enough that the crowds are beginning to follow him. This sermon is how he chooses to introduce the principles of his kingdom. Many were looking for an immediate earthly kingdom to be set up by the Messiah. Imagine yourself as part of that crowd, or even as one of his disciples right up close to him -- knowing this man could do miracles like you'd only read about in Scripture; hoping he was the promised Messiah that would reign victoriously over all the nations of the earth. And this is what you hear him say:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil
against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I remember as a child hearing the Beatitudes and honestly, I didn't until recently really understand them. Being poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry, thirsty, and persecuted is hardly anybody's idea of a good time. It's not something you would see on a resort's TV commercial. And yet, Jesus reiterates over and over again that those are the ones who would be "blessed." Another translation of the word "blessed" is literally, "happy and to be envied." Wow! How backwards is that??
After studying this passage of scripture, I've realized that the Beatitudes are very simple, yet profound steps that lead you right to the heart of Christianity - the Kingdom of God. The first one is where every person has to start. The Bible teaches over and over again that every person is "poor in spirit." We have nothing in ourselves to offer God: all our goodness is filthy rags before Him. Paul says in Romans 3: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." That is our natural state, apart from the intervention of God. We are naturally poor in spirit.
So before we may approach God, we must come to the recognition that we are poor in spirit. As long as we continue to believe and hope that we can work our way into God's favor, we are like vagrants without means who claim to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. How absurd is that? But what a wonderful promise follows! "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When we come to that place of realizing our true condition before God, the kingdom of God is ours!
Being poor in spirit is a requirement for entering the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is also a description of those who are already in the Kingdom. In one sense those who believe in Christ become rich in spirit because we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him (Ephesians 1:3), but apart from Him, we still have nothing. Paul says, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Romans 7:18). Our flesh -- our unredeemed humanness, or sin principle -- remains in us until the day we die. Once we believe in the work of Christ on our behalf, our spirit becomes alive to God, and we are given the ability to live by the power of the Spirit of God so that we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), and we are commanded and given the power to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). In and of ourselves, we are, and will always be, poor in spirit. The song, "Jesus Loves Me" gets it right when it says "Little ones to Him belong: they are weak, but He is strong." In Christ, we become strong. In ourselves, we are always weak. In Christ, we become blessed with every spiritual blessing. In ourselves, we will always be poor in spirit.
We'll tackle the next Beatitude in our next newsletter.
Miles & Mar