“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 (NRS)
If the television industry is to be remembered for anything, it will be the birth of “reality” programming. Since its entrance into our entertainment schedule, the number of reality shows and spin offs have grown exponentially compared with other television venues. When I first read the preview of many reality shows, they read like a bad skit from Saturday Night Live. But as much as these programs are marketed as “reality”, the truth of the matter is that their plots are carefully staged to insure their continued popularity. Their view of reality was no more than “staged possibility”.
However, when Jesus spoke of the poor in spirit being blessed with the kingdom of heaven, He was presenting to the disciples a new reality that was both available and possible to those who accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. Upon accepting Christ’s invitation, believers entered into His kingdom—a new reality for living as citizens of God’s kingdom on earth and heaven.
Pastor Chuck Smith’s video last week informed us that the promises (the blessedness) of the Beatitudes are available to believers only. In fact, to unbelievers the propositions put forth in the eight (8) declarations, appear illogical and irrational. This should not surprise us in that the preaching of Christ (and His teachings) is “to them that are perishing foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18) because the world’s wisdom is based on the standards of a world system of a different king—Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). But the believer’s reality is not based on “the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but that which the Holy Ghost teaches. The natural man (unbeliever) cannot understand these things because they are spiritually discerned”. The privilege of the poor in spirit and the possession of the kingdom of heaven are reserved only for those who believe (1 Cor. 2:12-14).
The privilege of being poor in spirit comes in understanding the need for not only salvation but also for a Savior. It is in recognizing one’s sinfulness, depravity and disobedience, that poverty of spirit is exposed. We cry out like Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24) The reality of our personal brokenness should not drive us to increased darkness but to the life-giving light of Jesus where true forgiveness is possible and spiritual transformation can begin (Col. 1:20-22).
The possession of the kingdom of heaven can only be properly understood in knowing the King. As believers, our reality acknowledges that our Lord and King is Jesus Christ. In Him, we live and move and have our meaning in Him (Acts 17:28). God is transcendent (beyond or above the range of human experience) and omniscient (everywhere all the time); we live continually in His presence. While Jesus reigns exalted with God in heavenly places (Ep. 1:20), His rule still extends to us as we physically live in this fallen world. As subjects of God’s kingdom, we are to live faithfully for Him and for the purpose He has determined for our lives (Ep. 2:10). It is this reality that incents us to live holy and soberly within His kingdom (Titus 2:12). Our allegiance and loyalty is to our king, Jesus Christ.
Why then are believers blessed or happy? First, because they know their sins have been forgiven (Ep. 1:7). They no longer need to hide in the shame and the fear of their past lives. Jesus has made it possible for them to become part of the citizenship of heaven (1 Pet. 2:9). This position comes with both privilege and power that exceed any temporary position we might hold on earth. Second, believers not only enjoy benefits as citizens of God’s kingdom now but look forward to even more blessings in eternity (Ep. 2:12, 18,19). Finally, the believer’s position in God’s kingdom can never be withdrawn or loss. Nothing can separate them from God’s presence; their present and future are secure because it has been secured by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:18).
The reality of living in God’s kingdom results in peace that passes all understanding, indescribable joy, and love that covers a multitude of sins and offenses. In the Beatitudes, Matthew captures only a sampling of the extraordinary gifts that awaits those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price,
went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46