Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Sunday, October 22, 2017

blessed are the poor in spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit." There is a vast difference between this and being hard up in our circumstances. There is no virtue (and often no disgrace) in financial poverty as such, nor does it, of itself, produce humility of heart, for anyone who has any real acquaintance with both classes soon discovers there is just as much pride in the indigent as there is in the opulent. This poverty of spirit is a fruit that grows on no merely natural tree. It is a spiritual grace wrought by the Holy Spirit in those whom He renews. By nature we are well pleased with ourselves, and mad enough to think that we deserve something good at the hands of God. Let men but conduct themselves decently in a civil way, keeping themselves from grosser sins, and they are rich in spirit, pride filling their hearts, and they are self-righteous. And nothing short of a miracle of grace can change the course of this stream.
Nor is real poverty of spirit to be found among the great majority of the religionists of the day: very much the reverse. How often we see advertised a conference for "promoting the higher life," but who ever heard of one for furthering the lowly life? Many books are telling us how to be "filled with the Spirit," but where can we find one setting forth what it means to be spiritually emptied-emptied of self-confidence, self-importance, and self-righteousness? Alas, if it be true that, "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15), it is equally true that what is of great price in His sight is despised by men-by none more so than by modern Pharisees, who now hold nearly all the positions of prominence in Christendom. Almost all of the so-called "ministry" of this generation feeds pride, instead of starving the flesh; puffs up, rather than abases; and anything which is calculated to search and strip is frowned upon by the pulpit and is unpopular with the pew.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit." And what is poverty of spirit? It is the opposite of that haughty, self-assertive and self-sufficient disposition which the world so much admires and praises. It is the very reverse of that independent and defiant attitude which refuses to bow to God, which determines to brave things out, which says with Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?" To be "poor in spirit" is to realize that I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things. Poverty of spirit is a consciousness of my emptiness, the result of the Spirit's work within. It issues from the painful discovery that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags. It follows the awakening that my best performances are unacceptable, yea, an abomination to the thrice Holy One. Poverty of spirit evidences itself by its bringing the individual into the dust before God, acknowledging his utter helplessness and deservingness of hell. It corresponds to the initial awakening of the prodigal in the far country, when he "began to be in want."
God's great salvation is free, "without money and without price." This is a most merciful provision of Divine grace, for were God to offer salvation for sale no sinner could secure it, seeing that he has nothing with which he could possibly purchase it. But the vast majority are insensible of this, yea, all of us are until the Holy Spirit opens our sin-blinded eyes. It is only those who have passed from death unto life who become conscious of their poverty, take the place of beggars, are glad to receive Divine charity, and begin to seek the true riches. Thus "the poor have the Gospel preached to them" (Matthew 11:5): preached not only to their ears, but to their hearts!
Poverty of spirit may be termed the negative side of faith. It is that realization of my utter worthlessness which precedes the laying hold of Christ, the eating of His flesh and drinking His blood. It is the Spirit emptying the heart of self that Christ may fill it: it is a sense of need and destitution. This first Beatitude, then, is foundational, describing a fundamental trait which is found in every regenerated soul. The one who is poor in spirit is nothing in his own eyes, and feels that his proper place is in the dust before God. He may, through false teaching or worldliness, leave this place, but God knows how to bring him back; and in His faithfulness and love He will do so, for it is the place of blessing for His children. How to cultivate this God-honoring spirit is revealed in Matthew 11:29.
He who is in possession of this poverty of spirit is pronounced "blessed." He is so because he now has a disposition the very opposite of what was his by nature, because he has in himself the first sure evidence that a Divine work of grace has been wrought in his heart, because he is an heir of the "kingdom of heaven"-the kingdom of grace here, the kingdom of glory hereafter. Many are the gracious promises addressed to the poor in spirit. "I am poor and needy: yet the Lord thinketh upon me: Thou art my help and my deliverer" (Ps. 40:17), "The Lord heareth the poor" (Ps. 69:33), "He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy" (Ps. 72:13), "Yet setteth He the poor on high from affliction" (Ps. 107:41), "I will satisfy her poor with bread" (Ps. 132:15), "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word" (Isa. 66:2). Let such favors as these stir us up to pray earnestly for more of this poverty of spirit.
"Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted" (v. 4). Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature: from suffering and sadness our spirits instinctively shrink. It is natural for us to seek the society of the cheerful and joyous. The verse now before us presents an anomaly to the unregenerate, yet is it sweet music to the ears of God's elect: if "blessed" why do they "mourn"? If they mourn, how can they be blessed? Only the child of God has the key to this paradox, for "happy are they who sorrow" is at complete variance with the world's logic. Men have, in all places and in all ages, deemed the prosperous and the gay to be the happy ones, but Christ pronounces blessed those who are poor in spirit and who mourn.
Now it is obvious that it is not every species of mourning which is here referred to. There are thousands of mourners in the world today who do not come within the scope of our text: those mourning over blighted hopes, over financial reverses, over the loss of loved ones. But alas, so far from many of them coming beneath this Divine benediction, they are under God's condemnation; nor is there any promise that such shall ever be Divinely "comforted." There are three kinds of "mourning" referred to in the Scriptures: a natural, such as we have just referred to above; a sinful, which is a disconsolate and inordinate grief, refusing to be comforted, or a hopeless remorse like that of Judas; and a gracious, a "godly sorrow," of which the Holy Spirit is the Author.
The "mourning" of our text is a spiritual one. The previous verse indicates clearly the line of thought here: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Yes, "Blessed are the poor," not the poor in purse, but the poor in heart: those who realize themselves to be spiritual bankrupts in themselves, paupers before God. That felt poverty of spirit is the very opposite of the Laodiceanism which is so rife today, that self-complacency which says, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." In like manner it is spiritual mourning which is in view here. Further proof of this is found in the fact that Christ pronounces these mourners "blessed." They are so because the Spirit of God has wrought a work of grace within them, and hence they have been awakened to see and feel their lost condition. They are "blessed" because God does not leave them at that point: "they shall be comforted."
"Blessed are they that mourn." The first reference is to that initial mourning which ever precedes a genuine conversion, for there must be a real sense of sin before the remedy for it will even be desired. Thousands acknowledge that they are sinners, who have never mourned over the fact. Take the woman of Luke vii, who washed the Saviour's feet with her tears: have you ever shed any over your sins? Take the prodigal in Luke 15: before he left the far country he said, "I will arise and go unto my Father and say unto Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, And am no more worthy to be called Thy son"-where shall we find those today with this sense of their sinnership? Take the publican of Luke 18: why did he "smite upon his breast" and say "God be merciful to me a sinner"? Because he felt the plague of his own heart. So of the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost: they were "pricked in their heart, and cried out."
This "mourning" springs from a sense of sin, from a tender conscience, from a broken heart. It is a godly sorrow over rebellion against God and hostility to His will. In some cases it is grief over the very morality in which the heart has trusted, over the self-righteousness which has caused such complacency. This "mourning" is the agonizing realization that it was my sins which nailed to the Cross the Lord of glory. When Israel shall, by faith, see Christ, "they shall mourn for Him" (Zech. 12:10). It is such tears and groans which prepare the heart to truly welcome and receive the "balm of Gilead," the comfort of the Gospel. It is, then, a mourning over the felt destitution of our spiritual state, and over the iniquities that have separated between us and God. Such mourning always goes side by side with conscious poverty of spirit.
But this "mourning" is by no means to be confined unto the initial experience of conviction and contrition, for observe the tense of the verb: it is not "have mourned," but "mourn"-a present and continuous experience. The Christian himself has much to mourn over. The sins which he now commits-both of omission and commission-are a sense of daily grief to him, or should be, and will be, if his conscience is kept tender. An ever-deepening discovery of the depravity of his nature, the plague of his heart, the sea of corruption within-ever polluting all that he does-deeply exercises him. Consciousness of the surgings of unbelief, the swellings of pride, the coldness of his love, and his paucity of fruit, make him cry, "O wretched man that I am." A humbling recollection of past offences: "Wherefore remember that ye being in time past" (Eph. 2:11).
Yes, "Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves" (Rom. 8:23). Does not the Christian groan under the disciplining rod of the Father: "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous" (Heb. 12:11). And is he not deeply grieved by the awful dishonor which is now done to the Lord Jesus on every hand? The fact is that the closer the Christian lives to God, the more will he mourn over all that dishonors Him: with the Psalmist he will say, "Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law" (Ps. 119:53), and with Jeremiah, "My soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive" (13:17). But blessed be God, it is written, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (Ezek. 9:4). So too there is a sympathetic mourning over the sufferings of others: "Weep with them that weep" (Rom. 12:15).
But let us return to the primary thought of our verse: "Blessed are they that mourn" has immediate reference to the convicted soul sorrowing over his sins. And here it is most important to note that Christ does not pronounce them "blessed" simply because they are mourners, but because they are such. mourners as "shall be comforted." There are not a few in Christendom today who glory in their grief and attempt to find comfort in their own inward wretchedness-as well seek health from our sicknesses. True comfort is not to be found in anything in self-no, not in perceiving our own vileness-but in Christ alone. Distress of soul is by no means always the same thing as evangelical repentance, as is clear from the case of Cain (Gen. 4:13). But where the Spirit produces in the heart a godly sorrow for sin, He does not leave him there, but brings him to look away from sin to the Lamb of God, and then he is "comforted." The Gospel promises no mercy except to those who forsake sin and close with Christ.
"They shall be comforted." This gracious promise receives its fulfillment, first, in that Divine consolation which immediately follows a sound conversion (i.e. one that is preceded by conviction and contrition), namely the removal of that conscious load of guilt which lies as an intolerable burden on the conscience. It finds its accomplishment in the Spirit's application of the Gospel of God's grace to the one whom He has convicted of his dire need of a Saviour. Then it is that Christ speaks the word of power, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28)-observe that His language clearly presupposes the feeling of sin to be a "burden" as that which impels to Him for relief; it is to the sin-sick heart that Christ gives rest. This "comfort" issues in a sense of a free and full forgiveness through the merits of the atoning blood of Christ. This Divine comfort is the peace of God which passeth all understanding, filling the heart of one who is now assured that he is "accepted in the Beloved." First God wounds and then heals.
Second, there is a continual "comforting" of the mourning saint by the Holy Spirit, who is the Comforter. The one who sorrows over his departures from Christ is comforted by the assurance that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). The one who mourns under the chastening rod of God is comforted by the promise, "afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11). The one who grieves over the awful dishonor done to his Lord in the religious world is comforted by the fact that Satan's time is short, and soon Christ will bruise him beneath His feet. Third, the final "comfort" is when we leave this world and are done with sin for ever. Then shall "sorrow and sighing flee away." To the rich man in hell, Abraham said of the one who had begged at his gate, "now he is comforted" (Luke 16:25). The best wine is reserved for the last. The "comfort" of heaven will more than compensate for all the "mourning" of earth.
From all that has been before us learn, first, the folly of looking to the wounds which sin has made in order to find consolation; view rather the purging and healing blood of Christ. Second, see the error of attempting to measure the helpfulness of the books we read or the preaching we hear by the degree of peace and joy they bring to our hearts. Yet how many there are who say, We have quite enough in the world, or in the home, to make us miserable, and we go to church for comfort. But it is to be feared that few of them are in any condition of soul to receive comfort from the Gospel: rather do they need the Law to search and convict them. Ah, the truth is, dear friend, that very often the sermon or the article which is of most benefit is the one which causes us to get alone with God and weep before Him. When we have flirted with the world or indulged the lusts of the flesh the Holy Spirit gives us a rebuke or admonition. Third, mark then the inseparable connection between godly sorrow and godly joy: compare Psalms 30:5; 126:5; Proverbs 14:10; Isaiah 61:3; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; James 2:13.

A.W. Pink

8 comments:

Darrel said...

"It is, then, a mourning over the FELT destitution of our spiritual state."
My, how the chump-change hirelings of our day have taken one of the most precious gifts granted by the Spirit to believers and morphed it into fleshly/demonic nonsense: one's 'felt needs.' The grieving over our own sins can never be understated as to the importance of such grief. Seeing current sins and recalling past sins, which we all do from time to time, should invoke in us a hatred of our flesh and it's ways. The realization that all our sins have "hurt God" should hopefully never wane away into obscurity, but as each is exposed the pain should be renewed, along with the desire to eradicate our old ways from existence. Godly sorrow that produces repentance is one of the most wonderful gifts of the Spirit, one that is to be cherished, even in the midst of the pain it may inflict, for there will be joy in the morning (2 Cor.7:10 & 11). Do you remember the gentleness of the Lord as He showed you your own sins as He pointed to His Son for your cleansing? Of course you do! He is always gentle with His children, even in the most severe of disciplines. Was it not His Goodness that lead us all to salvation in the first place? Absolutely! His Comfort is reserved for His own, not to be known by the world. They may be adept at "faking it", but even that is easily seen by those who walk with God. Thank you, Lord, for the forgiveness of sins.

Sheryl said...

Yes, the "modern Pharisees" of our day who hold "positions of prominence in Christendom" hate poverty of spirit - or of material wealth - with a passion and view it as a curse. Instead, they proclaim "we are little gods" and "speak your reality into existence." Haughty and proud, they stupidly equate themselves with the authority and power of God. They smirk at anyone who makes any humble expression, such as "I'm just a sinner saved by grace." Some of them even claim to be sinless. Such lying audacity! Such disgusting, despicable, repulsive pretenders who defame the name of Christ we have to endure until the completion of this age of grace. "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." This is the description of most of the preachers/teachers/speakers of today. Many names come to mind. God's elect are most often not the prominent voices, although there are some who rebuke and make known the false deceivers and are despised for their work of discernment.

I try to not wander off the path of being poor in spirit and aware of my total dependence on Christ, for I know all too well that He will indeed correct my steps and set me back upon the right pathway. He will surely do it for His beloved! Humility and lowliness before God is the appropriate place for the believer, who realizes his pathetic state without God and that he can do nothing without Him. God is not to be challenged, for He will surely make clear that He is in control and His will shall be accomplished. And that can hurt, but bring forth good fruit.

Thank God He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. It's a very humbling thought to consider that few have been chosen, most will be condemned, and He even passed by Jews and chose us out of a heathen nation to bestow His salvation upon. That's blessed beyond measure for all eternity!

lyn said...

I find it essential to pray for deeper humility; when we wonder from this we tend to get puffed up. Try finding a good teaching today on the necessity of being humble, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

To say you are a sinner saved by grace flies over the heads of most Christians. They do not comprehend such a statement do they? We who are the elect praise Him continually for what He has done.

Susan said...

Amen, thank you Lyn, I agree wholeheartedly. I have been in Facebook groups over the last couple of years, the Lord has been at work humbling me there...one woman ran a tag team with her brother telling everyone you can lose your salvation and that she had become so spiritual she could go many days without sinning!!! There were a few of us who begged to differ, but the more we tried the more assertive of her “truths” she became, and the guy that headed the group seemed to support her rants. I gave it a couple of months and left when I felt I was only stirring a hornet’s nest. I thought perhaps she was a babe in Christ but she confessed that she was an older woman and mature in her many years in Christ.

How can anyone who truly is born of God think they can go days or sometimes weeks without sinning? Jesus pointed out that if we even look with lust or think angrily we sin. I don’t think I can even go 5 minutes, even bringing up this experience has brought sinful thoughts, and a piousness of thought that I am better than they, which of course I am not. But I realized that I couldn’t change her mind, and to present, pray, and then leave was my best option. The whole thing only left me feeling dirtier, and in the end, thankful, that Jesus is so much stronger, and humbler, and more patient with me than I can be with others.

lyn said...

It's good to hear from you sister. Many do not understand the 'two natures' within the apostle Paul spoke of in Romans 7. Some even attribute his words as a 'before salvation' event. We will continue to wrestle against our flesh until we go on to glory. If you haven't already read this, I recommend it as well from A.W. Pink - http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Miscellaneous/romans_7.htm

You were wise to leave the forum, no more casting pearls. Anyone who cleaves to erroneous teachings and refuses correction proves they should not be given any more truth. I love your last line and can only add a huge 'amen' to that!

I pray all is well with you in your 'neck of the woods'. We see things escalating all around us, with deception, error and apostasy now being the rule of thumb. May God give us strength as we head down the stretch and near the 'finish line'.

Susan said...

Amen, Lyn, these are perilous times, and will become much worse before the final end, I believe, many Western Christians are ill equipped to meet the challenges soon to face us. So many are deluding themselves with all kinds of fantasies that go against what Jesus and Paul warned us about. I often feel like I’m trying to scream against a hurricane, a lot of good that does, eh! I have a few family members that are very dear that are atheists ....and or homosexual... Satan has many ways to torment my soul, so Romans 8:28 is my main anchor of solace in Christ. We can encourage each other that nothing is wasted in Christ, that He uses it all for good in the lives of those that are truly His.

lyn said...

Yes, my loved ones, including my children, are of great concern. But, every creature belongs to God to do as He pleases. This isn't always easy to comprehend, but I trust in Him regardless.

The battle is intense isn't it? It is like shouting against the wind, but that only proves God's word to be true. Wickedness will increase, apostasy will abound. And soon, Christ will come! That is the hope we cleave to....

Susan said...

Thanks for the A.W. Pink link, so true!!! I agree many believe Paul’s struggles where he states his battle with his flesh to be “prior to his salvation” and in fact the woman in that Facebook group stated that exactly! The closer we come to His perfect light of glory the more we see our falling short of it and our dire need of Him! Indeed it truly is so!