Jesus told us how to be truly blessed or happy. The world longs for happiness, but many people seek it through sinful pursuits. It is tragic the many ways people seek happiness by getting involved in activities that only bring it for a short time. In the long run, what they usually find is misery.
Developing the spiritual traits Jesus taught is like climbing a rugged mountain. As we ascent our spiritual mountain God is working in us by burning out our old nature and developing these first three characteristics that Jesus Lists-being poor in spirit, mourning and meekness-which makes us conscious of a deep need we have.
The development of these initial three characteristics causes us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. God promises to satisfy this hunger and thirst in that we “shall be filled.” The result of this filling develops the last three spiritual characteristics as we descend our spiritual mountain. We will become merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. After that, Jesus warns, we may be “persecuted because of righteousness” as Satan hates and wares against the development of these godly characteristics.
God develops our Christian character in three steps: need, satisfaction and results. First, He makes us aware of our need; next, He fills that need as we hunger and thirst for righteousness; and finally, He satisfies our longing by developing in us the qualities of mercy, being pure in heart, and a peacemaker. He is the potter; we are the clay. We are dependent on Jesus to deliver us from who we are and to develop in us the characteristics of His kingdom.
We not only need Jesus for the salvation of our soul; we also need Him to deliver us from what we are. Jesus is everything and everything is in Jesus.
Spiritual Characteristic Number One
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
This heart characteristic is the keystone of all the other qualities. It deals with the process of emptying us of our old sinful nature so we can be filled with the power of God’s new nature. The extent to which we become poor in spirit affects how successfully we develop the subsequent traits, and each characteristic build on the previous ones.
The characteristic of being poor in spirit deals with a person’s attitude toward self. The kingdom of this world promotes self-reliance, self-confidence, self-expression, self-exaltation and self-satisfaction. The world emphasizes personality, talent, looks, heritage, intelligence, wealth, power, etc. But the gospel raises up higher standard that focuses on God-reliance, God-confidence, God-expression, God-exaltation and the desire to please God through obedience to His Word, His will and His way. It is a characteristic that is despised by the world.
Being poor in spirit does not mean suppressing one’s true personality, trying to appear humble, making great sacrifices, or fleeing from the difficulties of everyday life. That certainly was not the way of Jesus.
The scriptures define poor in spirit: “The sacrifices of God are not broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). “For this is what the high and lofty One says-he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
The characteristic poor in spirit means:
-We shall not rely on the fact that we belong to a given family.
-We shall not boast that we are certain nationality.
-We shall not brag about our position in life, or any powers that may have been given to us.
-We shall not put confidence in the wealth we may have.
-We shall not flaunt our education.
-We shall not rely primarily on our personality, intelligence or special abilities.
-We shall not point to our morality and good behavior.
-We shall not build upon natural temperament.
To be poor in spirit is to be delivered from all that which promotes self. It is to know that within the flesh we are nothing, we have nothing, and we must look to God in utter dependence upon His grace and mercy. Within the flesh we are empty and hopeless, but He is the all-sufficient one.
How does one become poor in spirit? We do not begin by trying to do things to ourselves like sacrificing the flesh or suffering hardships. These only make us more conscious of ourselves and thus less poor in spirit. No, we must look to God. Our responsibility is to study God’s word to learn what He expects from us, and then to set our face as a flint to live in obedience. As we look at Him we feel out absolute poverty and, like the apostles, we cry out, “Lord increase our faith.”
The development of all these inner characteristics will evolve in us by the power of the Holy Spirit as we grow spiritually. They are characteristics of the Kingdom of God. You will see none of them are apart of our natural make-up.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where will discuss the second spiritual characteristic of “blessed are those who mourn” based on Matthew 5:4.
Jesus gave us the perfect mission statement in scripture when he said “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.” Let’s dig deeper into what it means to be the light.
Jesus then proclaimed that Christians are “the light of the world.” The world is in a state of darkness, even though its people are always talking about their enlightenment. There are many scriptures that confirm this truth. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). “But you are a chosen people…a people belonging to God…who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Only Christians have been brought into the light; the people of the world remain in spiritual darkness.
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Today there are more than 350,000 Christian churches across our land. In fact, you can hear the Gospel preached every hour through every communication means available. Christian men and women from America have also taken the Gospel of Christ throughout the world and raised up numerous ministries to meet the various needs of people.
Even as God obviously had a hand in America’s past, He challenges His church today to be the salt and light in our present troubled society. In Matthew 5:13-14 Jesus makes two of the most penetrating statements about Christians found anywhere in Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.”
Jesus gave us our perfect mission statement in these two short sentences. They require a lot of courage to live out and are quite demanding. Today, we will dive into the first portion of this mission, “You are the salt of the earth.” Our Lord is saying that Christians are the only people in this world who can preserve the good (our function as salt) and have the understanding to help in those areas that matter the most (our function as light). What a challenging and fulfilling adventure Christians are to have in this life on Earth.
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How wonderful it is when a Christian finally realizes Jesus is, in fact, an unseen guest in their earthly home. His presence is far more precious than expensive furniture in the living room or a swimming pool in the backyard. This privilege is not just wishful thinking; it is an absolute truth that is central to the very definition of personal revival.
To understand personal revival, you must fully embrace the concept of living with Jesus as your constant companion. Doing so will make you aware of HIS closeness.
Personal revival can be identified by an ongoing sense of the presence of the Lord. Just as a church experiences the presence of Jesus during revival, so also, do individuals. What I am describing is a heightened awareness of holiness.
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In Luke 17:26-30 Jesus warned us of one of the ways Satan would attack Christians in our time. He said: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man (referring to the time of His return.) People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from Heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”
Jesus makes a profound statement in this prophecy that immediately got my attention. Did you notice it? There is something missing in what He said about the days of Noah and Lot. He doesn’t mention the many gross sins that were taking place in the days of Noah and Lot. Not one thing that He does mention is within itself a sin. Likewise, he does not say anything about the many gross sins taking place in our day. He only lists the everyday normal affairs of life: eating, marrying, buying, selling, planting and building.
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