Studies In

The Sermon on the Mount


THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT -- LESSON ONE

        "Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit"

                   Matthew 5:3

INTRODUCTION  

I.   The greatest sermon ever delivered, by the
     greatest preacher who ever lived, began with the
     words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit...."

II.  The multitude Jesus saw on that mount in Galilee
     in the first century was not likely much different
     from any multitude he might face today.
     (Matthew 4:25; 5:1,2).

     A.   An inner circle of disciples, the casual curious,
          and the critics.  A general cross section of
          mankind:  Successes, failures, literate,
          illiterate, the disappointed, sorrowful and
          others.

     B.   All alike were seeking the same thing: 
          Happiness or contentment.

     C.   He was moved with compassion and spoke with
          authority, for he was the greatest authority
          who ever spoke on the human predicament.
          (7:28,29; 8:1).

     D.   He is still the greatest authority on human
          happiness and he would still speak the same
          true words with the same compassion and
          authority.

III.  POVERTY OF SPIRIT IS THE FIRST KEY TO
      THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, AND ALSO A
      KEY STONE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF
      CHRISTIAN CHARACTER AND JOY (Matthew
      20:25-38).

DISCUSSION  

I.   WHO ARE THE TRULY BLESSED PEOPLE?

     A.   Happiness is not born of outward
          circumstances or conditions (Luke 12:15).

     B.   Neither is it a result of what one fails to have.

     C.   Blessedness depends primarily upon what we
          are.

          1.   Not the house, but the man who lives
               within it.

          2.   Not the garments, but the woman who
               wears them.

          3.   Not the car, but the person who drives it.

     D.   Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."

          1.   You may say, "Perhaps he is right; but I
               cannot work up much enthusiasm for it!"

          2.   But you are surely half convinced: 
               "Wretched are the proud in spirit!"
               (Revelation 3:16-18).

          3.   Perhaps our dullness of interest is because
               we do not understand Jesus.

II.  POVERTY OF SPIRIT IS A QUALITY
     POSSESSED BY ALL TRULY
     HONORABLE PERSONS, FOR IT IS A
     QUALITY WHICH PRECEDES HONOR 
     (Proverbs 18:12; Matthew 23:11,12).

     A.   It is "the state of being humble in spirit;
          freedom from pride and arrogance."

          1.   It is to be "lowly, unassuming,
               unpretentious."

          2.   Its synonyms are "lowliness, meekness."

          3.   The opposite of "pride, arrogance, conceit,
               vanity."

     B.   One who is full of himself and self-sufficient
          cannot be called poor in spirit.

          1.   Augustine and others have named pride as
               the greatest of all sins. Why?

          2.   Is pride the devil's greatest device (2 Cor.
               2:11)?

          3.   Pride destroys the right relationship
               between God and man (Psalm 10:4;
               Romans 1:21,28; etc.).

III.  GOD'S VIEW OF HUMILITY IS VASTLY
      DIFFERENT FROM MAN'S.

     A.   What he requires of his children includes
          humility; Isaiah 55:8,9; 57:15; 62:1; Micah 6:8;
          Matthew 23:23,24.

     B.   He desires that we think soberly and honestly
          of ourselves:  Enough, but not too much
          (Romans 12:3; etc.).  Jesus revealed the worth
          of the individual (Matt. 16:26), and each child
          of God should have a wholesome self-respect: 
          Not self-contempt.

     C.   Christian humility is not a cowering, crawling,
          fawning, toadying, grasshopper attitude of
          faithless base humility toward men (Numbers
          13:33).  Humility must flavor our character but
          not dominate it:  Christian humility is to be
          childlike and teachable:  To know and feel
          our own unworthiness, insufficiency, deep
          needs; and to be willing to learn and lean upon
          a higher, wise and divine power.  (Philippians
          3:12-15).

IV.  EXAMPLES OF HUMILITY CAN HELP US
     UNDERSTAND ITS MEANING.

     A.   Moses, who carried the reproach of Christ
          (Exodus 3:11; 4:10; Numbers 12:3).

     B.   The ten spies came back with a sense of
          littleness (Numbers 13), but were merely
          faithless and poor-spirited, not poor in
          spirit.

     C.   The one talent man was trusted by his master,
          but was full of pride and cowardice (Matthew
          25:24).

     D.   The older brother was a case of "abundant
          spirit" (Luke 15).

     E.   The publican who prayed, not the Pharisee,
          was poor in spirit (Luke 18).

     F.   George Washington helped soldiers move heavy
          timber (Minister's Monthly, 8/66).

     G.   Jesus Christ carried the sins of the world
          (Matthew 11:29).

          1.   In His life humility was a
               wonderful/powerful key (2 Corinthians 8:9).

               a.   "Son of Man hath not where to lay his
                    head" (Luke 9:58).
               b.   "I can of myself do nothing" (John 5:30;
                    Phil. 4:13).
               c.   "I have given you an example...A servant
                    is not greater than his lord"  (John 13:3-17).

          2.   In His teaching: "Friend, Go up higher"
               (Luke 14:7-11).

          3.   In His death:  His greatest humiliation,
               and the supreme example of all (Philippians
               2:5-11).

IV.  ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE POVERTY OF SPIRIT 
	THAT ENRICHES US.

     A.   To know one is poor:  Be conscious one is
          needy, insufficient, limited, without spiritual
          power and strength (Jeremiah 10:23; 1 Peter
          5:6,7; "I Need Thee Every Hour;" etc.).

          1.   See room for improvement and recognize
               human need of God's help: Awareness of
               human frailty.

          2.   To be childlike, teachable, willing to learn
               (Matthew 18:3,4).

          3.   The Bible says pride blinds, deceives, defiles,
               keeps many from becoming God's children,
               condemns, and generates havoc and chaos,
               not harmony or unity.

     B.   To be attentive to God's voice,
          submissive to his authority,
          responsive/obedient to his will, in
          conversion, salvation, in worship and in life
          (1 Peter 5:6,7).

          1.   Our wills must be obedient to the will of
               God (Matthew 7:21).

          2.   When Ben Franklin signed the Declaration
               of Independence he said, "We pledge our
               lives, fortune and sacred honor."

          3.   When we become God's children, we must
               pledge even more, our all, to Christ, God's
               Son. (2 Corinthians 5:15).

     C.   To be "a living sacrifice:"  A willingness to
          live and serve according to God's
          purpose and will (Romans 8:28, 12:1,2).

          1.   This requires a willingness to be
               inconvenienced, and to place God's will
               above self-interest as the primary
               motive for action (Philippians 2:3-5).

          2.   Willing to carry the burdens of others
               (Galatians 6:2; Luke 14:11).

          3.   Willingness to take second, third, or tenth
               place, because God's will has been placed
               above self-interest (Matthew 26:39).

V.   THE BLESSEDNESS OF SUCH POVERTY
     OF SPIRIT.

     A.   Jesus said it is the key to happiness (Matthew
          5:3).

          1.   Do you say, "I cannot get excited or
               enthusiastic about it"?

          2.   What are the reasons why it is the first
               key to blessedness?

     B.   It unlocks the door to salvation from sin
          (Matthew 18:3,4).

          1.   It makes hearing and obedience possible
               (Philippians 2:5-8).

          2.   It precedes repentance: Must no longer
               trust self above God and his word (2
               Chronicles 7:14).

          3.   It leads to justification (Psalm 149:4; Luke
               18:9-14).  One full of himself, who is self-sufficient
               and self-satisfied, is not and can
               never be full of Christ (faith).

          4.   God dwells with the contrite and humble
               (Isaiah 57:15; 66:2).

     C.   Poverty of spirit is essential for effective
          prayer:  It can improve the believer's life if an
          act of surrender to God's will, and it is a
          necessary condition of acceptable and powerful
          prayer (Proverbs 28:9; Luke 18:9-14; 1 John
          5:14,15).

     D.   It is essential to produce/maintain unity
          (Phil.1:27; 2:1-4).

          1.   "Each counting other better than himself"
               (2:3; Romans 12:16).

          2.   Lowliness and meekness produce harmony
               and peace (Ephesians 4:1-3)

          3.   It is therefore a bulwark against discord and
               division.

     E.   It enables one to render his greatest and most
          godly, righteous, joyful and rewarding service
          (Matthew 18:4; John 13:17).

          1.   VIP's James and John sought pride of place
               (Matthew 20:21-28).

          2.   There are many barriers to Christian
               service, but poverty of spirit helps us to
               overcome those barriers and fit us for
               effective service in God's kingdom (2
               Timothy 2:24-26).

          3.   The largeness of our ability to serve depends
               upon the spirit that fills and rules our
               hearts: i.e., pride vs. true humility
               (Galatians 6:1,2).

     F.   It is the grace which enables us to be finally
          exalted (Psalm 138:6).

          1.   We thereby avoid God's displeasure and
               receive his rich divine grace: "God resisteth
               the proud, but giveth grace to the humble"
               (James 4:6, 10).

          2.   Humility precedes honor, exaltation and
               makes possible the most glorious hope:
               Resurrection to eternal life with God, Christ
               and the angels in heaven  (Philippians 2:9-11;
               Luke 14:11; 18:14).

CONCLUSION  

I.   We may never reach perfection on earth in
     humility, or the other Christian graces.  But an
     extremely important question is, Are we striving
     toward it with "all diligence" (2 Peter 1:5-9)?  Are
     we truly going that direction and growing
     wholeheartedly?

II.  To the proud, haughty, self-sufficient, the first
     beatitude may mean little or nothing.  But to a
     meek, lowly believer, going the second mile and
     turning the other cheek are important duties and
     wise responses to evil during crucial tests:  "Why
     not rather take wrong?  Why not rather be
     defrauded" I Cor. 6:7)?  Does this seem out of step
     with your mental outlook and manner of life?  Do
     you prefer to defraud or be defrauded?

III. If we are "wise and understanding," we will
     remember that only the poor in spirit enter God's
     kingdom, are fitted to serve in his kingdom, and
     qualified to remain in his kingdom where we are
     guarded and kept by faith so as to be welcomed
     into "the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour
     Jesus Christ" (James 3:13; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2 Peter
     1:5-11).
                                 - - Charles E. Crouch
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