By: John UpChurch , crosswalk.com
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. – Matthew 5:3, MSG
Let’s try to regain the shock value in the way Jesus opened His Sermon on the Mount. We’re too familiar with the statements and too far removed from the time to hear it like the original listeners. Imagine going to a fast food restaurant, ordering an enormous value meal, and the cashier hitting you with this question: “Would you like to down-size your meal for a dollar less?” Or imagine a car salesperson pausing before you sign the papers and saying, “You know what? That extended warranty is overpriced. Let’s get rid of it.”
Now you have an idea how much impact Jesus had and why the audience was so astounded. Just like we expect people to push us to buy more, the Jews at the time expected their rabbis to tell them the things they needed to do, the rules they needed to abide by. They came expecting to learn the ten steps required to earn God’s favor, but Jesus crumpled up that idea and threw it out. Instead, He revealed that God’s favor and blessings come to those who are poor in spirit.
There’s more to it, however, than simply feeling beaten down or contrite. The poor in spirit—the ones at the end of their ropes—are those who realize they’ve gone as far as human effort can get them. In terms of salvation, that’s not very far. Here’s how John Gill puts it:
The greater part of mankind are insensible of this their condition; but think themselves rich, and increased with goods: there are some who are sensible of it, who see their poverty and want, freely acknowledge it, bewail it, and mourn over it; are humbled for it, and are broken under a sense of it; entertain low and mean thoughts of themselves; seek after the true riches, both of grace and glory; and frankly acknowledge, that all they have, or hope to have, is owing to the free grace of God. (John Gill, commentary on Matthew 5:3)
The poor in spirit don’t just feel bad; they feel bad because they realize how destitute their condition. When we truly understand that “karma points” and charitable acts amount to nothing more than drops of food coloring in the ocean, then we’ve gotten the point: We can’t even approach the kingdom of God, let alone enter it, through our own efforts.
But those who look down and see the filth (and pre-salvation, our spiritual appearance is just that) are those who realize the need for God. And with that realization comes the increase of God in our lives and the decrease of self.
Psalms 32:1-2, 5 1Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
In the Old Testament there were laws that governed the rituals of dealing with sin. The sacrifices and offerings that were prescribed were a picture of Christ who would become the sacrifice in our place. Though the people of Israel followed the instructions given, some of them knew that it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to wash away sin. They knew the sacrifice was important, but they also knew it didn’t change them.
In this psalm David tells of the blessing on the man whose sin is covered. Guilt is a heavy load. As he kept silent, trying to hide his sin, he said he felt the heavy hand of God upon him, causing his bones to feel old. Quite a description of guilt! How did David find relief? He ended his silence.
In the New Testament we find that we are to confess our faults one to another so that we can pray for each other (James 5:16). Our old nature tells us to keep silent, but that just makes it worse. Once it is out in the light, we can deal with it and truly forsake it. As long as we hide it, we entertain thoughts of continuing in that evil pattern. But when we decide it is destroying us and needs to be forsaken, we bring it out by confession. Then we can ask for forgiveness and find that wonderful blessing David was speaking of. Is there a secret sin you are hiding in the darkness? Hold it up and examine it in the light of the cross where God’s love is displayed for you. Ask yourself if that sin compares in value to His love. Bring it into the light, confess it to God, and if necessary, if it still haunts you, confess it to a mature saint you can confide in.
Remember: Sin loses power when it is brought into the light.
Bearing Misunderstandings – Streams in the Desert – October 6
- 20216 Oct
He opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).
How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse;… it may be… that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”
Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare. It is like a nest of hornets. You may disperse the hornets, but you will probably get terribly stung, and get nothing for your pains, for even their honey is not worth a search.
God give us more of His Spirit, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again”; but “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” “Consider him that endureth such contradiction of sinners against himself.”
–A. B. Simpson
“Before you” He trod all the path of woe,
He took the sharp thrusts with His head bent low.
He knew deepest sorrow and pain and grief,
He knew long endurance without relief,
He took all the bitter from death’s deep cup,
He kept not a blood-drop but gave all up.
“Before you” and for you, He won the fight
To bring you to glory and realms of light.
By: A.J. Gretz, author
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:6
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6
When was the last time you were hungry? Not just “I could eat something” hungry, but really, actually in need of something to eat? Maybe it happened while you were on a long trip. Or maybe you had just finished a long workday. Maybe you had no money left for food. Whatever the case, you know there is a big difference between wanting some food and really needing it because you are hungry.
Jesus says we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when our longing for God’s will is more than just an interest—it’s a consuming desire. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness means we are desperate to see sin uprooted, and we are longing for justice to win. It means we don’t excuse our wrongdoing or try to shrug off the world’s problems, but instead we give all we have to make the world more like the kingdom of God.
Then, says Jesus, we can look forward to being filled, because God will be faithful in making things right. He might not give us the house of our dreams or a big promotion, but he will bring justice and righteousness to every inch of his creation. If that’s what we truly care about, we can’t help being satisfied as we partner with God in his work in this world.
Father, help me to make justice and righteousness the greatest priorities in my life, and empower me to be your partner in the work of renewing all things. Amen.
“When Abigail saw David, she … paid homage to David. She knelt at his feet and said, ‘The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly … Please forgive your servant’s offense.’” – 1 Samuel 25:23, 28 CSB
Abigail had done nothing wrong. Her husband’s defiance led to a confrontation with David. Yet seeking to resolve the conflict, Abigail took the initiative. Going to David herself, she took the blame for Nabal’s offenses. She even brought David a gift and asked him to forgive Nabal.
David was moved by her example and willingness to humble herself. He recognized that she had been used by God: “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request” (v. 35).
Abigail could have remained concerned only about herself. But she demonstrated a spirit of humility and concern for others. She was willing to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41) and take the initiative, so her husband might be spared.
Jesus demonstrated this same spirit of personal sacrifice. Although He never committed any sin, He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).
God looks for people willing to display humility and selflessness. The Bible promises that this kind of humility brings wisdom (Proverbs 11:2) and honor from God (Proverbs 18:12) and leads to His favor (1 Peter 5:5).
Don’t be concerned only about yourself. Humble yourself before God. Ask Him to help you become an example of selflessness and concern for others.