“When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. Then he began to teach them by saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.’” —Matthew 5:1–3
Jesus begins this famous sermon with the praise that one is fortunate and fully satisfied who has the realization and understanding of their own poverty of spirit. It is important that we fully grasp the fact that in and of ourselves we possess no inward ability to please God. This poverty of spirit is ranked first among the Christian graces. Indeed, God’s kingdom of glory is prepared for such as these. The kingdom of earth is for the high and lofty, but the kingdom of heaven is for the humble.
The foundational principle of Christ’s kingdom is poverty of spirit. Anything else will always come up short. We must possess an absolute sense of certainty that our “flesh” cannot even begin to experience any type of holiness. Those who embrace the knowledge that in and of themselves they are hopeless and helpless to stand before a Holy God, rightly have the understanding that they lack the power within to do anything to change their predicament. It makes no difference whether one is rich, poor, famous, gifted, intellectual, or whatever, the doorway into the kingdom of heaven is poverty of spirit. It is by our humility that Christ accomplishes His work. I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Church in Ephesus:
“That you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” —Ephesians 2:12–13
Those who consciously and fully depend upon Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross on their behalf are blessed. We all fall short of God’s standard of holiness—there are no exceptions. Paul tells us in Romans:
“What then? Are we better off? Certainly not, for we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin, just as it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; here is no one who shows kindness, not even one.” —Romans 3:9–12
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” —Romans 3:23
Apart from belonging to Christ and being filled with His Spirit, we are unable to stand before a Holy God. We are lost without a Savior. And that is precisely what Jesus is—our Savior! We like to focus on a person’s determination, or the beauty of their character, or their gifting—things easily noticed and applauded by others. This, however, puts the emphasis on flesh rather than on Jesus. We can never enter the kingdom of heaven based on the virtue of our own goodness! One can only enter as a pauper. Jesus is the One who produces the inspiring in the commonplace. It is His treasure in our “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). As believers in Christ, we have been rescued by God from the dominion of darkness through the blood of Jesus. We have been brought into His kingdom by the Son He loves and in whom we have redemption. Praise Him!
Paul tells us:
“God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” —2 Corinthians 5:21
“We comfort the afflicted sinner in this manner; Brother you can never be perfect in this life, but you can be holy. He will say, ‘How can I be holy when I feel my sins?’ I answer, ‘You feel sin? That is a good sign. To realize that one is ill is a step and a very necessary step, toward recovery.’ ‘But how will I get rid of my sin?’ he will ask. I answer: ‘See the heavenly Physician, Christ, who heals the broken-hearted. Do not consult the Quack doctor, Reason. Believe in Christ and your sins will be pardoned. His righteousness will become your righteousness.’” —Martin Luther
“The fact of the matter is that we cannot cast off restraint, run riot, please ourselves and be completely hedonistic without a price having to be paid. The human price is the destruction of relationships; the spiritual price is a breach with God.” —John Blanchardte
“To be lowly in our own eyes is to have humble thoughts of ourselves, of what we are, and have, and do; it is to be as little children in our opinion of ourselves … It is to be willing to make ourselves little, to do good … It is to acknowledge that God is great, and we are small; that He is holy and we are sinful; that He is all and we are nothing. To shun all confidence in our righteousness and strength, that we may depend only on the merit of Christ and the spirit and grace of Christ.” —Matthew Henry