Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Poverty of spirit (Page 2 of 2)

Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit – 3

See parts 1 and 2.

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.

Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit – 2

So how could it be that Christians would become proud? Having started with nothing, how could receiving freely give us reason to boast? It seems that pride is the sneakiest of all sins, working from the core of the heart, seeking any opportunity to morph and reappear undetected.

I think the first step in losing poverty of spirit is losing sight of who God is and what he demands.

The two most famous theophanies seem to be Moses on Sinai and Isaiah’s vision in the year that Uzziah died. With everything in me, try as I might, I can’t imagine a way that a person could remain proud in those circumstances. Even Moses, with whom God would speak(!) could not see him or else he would die.

In Isaiah’s vision even the creatures around Jesus’ throne could not look upon him, but were forced to cover both their faces and their feet. When Christians fail to recognize that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire, we cease to lose touch with the God of the Bible. When we forget that we ought rightly to be afraid of him, we are venturing toward pride.

But not only do we need to remember who God is, but we also need to remember what he demands of us. Throughout the Old Testament God thundered down the Law and declared through the prophets, ‘Be holy, as I am holy! It startles me to think that we as Christians can be so easy on our sin when we read this. Do we not realize what it says? And it is not merely an ‘Old Testament’ thing, either! Jesus declares that we must ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

In other words, the standard is God. Now, if you haven’t rightly evaluated who God is, that’s not that big of a deal. But if you have truly seen the God of the Bible for who he is, and then have realized that he himself is the standard, then you realize quite quickly why exactly Isaiah cried out ‘woe is me!’ and why Paul could so brazenly say ‘all have fallen short of the glory of God’ because all have broken the law. The law is not the standard… the law bears witness to the standard, but the standard is God himself!

I may think that I measure up okay in my Christian life… I don’t sin openly. I’ve read more books than other Christians (and better books too!). I go to church all the time, I teach Sunday school, all my friends are Christians… But in reality, how I measure up against other Christians is never, ever used as a realistic standard by which we ought to measure ourselves.

If we evaluate ourselves against others around us we might think we’re doing alright. In reality, however, we ought to be measuring ourselves against God, because he is what he demands from us, and nothing less.

Honestly comparing ourselves to the God of the Bible should produce poverty of Spirit where nothing else will. Once again, our greatest need is to turn to the word of God, to behold God, to know him for who he is. Only that will make us who and what we need to be.

Some Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

With these words our Lord’s ministry began in earnest. The long-awaited promised one brings the fulfilment of all that was foreshadowed in the Law and the Prophets in his person and his kingdom, and these are those to whom his kingdom belongs: those who are poor in spirit.

In the plainest sense poverty of spirit is simply the heart of contrition and repentance that God has always required from his people (a few examples). God has always declared that he would dwell with the humble and cast out the presumptuous and haughty, those who think that they have no need of God: Christ did not even come for those who don’t need a physician.

So first and foremost, to have any part in the kingdom (saving reign) of God (in Christ) we must recognize that he is holy, and that we are sinners without a plea before him. We deserve nothing from him, plain and simple, but come to him fully knowing that it would be good and right of him to damn me to hell. He would be just and good and righteous and glorified to send me to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, to the Gehenna of fire, where the worm is never satisfied.

But this is nothing new, of course. If you’re a Christian, you’ve already been here and known this to be true in your own heart. So why doesn’t it last? How could it be that having come through the front door of utter humility and contrition we now think it appropriate to dwell in the room of luxurious pride and haughtiness of thought? What would possibly cause a Christian to ever think of himself as better than anyone else?

It seems that the nature of the gospel which Christ brings is such that pride in a Christian should be an impossibility. It begins with humility, continues in self-sacrificing love, and concludes with eternal praise–it is never about self; not for a moment.

Over the next couple of posts I hope to put forward a few thoughts about poverty of spirit: Why Christians lose it and how to further affect it.

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