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January 13, 2018

Every Thought Captive, a weekly devotional from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA) January 12, 2018

We Are Beggars; This Is True

by Matt Fray

The Lame Beggar Healed
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. That is, 3 p.m. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon's Portico
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?

Acts 3:1-12(https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=31a2371858&e=82a9a8f89)

On February 18, 1546, Martin Luther died. In his pocket was found a piece of paper with this statement written on it: “We are beggars; this is true.” These words might have seemed mysterious at first, but those who knew Luther well quickly realized that he was not describing material poverty, but spiritual poverty. In other words, in God’s sight, we are so spiritually weak and needy that we are like beggars before Him. While most of us would agree that Luther is a credible source of great wisdom, we all must agree that Jesus is the one from whose lips we receive divine wisdom itself. And Jesus, too, promotes the truth of our lowly spiritual condition.

Amazingly, Jesus goes even further than Luther. Jesus not only affirms the truth that we are people of great spiritual need, but that is a good and even happy reality. We see this as Jesus begins his most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus’ opening words in this great sermon are commonly known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12), a description of the attributes and attitudes that should characterize us as Christians. Both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, the Beatitudes present a vision of the good life that is marked by humility, need, and even mistreatment. In the Kingdom of God, those things which the world despises as weak and pitiable, God exalts as strong and enviable. And Jesus begins the Beatitudes with perhaps the most surprising attribute and attitude of all, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3).”

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? To be poor in spirit means having an attitude that reflects our attribute of spiritual poverty. This attitude is not mere pessimism or self-pity; it’s origin is not from our own heart or mind. Rather, it is an attitude of abiding humility that takes root in our souls when we learn the uncomfortable truth of who we are before God. In God’s eyes, we are not merely imperfect, but altogether unrighteous (Romans 3:10). Before His holiness, we are not only guilty, but condemned to the punishment of death (Romans 6:23). To be poor in spirit is to not only see these realities, but to feel in our bones the tragedy and humility of them personally.

Why does Jesus say it is a good and happy thing to be poor in spirit? Because it is only when we see our poverty that we can see and receive the riches of Jesus’ grace by faith. It is only when we feel the weight of hell’s justice that we, in turning to Jesus, can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the upside-down, inside-out nature of the Kingdom of God: abundant provision in Jesus Christ for those who see, feel, and openly acknowledge their need of Him. So while many of us try to keep our deep sense of spiritual weakness, corruption, and need hidden, Jesus calls us to own it and to bring it into the light of His glorious grace.

To possess a genuine attitude of spiritual poverty, we must turn away from our natural inclination to compare ourselves to other people and, instead, compare ourselves to God. Or to put it more accurately, we must stop looking at ourselves with the world’s mirror and look at ourselves with God’s mirror; we must see who we are in God’s holy sight. This is what led to the great expressions of spiritual poverty found in the Bible on the lips of people like Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), Mary (Luke 1:46-48), and Paul (Philippians 3:8-9). As the famous English preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

"The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Look at Him, and keep looking at Him. And then say to Him, 'Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.' Empty, hopeless, naked, vile. But He is the all-sufficient One: 'Yea, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.' (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 52).”

May we who are poor look to Jesus who is rich and feed on Him in our hearts by faith as we anticipate the glories of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

About the Author

Matt Fray
Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Matt grew up in South Florida and first sensed a call to pastoral ministry while a high school student at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Covenant College, and Westminster Seminary in California, he spent four years serving as the assistant pastor of a PCA church in Savannah, GA. In 2014, he returned to serve at PCPC as the Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation.

Matt and his wife Erin have three children: Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel.

 

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God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to you! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • The Time Has Come

    [Jesus said,] "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NIV

    Key Thought

    Jesus' words, spoken to the woman at the well in Samaria, echo down through time. They cut through the worship wars of every era. They rattle our selfish preferences and challenge our dogmatic positions. They remind us that worship is something much more than a responsibility, a ritual, a place, a time, or a style. Worship is a gift. We cannot even properly worship without the Spirit of God in us. Those who are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-7) are given the opportunity to worship because of the Spirit's presence. And when they are led to worship in the Spirit, they are then called to make that worship authentic. Worship in truth is worship that is consistent throughout life — living-sacrifice worship (Romans 12:1-2). As the Spirit permeates our being, influences our hearts, and conforms us to Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), then worship is no longer about a place (John 4:21), but about presence! The Holy Spirit, God's abiding Presence in us, makes the life of God come alive in us — not just on a "worship day," but every day in all of our ways.

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, I want to be a true worshiper! I want to worship you spirit to Spirit. I want my worship words to be consistent with my daily worship in thought, action, and speech. As the psalmist said so long ago, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

    The quotation in the prayer is from Psalm 19:14 NLT.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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