The Sermon on the Mount is the longest recorded sermon of Jesus. It starts as Jesus walks up the mountainside, sets down with His disciples and starts to teach them. Setting down to teach was the common and authoritative posture for the rabbi’s of Jesus’ day. By doing this Jesus was demonstrating to His disciples that what He was about to say was very important.
It’s important for us to recognize that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was primarily talking to His disciples. While there was a crowd gathered around Him, they were not His primary audience. Jesus was primarily teaching those who had already committed their lives to being His disciples.
In the Sermon On The Mount Jesus teaches us what it means to be His disciple. The idea is that those who follow Jesus do the things talked about in the Sermon on the Mount because they follow Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is one of my favorite passages so I’m going to spend a little while blogging in this great passage. I’m going to start with the Beatitudes.
Jesus starts this teaching by laying out the type of attitudes His followers should demonstrate. We know these as the Beatitudes or the Blessed Attitudes. It is extremely important for us to understand that Jesus expected every believer to possess and exhibit every one of these attitudes. The attitudes described here do not describe eight separate types of disciples, but the total character of each and every disciple
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (NKJV)
The Old Testament gives us some important background info that helps us understand this attitude. In the Old Testament it frequently talks about God helping or caring for the poor and needy. The idea wasn’t just their physical reality, they were poverty stricken, but it also referred to their spiritual attitude.
The poor man in the Old Testament is one who is poverty stricken and is unable to save himself and so looks to God for deliverance from this problem. These people didn’t go to God with an attitude of entitlement that said God owed them something. They didn’t go to God with an attitude of merit that said God should help them because of anything they had done. They didn’t go to God with a demanding attitude telling God what to do.
Instead they went to God as beggars seeking His help. They went to God recognizing that He didn’t owe them anything. They went to God with fully acknowledging that they were helpless to fix their situation and were totally dependent on God for help.
This is basically the same kind of attitude Jesus is talking about here. Those who are poor in spirit…
Recognize their spiritual poverty (lack of righteousness). This means they understand they have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23). One of the first things that we have to understand is that God has an absolute standard of right and wrong and that we have failed to keep it. The basics of God’s standards would be the 10 Commandments. If we were to take the time to read the 10 Commandments we would all recognize that we had failed to meet this standard. It is our failure to meet this standard that has kept us from having any inherent righteousness of our own.
Recognize they cannot earn Gods favor. This means they understand that their righteous deeds are like filthy rags in the eyes of a Holy God. “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV) I don’t think any passage more powerfully demonstrates how God sees our righteousness and good deeds apart from Christ.
Recognize they are completely dependent on God for salvation. This means they understand that their righteousness comes from Christ alone. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) Even after we’ve been saved our righteousness is never based on us or anything we do. We are righteous only because of Christ.
So the first attitude that Jesus wants us to have is an attitude of dependence. We are to be totally dependent on God for our righteousness and our salvation. Jesus gives a promise to those who totally depend on God for their salvation and righteousness. The promise is that theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
What this means to us on a practical level is that their sins are forgiven and they receive eternal life. It is only those who are poor in spirit that truly confess their sins to God and receive the salvation that He offers. These are the ones who stop trusting in their own goodness and cry out that they need Christ. These are the ones that receive forgiveness for their sins, are made new and are given eternal life.
For further study read Luke 18:10-14.
Which of the two men displayed an attitude of dependence on God?
How did He do this?
Which one could be said to receive the promise Jesus gave in Matthew 5:3?
Are you poor in spirit?
Do you recognize your total dependence on God for salvation and righteousness?
If spiritual pride is something you wrestle with, take some time today to confess this to God and ask Him to forgive you for it and help you forsake it.