So what causes Christians to lose their ‘poverty of spirit’? Losing sight of the God we say we worship is the main cause. But part and parcel with that comes losing sight of who we are and what we are really like. When we forget God, who is the ultimate standard of all things, what can we measure ourselves by? We proudly and arbitrarily draw flattering standards against which we can measure up well.
One way in which we fail to measure ourselves accurately is by forgetting what we were. Sometimes, the longer we live as Christians, we forget the way we were before we were saved. Paul plainly states in 1 Corinthians that the church there was made up of ex adulterers, idolaters, homosexuals, thieves, revilers, swindlers, etc. I somehow doubt that any church drawn from our society today would look a whole lot different.
The fact is that the Christians who make up a church are Christians who sinned in every way that those in the world around us sin. The only difference is what God has done in us. That’s what Paul says: ‘But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ Catch that? It was all done to us, not stuff that we’ve done to make ourselves better than anyone.
It’s easy to forget that… but we must never forget that! We must never forget that we were all these things when we were ‘purchased at a price.’ We must never forget that it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us.
In fact, earlier on in the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul told them to make sure they remembered what they were before they were Christians. He basically says in chapter 1 that they should remember that not many of them were the wise, noble, rich, influential, etc. God chose them because they were the foolish, the weak, the poor, the shameful. He chose these ones so that his power could be shown as even his foolishness shames the wisdom of this world.
We need to remember what we were before we were saved: what my passions and desires were, how I loved my sin, how I pursued my sin and hated God with my actions. When we remember that we were idolaters and adulterers and greedy thieving swindlers hording worldly possessions it becomes that much harder to exalt ourselves over others who are guilty of the same sins, whether or not they’ve repented of them.