Sterling Racist

(picture from


By rushing to agree with everyone else and pile on with the condemnations, Christians often lose a chance to show the character of Jesus to the world.


To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 12




Matthew #12 . Chapter 5:1-12

It seems to me that we could spend one week on each beatitude, however that would probably mean we’d never get to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, let alone the rest of Matthew. So we are going to try to briefly examine the last five Christian character traits today.

First, a quick review. Jesus-followers should be spiritually poor, acknowledging our true position before God and our need of Jesus. Next, we should mourn our spiritual poverty (among other things) and bewail the sin that brought us to this place. We should face loss and brokenness with courage and determination to walk through it as we look to Jesus as the source of all comfort. In addition, we should wait quietly and meekly for God’s deliverance, not trusting in our own strength or resources to save us.

I want to make sure we understand that most of these things are very counter-cultural. Our culture blesses people who have it together, not the spiritually destitute. Our culture teaches us to avoid almost all mourning, in any way possible. Certainly, we do not learn from society to mourn sin and brokenness. Our culture teaches assertiveness and “going for it;” not humbly waiting on God to give “it” to you.

With that we come to the fourth character trait and its accompanying blessing: “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (matt 5:6). This is the natural continuation of the spiritual condition that is poor, mourning and meek. Once more, let me remind you that this character trait is not natural to our culture. What does our culture teach us to hunger and thirst for? Pleasure, comfort, wealth and recognition. It has been a very long time indeed since society at large has held up moral righteousness as goal to strive for, something to hunger after.

What does this character trait really mean? What does it look like in a 21st century disciple?

I see a several aspects of righteousness that seem to apply here. The first is that the true disciple does more than just acknowledge his position before God, mourn his sin, and wait quietly. The true disciple yearns to be truly right with God. The righteousness that is so eagerly desired here is the very thing that is given to us by Jesus because of his death on the cross and resurrection to eternal life. It is the righteousness that is ours by faith. As an old praise song says:

I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me.

I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus and He lives in me.

Oh, what a joy it is to know my Heavenly Father loves me so, He gives to me my Jesus.

And when He looks at me, He sees not what I used to be, but He sees Jesus.

The person who is truly spiritually poor, who truly mourns for her sins, who meekly waits for God, also desperately wants her condition changed. Such a person wants his old deeds to be wiped away as if they had never happened. He wants to stand tall without shame. Such a person hungers for the righteousness of Christ.

A second aspect of righteousness is that of continuing to do right. The disciple of Jesus, the person who follows him, has already been given the righteousness of faith. But the disciple doesn’t only want past sins covered by Jesus’ righteousness – those who trust in Jesus have the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit creates a yearning within us to live uprightly. Thus, I believe the Good News Bible is right in translating this verse:

“Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!”

God’s satisfaction of this desire to live righteously is vitally important. We can’t live in a righteous way apart from God any more than we can attain our salvation apart from him. But when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, he releases his power through the Holy Spirit to enable us live rightly. We shall be satisfied!

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt 5:7).

At first glance, this one does not seem so counter-cultural. The truth is, however, our culture isn’t merciful – it just has different standards than the bible. For example, modern society is not merciful to people who commit sexual sin. It’s just that the dominant idea is that there are no real sexual sins anymore. In other words it isn’t mercy that causes our culture to refrain from condemning people for sexual sin. It is simply that they agree in with what people are doing. Read carefully here, and learn what this means: You can’t give mercy to someone unless you think they deserve condemnation in the first place. Mercy is forgiving people who have truly done wrong.

We can test this idea when see how society reacts to people who do something that is actually considered a sin by the culture. For example, just this week (as I write this) the owner of the LA Clippers (an NBA Basketball team) was caught on tape making racist comments. There has been no mercy for him from anybody. Sadly, even Christians have joined in with the condemnation.

Some of you may say, “But wait a minute. Christians don’t support racism.” Of course we don’t. But the whole point of mercy is that it is given to someone who doesn’t deserve it, someone who has done wrong. You can’t give mercy to a person unless you think they deserve condemnation in the first place. The truth is, if Christians were going to condemn this man, we should have been doing so long before his racism came to light. He openly sinned (according to the Bible’s definition of sin) in many other ways before his racism was publicly known. The fact that Christians are now joining in the universal condemnation is a sign that we have drifted far from Biblical faith, and we are more concerned about being called racists than we are about manifesting the love of Jesus to sinners.

I affirm that racism is sinful and evil. As a Jesus follower, I also affirm that I must be ready to show mercy to anyone who will receive it. It may be offensive to say this, but I truly believe that Jesus would be merciful to a racist, if the racist gave him a chance by repenting. Now, I don’t have any evidence that this man has repented of racism, or of any of his other sins, either. That’s a whole different story. But I bring this all up to point out that our culture is not merciful at all; and if we intend to be merciful to people who don’t deserve it, it will offend people.

Jesus makes forgiving others central to the gospel message:

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Forgiving others is not an option for the Christian. If we refuse to forgive, than we cannot receive forgiveness ourselves. I will deal with this subject in detail when we reach Matthew 6.


“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt 5:8). Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Jewish people who were very concerned with external purity. He announces his counter-cultural aims by speaking of a purity of the heart. Even though the Old Testament speaks quite a bit about purity of heart, the Jewish religion by the time of Jesus had already begun to move beyond the Old Testament alone, and had started to rely on non-scriptural rabbinical proclamations and commentary. In other words, though Jesus’ focus on internal purity was a not a new teaching, it was a teaching largely ignored by Jews in Jesus day, and to some extent, since that time as well. If a person washed according to the proper ceremony, and ate kosher food and avoided dead bodies and so on, then he was pure. But Jesus, throughout the gospels, contests this idea, insisting that God is a God of relationship, not just ceremony, and what matters is what is in the heart.

I believe that in context, this purity of heart also refers to how Christians should deal with each other, and other people. What this means is that a follower of Jesus should be completely honest, sincere and well-intentioned in all dealings with others. We should not be hypocritical, or pretend to be a sort of person we are not.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). As always, there are two points to make. First, I believe that Jesus is talking here about evangelism. Peace with God was a promise foretold by the ancient prophets, (see Ezekiel 37:26 for example) and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 says,

“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A peacemaker is therefore one who helps to spread this peace-with-God – a person who assists in the reconciliation (peacemaking) between God and human beings. This is to be characteristic of all Christians. I can think of no other good reason why the peacemaker should be called a ‘son of God.’

Second, a peacemaker is someone who helps reconcile people to other people. Now, there are many caveats (“buts”) to this sort of peacemaking. It does not mean compromising the truth. It does not mean appeasing rage-filled unrepentant sinners. Peacemaking does not forbid us from ever taking a stand, or standing our ground. It is not “peace at all costs.” And many times, it involves a painful process. As John Stott says:

“When we are ourselves involved in a quarrel there will be either the pain of apologizing to the person we have injured or the pain of rebuking the person who has injured us.”

We are, however called to try to end discord, rather than to create and perpetuate it by gossip, slander or even silence.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). Jesus qualifies his statement here by saying “because of righteousness” because there is no special blessing in being persecuted when we deserve it – the blessing comes when we don’t. As Peter writes:

“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19-21).

This is becoming more and more relevant to our times. Christians, even in the Western World, are increasingly insulted and falsely accused. More and more people are willing to say “every kind of evil” against us when we take a stand for what the Bible actually says. I want to say that this is unfortunate; however Jesus says there is actually blessing in it.

Although many of us have experienced the pain of having our beliefs publicly distorted and derided, none of us in the Western world (as far as I know) have yet suffered physical persecution for following Jesus. Other brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world have, however. Throughout both communist and Muslim countries, Christians are censured, deprived of rights, imprisoned and sometimes even killed for their faith. The testimony of Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran pastor who was tortured by the communists in Romania, is that the presence of Jesus came in an incredibly tangible, special way when he was being tormented. He did indeed, testify that this special sense of God’s presence was a blessing that accompanied his persecution. I can only believe him and trust Jesus’ words. In the book of Revelation we also see a special honor reserved for martyrs of the faith. Persecution is something I tend to fear, but Jesus actually wants his followers to look upon it in a positive light as condition that is marked by his special blessing.

Now, I think Jesus provides us with an excellent summary to all this in the next few verses: we’ll look at that next time. But for now I want to reiterate something else: We can’t do this. There is no way we can really hunger for the righteousness we need, show the mercy we should show, be pure in heart, be a true peacemaker, or endure persecution as blessing. There is no way that we can form that sort of character inside of us just by trying harder.

This is the character that Jesus wants to form inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Trying won’t get us there. What will get us there is surrendering to Jesus, saying to him: “Yes, I agree that this is the sort of person you want me to be. I agree that I want to be this sort of person. I can’t do it, but I ask you to do it, and I say ‘yes’ to you when you want to change me.”

Why don’t you take a minute and ask him to do that right now?






Therefore, as with all of these blessings, it is not so much the condition described which brings blessing, but rather, being in that condition at the same time as knowing and trusting Jesus


To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 11


Matthew #11 . 5:4-5

As we return to Matthew this week, let me remind us where we are. Jesus has climbed a small mountain with his disciples, and he is teaching them what Jesus followers “look like” and how they are to live. He has begun with a list of character traits, which nowadays, for obscure reasons, we call “the beatitudes.” These character traits are key to understanding the entire sermon on the mount. In fact, one way to look at it is like this:

· Jesus first explains that these character traits (the beatitudes) should be part of the life of every disciple.

· Following that, in the rest of the sermon, he gives practical examples of these character traits in action.

For example, in chapter 6, he talks about depending upon the Father for everything we need in life – including finances and other material resources. We can’t totally rely on the Father like that unless we become “poor in spirit” – understanding our complete dependence upon the Lord, and his gracious desire to take care of us. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” is of course, the first character trait that Jesus spoke about, which we looked at last time. For now, we will move on to two more of these Jesus-follower character traits.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

This statement of Jesus is full of meaning. I believe Jesus may have been thinking of several different kinds of “mourning” including:

a. The grief of lost loved ones. The Greek word used here for “mourn” describes lamenting for someone who has died. It is the sort of grief that consumes a person, and cannot be hidden. Therefore I believe that among other things, Jesus was referring literally to people who had lost loved ones to death. This is stunningly counter-cultural for me – how can we say someone who has lost a husband, a wife, a child, a sibling or a parent is blessed? The point is, of course, we can’t say that – but Jesus can. And the reason he does say it is simply and only because of his own resurrection. Remember, Jesus is talking here to Christians – people who know him, who have placed all their hope in him alone. Therefore, as with all of these blessings, it is not so much the condition described which brings blessing, but rather, being in that condition at the same time as knowing and trusting Jesus. In other words, not everyone who mourns the loss of a loved one is blessed – it is only those who know Jesus who receive true comfort for their mourning. When we lose a loved one who is in the care of Jesus, we know that we will see that person again. We know that in fact, we get to spend eternity with our Christian loved ones in the presence of God. We know that even before that, our loved ones are in a better place. Now, on the other hand I have often struggled with the idea of losing a loved one who doesn’t know Jesus – there doesn’t seem to be much comfort there. And yet, I receive in faith the promises of Revelation 21:4

“He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

There is a tremendous grief in losing someone who is close to you, but the blessing comes in the fact that this grief is temporary – for they shall be comforted.

b. There is another kind of mourning that brings blessing in Jesus. I call it the grief of brokenness. This is not so much mourning about losing someone else, but rather losing something inside yourself, or something that you desperately wanted or needed. For some, it might be that they didn’t receive the approval they sought from their parents. For others, perhaps they simply do not feel loved for who they are. Still others might be seeking self-significance, or a marriage partner, or healthy family relationships. What the world around us counsels in these situations is to do whatever it takes to make up for the loss in our lives. So people needing approval try to become successful or famous, hoping the adulation of the crowds will fill them up. Some try to make other people give them what they want – this is where we see unhealthy patterns of relationships developing. Jesus counsels us instead to mourn. The key to being comforted is first to mourn. So many of us (myself included) do not like to acknowledge those areas where we are truly weak and needy – it isn’t pleasant to go there. So we try to by-pass the mourning part, and go straight to the comfort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But when we acknowledge our brokenness, when we truly mourn the fact that we did not, and will not, get what we needed from circumstances or other people – then Jesus has an opportunity to heal us, and to bring comfort. This is a very deep truth, but very important. We can’t receive the blessing of comfort that Jesus promises unless we first learn to mourn. The mourning of brokenness, like the mourning of lost loved ones, is an acknowledgement that we can’t do anything about the situation, and that it grieves us to the core. It is only when we give up control that Jesus can begin to comfort. We must learn to mourn by giving up the right to try and fix ourselves. When we do mourn our own losses of love, approval, significance, relationship or anything else, we find the comfort of Jesus.

c. The grief of sin. The third sort of mourning I believe Jesus is talking about is heartfelt sadness and repentance for the sins we have committed. Our society has undergone a tremendous transformation in its attitude toward sin. Forty years ago, no one wanted to be a sinner, because everyone understood that there were consequences for sin. People cared about sin – it mattered. Today, most people freely acknowledge that they are sinners – but they don’t seem to care about it, and it doesn’t seem to matter to them. In short, although many people freely admit to sinning, they do not mourn about it. Sin does not grieve their hearts. Jesus is offering a better way. Listen to what James, the brother of Jesus writes about mourning for sin:

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up. (James 4:6-10, italics added by me)

When we truly, in our hearts, mourn for the sins we have committed, Jesus offers comfort. When we are sorrowful and grief stricken for the crimes we have perpetrated against Jesus and against our fellow human beings, God gives grace. We shall be comforted.

Very briefly, I want to consider the next blessing –unless we begin to move a little faster, we will never get through the sermon on the mount, let alone the book of Matthew.


Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. The way most of us remember this verse is something like “blessed are the meek…” This verse used to bother me, along with the poem “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…” Meekness is not something which is initially attractive to me – frankly, it sounds wimpy. But what does Jesus mean by it? I think it is obvious when we read the gospels that Jesus was no wimp. So what does he mean when offers this meekness, or gentleness as an important trait of a disciple? While researching the Greek word for gentle/meek (“pra-us,” if anyone cares) I found an excellent definition that seems to me to really get at the heart of what Jesus is saying here in Matthew 5:5. I’m not sure that I could word it any better than the lexicon, so instead I will quote at length:

Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting…The meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (Is. 41:17, Lu. 18:1-8) Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (Gal. 5:23)[1]

Therefore the key to gentleness and meekness is to trust God to act on our behalf and to not rely on our own strength, which in comparison to God’s, is pitiful anyway. The result of such meekness, such trust? We inherit the earth, or in other words, the promised land. The promise is very germane to the business of trusting and being meek, because we cannot grab the land, or get it for ourselves. We receive it only as we trust God to get it for us.

I want to remind us again, that we cannot, simply through sheer effort, manifest these character traits in ourselves. We can’t just suddenly feel blessed as we mourn, or suddenly give up our own self-interests. Instead, remember, these are character traits of Jesus himself. The way we “get them” is first. to trust Jesus, and second, to allow him to own our lives, and to express His life and will through us.

May we be blessed this week as we mourn and remain humble and trusting!

Thanks again for making use of Clear Bible.

I want to remind you again that we are a listener-supported ministry, and that means, first and foremost, that we are supported by your prayers. We need and value your prayers for us.

Please pray that this ministry will continue to be a blessing to those who hear it. Ask God, if it is his will, to touch even more lives with these messages. Ask him to use this ministry in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please also pray for our finances. Pray for us to receive what we need. Please pray for us in this way before you give anything. And then, as you pray, if the Lord leads you to give us a gift, please go ahead and do that. But if he doesn’t want you to give to us, that is absolutely fine. We don’t want you to feel bad about it. We want you to follow Jesus in this matter. But do continue to pray for our finances.

If the Lord does lead you to give, just use the Paypal Donate button on the right hand side of the page. You don’t have to have a Paypal account – you can use a credit card, if you prefer. You can also set up a recurring donation through Paypal.

You could also send a check to:

New Joy Fellowship

625 Spring Creek Road

Lebanon, TN 37087

Just “Clear Bible” in the memo. Your check will be tax-deductible. Unfortunately, we cannot do the tax deductible option with the paypal donate button, however the money does go directly to support this ministry.

Thank for your prayers, and your support!

[1]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995, emphasis added by me.





Jesus calls “blessed” what we usually call “NOT blessed.”


To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer:  Download Matthew Part 10


Matthew #10 . Chapter 5:1-2

Chapter five is the beginning of what many people call “The Sermon on the Mount.” At the end of chapter four, we saw large crowds of people following Jesus around, mostly because he healed people. Matthew records that Jesus took his disciples aside, up a nearby mountain and spent some time teaching them. It isn’t spelled out, but it the picture seems to be of more than just the twelve apostles here. Instead, this teaching was for everyone who wanted to follow him. I think the main point Matthew was making was that there was a difference between “the crowds” and “Jesus disciples.” In other words, this teaching was given to people who trust Jesus and want to continue to trust him and be related to him. These are not standards we should try to apply to people who are not Christians. They are, however for all disciples of Jesus. Today, if you believe in Jesus and trust him, you are one of his disciples. This teaching is for you.

I’ve always heard Matthew 5:3-12, (the first part of the Sermon on the Mount) called “the beatitudes.” This never made any sense to me, because the word “beatitude” doesn’t appear anywhere in this passage in the English translations; it is a word of Latin/French origin anyway, not a Greek or Aramaic term. Besides that, until I looked it up in a dictionary, I didn’t know what “beatitude” meant.[1]

What Jesus is really teaching in this first section of the Sermon on the Mount are attitudes of the heart that ought to mark every person who is a Christian. Once again, we need to recall that He is speaking to people who are already in relationship with him. I don’t believe that the “blessings” which he pronounces over these heart-attitudes can be separated. In other words, he is not saying, “some of you are blessed because you are poor in spirit, and others are blessed because they are pure in heart…” No, the truth is one cannot be pure of heart unless one is also poor in Spirit. Likewise it may not be possible to be a peace-maker unless one is also gentle or meek. So the point is, Jesus wants all of his followers to be growing, and possessing all of these character traits in increasing measure. Certainly, some people may find it easier to be a peace-maker than to maintain a pure heart, while others have trouble with the idea of persecution, even while they desperately hunger for righteousness. Jesus certainly takes us just the way we are. It is also true that when we come into relationship with Jesus, he begins to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit, to help us to become more like the original blue-print he had when he made human beings, before Adam and Eve sinned. In other words, if we are tune with the Holy Spirit and with the Bible, we will continue to grow.

Before we look at what Jesus pronounces “blessed” I would like us to briefly consider what most of our culture might say about these same topics, if we were honest with ourselves. I am sad to say that many of us who are Christians often fall into the same patterns of thought, myself included. So an American version might read like this:

    • Blessed are the financially secure, for they have no worries, and money sets them free to pursue who they want to be.
    • Blessed are those who never experience any grief or pain, for life is easy for them.
    • Blessed are those with ambition, for they will get what they really “go for.”
    • Blessed are those who remain outwardly moral and upright, for they will be respected by all.
    • Blessed are those who are kind when it doesn’t really hurt them, for we think they are both good and smart.
    • Blessed are those who “seize the day” and are not encumbered by prudish moral distinctions, for they get to enjoy all things.
    • Blessed are those who can arrange circumstances to get what they want.
    • Blessed are those who never face persecution.

I honestly believe that most people in America, even many Christians, would find themselves agreeing with some, or even most, of the statements above. As I just mentioned, in unguarded moments I even find myself thinking this way, especially with regard to the first two and the last one. But this just one example of how Jesus’ thinking is so counter-cultural. Many of the blessings above are diametrically opposed to the statements Jesus makes in Matthew 5. And some of them, while not precisely opposite in meaning, completely miss the intentions of Jesus. So what does Jesus say? We will begin to look at that in detail right now.

The sermon on the mount continues through all of chapters five, six and seven. It includes the teaching that to lust is equal to the sin of adultery, that to hate or call someone a fool is the same as murder. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” As we read these things, I think you will be continually struck by one recurring question: Who could actually live like this? Who is truly capable of living up to these holy standards?

We are meant to ask that question, and to struggle with it. The standards of the sermon on the mount show us our spiritual poverty. They make us hunger and thirst to be that righteous. This shows us clearly that we do not have the resources to be that Holy We are meant to realize that the answer is “not me.” In fact, only one person could possibly live up that standard: Jesus himself.

So where does that leave us? We need Jesus to live his holy live “inside” of our lives, through our lives. We need to recognize our deep spiritual poverty, our desperate need for Jesus.

And that is why Jesus begins his whole discourse with this sentence:

“The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (Matt 5:3, HCSB)

We begin to have the right attitude when we realize that we are utterly without resources. We cannot be perfect. We cannot attain to the standard of Jesus. Instead, we recognize that we are dependent upon Jesus to manifest his holy and perfect character in and through our lives.

To be poor in spirit means to realize our true position before God. Consider Revelation 3:17. This is part of the message Jesus gave to the church in Laodicea.

“You say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked…”

It is so easy to come before God thinking we have something of value to offer him. We think the fact that we live basically moral lives ought to count for something. We think that we are certainly not as bad as some people, and that ought to be a bargaining chip for dealings with God. Sometimes if we do something particularly noble or self-sacrificing, we suppose God has to recognize that. This is not the attitude of someone who is poor in spirit. The poor in spirit know that before God, we have nothing. They know that we are in fact wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked when it comes to spiritual things. Now, if this were our physical condition, I imagine we would be desperate. We would urgently seek help for our impoverished situation. In the same way, the mark of spiritual poverty is desperation for God. For the poor in spirit, all back-up plans have failed, all safety nets have broken, all contingency actions have been fruitless. The last drop of water is gone from the desert traveler’s broken canteen; the safety line of the rock climber has snapped in the fall; the last bullet is gone from the gun of the soldier, and the enemy is advancing.

Does this describe your spiritual life? Are you desperate for the Lord? Do you cling to his promises as a shipwrecked sailor clings to his life-ring? Do you truly believe that without the great mercy of God you have nothing, that without him you are utterly lost? And do you believe that you have no claim on him, that nothing you have or are can manipulate him to act on your behalf? Jesus once asked his disciples if they wanted to leave him. Peter said:

“Lord, to what person could we go? Your words give eternal life. Besides, we believe and know that you are the Holy one of God” (John 6:68-69)

Peter and the others were desperate. They knew that they had no where else to turn. And they knew also that they had no claim to make on God, no basis by which to demand deliverance. Desperate, they threw themselves on the mercy of God. The words of the old hymn, Rock of Ages put it very well:

Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling

Naked come to thee for dress; Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me savior, or I die.

The Kingdom of heaven belongs to the spiritually poor because only the spiritually poor are willing to come on God’s terms. I encourage you this week to think of yourself as poor in spirit, and to receive the blessing of all of God’s fullness poured into all of your emptiness.

Hold on to this lesson, and return to it during these next weeks as we continue through the Sermon on the Mount.

[1] If you want to know, look it up yourself!