What Does It Mean to be Poor In Spirit?

In His longest recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-11), Jesus begins by describing the attributes He looks for in His followers. He promises something special awaits those who attempt to develop and live out these attributes. Fair warning, however, like a salmon swimming upstream, our sincere attempts to develop these traits will create opposition since each beatitude goes against the current of society’s typical way of life. But as challenging as this way of living may be, God meets us in our humble efforts. For He desires for us to be close to Him and experience His abundant life.

Beatitude #1

In His first beatitude, Jesus states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). What exactly does this mean? Why would God want us to be “poor in spirit”?

Some people think Jesus is referring to financial poverty with the thought that being poor will keep riches from being a relational hedge between us and God. While it’s true that Jesus warns us of the dangers of seeking riches (Matthew 6:24), this doesn’t seem to be His aim in Matthew 5:3. So what exactly is Jesus referring to?

Jesus is concerned with spiritual realities in the beatitudes, not material possessions. So being “poor in spirit” means being “spiritually poor”. This thought becomes clearer by exchanging the word “humble” in place of the word “poor”. When we recognize our impoverished and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God, we are being humble in spirit. It’s the realization that we have absolutely nothing of worth to offer a holy, powerful God. When we admit that we are completely destitute spiritually, due to our sin, and are personally powerless to deliver ourselves, we position ourselves to receive “the kingdom of heaven”. God’s kingdom is not only eternity in heaven with God after death (Romans 6:23), but also the eternal quality of life with God before death (John 10:10).

The opposite of “poor (humble) in spirit” is a self-satisfied, proud heart. The results of pride may take on different forms, but the worst is spiritual pride. God cannot bless the one who thinks he/she doesn’t need Him. For “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

We can’t earn our way to God or heaven. No matter our position in life, when we acknowledge our spiritual poverty, we can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He freely offers. Often the richer we are in material possessions, or when we place more confidence in ourselves rather than in God, the poorer our hearts’ condition will be. God never forces Himself on anyone. But for the surrendered, humbled heart, He will not only save one from sin, but will also add abundant blessing to his/her life.

Do you see your own need for Christ? Do you recognize that you are a sinner and need God’s forgiveness? By refusing to let pride─or anything else─stand in the way, you position yourself to turn to Christ in humility and faith.

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 3), Romans 15:1-13

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”    – Romans 15:5

You may read Romans 15:1-13 here: Bible Gateway. This section wraps up Paul’s talk from chapter 14 and highlights the last principle in this series for promoting unity in the church.

Principle #3: Follow Christ’s example of mercy

Paul identifies himself as a strong Christian as he encourages the “strong” to bear with the failings of the “weak.” To help others mature in the faith, he exhorts the “strong” to build his neighbor up. How? He cites Jesus as our greatest example of self-denial for the sake of others.

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The Relevance of Scripture (vs. 4)

Paul also reminds his readers that all of Scripture—although written in the past—is still alive and relevant today, meeting our deepest needs (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 4:23-24).

Paul’s Benediction (vs. 5-6)

Paul prayed for unity among the Roman Jews and Gentiles as they followed Christ so they would glorify God with one heart and voice.

Shepherd’s Notes comments on the remainder of this section: “In support of the universal scope of God’s redemptive work through Christ His Son, Paul cited four Old Testament Scriptures . . . . Christ’s acceptance of both Jewish and Gentile believers, played out in the universal scope of His redemptive work, is to be the measure of their acceptance of one another.”

So What?

Self-denial doesn’t mean we are to be people-pleasers (see Galatians 1:10), but rather set aside our self-pleasing actions and/or willfulness in order to build others up. If Christ—God’s Son—prioritized others above His own comforts and desires, how much more should we?

God communicates hope and encouragement through His Word, the Bible. We can live in unity when we read God’s Word with a receptive heart, focus on Christ, and genuinely accept each other.

 

How To Use God Given Power, Genesis 42

If God gave you a responsibility, what would you do with it? What is the best way to honor God with the power He gave you? As we look in Genesis 42, we see the right way to use authority as Joseph faces his brothers for the first time since they sold him to slavery.

via How To Use God Given Power? — Call to Witness

Paul’s Salutation, Romans 1:1-7

While our “Dear John” letters usually include minimal details about ourselves, the ancient letter writers wrote differently. The writer placed his name first, the identity of the reader next, then a greeting.

Romans begins with the author, Paul, following this format. He identifies himself in three ways:

1) A “servant of Jesus Christ”

  • Although Paul was a Roman citizen, he no longer embraced the average Roman’s attitude that being a servant was uncool. Instead, Paul threw his energy into dependence and obedience to his new found Master. Paul’s former zeal for his ancestral tradition had garnered him honor and high ranking in Judaism. As a religious Pharisee, Paul’s fierce intensity targeted killing Christians because he thought they endangered Judaism (Acts 9:1-25). But after his conversion from Jesus’ confrontation, Paul declared himself Christ’s bondslave (Gal. 1:1-14).

2) “Called to be an apostle”

  • God chose Paul’s role. Paul responded by preaching Christ throughout the Roman Empire on three missionary journeys.

3) “Set apart”

  • God set Paul (formerly Saul) apart to serve Him by sharing and spreading the gospel.
Paul’s Purpose for Writing (vv. 2-6)

Paul declares his purpose for writing to verify his apostolic message. God had promised His gospel earlier “through the prophets in the holy Scriptures.” Some of these prophecies about Jesus Christ and the Good News are Genesis 12:3; Psalm 16:10; 40:6-10; 118:22; Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 9:9-11; 12:10; Malachi 4:1-6.

In verses 3-4, Paul presents Jesus Christ as the center of the gospel. Jesus, descendant of King David, fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures predicting the Messiah coming from David’s line. Several New Testament passages also verify the Davidic descent of Jesus: Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-30; Revelation 5:5.

In relation to Jesus’ present exaltation, Paul cites “Jesus Christ our Lord” as “the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead”.

Grace & Peace

“Grace and Peace” combined a Christianized form of the Greek and Hebrew greetings (Shepherd’s Notes).

After receiving unlimited, undeserved forgiveness (grace) when meeting Christ on the Damascus road, Paul’s heart received a transformation. Upon following a new leader, Paul strove to fulfill his calling of sharing the Good News of Christ by aligning himself with God’s directives.

So What?

The same Jesus Christ who “set Paul apart” also invites us to be “saints”—set apart, holy, dedicated for His service; whether through formal or informal ministry. It is a great privilege and responsibility to share our Father’s Good News: Forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace—received through faith in Christ—available to all.

I like the following excerpt from my NIV Study Bible: “God did not waste any part of Paul—his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses. Are you willing to let God do the same for you? You will never know all He can do with you until you allow him to have all that you are!”

Gospel Power, Romans 1:16-17

Over lattes, a friend and I found ourselves chatting about our beliefs. Her jaw dropped when I told her I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative truth and revelation to us. She could hardly believe I didn’t rely on any other religious writings/teachings. But at the time, I struggled to give her a reasonable explanation why I thought this. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve since found the following verses in Romans helpful. These two verses clearly state why the gospel is so important while stating a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” – Vs. 16-17

What is the Gospel Power?

God’s effective power, through His Holy Spirit, initiates and leads one to salvation. His inspired words contained in the Bible give us enough information to know Him—His character, purposes, love, and expectations—and also teach us how to have a personal relationship with Him. When we read and heed God’s words, God grows our faith, which is a gift from Him. He also transforms us into His likeness.

Shepherd’s Notes suggest that the salvation Paul describes is more than forgiveness of sins. It includes the big picture of being delivered from the results of our sin:

  1. Justification – Being set right with God; deliverance from the penalty of sin
  2. Sanctification – Growth in holiness; deliverance from the power of sin
  3. Glorification – Ultimate transformation into the likeness of Christ; deliverance from the presence of sin
Three Power Points of the Gospel

Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel’s Good News because he experienced God’s saving grace and life changing power in a BIG way. He also knew God’s salvation was available to everyone.

Shepherd’s Notes also observes the following gospel points in Romans 1:

  1. It’s the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 2)
  2. It centers in the person of Jesus Christ (v. 3-4)
  3. It is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16)
So What?

When we discipline ourselves to study the Bible and pray, God will lovingly meet us right where we are. God will help us through trials and grow us in Him. He longs to bless us with life both now and forever.

How is your Bible reading going?

Related Posts: The B-I-B-L-E, Why Study the Bible?, Bible Study-The Holy Spirit’s Role