Friday, January 24, 2014

Happy Are Those Who Are Poor In Spirit...

I thought I was pretty good.  At least compared to others.  I mean I had my little list and I did a really good job keeping that list.  I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't curse, I didn't sleep around, and I didn't listen to that secular music.  I went to church, I prayed (a little), I read my Bible (sometimes), and I loved others (or at least pretended to).  As far as "my" list went, I was doing great.

Now, I look back at that foolishness and think how utterly ridiculous.  I realize now that when it comes to keeping "our" lists, its really nothing more than self-righteousness.  And as far as God's concerned, it measures up to about as much worth as "filthy rags."  Sure, it may make us feel good about ourselves when compared to others who fail miserably at keeping our lists, but this pride offers us a false sense of security and spits in the face of Christ and the price He paid to redeem us.  Our position in the family of God as sons and daughters, isn't earned or maintained by how well we fulfill "our lists."

Grace is the key to our salvation.  Its a gift that we cannot earn.  Salvation is beyond our own ability to obtain on our own and in the same way its beyond our own ability to maintain.  Self-righteousness leads to pride, but it is humility that leads to salvation.  Jesus declared in His famous Beatitudes, "blessed or happy are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  The kingdom of heaven is only obtained when we recognize our pathetic condition apart from God.  It is only when we realize that we are spiritually bankrupt and cannot fix our situation on our own, that salvation is a possibility.  This concept of "poor in spirit" is like having a (spiritual) debt we could never pay and crying out for mercy in hopes that someone hears us and pays our debt.  That someone of course is Jesus, who willingly paid our debt and offers us salvation based on the price He paid.

My list, however, was developed after salvation.  I remember well that moment I reached out to Jesus with humility and received His gift of salvation.  But somewhere along the way, I got off track.  I became puffed up and prideful.  I knew it was Jesus who saved me, but I had fallen in to the trap of believing that it was the keeping of my list that kept me good with God.  While our initial coming to Christ must be through the door of humility, this "poor in spirit" is an attitude we need to maintain once we've been saved by His gift of grace.  We do that by never forgetting where we came from.  No, we don't live in the past, but its important to constantly remember that apart from Him, I am nothing.  It's important to keep in mind that any good that is in me, is only because of Him.  Rather than patting ourselves on the back for our ability to abstain from sin or for doing good, we need to recognize that it is not our ability, but His ability working in us.

Back to "our lists."  What we do or don't do is important.  I don't want to belittle righteous living.  The key is "why" we do what we do.  If we are doing good because we think we are gaining or maintaining favor with God, we are missing it.  If we are trying to become righteous by living righteously, we are missing it.  Living righteously comes from being righteous not the other way around.  Being righteous isn't something we can obtain on our own.  It comes from humbling ourselves, and allowing Christ to do that work for us.  Years ago I thought I was "all that" because of what "I" did.  Today I understand that I am "all that" because of what "He's" done.  Years ago, I boasted in me.  Today I boast in Him and what's He's done.

It's important for those who have been walking this Christian life for a while to never lose sight of who He is and who we are apart from Him.  There's a great picture of this in the first chapter of Revelation when one of Jesus' best friends saw Jesus in all His glory.  This buddy of His, John, was so overwhelmed by the sight of Jesus that he fell down like a dead man.  He passed out at the sight of  this Jesus, who he knew better than most anybody.  It takes only a quick glance of Him to remind us of how far we all have left to go on this journey. It is that recognition that leads us to living the happy life.  Happy are those who are poor in spirit...

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