I've been slowly inching through the book of Matthew in my quiet time lately, learning more about Jesus and his ministry on earth. Last week I read through the beatitudes, a group of pronouncements where Jesus calls certain people blessed. "Blessed are the poor in spirit... blessed are those who mourn... blessed are the meek... blessed are the pure in heart..." I've heard those 8 verses and I've read over them a number of times, but for some reason I keep coming back to them when I open my Bible each morning. I feel the need to study them more.
So for the next 8 weeks I'm highlighting the beatitudes in this Weekly Truth series. Each week I'll focus on a different verse, study the significance behind it, and memorize it with the help of a new phone wallpaper and the Scripture cards I've been adding to the Library. I haven't done a series like this on the blog before, but I'm excited to dig into God's Word and unpack it's implications for how we live each day. I would love for you to join me.
The Beatitudes, Week 1
We are told it's good to believe in ourselves. They say that we already have what it takes to achieve our dreams, conquer our fears, and overcome our obstacles. When we're down or discouraged, the world encourages us to "believe in ourselves and we will find the strength we need to accomplish our goals." And it sounds good to our already self-seeking hearts, so we strive to become even more self-sufficient. We shape our lives around this pursuit of self-reliance, self-determination, self-confidence, and self-esteem hoping to find joy and satisfaction.
We've struggled with this religion of self-admiration since the beginning when Adam and Eve sought their own independence. It's the human condition, our selfish tendency, and the reason that following Christ is a stumbling block to so many. Our sinful hearts don't want to replace self-reliance with the childlike God-reliance that Jesus calls us to. Our pride would rather celebrate our strengths than boast in our weaknesses. And self-determination is easier to pursue than humble submission to Christ.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by calling the poor in spirit blessed. Examples of the poor in spirit are seen all throughout Scripture:
- "Abraham answered and said, 'Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes." Genesis 18:27
- "'I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for only with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.'" Genesis 32:10
- "And I said, 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'" Isaiah 6:5
- "John answered them, 'I baptize you with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.'" John 1:27
- "But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'" Luke 5:8
The poor in spirit are those who know who they are in light of who God is. They see their unworthiness and their hopelessness apart from Him. They acknowledge their wicked ways in light of God's perfection. And they understand their need for a Redeemer to restore the relationship that they've ruined with God. Oh what a stark contrast to the self-reliance and self-confidence that the world prescribes as the answer to all of our problems!
So what is the true solution when we're paralyzed by guilt, uselessness, or low self-esteem? Jon Piper says it wonderfully:
"The biblical answer to the paralysis of low self-esteem is not high self-esteem; it is sovereign grace. You can test whether you agree with this by whether you can gladly repeat the words of Isaiah 41:14, 'Fear not, you worm Jacob... I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.' In other words, God's way of freeing and mobilizing people who see themselves as worms is not to tell them they are beautiful butterflies but rather to say, "I will help you. I am your redeemer... Go to Egypt now, and I will be with you."
As easy as it is to buy into the self-seeking advice of the world, my prayer is that we would acknowledge our helplessness and draw near to Jesus this week.
Each week I design a new iPhone background with a different verse and share it on the blog. Seeing Scripture several times throughout my day reminds me of truth, strengthens my faith, and helps me me memorize God's Word so I can accurately share it with others. Feel free to download, pin, and share these backgrounds as many times as you would like!