Well, here's the deal. You've been with your present employer for 12 years and you've done a really good job. Then you get disabled and you can't work for two years, you're injured and you're out of a job.
After two years go by, you're better. And even though you're better, it's questionable whether or not you're physically able to go back and do the job you were doing effectively. But in spite of that, your employer offers to give you your old position back, not only that, but he offers to give it back to you at your original salary and your original benefits. And not only that, but he offers to demote the fellow who'd been replacing you or the gal that had been replacing you for two years, a person who'd been doing a great job, a fabulous job, and had even won some performance awards doing your job while you were gone. And that's the offer. But instead of accepting the boss's offer, you tell the boss thanks, but no thanks.
And you decide to go out in this job market looking for the opportunity to do the very same job your boss was offering you the chance to do, but you didn't want to do it there, you decide to go out and look for another place to go to work. Now, does that make sense? Does that make any sense whatsoever? You say, no, sir, not in the real world, not today. That didn't make any sense at all.
Well, I agree. And if that's the case, then I've got to say to you that the National Football League is not the real world, because that's exactly what Joe Montana just did this past week. He went out and left the San Francisco 49ers after they'd offered to give him his old job back and his old salary and take Steve Young, who was the MVP of the National Football League last year, and demote him to second string quarterback, and Montana said thanks, but no thanks. And now, you know where he is? He's a Kansas City Chief. Over the next three years, he'll be making $10 million throwing footballs for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, don't you wish you to learn to throw footballs better when you work in? $10 million. Now, look here in Luke chapter 6 for a second. Look at verse 20. Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. People who are poor get to be part of the kingdom of heaven. That's what Jesus said. Now, I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, Joe Montana making $10 million over the next three years does not qualify as being poor. Would you agree?
Okay. So what that means is Joe Montana can never go to heaven, he can never become a child of God, he can never be part of the family of God, right? You say, wrong. That's not right. Well, why isn't it? Isn't that what Jesus said?
Blessed is the poor, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. You say, but it doesn't mean that. I agree. What does it mean? Well, I don't know, but it doesn't mean that.
Okay. Well, what does it mean? That's what we want to talk about this morning. For your sake and my sake and Joe Montana's sake and everybody's sake, what is Jesus talking about? Because whatever he's talking about, it's the secret to being part of the kingdom of God, which is pretty important. So what's he talking about? That's the question I want to answer for you this morning. So let's look at this. There are actually several Greek words that can be translated poor.
There are two major ones. The first one is the Greek word penis, which means that somebody has narrow means, somebody's eking it out. This refers to a person who's making it, but they're making it by the hair on their chinny chin chin. This is the person who says, well, I'm holding my own, but if I could just get a little push over the top, then I'll take it from there. That's all I need. I almost got it under control, but I'm right on the edge.
I just need a little push. That's not the word that's used here. The other Greek word that's translated poor is the Greek word potokos, which comes from a verb that means to be a beggar. And this conveys the idea of utter destitution, of abject poverty, of being like a beggar. A beggar is a person who doesn't have any resources of their own, but they're completely dependent on other people giving them resources if they're going to make it.
That's the word that's used here. So this, Jesus says, is a happy person, is a blessed person, the person who is utterly devoid of their own resources and who, like a beggar, is totally reliant on the resources of other people to make it. You say, well, now, Lon, wait a minute. You mean to tell me Jesus is asking us to be beggars like those people down in Washington that sleep on the grates and go rummaging through the trash cans for food and old hamburgers and stuff like that?
No, no, wait a minute. We're not done. We're only partway through. There's a little more to it than that. Jesus is asking you to be a beggar, but he's not asking you to be a physical beggar.
You say, what are you talking about? Here in Luke chapter 6, we have the Sermon on the Mount, which is also recorded in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 5, 6, and 7. In Matthew's Gospel, Matthew records Jesus as saying this, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And that little phrase, in spirit, is what makes all the difference to understanding what Jesus is talking about.
What is he talking about? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Well, being poor in spirit is an attitude. It is a spiritual attitude.
It involves the way we spiritually look at ourselves, the way we look at ourselves in relationship to Almighty God. It has nothing to do with your pocketbook. We're not talking about physical poverty. We're talking about spiritual poverty. You say, well, what does it mean? Listen, a rich in spirit person says this.
Their attitude is this. They say, all I need is me. I've got everything it takes to make it right inside of me. All I need to do is reach down inside of me deep enough and pull up all of my resources and release them. I just need to actualize myself. It's a matter of my own confidence and my own positive thinking, helping me reach down and get all of those hidden resources I have down there and bringing them up and letting them flow. A rich in spirit person is kind of like the little blue engine.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Don't any people ever read that book? That's a great book.
It is. The only problem is when it comes to how we relate to God, it's a lie. In contrast, a poor in spirit person is one who says, I am not able to live the way I know I ought to live. I'm not able to live the way I want to live. I'm not able to be patient with my children. I wake up in the morning and I say, oh, aren't you sweet little darlings? And by evening I'm like the Tasmanian devil.
We call five to six in our house the valley of the shadow of death because that's when it hits. But you started off so nice at the beginning of the day. A poor in spirit person is a person who says, I can't forgive that person who hurt me.
I know I'm supposed to forgive them, but they hurt me so deeply. I can't. A poor in spirit person is a person who says, I know I don't care about others the way I ought to. I try to, but I just can't. I'm too selfish. A poor in spirit person says, I'm not able to be self-disciplined in my eating the way I should. I'm not able to control my mouth the way I should. I'm not able to control my spending the way I should. I'm not able to master alcohol or drugs or cigarettes the way I should. Sensuality is out of control in my life and I can't seem to get on top of it and get a handle on it.
I'm not able to control my temper. My life is ruled by selfishness and pride. And no matter how deep down inside of me I reach, no matter how much I actualize myself in and of myself, I simply do not have the resources to live the way I ought to live and be the kind of person I want to be. And then a poor in spirit person in humility takes all this to God and says, God, I'm utterly helpless. I'm coming to you like a spiritual beggar because I can't make it. And God, I need you to provide spiritual resources for me to live the way I ought to because I don't have them.
I'm going to have to depend on somebody else for them. And Joe Montana or anybody else for that matter can have this kind of attitude, doesn't make any difference how much money they have. You know what? You can be rich, filthy rich and be poor in spirit and you can be poor as a dog and be rich in spirit and proud and arrogant. Money doesn't have a thing to do with it. The only thing that has anything to do with it is your attitude towards yourself and Almighty God. Now, this way of teaching, this way of thinking runs completely contrary to the way the world tells us to think.
The world tells us to go out there and get it ourselves and trust ourselves and we can do anything we decide we can do. Jesus says you'll never find true peace. You'll never find true joy.
You'll never find blessedness and happiness until you learn to think about yourself like this and live like this. I don't know how many of you have ever heard Neil Young. Young wrote a song called Heart of Gold.
I don't know if you ever heard it. But in this song, he sings about his search for his own heart of gold. He sings about this search in his own life deeper and deeper into his own personhood to try to find the resources to live this kind of beautiful life that he thinks he ought to be living. And he says in the song, I keep searching for a heart of gold. I've been a miner for a heart of gold and I'm getting old and I haven't found it yet. And I keep searching inside of me for the power to be that beautiful person but it's not there and I don't know where it is so I keep mining for it and I can't find it. And you know, I know exactly how he feels.
Maybe you do too. I spent the first 21 years of my life sure that I had whatever it took to make it in life. I was sure of that, that all I needed to do was just keep reaching deeper and deeper inside and sooner or later I would find the resources and I'd release the power to be the beautiful person I wanted to be.
Man, I searched in all the places the world system says to search. I got involved in higher education. I got involved in psychedelic drugs.
I got involved in Eastern religions and Oriental mysticism and Western philosophy and I couldn't find it anywhere. One of the most revolutionary changes in my whole life came one evening about 2 o'clock in the morning as I was sitting on a little wall in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where I was going to college. I don't know if you've ever been to Chapel Hill. There's a little wall right on the edge of campus and we used to sit there when we were doing LSD all night because it was a nice place to sit. And we would sit there and I was sitting there with my friend.
It was about 2 o'clock in the morning. We were on LSD. We were tripped out.
We were having one of these heavy, serious metaphysical conversations that you have when you tripped out on LSD. And I said to my friend, his name was David, I said, you know, David, I keep looking down inside of me trying to release all this love that's supposed to be down there inside of me, but you know, the deeper I go and the harder I look, it seems like the worst I get. It seems like I'm getting more selfish and I'm getting more self-centered and I'm getting more uncaring.
And I mean, I'm not finding more love. I'm getting worse. How could this be? How could I be going backwards? And he said to me, and he was not a Christian, but he kind of said to me in a matter of fact way, he said, well, Lon, he said, maybe you're not getting any worse.
He said, maybe you're just getting more honest about what you've been all the time. Oh, man, that's heavy. Oh, that's heavy, man. Oh, that's heavy. I don't think I could deal with that. I couldn't deal with it right at the moment, but the more I began thinking about that, the more I became convinced he's right.
He's absolutely correct. And, you know, the reason that was so important in my life is because it was the first time in my whole life that I began to realize I needed help from outside of me, that I was powerless, that I was never going to find what I was looking for inside of me. It wasn't there that I needed somebody to come along outside of me and give me the resources to live life the way I wanted to live them because I didn't have them. You say, well, who was it was going to do that for you? I didn't have a clue, but I knew I needed help from the outside.
And it was only a few months later that the man on the street who led me to Christ began talking to me about Jesus Christ. And he would say to me, you need help. I'd say, you're right. He'd say, you know, you can't do it yourself. And I said, you're right. He said, you know, you need somebody to come along and do things for you that you can't accomplish for yourself. And I would go, you're right. Would you stop telling me things I already know? I know those things.
Tell me where I'm going to find an answer, a solution. And he offered me Jesus Christ. And I want to tell you, folks, I grabbed a hold of him like a drowning man grabs a hold of a life preserver.
And in 22 years of never let go was the best decision ever made my whole life because he came along and provided the resources to live life that I didn't have. And maybe you're where I was. Maybe you're in counseling or you're in therapy or you're in some 12 step recovery program. And listen, these things can be of some help. I'm not putting these things down. But if you're using them to try to find inside of yourself the spiritual resources that you need for living, then you're like Neil Young friend. You're digging for gold where there's nothing but lead. You're not confined it the deeper I dug. All I did was come up with more crud. I didn't find those resources until Jesus Christ came along and said, you need help from the outside.
I'll give them to you. This is what a poor in spirit person is all about. A person who's honest enough and humble enough to admit it. You say, OK, Lon, if we get there, then we've got to answer the big question. So what? And there's a big so what?
Look right here. Luke Chapter six, verse 20. Blessed are you who are poor in spirit for yours. Here's the so what? For yours is the kingdom of God.
Boy. And this is true in two senses. Being poor in spirit means that yours is the kingdom of God in two ways. Number one, poverty of spirit is what qualifies you to get into the kingdom of God. I want you to turn back with me to Luke Chapter 18 just farther back in the book. If you're in our Bible, it's page 742.
742 Luke Chapter 18. Jesus tells a story about two men who both come to God and want to be made right with God. They want their sins forgiven. They want to be pronounced right in the sight of God. This is what it means to be justified, which is the word that he's going to use.
Look with me. Verse nine. To some who were confident in their own righteousness, in their own resources, and who looked down on everybody else. Jesus told this parable. He said there were two men who came up to the temple to pray. One a Pharisee, a religious leader of Israel, and one a tax collector. And you all know how people felt about tax collectors.
We've talked about that. The Pharisee stood up and he prayed about himself. And he said, God, he said, I thank you that I'm not like other people. No, sir. I'm not like robbers. I'm not like evildoers. I'm not like adulterers. I'm not even like that cruddy old tax collector standing over there. No, sir. I fast twice a week. I give you 10 percent of everything I have.
I do all these other great works. Aren't you glad, God, that I'm on your side? Meanwhile, the tax collector stood at a distance, the Bible says, and he wouldn't even look up in heaven. But he beat on his breast.
He beat on his breast as a sign of anguish and contrition and brokenness. And all he could say was, God, I don't have anything to bring you. I don't fast twice a week.
I don't give 10 percent of my money. I don't do anything right. All I can say is, God, have mercy on me. I'm a sinner.
Quite a contrast, isn't it? Look what Jesus said. Verse 14. I tell you, Jesus said, it was this man, the second one, who went back to his house justified, right with God, rather than the first man. Because whoever exalts himself is going to be humble, but whoever humbles himself is going to be exalted.
See, the Pharisee came in with all these resources. Did you hear him? I'm not like this guy. I'm not like that guy.
I fast twice a week. I give tithes. I do all this, hear all his resources.
The tax collector came in. He didn't have any resources at all. He had nothing, nothing. All he could do is beat on his breast and say, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. This was a man who had spiritual poverty, not the Pharisee, the tax collector. Which one did God respond to? Which one did God honor by forgiving his sins and letting him into the kingdom of God? It was not the Pharisee.
It was the broken, spiritually poor tax collector. Folks, you know, you can earn your way into heaven. You say, really? Sure. Jesus said to the rich young ruler, sure, you can earn your way in.
All you have to do is keep all the Ten Commandments and every other law in the Bible absolutely perfectly and never break one of them and you can earn your way in. He said, well, that's stupid. Nobody can do that. I haven't done that.
I'm already out. Right. That's the whole point, isn't it?
That's the whole point. And that means that somebody has got to do something for you you can't do for yourself. That's why Jesus Christ came and died on the cross and shed his blood to pay for our sin to do something for us.
We can't do for ourselves. And friends, when it comes to entering the kingdom of God, God only accepts people who are spiritually poor, people who are poor in spirit and are willing to come to God and say, God, I don't have one resource to present to you. All I'm here to do is to ask you 100 percent to give me mercy and to depend on you and what you did for me.
And that's how you get in. You know the great hymn, Rock of Ages? I don't know if you realize this, but that's the only hymn that television thinks the church knows.
You ever watch television? The church is always singing Rock of Ages. They think that's the only one we know. But it is a great hymn, isn't it? And there's a great line in there that I think is appropriate. Here's what it says. It says, nothing in my hands I bring. Meaning I don't have any resources to give you, God.
Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling. Meaning I'm going to have to depend on you, God, to do something for me that I can't do for myself. Your blood shed on the cross is payment for my sins, what I'm depending on.
I don't have any resources to give you. That's spiritual poverty, and that's how you get in. But once you're in, the need for being poor in spirit doesn't stop.
No, sir. Because second of all, poverty of spirit is the way that we unlock and tap into all of the resources that the kingdom of God offers us. God's supernatural power and his supernatural joy, his peace, his strength, his comfort, his provision for life. How do we unlock these as Christians and make them operative in our lives?
Very simple, very simple. The key is poverty of spirit. You say, well, I thought poverty of spirit is just for people who didn't know Christ so they could become Christians.
Not on your life. If you really think that, no wonder you're not getting everything out of the Christian life that God put in it for you. Peter said, 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 5, God opposes the proud, but he gives grace, he gives help, he gives assistance, he gives resources to the humble. Then Peter said, therefore, my good Christian friend, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God so God can give you those resources. I mean, who better to say that than Peter? Peter had tried the I can route, hadn't he?
Remember what he did? He said, now, Lord, no matter how many of these bums run away and leave you tonight, no matter how many of these cowards desert you tonight, you can count on old Peter, boy, I'm going to be here. You and me, Jesus, all the way to the cross, all the way to the grave. You and me, Jesus, I'm going to be here.
You know what's inside of me and I'm with you. Jesus said, Peter, before the rooster crows tonight, you're going to have denied me three times. Peter went, what? Me?
No, sir, not me. But he did, didn't he? And the Bible says he went away weeping, destroyed, that he had let the Lord down. But that was a great lesson for Peter, because Peter was depending on Peter. Peter had learned the hard way that a Christian is never more powerful than when he or she is on their knees saying to God, God, I can't. You're going to have to do it in me and through me and for me. You want to be powerful and you get on your knees and you pray like that. One more scripture passage back in the Old Testament. I want to show you this in action. Second Chronicles, Chapter 20.
And while you're finding it, let me tell you the story. The story here is about a king named Jehoshaphat. He was the king of Judah, a godly king. And he woke up one morning and the whole city of Jerusalem is surrounded by enemy forces that far outnumber him from a strategic point of view. He's completely outpositioned. He doesn't have a chance.
Not a chance. So he gets the whole city of Jerusalem together in the city square and he prays. And I want you to see what he prays.
Chapter 20, Verse 12. He says, God, we have no power to face this vast army that's attacking us. Lord, we don't even know what to do. It's not a question of making our plan and then working it out.
We don't have a plan to make. There's nothing for us to do. But our eyes are upon you. What a great prayer.
In fact, I think it's one of the greatest prayers, maybe the greatest prayer, in terms of the ability to release the power of God in our lives in all the Bible. Look what he says. Lord, we're not able to handle this. It's completely bigger and more powerful than we are. And Lord, we don't even know what to do with it.
We don't have a clue how to move from here. But our eyes are on thee. We're transferring this problem to you, God.
You're going to have to deal with this because we can't. Now, I love what God says to him. Look down at verse 15. God says, Don't be afraid. Don't be discouraged. You go on out there.
Don't worry about that army, for the battle is not yours. It's God's. You say, well, no, wait. Just a second.
Time out. Wait a minute. The battle is Jehoshaphat. No, it isn't. It started out that way.
Yes, it did. But Jehoshaphat did something very important. He transferred the battle. He said, God, this is not my battle anymore because I can't deal with it. I can't handle it.
I don't know what to do next. My eyes are on you. He transferred the battle.
And God said, fine, Jehoshaphat. I'd love to have it. You're giving it to me.
It's mine. I'm going to engage now. And, brother, when God engages, good things happen. The reason God doesn't engage more in our lives is because we don't give him more battles. We want to do it ourselves. We want to fight him ourselves.
We want to slug him out ourselves. God says, if you want to do it, go ahead. Peter tried. Go ahead.
You're not going to meet with a whole lot of success, but go ahead and try if you want to. But when you're willing to get down and humble yourself and say, I can't, God. I can't, God. I've got to give it to you, God, because it's too big for me, God. I can't, God. God says, well, what took you so long? Now watch me engage and let me go to work.
And you can read the rest of the story about how they won an incredible victory. Friend, if you want to unleash the power of God in your Christian life, may I suggest you take Jehoshaphat's prayer and memorize it and start using it? It'll work. Sure, this is what 12-step recovery is all about. Step one for any alcoholic is when he says, or she says, I admit that I'm powerless over alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable.
This is the hardest step for any alcoholic to take. And the reason is because nobody likes to admit that they're helpless. Nobody likes to admit that they're defeated. The issue is pride.
And there are every one of us will hold on to our pride till we are gasping our last gasp. That's the way the human spirit is. But friends, there is no healing that can begin in any of our lives until we raise the white flag of our own powerlessness and learn to say, I can't. My life is unmanageable.
I'm powerless over this alcohol. I love what Sam Shoemaker, who was a Christian and the founder of AA, said. He said, and I quote, There is no such thing as progressing beyond step one. We are always at step one.
And he's right. But when you're at step one, then you can go on to step two. Step two says, I believe that only a power greater than myself can restore my sanity. And step three says, I've made the decision to turn my life and my will over to God.
Now you can start going to work on it. But you can't make step two and step three till you agree to step one and you can't handle it. As long as you think you can handle it, you're not ready to give it to God. The whole motto of AA is let go and what? Let God. That's right.
But you're not going to be willing to let go until you're willing to admit that you can't do it. You say, but Lon, not everybody here is a recovering alcoholic. You're right. But every single one of us here that's a Christian is a recovering sinner. Huh?
We are. And that means every one of us needs step one. I admit that I am powerless over and you fill in the blank. Whatever it is. Powerless over my temper, powerless over my eating, powerless over my spending, powerless over drugs, powerless over losing it with my kids. What are you powerless over?
I don't know. But I guarantee you there's some things to put in that blank because you're a recovering sinner. And so am I. And that's all right if we learn how to handle it. Here we have in these few little words. Blessed is the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Here we have the secret to Godly power and effectiveness in life.
It's so simple, so childlike, so uncomplicated. The world screams at us, assert yourself, rely on yourself, actualize yourself, dig deep and find the resources you need inside of yourself. God says, oh, no. God says, get real with yourself. Get honest with yourself. Learn to admit your total inability. Learn to be comfortable saying, I can't.
And learn to depend on my resources instead of your own. That's what Paul said. My grace is sufficient for you, he said, that God said to him. Therefore, Paul says, I'm going to boast in my weaknesses.
I'm not ashamed of them because when I'm willing to admit that I'm weak, then I can begin to draw on God's strength and then I can really be strong. Vance Havner, the old country preacher, put it like this and I love it. He said, and I quote, the Lord had the strength and I had the weakness, so we teamed up. It was an unbeatable combination.
True? If you've got the weakness, he's got the strength. Team up with him and it'll be an unbeatable combination in your life. Friends, where is it that you need to say to God, Lord, I can't? My eyes are on you. If you're here and you've never trusted Christ as your savior and you're planning to work your way into heaven, I'm telling you, you better say that to God and you better say it as soon as you can because you can't. And if you're here and you're a Christian and you've been struggling against those areas in your life day after day, month after month, year after year, and you just can't beat them, it's time to raise the white flag and say, God, I'm transferring this battle. This is too big for me. I need resources supernaturally from you.
Would you help me? And God will do it one day at a time. Don't try to do it for your whole life. One day at a time. And God will give you the grace you need one day at a time. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I want to thank you this morning that you loved us so much that you came to this earth to provide a way for us to have things done that we can't do for ourselves, not only entrance into the kingdom of God and salvation, but the power to live it even once we're in. And Father, I want to pray for people who are here, every one of us, who either need Christ as our Lord and Savior this morning or we've already accepted him and we're recovering sinners. Lord, I want to pray that you would give us the humility to be willing to say that, Lord, I need you to do for me what I can't do for myself. And with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, I want you, without looking around, if God has spoken to you and said, you know, Lon's right. You need to say to me this morning, I can't.
Lord, I need you to do it for me. If there's some area in your life where you want to do that as a Christian or if you're here and you're not a Christian and you're ready to turn your life over to Christ regarding salvation, I'd like you just to slip your hand up so we can pray together as we close. Anybody like to slip their hand up? Thank you very much. God bless you.
Anybody else? Lots of hands, thank you. Heavenly Father, for these folks who've raised their hand and had the courage to do that, I pray you would teach them Jehoshaphat's prayer so deep in their soul that it would become their motto for life. Lord, I don't have any power against this thing in my life.
I don't even know what to do anymore. But my eyes, my reliance is on you. Father, I pray that they would find new strength and new power welling up inside of them as they simply give it to you one day at a time and rely on you. Help them bring it to the foot of the cross and lay it there every day and you'll take it from there. And I pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.
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