As we jump into the Beatitudes let us remember we are looking for life, not laws. These Beatitudes are descriptions, not prescriptions. Descriptions of what life in the Kingdom looks like, not prescriptions for how to try to act to be blessed.
Jesus starts his descriptions with a startling statement:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,”
Allow me to rephrase so you may gain the full thrust of Jesus’ statement:
“You enter the Kingdom now, immediately, when you realize your abject spirit poverty apart from Jesus – and therefore cry out to him to save your wretched self.”
On my own, left to my own devices, in my own power, I am not okay. I am a wretch. I am not a five-star recruit. It wasn’t a great day for God when he got me on his team. I was not a great hire. I bring nothing to the table. I am a rebel, and I must lay down my arms.1
This is why John Newton wrote these famous words,
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a … wretch … like me.”
Not: “ … that saved a kinda good – kinda bad person like me.”
Now, so that you understand, none of this means I walk around trying to act poor in spirit: wimpy, mealy-mouthed, beat up and defeated. Instead, I am now walking around in the Kingdom in utter amazement, thrilled at the amazing grace lavished on a blind sinner like me.
I know a common misperception is that only those who are in the gutter of life need to desperately cry out to be saved. And yes, there are certainly many jail cell and in the gutter conversions. But such is not a requirement nor a prerequisite, and quite frankly not even true for a majority of the men we have seen born again over these seventeen years of 721 Ministries.
To be sure, these men realized they were in the gutter spiritually, and they realized with sudden clarity they were on the fast track to Hell. But often these men were doing really well financially, their jobs were clicking along just fine, and to the outside world they appeared successful.
But they were not just fine. And neither are you. Not if you do not have an intimate, personal – not church – bond with Jesus. One successful man put it this way:
“I thought I was doing fine, going to church, an elder, and helping out in the community. But then I was exposed. Exposed for the religious fraud I was.”
Another highly successful man said this about his in the gutter experience:
“My business was booming. I had just married a great girl – way out of my league – and everyone was healthy. I could not understand why these men were bothering me about Jesus. I had been a Christian all my life and was doing fine.
“Then one day I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous hole in my heart. At the same moment I felt the absolute crush of my sinful condition, and yet the absolute relief of Jesus’ grace and his salvation.”
This, my friend, is the only way into the Kingdom. You do not ‘receive’ Jesus. You do not ‘make a commitment’ to him, or ‘make a decision’ for him. No. Faced with your full recognition of your spiritual poverty apart from him, you fall on your face, literally or figuratively, and cry out, “Jesus help me! I am a wretch, and I cannot fix, nor can I help myself.”
“Click.” The narrow gate just opened.
Next week: A large and in charge, but poor in spirit Roman Centurion