“Sitting on the Mountainside” Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 3: “Poor in spirit”  08.03.18 (Corrected Version)

Matthew 5:1-2 (NIV) 1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: … 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus begins his teaching with this simple but puzzling statement. Can the “poor in spirit” look forward to great blessings? What does “poor in spirit” mean? We understand “blessed.” It simply means “you are blessed” or “you will be blessed” if the following comes into your life. But the “poor in spirit” person sounds like a word picture of an “unspiritual” person. Is someone who is spiritually impoverished a person who does not care about spiritual things? Actually, quite the opposite. The spiritually impoverished person realizes how much they want to live in the Spirit and grow in the presence of God. But living among the lost impedes that growth leaving them longing for spiritual abundance.

As background, we must remember that these verses in our three chapters ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT DIRECTED AT THE UNBELIEVER. They really cannot understand them or embrace them. We can be certain that even as Jesus began to speak some people got up and walked back down the mountainside mumbling to themselves “Well…I’m not sure what he’s talking about but I’m not interested!” That man is not comfortable around the truly spiritual person. And vice-versa.

I have a helpful illustration, I hope. Several times I have been with a group of very wealthy men. Corporate leaders that the world would call successful. Nice people. Often generous. Well-mannered. But their company bored me. Why? Because all they could talk about was their latest investment or who just bought a new Mercedes or which foreign golf course they will visit in a few weeks. They had absolutely no interest in the Kingdom of God and the things of eternity. If I even brought those topics up while with them they would politely look at me as if I was speaking Swahili.

Now, I know we are to share the Gospel with unbelievers and I love doing that. One time I even got to say a few things when I was asked. But in a real sense, we had little in common because our priorities were so different. If we had made lists of the things we would like most in life, those lists would be very different. They had no sense of desire for spiritual wealth. They did not feel spiritually poor and they did not desire a spiritual filling.

Such men are not those to whom Jesus is speaking on the mountainside. They are not poor in spirit; they are dead in spirit. Once again, the Sermon on the Mount is meant to be a description, ideally, of the regenerated person. First, we must be raised up. As Paul said to some new believers:

Colossians 2:13 (NIV) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.

This mountaintop teaching is for those disciples who are going to stay close to Christ. How can we tell who they are? Because the real ones are “poor in spirit!” Ok. Still…what does that mean? There are hundreds of books that address this. Here is my view. Jesus means that the person who is spiritually hungry and wants much, much more of the Holy Spirit will be blessed. That person wants the Holy Spirit to animate their life. Nothing less than a great measure of the Holy Spirit will satiate them! They cannot feed on the things of the world that are unspiritual. The world has much to offer but it leaves the spirit hungry!

Let me illustrate. I do not like Sushi. In fact, I can’t stand Sushi. Just looking at it makes me queasy. So what? Well…some time back I was invited to a luncheon at a nice restaurant. A Sushi restaurant. There I sat watching others slide this stuff into their mouths. I had arrived very hungry so I did endure some kind of soup. But no Sushi! An hour later, I left there starving and I picked up a huge cheeseburger! It was more than satisfactory. To be spiritually poor is to be hungry, even starving for much more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The wrong food will not do!

The Lord Jesus Christ begins his teaching with an underlying assumption. It is this: that we are living as those filled with the Holy Spirit. But that means different things to different people. Often, Christians are divided over the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But we will touch on what is essential. Jesus said he was leaving but that he would not leave them as orphans.

We read:John 14:25-26 (NIV) 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

And where will the Holy Spirit be? Inside of each believer. In the Sermon, Jesus is saying that longing for more of the Holy Spirit will be the key to what follows. In fact, everything that comes after this will be “rooted” in the presence of the Holy Spirit because he, Jesus, will be gone. Our Lord is saying the Holy Spirit will “teach” us all things! That is, we will still be students but now our teacher will live within us.

The Christian cannot over emphasize what Jesus is promising here. Elsewhere, he said this:

John 14:15-17 (NIV) 15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This statement comes with a promise. A guarantee. As a true disciple, we have already entered into the Kingdom of God and we are now being taught how to live in it. The Spirit of Truth alone can take away our spiritual poverty. He makes us new! Now…what if Jesus paused between each statement? And what if someone on the hillside asked “Jesus…what will that be like? We want to be spiritually wealthy and live in the Kingdom of Heaven. What will that be like? And what will we be like?” Jesus might say: “Listen closely. Blessings will flow freely to those I will now describe to you!”

Next: “Mourning” Peace. Pastor Alberta


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3 responses to ““Sitting on the Mountainside” Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

  1. Mary Henriksen

    I feel so Blessed to have the Holy Spirit in my life…not sure what I would do without my faith. I have an on-going conversation with Jesus throughout the day and will even thank Him if I find a close parking spot. My daughter will say He has better things to do than to find parking spots for you but I tell her that He’s interesting in all aspects of our lives. I so agree about having different priorities from the unbeliever. I look at my neighbor who is very wealthy and all they are concerned about is to drive the most expensive car, to go on the most expensive vacation etc. I think of all the poor people they could help and still have money to spare. I have a friend who is a former priest (he left the priesthood in order to marry) and we have often talked about our faith. When I talked about a “personal relationship”, he had no idea what I was talking about. He is extremely intelligent and would tell me to read all of these books but he really didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. His wife had died and what really blew my mind was he believed in reincarnation. I told him if that was true, why did Jesus say He was preparing a place for us? If I believed in reincarnation, I would think God was punishing me because I would not want to come back and do this all over again as someone or something else. For someone who had studied all his life, I couldn’t understand how he just didn’t get it. It also gave me some insight into why my brother doesn’t get it as he was my brother’s priest. Thank you, Pastor Alberta, for teaching me true Biblical principles. God has shown Hinself to me, as we have talked about before, so I know He is the one true God and I am SO Blessed to be His child.

    • Dr. Richard J. Alberta

      Hi Mary, Great thoughts. I told someone I was praying about a broken windshield and that person was stunned that I thought God would care about such a thing…in a world filled with horror. But he does. Carry on! 🙂
      Blessings! RJA

  2. Mark Jolley

    Thanks Richard, that helps a lot. I guess I really never quite grasped the idea of being poor in spirit and didn’t realize that Jesus was describing me today (post salvation). I used to be poor in the worldly sense and my appetite for wealth was insatiable. While I attempted to deal with my form of poverty, the question of spiritual poverty was never on my radar. Just like your business pals, it’s not on their radar because it’s impossible for it to be. Jesus said you can’t serve two masters.

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