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.