Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wilderness lessons: 3 – Blessedness of Spiritual Poverty

As I experienced the brokenness of God
, and came face to face with the ugliness of my heart in His “holiness mirror,” (see lesson 2), I gained a deeper understanding of the term “poverty of spirit.”

Jesus said,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
(Matt 5:3)

Jesus had just been moving throughout Galilee, teaching and preaching The Gospel…the good news…”the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”…and healing the sick, and now He sits down to teach His disciples just what that Kingdom of Heaven is all about, and His first recorded words are this:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Darrell Johnson says that poverty of spirit is the first mark of a “gospelized” person because it shows we have truly encountered Jesus. “When we encounter Jesus as He really is, we automatically see ourselves as we really are…woefully falling short of who He created us to be.”

This realization was incredibly painful to me, as it can only be. I had thought far too highly of myself, until God showed me the true colors of my heart. Then I went into a tailspin, agonizing over the junk I saw in myself, and wondering how on earth I was ever going to become like Jesus with all this rubbish in me.

Brennan Manning wrote, “The poor in spirit are like survivors of a shipwreck. Out at sea, all the things they used to rely on no longer matter. All that matters is this passing plank to which they reach out with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, the shipwrecked never ask what they did to merit the plank…they simply receive the plank like a gift knowing there was absolutely nothing they did to deserve it.”

The plank…the cross. When I saw the true nature of my heart, I had to accept that there was nothing in me that merited the cross, and still nothing that deserves God’s daily grace over my life.

“Poor” in the Greek translation used for this beatitude is ptochoi which means abject poverty, or destitution. Standing before God, the poor in spirit know that they bring nothing in their hands that God needs and nothing in their hearts that compels God to accept them. They bring their poverty, hoping for sustenance. Their ptochoi –– poverty of spirit –– has broken them, making them fertile soil to receive God's blessing.

I came face to face with my destitution.

Watchman Nee
describes this process as the discipline of the Holy Spirit and says it is the greatest means of grace. When all kinds of problems and all sorts of people are pressing in from all directions, God is at work trying to break the things to which we are bound, that quench His Spirit and hinder Him from working in and through us.

Nee says, “The supply of the Word, the grace of prayer, the fellowship of the believers – none of these can substitute for the discipline of the Holy Spirit. This is because you need not only to be built up; you need also to be destroyed, to be delivered of all the many things in your life that cannot be brought over into eternity.”

The discipline of the Holy Spirit…the greatest means of grace. And now we understand, as Johnson pointed out, the heart behind the famous lyrics of Amazing Grace:

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”…because grace first helps us see how wretched we are apart from grace. Yes...the holiness mirror. God’s grace showed me what I am really like apart from His grace.

Yet, in His amazing love, He doesn’t leave us there…”twas grace my fears relieved.” God shows us the poverty of our spirits and says, “Those who recognize that apart from me they can do nothing are the very ones to whom I will give the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Johnson says
the poor in spirit die to self-sufficiency and self-saviorship, but since self-sufficiency and self-saviorship are illusions, this death is a birth. The poor in spirit open up their empty hands in gratitude, and God gives them the Kingdom.

I love that Jesus
starts His teaching with this first be like the "kingdomized" people of God that He describes in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is only possible when we have reached that place of destitution. We finally give up leaning on our own understanding, trusting in our strengths and behaving as if we have a better plan than God. We finally say, "Let Your will be done, let Your kingdom come, in my life, and on this earth, just as it is in Heaven."

May God’s grace
enable me to walk in that place of recognizing my desperate need for Him, today and always, so that His Kingdom may fully come in my life, and He may reign in everything I do and say.

There is none like Him, and He is worthy of my life laid down.

(Highly recommended resources:
Darrell Johnson, “Living in Sync: Studies on the Sermon on the Mount”, Regent College audio series,
Watchman Nee, “Release of the Spirit”

1 comment:

Martin Ujlaki said...

The photo of the beggar in Prague ( is STOLEN and violates my copyright as stated below the original photo on my Flickr page: Remove it immediately! First and last warning, otherwise legal action will follow!!

Just like religious zealots to use stolen property!