Summary: Sermon 2 in a study in the Sermon on the Mount
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I recount below an overheard conversation. For reasons that will become apparent I have excluded names or any personal references. In this conversation one person asked another why it was that we, and by ‘we’ I mean here at Cornerstone Christian Chapel and other Southern Baptists and any Bible-believing Christian, believe that the Bible is all true and that miraculous events recorded in the Old Testament are actual history and should be believed as such.
The answer this person received was that it was a matter of class and that since we are poor and ignorant we believe those things. The reply back from the inquirer was, “I’m so glad I was born into old money”.
The saddest part of that conversation, though there are many sad parts in it, is that the person who provided that thoughtless and arrogant response to the student’s question is presently in school to become a pastor in a major Christian denomination.
The person who overheard the conversation wondered if they had a right to be offended, since the words said were not meant for their ears and they weren’t supposed to have heard.
My reply to that is, no. Don’t be offended. Rather, pity those people and pray for them. For they have not learned of God’s grace and they do not know His truth, and unless there is a work of regeneration done in their hearts and subsequent leading of the Holy Spirit into truth they will never know the bliss that Jesus is talking about here in our text, when He declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The people in this overheard conversation, in a way that escapes my imagination, have come to a conclusion that only the poor and ignorant will believe the Bible and take events recorded there literally.
What they do not know and cannot know is how close they have come to hitting on a biblical truth, if only it had been expressed in a spiritual sense instead of a physical one.
Now we have already established in the introductory sermon that these qualities of the Christian listed by Jesus are not anything that can be affected by the person. They are not something we are to ‘be’ in the sense of making resolutions and charting our progress and training ourselves to be these things.
This list is describing, first, how one becomes a Christian, and then what God has made when He creates the man anew per II Corinthians 5:17, which says that “…if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold new things have come”.
So when we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit”, He is speaking of a work that He must begin before the blessed one can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
What then does the term mean? Poor in spirit.
Let’s go at it this way. There must be AN AWAKENING, then AN EMPTYING, then A HUMBLING and finally there will be A FILLING.
As we’ve noted, the order of the beatitudes marks the progression of a person into spiritual life. So as we come to look at this first one we think of the person outside of Christ and therefore spiritually dead in trespasses and sins and we ask what must happen for this person to come to life.
Well first there must be an awakening. Now we have to be careful here to understand what that does not mean. It does not mean that a person has to be somehow spiritually ‘awakened’, and once he is he will understand and believe.
When I say he must be awakened what I do mean is that the Holy Spirit must awaken that person to his spiritual need in the sense of convicting his heart of sin and granting him a spirit of repentance for sin.
Boice mentions St Augustine and Martin Luther as examples of men in history who took pride in their efforts to live holy lives and trusted in their religious rituals and exercises to make them right with God, until they were awakened to their spiritual poverty and turned from their dead works to seek God’s grace.
There are countless examples like them; in fact I would venture to say that most true believers have had to pass through that process to one degree or another. It is in the nature of fallen man, if he has any interest in wanting to be right with God and therefore go to Heaven, to begin by trying to find out how he can please God and how he can make himself better.
I believe that is the reason that the first seven chapters of Romans have something to say to every person, and especially the 6th and 7th chapters. Because the natural inclination is to trust our own efforts first.