Summary: Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.

Sermon on Mount

Blessed are the spiritual Zeros

May 9, 2004

Today I start working through our series on the on the Beatitudes. I.e. Dan and Deanne’s bareness. It is at the outset of the Sermon on the Mount that we learn that we do not have the spiritual resources to put any of the Sermons principles into practice. Today I want to talk about coming to grips with the fact that we are spiritual zeroes.

I must acknowledge my spiritual barrenness

What do you think poor in spirit means? Poor in spirit means that we realize our spiritual and moral bankruptness, barrenness, spiritual zeros, deficient before God. We have no moral goodness or spiritual goodness to offer to God in any way that earns merit or brownie points with him. In the material world someone who is poor or bankrupt understands the depth of his or her need for help. The poor will go to public assistance; they will beg on the city streets, they will take any kind of job to make money. A bankrupt person will to extreme means to get themselves out of their hole. Poor is spirit is coming to grips with our spiritual and moral emptiness or as I have titled the message spiritual zeros. But not everyone sees themselves this way or feels this way about themselves.

Luke 18:9-14 illustrates what Jesus is talking about. Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ’God, I thank you that I am not like other men-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ’God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

The one is so full of themselves because of their own self righteousness, religious clout, gifting, charisma, yet is oblivious to his own spiritual need. The other recognizes his own unworthiness before God and throws himself at God for mercy. There is no pride more deadly than that which finds its roots in great learning, great external piety, or showy defense of orthodoxy. Pride based upon genuine virtues has the greatest potential for self-deception. There are some of us like that Pharisee today. We would not identify ourselves this way but our attitudes and our actions betray us. We do not like the way some people come dressed to church and so we think less of them because of it. We do not even like some of the people that show up on Sundays. They can sense it; they don’t feel welcome. Some of us are satisfied with our spiritual lives but have no strong appetite for God. God does not excite us – but a new project does. God does not excite us but the King opener does. God does not excite us but an upcoming vacation does. We are spiritual zeros and we know it but we are too proud to admit it. What will others think? Then there are others whose lives are caving in on themselves but are too proud to admit it, to reach out.

Mark 2:15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and ’sinners’?" 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." In other words, the only people who will ever come to get what Jesus has to give are sick people, people who know that they are spiritually and morally and very often physically crippled.

Look at Moses. When God came to him with a mission to lead his people out of Israel, he said, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" . . . "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (Exodus 3;11; 4:10). The reason God got angry with Moses is not because of his humble assessment of his own abilities, but of his lack of faith in God’s ability. God responded and said to Moses, "Who made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (Exodus 4:11-12).

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