Beatitude 2: Good Mourning, Holy Spirit

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You’ve just finished a journey.  This journey lived several stories that stretched several thousand miles and most likely several years.  This journey charred you with fire and numbed you with cold.  This journey saw you attacked and even left to die at some points.  This journey manifested itself in the form of loneliness and sadness.  This journey saw moments of strength and moments of weakness.  This journey saw the wilderness and this journey saw the oasis.  Your clothes are torn, your shoes have holes in them, and your body is covered with scars from old wounds and bandages from new ones.  Your journey is finished.

The journey I’m speaking of is the journey you take from the time you’re born to the time you’re born again. Using the language of the beatitudes, this journey is from the time you’re born to the time you discover you’re poor in spirit. The beatitudes, found in Matthew 5, are Jesus' way of describing how Christians are and how they should be.

Being poor in spirit is a gateway trait.  It brought you to the gates of the kingdom of God where you realized you need Jesus.  Jesus died on the cross for that very moment when you turn to Him and repent of your sins.  But the pains, wounds, and scars brought on by your sins from the journey still plague you.  You’re born again.  You’re in the family.  You’re in a safe place.  But you still find yourself grieved by what sin has done to your life.

Jesus anticipated this long before it ever happened.  This is why he gave us the Holy Spirit.  He knew we would mourn when we realized the devastation brought on by our sin.

Matthew 5:4 – "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

When you see your own spiritual poverty (poor in spirit), you enter the kingdom of heaven.  Your reaction to being poor in spirit is mourning.  Mourning because you are aware and ashamed of your sins.  Jesus promises comfort for this type of mourning.  In fact, He promises comfort from the one called Comforter (John 14:16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7).

The source of this comfort is the Holy Spirit.  The beauty of the Holy Spirit being our comforter is that He lives inside of us.  The wounds and scars from the past are slowly, but surely, healed as Comfort Himself comforts us.  Our guilt and shame from our sin cause us to mourn. So, He comforts us.

Jesus tells us that we are blessed when we mourn.  Mourning over sins is not ordinary mourning.  Mourning over sins is divine.  Thus, we need divine comfort.  Worldly comfort is mostly limited to creating environments where we feel okay.  Heavenly comfort is much more.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t just comfort our mourning brought on by sin.  The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us so that we may be strengthened to avoid a sinful lifestyle.  When He comforts us, He is not just soothing us spiritually, but He is also preparing us to persevere through the trials and tribulations the world drags us through.

It’s interesting to see the correlations between the beatitudes and our salvation story.  We give our lives to Christ and are born again.  This correlates with being poor in spirit because we realize we need Jesus.  After we are born again, we receive the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to heal and guide us.  This correlates with being blessed for mourning because those who mourn are comforted. 

The first two beatitudes are foundational; they are divine traits of Jesus’ followers.  We may only be born again once, but it is just the beginning. It is the daily acknowledgement of our continual need for Jesus that keeps us poor in spirit. We may only repent for 23 years of sins once, but we should never find ourselves in a place where we take sin lightly.  Our sin and the sins of those around us are always cause for mourning.  It is this type of mourning that is of heaven, for it is an open invitation for the Holy Spirit to come and transform.  

-Andrew Apple

Beatitude 1: Poor In Spirit

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Living poor in spirit means recognizing that you need God.

Whether we know it or not, most of us are control freaks.  Not controlling others so much, but ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong, self-control is a very positive thing.  I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about becoming a Christian but never giving Jesus full reign in your life because after all, it is YOUR life.

Maybe it's living in America that has this affect on us, but we can do anything we put our minds to, right?  It’s the American Dream that causes us to believe the only necessity to becoming rich, successful and happy is to want it

So, we set out to be the next rags-to-riches story.  We tell ourselves that we can do it, and that all we need in order to make it happen is already within us.  If we see small successes, it’s because we did something right.  If we see small losses, it’s because we did something wrong. 

No matter what life throws our way, we refuse to really let go and ask for help.  Choosing instead to fight back alone because, well, we can handle it.  The flood of stress, bad news, and loss keeps coming and coming.  We keep fighting and pushing and shoving from our corner.  With our backs against the wall we still lean on our own strength.  Until, as if in defeat, our backs slide down the wall and our knees hit the floor.  We hang our heads and we say, "I can't do this. Jesus, I need you."

In that moment, we are poor in spirit.  We are no longer trying to do things on our own.  We lay down everything and say, "Jesus, come in.  I need you.  Sorry for not doing this sooner."  

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 5:3

If the Sermon on the Mount is Christianity 101, then the Beatitudes are a prerequisite.  The Beatitudes are not spiritual gifts.  You do not attain one or the other.  Rather, the Beatitudes are Jesus' way of describing how Christians are and should be.  These are character traits and attitudes of those who follow Jesus.  A commonly used illustration is a ladder.  When climbing a ladder, you start on the first step, closest to the ground, and then climb up one step at a time.  The first Beatitude is the first step of the ladder.

Living poor in spirit means recognizing that you need God. Obviously, if you don’t know you need God, then you won’t look for Him. This is why it’s a preface. If you don’t walk through the first Beatitude then you don’t walk into the kingdom of heaven. Plain and simple. 

If you’re a Christian, then you’ve already found yourself poor in spirit to some extent because you’ve heard the Gospel and believe it.  But there’s more to it than that.

Jesus rarely teaches in one dimension. In the Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes especially), His words are a kaleidoscope.  The pieces in a kaleidoscope remain the same, but as you turn it, what you see changes.  Knowing this will impact how you approach what Jesus is saying.

When we are born again, Jesus doesn't become a piece of who we are.  WE become a piece of His body.  Thus, ALL of who we are is in Him.  This means we can't have pieces of our identity in anything outside of who Christ is.  Our hope, joy, and peace can't be rooted (or partly so) in our jobs, families, dreams, or even the thought of future successes.

Poor in spirit is seeing our needs and recognizing that we can’t meet them on our own.  We need redemption from our sins. We need joy. We need peace. We need rest. We can't truly get these things until we first recognize we don't have them.

When we become poor in spirit, we surrender our lives to Jesus. But this doesn’t relieve us of personal responsibility. Jesus doesn't come in and program us into some sort of heaven sent robot. He comes in and transforms us as he uproots every piece of us, little by little, and replants us in His presence. Those things we couldn't handle before are now easy to handle because Jesus is leading us through them.

Our jobs might stay the same, but the way we work them will change. Our dreams and aspirations might be the same, but we look at them as God given passions and not sources of joy, peace, and comfort. Like the kaleidoscope, our lives might have the same pieces, but we will never look at them the same again.

-Andrew Apple