Reflections on “The Poor in Spirit”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

The sermon on the Mount describes
what human life and human community
looks like when they come under
the gracious rule of King Jesus…

Still today the indispensable condition
of receiving the kingdom of God
is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty…

Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty,
indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God…
Right at the beginning of his sermon,
Jesus contradicts all human judgments
and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich;
the feeble, not the mighty;
to little children humble enough to accept it,
not to soldiers who boast
that they can obtain it by their own prowess.
– John Stott

We are beggars. This is true! – Martin Luther

The kingdom of God can only be received by empty hands.
Jesus warns against two things:
Worldly self-sufficiency which leads you
to trust yourself and your own resources
so that you don’t need God;
and religious self-sufficiency
where you trust your religious attitude and moral life
and don’t need Jesus.
– Michael Crosby

He only who is reduced to nothing in himself,
and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.
– John Calvin

Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt,
deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars,
those without a wisp of religion –
when the kingdom of heaven comes upon them.
– Dallas Willard

Prayer of Confession of Sin – The Beatitudes

CONFESSION OF SIN

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy; 
Be gracious to us for we have gone astray from your ways. 
Create in us new and contrite hearts, 
that we may now truly lament and confess our sins to You.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. 
But in our pride we exalt ourselves.
Blessed are those who mourn. 
But in our envy we recoil from others’ happiness.
Blessed are the meek and the peacemakers. 
But in our wrath we lash out in revenge.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
But in our sloth we despair of virtue.
Blessed are the merciful. 
But in our greed we demand to possess and fail to give.
Blessed are the pure in heart. 
But in our lust we sacrifice others to serve ourselves.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. 
But in our gluttony we consume unto sickness.
Heavenly Father, it is evident we too have loved darkness. Give us grace to walk again in the light so that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and we have true fellowship with one another. Do this for our good and Your glory. AMEN.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON         1 Timothy 1:15

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
of whom I am the chief.

Jesus’ Beatitudes & the Virtue of Humility

 

Of all the virtues Christ commended in the Beatitudes, it is significant that the first is humility, being ‘poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3). The virtue of humility (the blessed gift of self-forgetfulness) underlies all the others:

  • You cannot mourn (5:4) without appreciating how insufficient you are to handle life in your own strength. That is humility.
  • You cannot be meek (5:5) unless you have needed gentleness yourself. Knowing that need is humility.
  • You cannot hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:6) if you proudly think of yourself as already righteous. Longing to fill that spiritual appetite demands humility. Remember Jesus’ parable when the humbled tax collector prayed, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ He went away justified, unlike a proud Pharisee who boasted of his righteousness (Luke 18:13).
  • You cannot be merciful (Matt. 5:7) without recognizing your own need for mercy. Jesus said that it’s the person who is forgiven much that loves much (Luke 7:47). To confess your sin and ask God and others for forgiveness takes humility.
  • You cannot be pure in heart (Matt. 5:8) if your heart is filled with pride. God promises to exalt the humble not the proud (James 4:10).
  • You cannot be a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9) if you believe that you are always right. To admit your own fallibility takes humility. Peace results when both warring parties move toward one other.
  • Finally, identifying with Christ no matter the reaction of others (5:10-12) demands a certain death to yourself and a renunciation of your own rights. Standing firm under mistreatment demands Christlike humility.

Reflections on Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

Only those who have first tasted peace with God at the cross of Christ can become peacemakers. – James M. Boice

The peace intended is not merely that of political and economic stability, as in the Greco-Roman world, but peace in the Old Testament inclusive sense of wholeness, all that constitutes well-being… The ‘peacemakers,’ therefore, are not simply those who bring peace between two conflicting parties, but those actively at work making peace, bringing about wholeness and well-being among the alienated. – Robert Guelich

If we are really under the influence of the gospel, each encounter we have with another person should be an expression of that. – Alfred Poirier

To put it simply, peacemaking involves getting in between two conflicted, warring parties, bringing calm, listening attentively, and working toward a resolution. – Mike Kasting

O Father, until Jesus comes again and brings His fullest blessings of peace, may we become a peacemaking and peace-loving people who commit ourselves to intentional acts of love by which we work to overcome the enmity between us and other people. Amen.

Using the Beatitudes to Confess Your Sins

Blessed Jesus, you offered us all your blessings when you announced…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” — but we have been rich in pride.
“Blessed are those who mourn” — but we have not known much sorrow for our sin.
Blessed are the meek” — but we are a stiff-necked people.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
— but we have filled ourselves to the full with other things.
“Blessed are the merciful,” — but we are harsh and impatient.
“Blessed are the pure in heart,” — our lives are cluttered with impure
thoughts, motives and deeds.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” — but we have not sought reconciliation.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,”— but our
lives oftentimes do not challenge the ways, priorities and values of the
world.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all
kinds of evil against you because of me,” —but we have hardly made it
known that we are yours. We plead with you to cleanse us of our sins and
purify our hearts. AMEN.

Reflections on “Blessed are the Merciful”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
“Teach me to feel another’s woe, To hide the fault I see,
That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me.”
– Alexander Pope English poet (1688-1744)

O Christian, know your condition – the misery and the mercy. And let the horror
from which you have been rescued, and the mercy in which you live, and the
price that Christ paid, make you humble and thankful and patient and kind and
forgiving. You have never been treated by God worse than you deserve. And in
Christ you are treated ten million times better.
– John Piper

“Everybody loves to see justice done…on somebody else.”
– Bruce Cockburn

A Prayer to Pray:

“Lord, enable me this day to slow down and eliminate hurry, that I might remember You and the richness of Your mercy towards me. Today I offer you my hurts, anger, bitterness and disappointments. Enable me to forgive as generously and consistently as You forgive me. Teach me how to appropriately process any anger toward You, others and myself. I wait on You and trust in You, Lord. Show me the way of Your wisdom and love this day. AMEN.

Pete Scazzero© 2005
Center For Emotional Health & Spirituality
New Life Fellowship, Elmhurst, NY 11373

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be

filled. This beatitude prompts a look at our heart’s desire. What hungers and

desires operate within us? Which of them commands our utmost loyalty?

– John W. Miller

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is

immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are part

of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with

us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the

proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you

have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

– St. Augustine

It is the desire for God which is the most fundamental appetite of all, and it is

an appetite we can never eliminate. We may seek to disown it, but it will not

go away. If we deny that it is there, we shall in fact only divert it to some

other object or range of objects. And that will mean that we invest some

creature or creatures with the full burden of our need for God, a burden

which no creature can carry.

– Simon Tugwell