INTRODUCTION – In a day when there is so much disillusionment about the corruption and selfishness and even narcissim among so many of our leaders in whatever sector of society – – and in a day where many of the younger generation are as selfish and self consumed and addicted to media in all forms as they have ever been – – there is no more healing and healthy and productive thing we can all do than focus our thoughts and efforts and prayers on the kingdom of God in the now!
Jesus Christ said that for those who truly see and begin to experience the kingdom of God in this life – it becomes to them like a precious treasure or costly pearl – – so precious that they will sacrifice anything to obtain or to experience it.
While the kingdom of God is not clearly defined in scripture, it is clearly described and chronicled – both in the life and ministry of Christ, and in the early church. Besides knowing from Matthew 13 that it is of great worth, and that it has the ability to totally consume a man or a woman (in a good way) “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” 13:44 – – we also know from Romans 14:17 that the kingdom of God – – or the present rule and reign and domain of Christ on the earth is characterized by righteousness, peace and joy. “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”
Wherever any individual or family or group of people embrace Christ’s present rule and reign and will in their personal lives and/or in their family or business or civic club or school or congregation – – they are going to discover and experience how to walk in right relationship with God; how to rightly relate to all people around them; and they are going to experience the peace and joy of Christ that results from living righteously – – a state of heart and mind that sharply sets us apart from all the people around us, and thus allows the fragrance of Christ to flow through us.
Back to the kingdom of God – – We know from I Corinthians 4:20, that wherever Christ is allowed to reign and rule – – there will be a ready supply of power for any and every challenge we ever face – “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.”
We know from Hebrews 12:28 , which states, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;” we know that this kingdom will never be shaken, even when everything around us seems to be unraveling at the seams.
We know from the gospels that whenever the kingdom manifested in that day – there was power to heal the sick and cast out demons, and this carried on into the life of the church in the first century. Jesus put it this way: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12:28
Jesus clearly wants His disciples to experience the fullness of His kingdom, which explains why He so abruptly halted His exploding ministry – pretty soon after it began to take off – and climbed up on a mountain to have a long teaching session with His disciples (typically called the sermon on the mount) – wherein He began to divulge some of the secrets of this great kingdom. We find that sermon starting in Matthew ch. 5. And while you are turning there, the question I want us to grapple with this morning is: How can you and I experience more of this wonderful kingdom? Or to put it more negatively, Why don’t we experience more of this wonderful kingdom?
The answer positively is: By walking in a lifestyle of true poverty of spirit and brokenness; The answer negatively is: Because we all walk in a level of pride and self righteousness and self will that we either are unaware of or are choosing to ignore, and just aren’t yet willing to walk away from. Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This by the way is the only time in scripture this phrase “poor in spirit” is found. And because Jesus included “in spirit” we know this necessary characteristic has nothing to do with economic poverty.
Jesus Christ started His sermon with this characteristic because it is absolutely foundational. First mention in a list of things in scripture is often first for a very important reason. In the case of seeing and entering and experiencing the kingdom of God – Everything else is built on this quality. Everything else rises or falls on whether this all important characteristic of poverty of spirit or brokenness is cultivated.
So let’s make sure we first understand the term or concept; and then we will explore how to pursue or incorporate this all important characteristic into our lives. “poor” in this verse is translated from the greek word ptochos, which literally means “to crouch or cower as one helpless.” It signifies the beggar, the pauper, one in abject poverty, totally dependent on others for help, and destitute of even the necessities of life. Most occurrences of the English word poor in the N.T. are translated from this greek word, and often it is the context that determines how it should be understood – that is – whether it refers to being poor in spirit; or whether it is referring to being poor financially and materially. I want to make clear that a wealthy man or woman can “crouch or cower as one helpless”. To be poor in spirit has nothing to do with how much money you have or do not have. It has everything to do with how you view your sense of need and what you do about it – once you realize how needy you are.
The poverty of spirit that Jesus says opens up to us the fullness of His kingdom in this life is the realization that we are nothing; and Christ is everything. It is that state of mind that agrees with the apostle Paul that I am truly the greatest of sinners – in great need of a Savior – all the time. It is a condition of heart and mind that is convinced “in my flesh dwells no good thing” but if I depend on Christ – I have everything I need, and can do anything He calls me to do.
Some like to refer to this characteristic or inner condition of the soul as brokenness, often referring to King David’s statement in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” And often the example of a wild horse that has to be broken of its wildness and self will, and brought into an obedient and trusting relationship with its master is used to illustrate this concept. Though in the Old testament we must be careful with this term. It must be distinguished from the brokenness that Proverbs sometimes talks about such as in Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” The Hebrew word translated broken in this verse is a totally different word than the one translated broken in Psalm 51. There is nothing good about this kind of brokenness in Proverbs that is a result of sin and rebellion, and that unfortunately is characteristic of so many families and relationships in our society today.
Many of the promises of God’s blessing and moving and working in a person’s life in the Old Testament are in response to this heart condition that God has always been on the hunt for in His people: One of my favorite promises in this regard is in Isaiah 66:2, “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
Jesus’s strong desire for you and I is to experience and walk in the full blessing and experience of His kingdom rule and reign in every aspect of our lives. As can be seen in His statement to His disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
The door that we must walk through to apprehend all the blessings of His kingdom is the heart condition and lifestyle of poverty of spirit or brokenness or humility. The only problem with that is – it may be one of the rarest characteristics among we humans today – especially in the proud, independent, self sufficient west – – where the church sadly has learned how to do church and how to live the Christian life – – in many respects without any real need or regard for the Head of the Church or the Christ of Christianity.
A growing number of Christian leaders that I respect are concurring that the church in the West today is much like the church in Laodicea, whom Jesus said is busy doing “deeds” but thinks like this, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” (Rev. 3:17) Jesus goes on to say in that verse that the way we should be thinking about ourselves is that we are “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” In other words in and of ourselves – we are terribly needy, and when it comes to what’s necessary to enter and operate in the kingdom of God – – we are woefully inept, inadequate, and empty handed. He doesn’t mean by this – that we are to walk around depressed and feeling terrible about ourselves, because elsewhere He has communicated His kingdom is characterized by joy and peace. But He does mean that are to never think of ourselves as having anything good in and of ourselves that doesn’t come from Christ. But it is not enough to just feel that way about ourselves. The test of whether we know and believe that – is whether we are daily throughout the day aggressively seeking and depending on Him to do in and through us what only He can do. That’s what He is after when in the next verse He exhorts us to get three things from Him to remedy this problem. He goes on to say first, “I advise you to buy from Me …….” Who better to get this heart condition from than the One who commanded His disciples, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28,29 Jesus is the ultimate model and example for walking in brokenness except that he never entertained sin. In other words – – He wasn’t broken because He had sinned. He was broken because He chose to live as a man without the right to draw upon His godly attributes – – and therefore – to glorify God in His life and to do His will – He had to walk in absolute dependence upon the Father for everything; and He modeled for us what an absolute lack of self will looks like, when He spoke of how He did nothing on His own initiative, but only what he saw the Father doing or heard Him saying.
So first we are to come to Him as the source for everything we need. Then we are to specifically seek Him for three things according to this letter from Jesus to the Laodicean church. The first one is “gold refined by fire”
So what is this gold Jesus says we are to get from Him? Well unlike natural gold, we are to ask Him for and look to Him for that wonderful Christ like attitude and mindset that helps us submit to and embrace the afflictions, trials and suffering – or breaking – He brings our way, which is the primary pathway to true brokenness and poverty of spirit. Gold refined by fire is that supernatural ability to allow God to do whatever He has to do with us to make us more like Jesus, and to come out of the experience more like Christ than ever.
For example – – for you young people still living at home – – let’s say you have a parent or perhaps both parents for a season just do not understand you and in your opinion they are too quick to judge your motives and intentions. Sometimes you go to bed at night just feeling like no one understands you. They even punish or discipline you for things that you know you are not guilty of.
Now this may not be happening and may have never happened to any of you. But let’s just pretend like it is happening right now. So you have a choice. You can either belly ache and complain and grumble and feel sorry for yourself and wish you could run away or get a new set of parents; and minimally communicate when you come to the breakfast table; and complain to your friends; and not give your parents eye contact; and not show any interest in their lives; and just live on facebook OR
You can stop and recognize – – this couldn’t happen unless God allowed it; and He could stop it any time. even though you have prayed for them to understand you, so far they still do not. So God must have some purpose for this continuing. So you multiple times a day ask God to help you see what He is wanting to do through this seeming injustice. And because you know He has called you to honor and respect your parents, you ask Him for help and strength to do that from the heart; which means – you choose to converse with them at dinner time – not only answering their questions in full (instead of “yeah”; “don’t know”, “maybe”); but asking them how their day went; and you refuse to sit around feeling sorry for yourself and venting for all the world to see on facebook because you’ve gone to Jesus, you know He is good, you know He knows, and you know His way is best.
Shed any tears over difficulties of late with a family member, a boss, a coach? Confused over why you continue to face them?
Encouragement this week from Watchman Nee and “The Release of the Spirit”
“May God give us enlightenment to see what is from His hand….we must recognize whose hand is dealing with us. It is not a human hand. Nor is it our family’s hand. It’s not the brothers and sisters’ hand in the church. But it is God’s very own hand that is dealing with us. We need to learn how to kneel down, kiss the hand, and love the hand that deals with us, even as Madame Guyon did. We must have this kind of light to see whatever exists in our difficult circumstances, we accept and believe that it is God’s hand. The Lord can never do any wrong.”
The next step in this exhortation from Jesus is: to ask Him for “white garments”. This is His righteousness – His life – what some call the exchanged life. His sufficiency for everything that I lack. Now I’ve heard many bible teachers say – we don’t need to ask for this – – we already have it in Christ. But Jesus in this passage is basically saying, “Even though positionally you have My righteousness, as you go through life and see where you come up short – – which will often be revealed through the difficulties and trials I bring your way – -I want you to immediately come to me in prayer to figure out how to walk out what you have positionally.” So let’s say you are married. And you were wise and you received good solid pre-marital counseling from the scriptures. And besides that – you know the scriptures pretty well – – and you know from II Peter 1:3 that His divine power has granted to you everything you need pertaining to life and godliness”. But in the every day trenches of life you find it very difficult to humble yourself and admit you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. Or maybe you have a tendency to treat your spouse a little roughly and not treat them with respect and honor. Jesus expects you to seek Him in prayer and in His word and perhaps by getting godly counsel on how you can overcome these things and be more like Christ in the way you treat your spouse, and how your self will can be broken so the will and way of the Lord can be embraced and experienced in your marriage.
The third thing we are to ask Jesus for on a daily basis is: “eye salve”. While it is true that in Christ – I have everything I need for life and godliness, experiencing and walking in that is not automatic. Many Christians walk through life not seeing what they need to see. We are born again, we are going to heaven, but we see life and the world much like the world does. For us to experience the blessings of the kingdom of God, we have to humbly and daily ask Him to open our eyes – – to give us spiritual eyes – – so that we see Him as He is and we see ourselves as we are. David was a great example of this as seen in Psalm 119:18, when he prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” He knew unless God did that, he would not see what He needed to see; and he saw the role of the word of God in this whole process.
Listen friends – – please know that it is not enough to admit that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I’ve known Christians that will readily admit this, but they do nothing about it. That is what Jesus calls lukewarmness – referring back to vs. 16. The hotness or poverty of spirit that Jesus is looking for goes way beyond admitting this condition – to aggressively depending upon Him moment by moment to overcome it. Only then will you and I experience the joy and peace and power and blessing of living and walking in His kingdom rule.