In Cru’s latest webinar conference series, UNVEILx (13 & 27 August, 10 & 24 September), we hear from Senior Pastor Benny Ho of Faith Community Church in Perth, as he teaches about The Beatitudes. In this first session, we deep dive into Matthew 5:1-3 as he expounds on “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“If you were to ask someone what they want in life, the answer for many people would be: they want to be happy,” Ps Benny began. While the pursuit of happiness is universal, people look for it in different places—wealth, human relationships, achievements and so on.
“But the truth is this: happiness is rooted in God,” he continued. “It goes beyond favourable circumstances and what this temporal world has to offer. Otherwise, life can be very disappointing. But if we pursue God and what He has to offer, that’s where we find true satisfaction.”
“Happiness is not found in the pursuit of it; happiness is the by-product of pursuing God. And that’s what the Beatitudes are about—we are looking at God’s formula for happiness,” Ps Benny posited.
The core values of Jesus Christ
Drawing from the teaching of John Stott, Ps Benny explained that the Sermon on the Mount outlines the core values, creating a counter-culture of an upside down Kingdom.
The first sermon that Jesus preached, “The Sermon on the Mount must be seen in the context of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God—a manifesto given by a spirit-filled King to His spirit-filled subjects. It describes what a spirit-filled community should look like, which looks nothing like the world.”
“Throughout this teaching, particularly the Beatitudes, there is a constant contrast of the standards of the world and the standards of the Kingdom. The worldly man is self-centered, self-sufficient, self-made. But if you read the Beatitudes, it paints the exact opposite picture of a Christian,” he mused.
Watch this first session here!
First ingredient of happiness
“The first word in the Beatitudes, “blessed”, comes from the Greek word “Makarios” which means ‘happy’. But in English, the word ‘happy’ is too sedated to express Jesus’ true intent when He says “Makarios”. The better alternative was “blessed”, speaking of receiving the favour of God outwardly, and also the harmony of soul inwardly,” Ps Benny shared.
This all-encompassing type of happiness is the kind only found in God—rooted in living by the core values and ideas of His Kingdom.
We already see the contrast here—in our society, we tend to look up to and admire riches and the wealthy, but shun poverty. It may not come as easy for us, like it was for Jesus, to truly say and mean ‘blessed are the poor’. Going a step further for believers, Matthew writes about being “poor in spirit”, because as Christians we recognise that we are spiritually poor without God.
Ps Benny poses this heart check question: “Are we poor in spirit? In a society and time that advocates self-esteem, self-respect, independence; it can be hard to maintain being poor in spirit.”
He goes on to illustrate what Jesus means by being ‘poor in spirit’ from three concepts of poverty in the Bible:
“Jesus is talking about the bankrupt kind of poverty—to rephrase, blessed are those who are desperately bankrupt. Do we feel that bankruptcy in our spirits, that desperation in our hearts for Him? Do we realise that we are in permanent debt to God, that we can never repay the Lord for what He did on the cross for us?”
“When we realise this bankruptcy in our spirit, that there is nothing in us, we have nothing to offer to God, except by His grace; that’s when we are blessed,” Ps Benny gently concluded.
Surrender: the key to poverty in spirit
Referencing the example of David in Psalm 131, Ps Benny points out three aspects of coming to a place of true poverty in spirit before the Lord.
“David’s heart already recognises he is poor in spirit. He tells us that he is not lofty or haughty in his eyes—in other words, David is saying, I know my place and I stay there. I don’t concern myself with things too grand for me.
“David then tells that he has stilled and quieted his soul, his inner posture. The word "quieted" is the Greek word “Daman" which means ‘to wait in silence and stillness’.”
“David then uses a beautiful metaphor of a weaned child with his mother to describe the condition of his soul—only a person with a broken spirit will have this condition of heart. It’s a place in your relationship with God where you’re no longer demanding, but you’re yielded and still before the Lord.”
Ps Benny concluded, “When we reach this state of contented dependence is where we start to live out poverty in spirit. This is the theological foundation for the posture of surrender. A heart and spirit that recognises its own poverty, is a person that can truly trust the Lord and hope in Him.”
However, we must also take care to know what poverty of spirit Is Not:
Once we understand our own spiritual bankruptcy and come to Jesus in total dependence, it is when God’s rule and reign can be established in our life and the Kingdom of God can come. We see in Psalm 131 that David continues in verse 3 to exalt the people of Israel to put their hope in the Lord. Because he knows that it is only in surrender, that we are able to discover true lasting happiness that the Kingdom of God offers.
Ps Benny puts it like this, “The theological anchor of our faith is what Jesus has done to bring us from poverty of spirit to the richness of the Kingdom of God. Jesus on the cross became spiritually and physically poor on our behalf, that we may become rich in Him. He was broken, that we might be blessed.”
Even as we start embracing the counter-culture reality of the God we chose to follow, let us be unafraid to live lives that show our brokenness, that the richness of the Kingdom might be seen in us instead.
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