Powerful verses from the Sermon on the Mount will be the focus for Dr. Tommy Harrison for the next month.If you have favorite verses from Matthew 5 – 7 which you would like to see included in this series, please send a note firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3 (NIV)
"To be poor in spirit is to recognize that all we have is God’s gift: our very existence, our families, our health, our talents, our situations in life. And Christ goes even further - even our successes.” - Holy Cross Family Ministry
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day believed that poverty was a sign of God’s disfavor.In stark contrast, the Sermon begins with a bold contradiction to this Jewish doctrine.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” speaks about those who have learned to depend totally on Jesus.Another way to explain it is that a Christian is at his best when he learns to live in “spiritual poverty.” Whether as a rich man or a beggar man by the world’s standards, we are filled with abundance through Jesus Christ when we are able to say, “I can only do it through Christ.”At that point you are no longer trapped by humanistic self-reliance, but you are now free to explore in minute detail a life that is totally dependent upon God.The poor in spirit are blessed because we have no inner resources to change things; we must put our whole trust in God!
The Greek word for blessed, makarios, describes the gods; for Christians it means we possess a divine and godlike joy.To better understand this word, the Isle of Cyprus was called makaria, which means “The Happy Island,” a place so lovely, rich and fertile that a man never had to leave the coastline to find the perfectly happy life.The climate was perfect, there were flowers, trees, minerals and natural resources which provided a place for perfect happiness.It was a self-contained paradise of perfect bliss.
Like the Island of Cyprus, Christian happiness is perfect in every way, untouched by human circumstances; it is completely independent of the world around us.Human happiness, on the other hand, is totally dependent on life’s changes; it can be given or taken away by those things and people which surround you, both good and bad.
The Sermon continues: “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”In the Lord’s Prayer He says, “Thy kingdom come.Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”So we know that Jesus came to be the King of the kingdom which exists both here and in eternity.When we acknowledge our own helplessness, our own poverty of spirit, we become a part of this kingdom on this imperfect earth NOW, just as we will be a part of it in a perfect heaven at a later time!The kingdom of heaven is NOW…and later.We experience the joy of the kingdom of heaven NOW… and later.And we will know that reward when we acknowledge that Jesus is the source of all our strength… NOW!
GospeLines Prayer:Father, if Thomas Moore is right, “Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal,” then hasten the day when all my hurts will be made whole; but if YOU are right, and I believe so, enrich my life by your kingdom blessings NOW, and I will stay here as long as you give me breath to speak Your Name to the people.Amen and amen.
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, February 17, 2010
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”(Matthew 5:4)
When we were young we may have mourned for the loss of a friend who moved away, or a pet which was lost or had died.Those are huge emotional setbacks for a child.But that isn’t what Jesus is referring to in this verse.Instead, He says,“Blessed are those who mourn for sin, for they will find comfort.” In his letter to the troubled Corinthian church, Paul was happy about their sorrow because it led to repentance.“For you became sorrowful as God intended…and your godly sorrow led to your repentance.”(II Cor. 7:9-10)
It is the mourning from those who know they are spiritually bankrupt (1st beatitude) and earnestly desire to be comforted.Do you mourn for your sins, for the sins of your family, your city, your nation?It is the kind of mourning which makes the Christian sick at his stomach when he battles sin in his/her own life.It is the mourning which opens the floodgates of our emotions until we think we cannot take another breath unless that particular sin is defeated.
The poet of Psalm 119 begged Jehovah to comfort him; he was distraught over the sins of the people:“Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.” (119:136)Have you recently wept for the sins you have committed, or have you cried out to God for the sins of your children?As we grieve for the sin of this world, we do so with the promise that we will find comfort in Jesus who is the ONLY answer for our sins.“Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price on the cross for my sins!”
Let me take you back to the cross of Calvary, which sits on a hill just outside of Jerusalem.Already beaten, exhausted and bloodied by the cruel cat-of-nine-tails, Jesus is stretched out upon that ugly beam of wood.I turn my head as the hammer is raised to drive the nails through his flesh.CRASH… it comes down again, and again.How does He do it?Why doesn’t He call for a legion of angels to rescue Him from this horror?It’s such a noisy place… the families of the condemned are mourning loudly… the soldiers are mocking the prisoners and gambling for their personal effects.I want to see Jesus’ face once more before He is gone, so I quickly glance over my shoulder to gaze into those eyes, and at that instant a soldier’s spear thrusts into His precious body.Through His wincing pain, He looks at me and smiles as I move my lips to say, “I’m sorry,” and I pray silently that it will be over soon.
Sorry?Sorry for what?I told him that I am sorry because my sins, and yours, put Him on that cross.
Why do we grieve for our sins?Because every time we intentionally commit a sin, we are saying to Jesus:“Once was not enough.Get back on that cross and do it all over again.Let the soldiers beat You again, drive those spikes into Your hands and feet, and pierce Your body with that spear again, because I don’t love You enough to live the way You want me to live.”
Beloved, we will never find comfort for our mourning unless our sincere grieving leads to repentance, confession and victory over sin.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, thank you for teaching me that ‘Good Grief’ will lead to repentance and bad grief compromises my Christian journey.Help me to own up to my sins and confess them to You, rather than live in denial while trying to hide them from You as though everything is OK when it is not.Amen and amen.
≈ Devotional for Friday, February 19, 2010
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”Matthew 5:5
A teenager was liked by everyone in school, his teachers and friends thought he was a popular but humble young man.When one of his classmates visited him in his home he saw a peculiar sign on the wall of his friend’s room:“Third Place.”This was the explanation.“I placed it there as a reminder to me, ‘God first, others second, me third.’And I try to live by that every day of my life.”That is the meaning of meekness.
Some may confuse this beatitude with a call for weakness, but it is not.And it was no accident that this verse falls third in the list, because without first acknowledging our dependence upon Jesus (v. 3), and showing our disgust with both personal and national sin (v. 4), there would be no emphasis upon humility (v. 5).“God first, others second, me last.”So, is this powerful verse speaking ONLY about personal humility, or does it also say something about the lost humility of a nation which has fallen away from their Christian roots?In the USA, we would well consider the deep convictions of our forefathers as they struggled to find the right footing for a godly nation:
It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence. --John Adams
The balance between patriotism and pride teeters on the fulcrum of spiritual humility. When things were right with the children of Israel, they marched as a proud army, afraid of no one; their courage carried them as a ferocious combatant against their foe.And their best days came when they humbled themselves before Jehovah, faithfully guarded the Ark of the Covenant, and waited patiently upon God’s leadership.Moses’ successor, Joshua, said to the people as they prepared to enter Canaan:“Do not let this Book of the Law (the Word of God) depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.Then you will be prosperous and successful.”(Joshua 1:8)Their pride was all about Jehovah and the covenant they had with Him.As long as they maintained their faith in God, they were successful; when they became cocky, they fell.(God make our leaders more like Joshua!)
Now we come to this:“For they shall inherit the earth.”The deep mystery of these words keeps our spiritual journey humble because it, like many other passages in the Bible, may be properly interpreted in several ways.Some say that it relates to Canaan, a type of Heaven in the Old Testament, thus our reward for humility will be realized in Heaven.And others believe that the reward will be experienced here on earth, something more tangible.My humble understanding is that we shall inherit the earth in the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus returns to reign for a thousand years.
To get lost in a debate over the end of the third beatitude would disgrace what Jesus is teaching us:“We will be rewarded for our Christ-like humility… period!”It is the perfect way to end the trilogy of verses:
1.I am not good enough to work my way into heaven (v. 3).
2.I am sick to my stomach over sin and need to find a way out of
my predicament (v. 4).
3.My only escape is to put God first in everything (v. 5).I humble
myself before Him!
To “strut” your superior lifestyle is dangerous.Anything we have, whatever we are, is because God has provided the resources for it, not because we have earned it.Let us keep our faith, maintain our biblical roots, and give glory to God for it all.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, I am not better than anyone else because I live in a blessed nation, no more than I am a Christian because I am Baptist by birth.May others see YOU when they see me, not just another arrogant, religious know-it-all; I am content being in third place.Amen and amen.