Spiritual Poverty and Future Perfection
Contrary to what the Joel Osteen’s of the world preach, the Christian faith is not about prosperity in this life, but about poverty.
Jesus said so: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). And in saying this he was merely echoing the Old Testament. David wrote, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). And through Isaiah God declared, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Is. 66:2).
What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? At least this. It means we realize how dark and depraved our hearts really are. It means we see the goodness of God, and mourn over the blackness of our own souls in comparison. It means we know how utterly right the commandments of God are for us, and are crushed over our own inability and lack of desire to keep them. It means we have caught a glimpse of the glory of Jesus Christ, and had a small taste of the joy that is to be found in him—and then wept over our meager affections for him. It means we have developed a deep and holy hatred for sins like pride and selfishness, only to realize in horror that not only are they lurking in the hearts of everyone around us, but have their roots deep within us as well.
How much easier it is for non-Christians to deal with their own spiritual poverty! Those who live in darkness make it their business not to see, and so they do not have to bear the conscious weight of their lowliness. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (Jn. 3:20). If you are easily burned by the sun, no problem, just stay in the shadows. But those who no longer live in darkness, who through the miracle of the new birth have become children of light, no longer have this luxury. “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may clearly be seen that his works have been carried out in God” (Jn. 3:21). We who belong to Christ are children of the day, and no longer belong in the darkness.
And this is painful, even though it is gloriously liberating. It is painful because my works are seen clearly for what they are. Some of those works, by the grace of God, are Spirit-empowered good works which bring both glory to God and joy to me. But many of them are Spirit-grieving works of the flesh which bring sorrow to Christ and death to my soul. They are many of the same works which have always been there, only now they burn under the bright light of an awakened conscience, and my spiritual bankruptcy is laid bare before my enlightened eyes. I’m not poorer than I was—I’ve been given unsearchable riches in Christ, actually—but now I can see. I see my poverty. I see my depravity. I see my need for Christ.
And because I see, the kingdom is mine. Christ the Lord is near to brokenhearted people such as myself, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. And in this blinding light, my spirit is mangled. I look into my heart for righteousness, and I see but a few stale crumbs. But then Jesus says this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 3:6). Which means that there is a feast coming for this brokenhearted man! A feast which I will be attending in sinless, spotless perfection, when Christ presents me and the rest of his church to himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. And heaven will be mine.
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