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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.
  • Overflow!

    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Romans 15:13 NIV

    Key Thought

    We live in the overflow of God's grace. David said it well in Psalm 23, "my cup overflows." Because of the Spirit's presence, our hope overflows! In addition to goodness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17 NLT), the presence of the Holy Spirit brings deep, abiding, and personal hope! But let's not get overly focused on just the promise to us of the Holy Spirit's presence. Instead, let's also notice that this passage contains a blessing that we can share with other believers — releasing God's blessing of the Spirit into their lives. This blessing of the Spirit can bring them joy, peace, and hope! What a great gift to share with others who love Jesus.

    Today's Prayer

    Father, I thank you for your presence in my life. Your presence has brought me hope, joy, and peace and encourages me to live a good life. Please use me to bless others so that they can experience these blessings from your Spirit. Open my eyes to those who need this blessing of the Spirit. Give me the gracious words to share this blessing with others at just the right moment when they need to hear them. Finally, dear Father, thank you for the power to bless others. In Jesus' name, I thank you. 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.

  • Who Can Argue with These Qualities?

    For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.

    Romans 14:17-18 NLT

    Key Thought

    Who can argue with goodness, peace, and joy? These three virtues are not obtained just by human effort. Yes, a passion to possess these godly qualities is necessary, but the source of these qualities is the Holy Spirit alive in us. Goodness, peace, and joy have their source in God's nature and are made real in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we invite the Holy Spirit to reign over our inner being, our character is transformed to be more and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). So let's yearn for the Holy Spirit to transform us to be ever more like Christ and trust that the Spirit's influence will be displayed in our lives through goodness, peace, and joy.

    Today's Prayer

    Father, don't let me be distracted by, or addicted to, food or drink. I want to be sustained and fed spiritually and emotionally by the presence of your Holy Spirit within me. I specifically pray that your goodness, peace, and joy will become more and more apparent in my life as I seek to honor Christ and yield myself to the influence of your Spirit. 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.