Poor in spirit

…Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 ESV

The Kingdom of Heaven is the possession of those who are otherwise spiritually impoverished.

The call of the gospel in these verses isn’t to the person who has everything but the Kingdom of God – rather, it is to those who have nothing apart from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Poverty of spirit vs. the Kingdom of God

If the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), then it makes sense, if Jesus is doing any form of compare and contrast here, to suggest that poverty of spirit involves the realisation that in and of ourselves we do not have those things that constitute the Kingdom.

If the Kingdom of God is righteousness – then in and of ourselves, we not only have no-righteousness, but are altogether unrighteousness.  It’s not that we simply lack righteousness as a positive quality – it’s not simply that we are neutral when it comes to the question of righteousness – rather, it’s as if we possess unrighteousness – we possess that which is the opposite of righteousness.

If we think of righteousness in terms of justice – its not as if we have simply failed to do what is just – to plead the widows cause, to speak up for the vulnerable in our society etc – but rather, that we have directly contributed to the injustices we see around us – we are responsible for the widows cause, it’s like we killed her husband.  It’s like not just failing to speak out against abortion and euthanasia – but having actually crossed the line speaking out in favor of abortion and euthanasia.

That begins to describe our poverty of spirit.

If the Kingdom of God is peace – the in and of ourselves, we not only have no peace, but in its place we have whatever the opposite of peace is.

I really value solitude and silence.  I find it very difficult to read, study, pray, meditate, or write without almost total silence.  But the sound of every day life is not the absence of peace.  The sound of the dishwasher and refrigerator and the neighbour’s garage door and conversation – this is not the absence peace.  I don’t know anyone who would walk into my house and unless there was complete and utter silence suggest the absence of peace.

The opposite of peace is chaos, war, and conflict.

In terms of our poverty of spirit, this is not just about the inner chaos and conflict that so many people face – but something that the apostle Paul describes as enmity with God.  Hostile.  At war with.

Am I saying that in an of ourselves, apart from the grace of God, we are at war with God?  Yes!  Apart from the grace of God our minds are what Romans 8:7 are (as the older translations put it) carnal and the carnal mind is at enmity with God.

This is perhaps part of why Jesus said we must be born again and the epistles call us over and over to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.

Lastly, Paul tells the Romans that the Kingdom of heaven is joy in the Holy Spirit.

If joy in the Holy Spirit is characteristic of the Kingdom, how could we contrast it to illustrate poverty of spirit?

Again, I think it’s more than just the absence of joy – as if poverty of spirit is about being an emotional flat-liner.  It’s not like poverty of spirit is a high-dose anti-depressant that takes away all the troughs and highs.  Poverty of spirit puts you in the trough, the deepest, darkest, nonnegotiable valley and pit.  That’s not simply the absence of joy, but rather, the presence of hopelessness.

That’s what Paul gets at when he describes the unbeliever as one without God and without hope.  It’s what he gets at when he talks about those who mourn without hope.

Without hope there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Without hope there is no “this too shall pass” or assessment of the difficulties of life as “light and momentary”.  To be without hope is to see this world with all its evils and conclude that this is as good as it gets.

So to be unrighteous, to be at enmity with God, and to be without hope – this perhaps begins to illustrate what it means to be poor in spirit.

It is once we realise that this is what we are in and of ourselves, that the promises of this verse become ours.  Jesus said “If this is what you are, in and of yourself – great, awesome, congratu-well-done… this is the necessary prerequisite for blessing…”  You see, blessing doesn’t come to those who have it mostly figured out, or even partly figured out… it’s not a case of “You do your best and God will do the rest.”  It’s more like God only uses empty vessels and if you’ve got something in and of yourself, you’re not an empty vessel.  If you think you’ve done enough to be worthy of God’s kingdom, if you’ve done enough good deeds, or if you have acheived some level of zen mastery, or you credit your optimism to your natural disposition – then you’re not an empty vessel and these blessings will elude you.

That’s why Peter says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” – to those who realise the Biblical assessment of themselves apart from the grace of God in Christ in the gospel.

For in the Gospel, God takes Jesus Christ and essentially makes Him everything we were, and everything He wasn’t.  Jesus Christ was totally righteousness – having a 100% approval rating before God for all eternity; Jesus is even called by Isaiah the Prince of Peace; and Jesus, part of the eternal Trinity, in whose presence is fullness of joy, has had this fullness of joy for eternity – and yet what does the Scripture say “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This is what is referred to as the great exchange.  All that we were, for all that He is.

Good Shepherd of My Soul

“Good Shepherd of my soul
Come dwell within me.
Take all I am and mould
Your likeness in me.
Before the cross of Christ
This is my sacrifice:
A life laid down
And ready to follow.

The troubled find their peace
In true surrender.
The prisoners their release
From chains of anger.
In springs of living grace
I find a resting place
To rise refreshed,
Determined to follow.

I’ll walk this narrow road
With Christ before me
Where thorns and thistles grow
And cords ensnare me.
Though doubted and denied
He never leaves my side
But lifts my head
And calls me to follow.

And when my days are gone
My strength is failing
He’ll carry me along
Through death’s unveiling
Earth’s struggles overcome
Heav’n’s journey just begun
To search Christ’s depths
And ever to follow.”

good shepherd of my soul— Words and Music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Fionan de Barra, and Stuart Townend © 2013 Getty Music Publishing (BMI) and Fionan de Barra (admin MusicServices.org) and Townend Songs

 

Inheritance

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of Him will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:11-14

What is this passage about?  In a word – inheritance.

So thinking about inheritance –

What is it?

The passage doesn’t specifically tell us what it is.  But it does suggest that it is something that is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, and something we will acquire possession of – I’m guessing in the future (i.e. at the resurrection).

Romans 8:23 talks about the redemption of our bodies.

1 Peter 1:4-5 talks about inheritance in terms of something that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, the fullness of our salvation, something that will be revealed at the last time.

On that basis, I think our inheritance has do to with our resurrected bodies.  We’re going to get them when Jesus comes from heaven, to earth.  If we are alive when He comes, then it’s in the twinkling of an eye that we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15). If we have the privilege of dying before He comes, then there’s a sense in which we will accompany Jesus… I’m not sure quite how that will work, and at what stage we’d get our new bodies – 1 Peter 1:5 gives the impression that our new bodies are currently kept in heaven for us – but again, what that looks like, I don’t know.  I get  this cartoonish picture in my mind of a Terracotta Army – and that’s like our new bodies – but until there is that reunion of spirit and body – they remain in a warehouse, lifeless, waiting to be possessed.  But there is also the sense in which the bodies we currently possess will be resurrected at this stage.

Thinking about this a bit more broadly, Ephesians 1:10 talks about the unification of all things, things in heaven and things on earth – which points us to the new heavens and earth – which is where will enjoy our inheritance – conscious that this unification is something that He Himself accomplishes in the fullness of time.

It’s interesting though, that verse 11 says we have obtained and inheritance… but verse 14 talks about our acquisition of it.  Perhaps this is one of the many “already and not yet” aspects of our salvation – the whole “You are saved; you are being saved; and you will be saved”.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we shall be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.  (1 John 3:2)

What is the basis upon which we have obtained and will acquire this?

Big picture: Predestination

The reason that we have obtained and will acquire possession of this inheritance is the eternal purposes of God – that before the creation of the world the Trinity lovingly predestined us, for this adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.

In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will.  (Ephesians 1:5)

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will… (Ephesians 1:11)

So in those verses you we have twice repeated His predestining of us, and in both cases, we’re told it’s according to the purpose of His will.

The details: Hope, Faith, and the New Birth

I mentioned earlier that idea that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

The first aspect of that is what verses 12 and 13 refer to.

Verse 12 talks about our hoping in Christ.  Verse 13 talks about our belief in Christ. Hope and Faith.

What does it mean to hope in Christ?

What about this belief in Christ?  Paul tells us here that the basis of our belief in Christ is the reality that we have heard the word of truth.  This word of truth, Paul tells us, is the gospel of our salvation.

It echoes Romans 10:9-17

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  (Romans 10:9-17 ESV)

Another aspect of this is closely related: The New Birth.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

How do we know that we’re going to get this inheritance?

God has given us a guarantee, namely, His Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.  The same verse tells us that this sealing was concurrent with our exercise of Word-of-Christ authored faith in and confession of Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord.

But how do we know we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit?  By what we are told the Spirit does, namely His testimony of our adoption.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

Do you know that you are a child of God?  Do you know that you are a son of God by way of adoption as sons through Jesus Christ?

The Chief end.

The Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?”  We could just as easy ask “What is the chief end of this inheritance?”

Both questions are rightly answered with reference to the glory of God. Our chief end is to glorify God.  The chief end of our inheritance is the praise of God’s glory.

Verse 12 and 14 of Ephesians 1 bear this out.  Our hope in Christ is to the praise of the glory of God in Christ Jesus (v. 12).  Our being sealed with the Holy Spirit, our eventual possession of the inheritance we have in Christ, these are both to the praise of His glory.

This is why God does this.  This is why God bothers to predestine us.  This is why God bothers to call us and give us new life in Jesus Christ through faith unto a living hope.  This is why we will someday be given a glorious inheritance by way of a resurrected imperishable, undefiled, and unfading body.  This is why He seals us with His Holy Spirit.  This is why the Spirit bears witness to our spirits that we are the sons of God.  It’s all about God’s desire to glorify Himself – to make Himself look good to all of creation both now and for ever.

 

Who is God?

who is god

In answering the question: Who is God?  the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith asserts:

The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

Demonstrate the Truth

Tim Keller points out that the Bible depicts “the extremely close connection between deed-ministry and word-ministry. The practical actions of Christians for people in need demonstrate the truth and power of the gospel. Acts of mercy and justice are visible to non-believers and can lead men to glorify God (Matt. 5:13–16).”

Morgan, C. W. (2010). A Theology of James: Wisdom for God’s People. (R. A. Peterson, Ed.) (p. xiii). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

Real life, Real love

In real life, real love requires a real person. Research has found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than men who didn’t see any porn. On top of that, another study found that after being exposed to pornographic images, people were more critical of their partner’s appearance, sexual curiosity, sexual performance, and displays of affection.

The Virgin Mary Had One Son

virgin mary
Virgin Mary had a one son,
Oh, glory halleluja,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Glory be to the new born King.

“Well, Mary how you call that pretty little baby,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Glory be to the new born King”.

“Well, some call Him Jesus, think I’ll call Him Savior
Oh, I think I’ll call Him Savior
Oh, I think I’ll call Him Savior,
Glory be to the new born King”.

Riding from the East there came three wise man,
Oh, came three wise man,
Oh, came three wise man,
Glory to be the new born King.

Said, “Follow that star, you’ll surely find the baby,
Oh, surely find the baby,
Oh, surely find the baby,
Glory be to the new born King”.

Addiction

AddictionOnce addiction sets in, the user has a whole new set of problems, because addiction damages the part of the brain that helps you think things through to make good choices— the brain’s limit setting system.  For more than 10 years, studies have shown that drug addictions can cause the brain’s frontal lobes to start shrinking. While “frontal lobe” sounds really technical, basically it’s the part of the brain that controls logical problem solving and decision making. But recent studies have found that it’s not just drugs that cause that kind of damage—the same problems show up with other kinds of addictions, such as overeating, Internet addictions, and sexual compulsion.

Get the Facts on Pornography © 2013 FIGHT THE NEW DRUG

an ongoing testimony of God's grace