Thus far we have seen that the quality of life which the church in general presents to the world is not exactly heavenly. Our salt is less than salty. Therefore, the church in the west, generally speaking, is really good for nothing but to be the world’s punching bag.
I contend that it is not supposed to be this way but that the Gospel promises a quality of life that is stunningly morally beautiful.
If this is true which it is, then why does the church in general and very very few in particular lack this stunningly morally beautiful life. The answer is simple. No one has taught most of us how to get this quality of life. Most churches lack a discipleship process that is tried, tested and true.
The need for a discipleship process that is tried tested and true is self evident to anyone who has attended a variety of churches in North America. Certainly there are exception but they are few and far between. Would you describe the quality of life which your church community displays to the community around you stunningly morally beautiful? How about your personal life? Do we possess a truly happy and heavenly quality of life?
These facts beg the question, why. The answer is simple. We lack a method or a process that if followed and worked with rigorous honesty and sincerity will deliver the intended outcomes of the gospel.
In these posts, I have attempted to convince the reader that we must accept that in order to attain this stunningly morally beautiful life, to attain true happiness and a heavenly quality of life that bears witness to the reality of the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom, we must learn how to practice the discipleship principles that Jesus taught us. We must embrace method and the need for method.
So, without further ado, let’s get with the program:
1. Poverty of Spirit: Any spiritual progress begins with an abiding confession and awareness of our spiritual poverty. The disciple of Jesus must learn an abiding confession and awareness of his or her spiritual poverty if they are to be a witness to the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
When Jesus begins his discipleship program to equip His disciples for ministry, He opens by saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
Being poor in spirit is the “double back flip” of Christian discipleship. There are certain skills that every gymnastics routine must have. One of these basic skills for the Olympic gymnast is the double back flip. It is like triple jumps in figure skating. There are certain basic skills that are requirements in a figure skating routine at the Olympic level. So too, practicing poverty of spirit must be basic to the daily routine of the life of the follower of Jesus.
What is Poverty of Spirit?
When I ask most people what is poverty of spirit, they answer humility. But poverty of spirit is humility. Poverty of spirit is a very specific attitude that we have before God. Poverty of spirit is the abiding awareness that spiritually speaking we are poor. As human beings, we are made in such a way that we do not have the spiritual resources in ourselves to attain holiness. No matter how much will power we muster, no matter how much self knowledge we gain, we remain powerless to change our fundamental spiritual qualities. We cannot no matter how hard we try remove our defects of character. We are powerless. We are, even as Christians, powerless in ourselves. We lack the resources to have a stunningly morally beautiful life. We are sick. We have a disease of fear and self unless Christ daily by His power and presence gives us a daily reprieve.
Jesus said to the Christian, to His disciples, “Abide in Me and let My words abide in you, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Jesus was speaking of the need to remain daily dependent on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was teaching the disciples of their need to practice His teachings every day and maintain an abiding awareness and confession of their spiritual poverty if they are to bear fruit that brings glory to God. Fruit is the external evidence of the inward reality of Christ power in our lives. We are utterly powerless to bear fruit that reveals moral attributes that the natural man simply does not possess. Only through a rigorous spiritual program and the power of the Holy Spirit can we display the character of God. This abiding awareness is what it means to be “poor in spirit”.
So how do we practice being poor in spirit in our daily lives?
God has made us in such a way that we live a daily cycle. This cycle repeats itself 365 times a year. Therefore, we have many opportunities to develop spiritual disciples if we develop certain daily habits. One daily habit I am working on is “the first though of the day”. I desire my first though of the day to be a confession of the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. So when I wake I begin the day by saying, “Lord, I am sick but Your Gospel promises me that You can make me well”. My sickness is the propensity to defend self, to boast of self, to fear the injury of myself. This self-centeredness and selfishness is our natural tendency as human beings. It is this human nature that is at the root of all our problems, and through the Gospel we have daily deliverance from our self obsessive lives if we learn how to ask and how to exercise a few simple principles.
Another way to learn and practice poverty of spirit is in our morning devotions. The gospel is the message of what God has provided for the spiritual beggars of the world. Practicing thanksgiving for the gospel and awareness of our need for forgiveness and power is a practice of being poor in spirit. Worship that proclaims to the heavens and to our soul the greatness of God’s moral excellencies is a practice that orients our hearts before God as the creation before the creator. Such worship is a practice of being poor in spirit.
What about during the day?
Being poor in spirit is also essential to living the kingdom in our daily lives. Our world is full of sick people. We are all sick. I am sick. It is only a daily awareness of the Gospel and the exercise of simple spiritual principles that keeps us sane and sober minded. Those who do not know the gospel nor exercise spiritual principles are still living in the insanity of the world. This insanity is the tangled web of politicking and manipulations that people do to protect self and accomplish their agenda. Of course this insanity never gets us what we want but most of us do not know any other way of life. When I am aware that this sickness is the way the world works, I find myself being very compassionate. I do not judge someone for being sick. They are poor and they have inherited their poverty from their forefathers just like I inherited mine.
Our Father looked down from heaven and saw a world in desperate need. He sees the sickness of the world. Our sickness is deep in our psyche. Our sickness is a sickness of soul. Knowing our disease helps us take our medicine. When I am aware that I have this intense tendency to promote self, helps me to remain quite. I know that most of what I say is careless and is an attempt to garner respect or admiration. Men seek honor from men. This is our sickness. This abiding awareness and confession is a worldview that if we allow it to permeate our soul will lay a foundation for a life of dependence on God. Such an awareness leads to practicing God’s presence and waiting on Him. We are aware that our own will is somehow driven from fear and selfishness. So we find a greater peace in ceasing to participate in the ego games of our fellows. We begin to see another way of life based not on pride and self but on compassion and peace.
So being poor in spirit becomes for us the triple toe-loop of our spiritual walk. Being poor in spirit is central to our daily routine and the foundation of all our spiritual program. From this abiding confession or our spiritual poverty, we find that we are far more helpful in showing other harassed and helpless members of humanity where they too can find rest for their weary souls.