Monday, May 22, 2017

BEATITUDES - Poor in Spirit

On July 16, 1999, John Kennedy, Jr., his wife and sister-in-law were killed when his Piper Saratoga crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by "the pilot’s failure to maintain control of his airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation."

Spatial disorientation is not an uncommon problem with pilots. It happens when a pilot loses his reference point as to where he is in the air. Spatial disorientation is the disagreement between what the pilot thinks is true and what the instruments say is true. That’s when you are supposed to doubt what you think and trust your instruments. Looking out with no horizon, you don’t know if you’re flying straight and level, right side up or upside down. But your instruments do. That’s why a primary lesson in flight training is to learn to trust your instruments.

The Sermon on the Mount introduces us to the truth gauge on our instrument panel. It’s marked, Jesus. 

When He told His disciples who He was, He said, I am the way, the truth and the life. He was defining Himself as the one by whom all opinions could be verified. What He taught was such a contrast to what the people believed, when He finished, Matthew said, “The crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt 7:28-9)

The scribes’ only authority was what was written. Any comments they added were just their opinions. But Jesus spoke as though He was the author of what was written, and was authorized to say what it meant.

Jesus says “I say,” fourteen times in the Sermon on the Mount. Here’s the common opinion, but I say. Here’s what the Pharisees do, but I say. Here’s how the gentiles react, but I say.

He begins with the Beatitudes to give the people some statements that challenge their perspective for how life works. And it was quite a challenge: What I am saying isn’t how you believe or have been taught to believe, so change what you believe to match what I’m saying.

When all you are used to is an opinion of what is true, you are flying by perspective. This teaching is how to live in the opposite direction of what you think (and everyone is saying) is the right direction.

We belong to another world where the rules are different. We can’t rely on our gut feeling about what is right or wrong, up or down. We believe that what God says through His Word is the right way to go. 

Before we get into each of the beatitudes we need some background.

In the beatitudes there is no verb—no “are.” Why? Matthew is writing in Greek, Jesus spoke Aramaic. Aramaic is closer to Hebrew than Greek. Jesus begins each Beatitude with a common Aramaic/Hebrew expression that meant: "O the blessedness of . . ."

Psalm 1 begins in the Hebrew with the same phrase: "O the blessedness of the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly" (Ps.1:1). Not he will become blessed if he stays away from ungodly counsel but because he is blessed he refuses it.

“O the blessedness of” is a descriptive, not a hopeful outcome. Look at his benefits since he is a blessed man.

Matt 5: That’s how Jesus begins each Beatitude: O the blessedness of the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those being persecuted…It’s an exclamation! Since they live in a context of blessedness, here are their benefits. Not they will be blessed and gain these benefits if they meet certain criteria.

The Beatitudes are not hopes of what will be. They are congratulations on what is. Even the ones with future implications, the blessedness is in the bank, now. Heaven will not be my home when I die, it is my home right now. Within our blessedness, we can look forward to, can count on what is coming.

The poor in spirit can count on the Kingdom of Heaven – Living out of the riches of God’s grace, where our inheritance as God’s children is assured and all His provisions are guaranteed.
The beatitudes are saying, "How blessed it is to belong to the Lord! And here are some examples.” They are statements of what is ours to expect within the Life surrendered to the Lord.

Taking an Aramaic statement and putting it into Greek, Matthew uses the word makarios. It is what the Greeks called the Island of Cyprus—The Happy Island because they believed that Cyprus was so beautiful, rich, and fertile that a person would never need to go anywhere else to find a more perfectly happy life.

But happiness is just a surface meaning. Happiness usually depends on the chances and the changes of life, which you can have today and be taken away tomorrow.

But makarios describes the joy which is completely independent of all chance and the changes of life. It is joy that cannot be touched or taken away. "No one," said Jesus, "will take your joy from you" (Jn.16:22). The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (Jn 14:27)

How does the world give: temporarily, conditionally, irrationally.
·         The delight in a new car fades over time.
·         What it takes to be happy is held just out of reach like a dangled carrot.
·         Why do the wicked prosper?

Joy, peace, blessedness aren’t presents from the world. They are gifts from the Lord. Since the world didn’t give them to us, the world can’t take them away.

It is a joy we find in our pain, and sorrow, and loss. It is a peace that settles over us even when storms rage all around. It is a blessedness that accompanies us wherever we go.

The world can make us happy. But the world can as easily take that happiness away. We can make a fortune and lose a fortune. We can have our health then lose our health. We can find success then follow that success with abject failure. We can realize one dream then have the next dream smashed to pieces. Even a change in the weather ruining our plans can cause our happiness to vanish.

Jesus says we need something more stable, unmovable on which to build our lives:  Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall." (Matt 7:24-27)

The world will offer an opinion on everything. Look at the instrument panel. Find the one that says Truth. Check opinion against the God’s Word.

“Make the lie big. Make it simple. Keep saying it. And eventually they will believe it.” Adolph Hitler.

Matt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
There are two words for poor in Scripture. One means a man who works hard and yet struggles for his needs. He has barely enough. He’s considered poor but not destitute. No surplus but no luxuries. Scratching out an existence but getting by.

The other word means to crouch or cower. It describes a poverty that has beaten a person down. This is the one who has nothing at all. He is completely poverty-stricken. Destitute.
Jesus uses the second word for poor, but qualifies the word with spirit. He wants the people to know He’s not talking about finances but being destitute within his spirit.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)

What causes broken-heartedness and what crushes our spirit? The emptiness that results when what we have counted on to fill and satisfy our lives is taken away or doesn’t come through.

Poor in spirit are those who realize the emptiness of going through life sticking square pegs into round holes and losing hope of ever filling the void in their lives.

Follow the progression of the use of this word: (i) It first meant simply poor. (ii) Then went on to mean, because they are poor, they have no influence or power, or help. (iii) Then it meant, because of having no influence, therefore they are down-trodden and oppressed by men. (iv) Being poor then referred to a man who, because he has no earthly resources whatever, must depend on others. Add spirit to poor and it becomes: one who recognizes what he is without God and as a result puts his whole trust in the Lord.
When I realize the world cannot supply the depth of what I need, I am set on a path to blessing, driven by dependency on God.

Like what David said, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Ps 34:6). David saw himself as an humble, helpless man with no resources to deal with his trouble but found his help came from the Lord.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. (Ps 121:1-2)

O the blessedness of the person who has realized his own utter helplessness, and has put his whole trust in God, for that is how the kingdom of heaven operates—by faith in the God of Heaven!

When that happens, a person’s perspective matches what’s true. He no longer counts on what the world offers to supply happiness or security, but learns to rely on God who can bring him help, and hope, and strength. The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized the old way had him so disoriented he was crashing. But now God has set his life straight.

When Katrina hit New Orleans, a cameraman caught a lady wading chest deep in the murky waters. The reporter yelled out to her, “How are you? Where are you going?” She replied very simply. “I got my life and I got my Jesus. The rest don’t matter.” The significance of what she said was lost to the reporter and probably many listening on TV but to Believers, it made perfect sense. If we have faith in a faithful God, everything qualifies as a blessing.

One of the most difficult stories of someone coming to Jesus and leaving without Him is the story of the young rich man. Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:21-26)

The wealth wasn’t the problem. It was the sufficiency he felt because of his wealth that made him reject what Jesus offered. He hadn’t met a need he couldn’t take care of on his own. He trusted in his perception of how secure his life was, not the truth.

Whether it is wealth, intellect, success, talent, ego: we’re trusting in a false hope of our own security. Theologian Karl Barth said: “When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well-supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?”

So what is Jesus saying: The blessed man realizes the emptiness of the misdirected life and places his whole life into God’s hands.

The reality is, we are a blessed people living out the truth of who God is and what He can do. In our poverty, He is rich in mercy, grace and love.

  1. As believers we are blessed.
  2. We are not better than anyone else, only better off.
  3.  Out of the riches of God’s grace, our inheritance as God’s children is assured and all His provisions guaranteed.
  4.  All the promises of God are true and our opinion isn’t the final answer.
  5.  God’s Word is our true and final authority for what is right.

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