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Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

David Shin

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Join us as Pastor David begins a new 8 part series from the greatest sermon ever preached - the sermon on the mount. 

 

Matthew 5:1-3

Presenter

David Shin

Pastor, Hillside O'Malley Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Anchorage, AK

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Recorded

  • August 13, 2016
    11:30 AM
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Father in heaven, we thank you for the Sabbath, for blessing us with Your presence. We pray that You would inspire us with a new vision of JESUS and of the Gospel. We pray that the HOLY SPIRIT would come, enlighten our minds, speak to our hearts, may JESUS be uplifted and CHRIST be seen. We ask these things in JESUS' name, amen.

 

Today, we begin an 8-part series of messages on the Beatitudes. And I want to invite you to open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5. The Beatitudes are 9 “Blesseds” at the beginning of the greatest sermon ever preached in history, by JESUS. I wish I was there, don't you? The people are following JESUS up to a mountain. Dr. Richard Davidson, professor of Old Testament at the seminary, says that he believes that he has found the place of the Sermon on the Mount. And he says, it's acoustically natural where the voice projects just an amazing thing, that if anything indeed has found that spot. JESUS is, at the beginning of HIS ministry, people believe that HE's the MESSIAH to come to deliver them from the Romans and HE comes to this place and sits down. The disciples are in the inner circle next to HIM, beyond them are the multitudes. And you can just picture this scene as JESUS opens HIS mouth and starts this all too familiar passage we know as the Beatitudes. I want to read through the Beatitudes, make a few observations and hone in on today's topic - The First Blessed.

 

Verses 1 through 11 – “And seeing the multitude HE went up on the mountain and when HE was seated, HIS disciples came to HIM. Then He opened HIS mouth and taught them saying, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”

 

 The Sermon on the Mount continues all the way till chapter 7 and after this the multitude are astounded. They're stunned because they have never heard a man speak like this before.

 

Just a few observations --- When you study the Bible, it's important to just step back and make a few observations. One of the observations, when you look at this collection of Blesseds are there are 9 blessed. It's in rapid succession. Scholars believe that there are actually 8 beatitudes, not 9, because the 8th blessed and the 9th blessed are actually on the same theme. It's an expansion of the 8th beatitude. Jesus spends the majority, or the most time, I should say, on the 8th beatitude.

 

It is a progression describing how we can become a citizen of heaven. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, the first beatitude, and the last beatitude, number 8, blessed are the persecuted for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They are the same promise. Do you see that? Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the persecuted for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Meaning, it doesn't matter where you are on the ladder of the Christian experience; whether you are beginning the Christian experience or whether you are growing in grace and at the later reaches of the Christian experience, the promise is the same. Amen. You are saved regardless of whether you've been a Christian for years or whether you're just beginning.

 

Another interesting observation about these beatitudes is the tense of the verbs. The first and the last beatitude -Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven is in the present tense. The other beatitudes in between are in a different tense. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. That is a future tense. The first beatitude is a present tense - Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The other ones are a future reality, indicative of the notion that it doesn't matter or I should say that the Christian experience is a present reality of grace in our lives; but the future fulfillment is yet to come. We are to experience the kingdom of grace now but the full future of fulfillment is also a reality. JESUS gives these blesseds indicating how we are to become a citizen of GOD’s kingdom.

 

Our focus this morning is blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Now this beatitude is quite unique because JESUS uses an economic term, the description of being poor, to describe a certain condition that is a state of blessedness.

 

When I was in high school, I sold books as part of my work-study program at the boarding academy I was in. For 2 years of my high school experience, 20 hours every week, 5 days a week, 4 hours a day, I would knock on doors. I would go to school in the morning and then pile into a 15-passenger van and we would be dropped off in the middle of nowhere in rural Arkansas. Anyone here ever been to Arkansas? I remember some of those streets. The canvassing leader would drop me off and say, “Hey just walk, just walk” and I'd be like, “Where? This is in the middle of nowhere.” Go up these winding driveways out in the middle of nowhere. In the summers, I would work 10 weeks in a different location, many times near a large city. And this particular summer, I was in New Jersey, quite different than the South. And in canvassing terms, there are different territories that we call them. Oh, we call them the senior citizen territory. It's this neighborhood that's a little bit older and it's a retirement community. Then we have what we call sweet territory and this is territory where there are a lot of children and a new development that has not yet been entrenched. They have not met a lot of people that are going door to door. And I would notice something as I would go to the economically poorer neighborhoods. Knock on the door. And many times, the majority of the time, the people in the economically poor neighborhoods, they would want whatever it is I was selling. I would have these books and I would come to the door and they would open the door and say, “hey, how are you doing,” welcome me, and many times, have me come into their home. They would want to see everything that I had. I would get excited especially early on when I was selling books. I would bring out all of the material, go through my whole impassioned canvassing spiel, and say, “These are the books and you can get them,” and then I would get to the price and I would see their face drop. They wanted the books; the problem was they didn't have the money. And then my canvassing leader, later on in the day, would drop me off in another neighborhood that was quite different. It was many times a gated community that somehow the canvassing leader would get me in. Drop me off; he says, “Have your radio ready because if the police come, call me.” So I would go up and the lawns would be neatly manicured. It looked like a carpet. They would have a Bentley parked in the driveway; 5-car garage. Look at pillars, fountains, you get the picture. I walk up to this grand Taj Mahal of a building and the door is solid oak, brass knobs. I knock on the door and a distinguished gentleman with spectacles would come with his cashmere lined European slippers at the door. He would come, open the door, very distinguished, and I would say, “My name is David” and halfway through my sentence, he would say, “Son, I'm all set.” Words, I would hear a lot in New Jersey. “I'm all set” and before I can get my name out of my mouth, the door is shutting krrrrr.

 

JESUS, in this verse, is not talking about economic poverty. HE's talking about spiritual poverty. Blessed are those who recognize their spiritual poverty. Blessed are those who recognize that they are morally and spiritually bankrupt. Blessed are those who recognize that they are not spiritually okay, that we are broken, that we need help, and JESUS points to this class of people that recognize and see themselves as they really are.

 

This is a quotation from Thoughts on the Mount of Blessing – “A sense of one's need is the first condition of entrance into the kingdom of God's grace.” Blessed are those who see themselves for who they really are and feel their need for GOD. The people that had it all didn't feel their need. As the saying, “You don't sell sand to someone that lives in the Caribbean.” They don't need it. They don't want it. They have plenty. And here JESUS is pointing to a group of people that sense their own unworthiness. This is a theme throughout the BIBLE of GOD's people.

 

Abraham, notice his words, Genesis 18:27, “LORD, who am I but dust and ashes.”

 

Jacob - Genesis 32:10 – “I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which Thou has shown to the servant.”

 

Moses, when God came to him with a mission to lead his people out of Israel. He said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh.”

 

So all of these people had a compelling sense of their own unworthiness before GOD and JESUS pointed to this group of people and says, “Look, blessed are those who recognize their spiritual poverty before GOD.”

 

When I was going through college, I knew that I wanted to be a minister of the gospel. I had accepted the LORD and felt the call to ministry. It was in my freshman year and all of the theology majors were required to take a class on public speaking – homiletics. The class was structured in a way that we would have to get up in front of the whole school and give a 20-minute sermon during the morning chapel time. Public speaking was and still is quite nerve-racking. People ask me, “Do you still get nervous?” and there's still a little edge, not a little but it just kind of, sometimes more than others, but there's an edge and hopefully by the time you get up to speak it goes away. So, I prepared for this message, it was going to be my freshman homiletics presentation. It was to be videotaped and then after your presentation sometime during the week, myself and the professor, one-on-one, will sit down and he would give me homiletic goal tips on how I could improve. So I practiced for this sermon, I prayed, I meditated, I got up to preach. And let me tell you, there are certain times when you just feel like you've been caught up to glory when you're preaching. And I got up to preach and I want to tell you, from my perspective and my perception, I thought I sounded like CD Brooks or Mark Finley or Dwight Nelson. I just felt like just preaching the Word of GOD and the people was receiving it, I thought, it was just amazing experience and I sat down. I said, “Oh praise the LORD, this was amazing, powerful.” Later on that week, I just kind of smugly set down with the professor and then he said, “David, before we make any comments, let's roll the tape.” Put in the V.C.R. He rolled it and I want to tell you, I was absolutely stunned at what I saw because it was horrific. It was awful. A matter of fact, it was so bad, I could not even look at myself on the screen. I just looked out, I was so embarrassed. I said, “What happened?” because I thought I was over here. I thought I was the epitome of Dwight Nelson and then in reality I was awful, terrible. I mean, what a disconnect between what I thought I was and who I actually was. I mean, the distance between these 2 realities could not be more far. And that is precisely our issue when it comes to our own self-perception of our spirituality.

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”

Open your Bibles to Revelation 3:17. Last book of the Bible. Revelation 3:17. This is the diagnosis of GOD’s people living in the end of time. Notice the language here. Revelation 3:17, Because you say, I am (What does your Bible say? I am) rich (Notice terms, all right, because you say I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing. This is not talking about economics. This is talking about spirituality. It says that the self perception of GOD's people living in the end of time is that we think that we are rich, that we are wealthy, and we have need of nothing. That is the self-perception, just like I thought that I sounded like Dwight Nelson; that is the self-perception, the self-image of GOD's people as we look at ourselves spiritually.

 

Notice the issue here and do not know. Important words “do not know.” We think we look like this, but we do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. This is the diagnosis of our mental self-perception. I naturally think that I am good, I am rich, but I don't know that I'm poor, miserable, blind, and naked.

 

There's this television programme, it's no longer on the air. I've never finished or watched the entire segment, but there's these little clips on You Tube that is humorous to watch. It's a singing competition where they get common people that come to audition and they're seeking some hidden talent among the masses. So there's 3 or 4 judges that are sitting there in these clips of the audition and they have individuals that come in to sing a cappella before them. You've seen these clips, right? There's a panel sitting there and they come in to sing and the most mystifying ones are the people that come in and they begin to sing and it's awful. It's almost humorous. It is so bad. You don't even have to have a background in music to understand and see that this hurts your ears and they pan at the judges and they're just cringing. And they're just like awful, I mean, how can this person come in here and sing. And then the judges ask the person a self-perception question. They ask them, “How do you think you did?” And the person honestly says, “I did amazing. I was awesome. I'm going to be the next star.” And the judges are just dumbfounded because the reality of who they are and who they think they are so far apart. There's such a disconnection between the two and that's exactly what God is saying about our spiritual state. We think when we look at ourselves without divine grace, we think that we are okay.

 

I've heard a statement before, a number of years ago, a person was just coming and being honest and saying, “You know what, I just don't feel the need to pray because I feel that I'm just a good person.” “Why do I need GOD? I'm kind to people. I'm compassionate. I'm just a nice person.” And we have this view of ourselves, this self perception that we have, you say that I'm rich and have acquired wealth and do not need a thing but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. We actually think that we're okay, when actually we're broken and in need of Divine grace.

 

It reminds me of the story that JESUS told of the publican and the tax collector that come before GOD. And you remember these two individuals are praying out loud at the temple. And listen to the Pharisee’s prayer. The Pharisee is many times used in a pejorative term today; but back in JESUS's time, the Pharisee was the most spiritual person that people could think of. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer, I love it in the New Living Translation. “I thank you GOD that I'm not a sinner like everyone else. I don't cheat. I don't sin. I don't commit adultery.” And then he looks over at the tax collector and says, “I'm certainly not like this tax collector.” You see what's happening there is a relative comparison that takes place. The person comes before GOD says, “Look, I'm a good person” and because look at him, look at him and this is a coping mechanism that we undertake. It's a relative righteousness and it is very easy to feel spiritual as long as we're looking around and looking at each other. Isn't that right? I mean even in church; dare I say it. Come in church and “Oh men, those children so... What parents would... you know, Did you see that Elder…? Oh, I can't believe it. Did you see that way the person is dressed? Oh, and we kinda bump ourselves up by this horizontal comparison, this peer comparison that we undertake. It's awfully easy to look good and you know what? When we look in the mirror and brush our teeth, I've noticed something. My teeth look white; but until I put it next to real white paper, they look terrible. I need to go to the dentist by the way. All right. And so, this is the issue.

 

As long as we compare ourselves among ourselves, it's easy to look good and this is the experience of Isaiah. When you read the leading up chapters of Isaiah. He is saying a lot of “woes.” He says, “woe to this person,” “woe to this group,” “woe to this other group” and I want to invite you to open your Bibles to Isaiah chapter 6 because Isaiah has a dramatic conversion experience in Isaiah chapter 6. Open your Bibles there. Isaiah chapter 6, look at the experience of Isaiah. “In the year that Uzziah died (verse 1) I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphims; each one had 6 wings; with 2 he covered his face, with 2 he covered his feet, and with 2 he flew.” Isaiah is having a vision of GOD. He sees GOD. A vision of GOD sitting upon HIS throne. HE's seeing the majesty, the splendor, the glory of the shekinah - GOD in heaven, the purity of GOD. He sees GOD and above GOD's throne are these angels that are covering the very glory of GOD. And what a scene that must have been. I believe that even though it is in vision that Isaiah is just squinting his eyes as he sees the purity and the holiness of GOD. Sanctuary Language. The smoke of GOD or the smoke of glory is filling the temple. And look at what the angels say in verse 3, “and one cried to another and said, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY...” Scholars believe that this is an allusion to the Trinity - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of HIS glory. And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of HIM who cried out and the house was filled with smoke. Isaiah is having a vision of the glory of GOD. He is caught up and sees a vision of GOD in HIS eternal majesty. And as Isaiah is witnessing this, notice his response. It is the universal reaction of every person that has seen GOD. Isaiah sees GOD and noticed the next words that come out of his mouth in verse 5. The universal reaction of every person that has seen the majesty in the glory of GOD in verse 5 and so I said, woe is me. Previous chapters, looking at everybody else, Woe to you and to you and to you. Then he sees GOD, he says “Oh, woe is me. And notice the consciousness that comes over him – “Because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips for my eyes have seen the King the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah has an incredible self-perception. It's as though his eyes are open for the very first time and he sees his own moral depravity and moral fallen-ness and he says, “Look, I'm a man of unclean lips.” That consciousness comes vividly before him and notice the progression goes on. He's experiencing the Gospel in verse 6, “Then one of the seraphims (one of the angels) flew down to me having in his hand a coal that he had taken from the tongs from the altar.” So this angel comes down from heaven with the coal and he touches the lips of Isaiah with it and notice what he says, “Behold this has touched your lips, your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.” In theological terms, Isaiah just has experience, as just experience justification. He has just experienced justification; but notice, before he can experience grace, he has to see himself for who he really is. And it is grace that enables us to see ourselves for who we really are. Without grace, we think that we look like this. Without grace, there is a big gap, a chasm, between who we think we are and who we actually are. And it is not until we behold the grace of God that we can see our selves for who we really are.

 

Notice in Revelation 3:18, JESUS says to the church that has this disconnect between perception and reality, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you can become rich and white clothes to wear so that you can cover your shameful nakedness and (notice the language here) and salves to put on your eyes so that you can see. GOD wants to give us grace so that we can see ourselves for who we really are. This is the theme all the way throughout the Bible. Peter said, “LORD, I'm a sinful man.” The tax collector standing next to the Pharisee said, not even looking up to heaven, “Oh GOD, be merciful to me a sinner” and until we get to the place where we see ourselves for who we really are, GOD cannot help us because we do not feel our need.

 

One author put it this way, the Biblical answer to the paralysis of low self-esteem is not high self-esteem. It is sovereign grace. GOD does not say to you, “You're just fine, morally and spiritually. “He says, “Yes, you are spiritually unworthy, but look to ME.” That is the nature of the Gospel. GOD allows us to see ourselves for who we really are and I believe that our own self deception is really a coping mechanism because it hurts to see ourselves for who we really are. It's ugly and so we like to exist in this alternate reality, this alternate universe because we can't cope with our own depravity in our own hearts.

 

Clifford Goldstein, I believe, describes the only safe place it is to look at ourselves. The only safe place where we can afford to take off our facades and our masks and he puts it this way, “The only cure is the cross. Rather ironic because the cross is what shows us just how bad we really are. It's our own sick visage that causes us to hide behind our self delusion in the 1st place yet the Cross also shows how we are; GOD accepts us anyway. As we can afford to look at ourselves because whatever appears has been covered by the blood of JESUS. It is only when we've been covered that we dare take off our masks.”

 

We can afford to have a real understanding of our moral state because at the cross it is safe. We can be vulnerable. We can be open if we can say, LORD, like Isaiah, I'm unclean. There is no shame in coming before GOD because it is safe at the Cross.

 

A friend and I were reflecting on our Christian experience and he was describing to me his own challenges with legalism. It had become so ingrained in his own life and he was reflecting to me on how his journey had been windy, circuitous. And he said, “David, I'm coming to the realization that the only place that I find security, the only moments throughout my week that I find this grace that permeates through my entire life is when in the morning, I focus and meditate upon the beauty of who JESUS is.” He said, “Everything else just pales into insignificance” and he said Ellen White’s comment in Desire of Ages where she says, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in meditation on the life of CHRIST especially HIS closing scenes…” He said, “David, I found that that I need to do that.” He said, “Maybe I might not be able to get an hour,” but he said, “Just like Isaiah when I come before GOD and I see who HE is, that HE is everything and that morally I am nothing, that is in that context of grace that there's nothing that I can do that can save myself, that I need GOD” and he said, “It is from that paradigm and that perspective, when I do that, that I can find that I can rest in HIM and HIS beauty and everything else flows from that paradigm.”

 

And I've come to the conclusion that we need to have the experience of Isaiah every single day. As a people, I want to encourage you to get up in the morning and see GOD. Get the book the Desire of Ages. If you don't have a copy, come talk to me. It's online, there's e-books you can download for free - the Desire of Ages. Read through the Gospels. Think about JESUS, meditate upon JESUS. I have this little book, devotional book, and I have quotations describing the character of CHRIST that I look through and as you look at HIS beauty, you see who HE is. And you recognize who you are; but it's safe to be vulnerable, it's safe to be real because you come before a GOD that will never reject you, that will never shame you, that will never say, “You know what, you are so despicable, out from my presence.” This is a GOD that you can just take off your masks of self-perception and say, “LORD, this is who I am. Thank you for who YOU are. Give me YOUR righteousness.” And it’s by faith, and it is only when we see who we are in relationship to who GOD is that angel, just like in Isaiah, could come and say your covered, your forgiven. What would this church be like, by the grace of GOD, if every father in the home would make this a part of their daily life; every mother, every husband, every wife, every child would make this a part of their daily ritual and routine. From that perspective, we can go out and see every person with new eyes. There is no basis for pride and for thinking ourselves better than anyone because we have just seen a vision of JESUS and we see ourselves for who we really are. We can approach every person with humility and grace, not looking down on every person, recognizing that, at the Cross, we are all sinners in need of grace and if it wasn't for the grace of GOD, there go I. It is when we do not have this vision that we go out and we compare ourselves and we think that we are righteous because it is a relative righteousness; but GOD calls us to look and live. Have a vision of JESUS every single day.

 

Let's pray. Our FATHER in heaven, we would see JESUS. FATHER, help us to not get so caught up in this world and comparing ourselves among ourselves, having this false sense of reality, living as it were in an alternate universe, but FATHER, we pray that you would get us into a mode of seeing JESUS, the beauty of YOUR character every single day. And it is from that context that we can afford to take off our own masks, to come to terms with our own moral and spiritual bankruptcy, recognizing that it is safe to take them off and be who we really are. We thank YOU for this promise of grace that when we come to YOU, YOU will never leave us or forsake us, that YOU will accept us just the way that we are. And FATHER, I just want to make an appeal today. Is there someone here today that wants to say, LORD, I want to see JESUS. Give me a vision of JESUS. Help me to see JESUS and to at the same time come to terms with who I really am, knowing that it is safe. If there is someone here that wants to say that, I wanna invite you to raise your hands today. I want to say, LORD, please give me a vision of who YOU are. We pray that YOU would seal every hand with YOUR SPIRIT. We praise YOU and thank YOU for these things. In JESUS' name, amen.

 

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