Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Kingdom of Heaven - A Daily Faith

This post is a part of a larger essay I am working on. It was proceeded by some paragraphs on what "poor in spirit" means and is considering the richness of the promise "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

Here is possibly the grandest promise of all Scriptures. All the moral beauty of the Kingdom of heaven is promised to the poor in Spirit. This promise is our faith.

We believe in the immediate presence of the Kingdom of God to those who put their faith in the person, power and principles of Jesus Christ. We believe that the Kingdom of God is present for those who immediately, today, moment by moment, acknowledge to God their absolute spiritual poverty. We believe that the Messiah Jesus pours out His Holy Spirit into the poor in Spirit that He might do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He makes us and our loved ones beautiful from the inside out. He does this without respect to anything that man respects. He is no respecter of persons. He meets the spiritual hunger of the financially rich and the financially poor and even the middle class. He meets the spiritual need of the respectable and the despised. He calls His own not the black or the white or the brown or the yellow or red, terms which man has invented to their own detriment, but He shares His inheritance with those who realize that one’s nature is filled with all types of uncleanness and vile motives and thoughts. We know and understand that we cannot change our nature. Can a leopard change his spots? So we have chosen a path of hopelessness with respect to our own ability to reform ourselves. We will never change so long as we rely on our own will power or self knowledge.

And then the follower of Jesus hears these words from the Messiah, the Savior of the World. We are like the woman at the well. The problem we find ourselves in morally is not the first time down this road. We are who we are…Then the Messiah says to us, “He who drinks the water that I give shall never thirst and shall have flowing out of them living water, over flowing”. So too we respond, “Where can I find this water?”

This water is the power of the Holy Spirit. Our problem is a total lack of power. We could dream dreams of righteousness. We could make new resolutions. We could even pray for help from God. But we found ourselves walking in circles and in fact we were digging ourselves in a hole. Now we hear this promise and we are willing to give it a try.

Jesus by saying that the Kingdom of heaven is available to the poor in spirit is saying in essence, “OK, I have seen your attempts at self reformation. Now let me show you the work of My Spirit in your life”. Truly, unless the LORD builds the house those who labor labor in vain.

This first principle of the kingdom that the poor in spirit are blessed, that we must have an abiding knowledge of our own spiritual poverty is like a coin with two sides. One side is the principle of powerlessness and the other is the side of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit whom the Messiah gives freely to all who acknowledge their powerlessness.

Mourning and Moral Beauty
In the old Puritan days, it was understood that to see one’s sinfulness clearly was a good sign of spiritual awakening. This honest acknowledgement before God of our wretched history is the blessing of mourning. We see that we are not beautiful on the inside at all. We are filled with lusts for prominence or material possessions. We live possibly a life of personal and private happiness and realize that this is self-serving and selfish. We see the true calling to care for the poor of the world and to serve God. We see that we are not submissive wives or pictures of virtue for our children. In all things in fact, we are hypocrites. I for one speak of generosity and simplicity but I lack faith often to sacrifice my treasures for the needy. We have habits that rob us of true happiness. We know the feeling of shame that follows sin. In fact, we know this feeling all too well. We may know what it is like to be drunk or intoxicated. Other may know what it is like to be drunk with lust or anger. Or what it is like to feel “hung over” after a long argument that started over some petty matter. We were crossed and we were offended. So we defended ourselves and found ourselves unable to control our tongue. We may be manipulative and controlling using all sorts of passive aggressive means from self pity to any matter of ways of withholding our peace. In short, we find that we are not morally beautiful or spiritually beautiful.

So here is the promise. “I will make you morally beautiful.”, says Jesus Christ the Messiah. We are the woman at the well, indeed.

Picture, yourself as a consistently loving and gentle person. Picture what a blessing you could be if your mouth always spoke from the heart encouraging words. Imagine a life without regret and guilt and shame. Jesus Christ can do this for you and for me for He is the one who pours out into us His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of God in our soul. The Holy Spirit is the life of Jesus Christ. We can live like Jesus Christ. Who can live like Jesus Christ? The poor in spirit. The one’s who mourn over their moral depravity and utter moral failures. We who realize our utter hopelessness and have come to an end of all foolish attempts to reform ourselves can have the very Moral Beauty of Jesus Christ displayed through us.

Are you as morally depraved as the prostitute on the street corner? I am worse. Far worse. I am a pastor and, left to myself, in time, I will do worse than her if I would not be found out. What about the gangster executioner with no moral qualms at all. We have other means but do we not harm other in a million ways. If we thought such methods would work to bring ourselves prominence in our social setting, like the young man who shoots an innocent by-stander, we would do the same. Same game; different rules. Same theme; different plot, scene, and actors but still the same heart that motivates us all.

To us, who forsake all attempts to bring this dead man from utter depravity to some semblance of sanity and moral health, to us, who find that the years bring not a progressive growth in righteousness but find that the “old man is being corrupted daily”, to us there is a glorious exchange - our filthy rags for His moral excellence and perfect love.

The Messiah has come and He is all around us pouring out His Holy Spirit on the poor beggars who rend their hearts and cry out, “Woe to me a sinner!!! Only say the word and I shall be healed”. The Holy Spirit!!! The Holy Spirit is within reach. He is immediately present that we might feel the love of God for us and flowing through us to others. A foolish notion. A dream. We who are so weak are going to find that this weakness is a great asset in spiritual matters. It is when we are weak that He is strong.

Picture the immediate presence of God’s love. Picture the most beautiful scene in all creation. Picture Yosemite Valley. This beauty is God’s handiwork. And you too are His workmanship. The power of God which meets our powerlessness is there to help us moment by moment to live the life of Jesus Christ. We follow Him because He feeds us from His hand. We follow Him because we are spiritual beggars. He has the words of eternal life that lead us out of our natural way of thinking. We follow Him because we are so destitute without His power, a power that He gives one day at a time like the manna in the wilderness. We follow Him because we know that if we do not we could so easily find ourselves in a shameful circumstance. Truly our weakness is one of our greatest gifts. Now, we have found a solution that meets our spiritual need. We have found the kingdom of heaven. We have found a power from the Holy Spirit, the life of Christ Himself. We find this power as we come to accept our own powerlessness.

To God be the Glory, Amen.

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