Poor in Spirit

The Sermon on the Mount is probably Jesus' most famous sermon, and it starts with what we call "The Beatitudes." The word "Beatitude" comes from the Latin word for "Blessed." Jesus lists a string of blessings, and the first one comes in Matthew 5:3–Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The elders of FBBC are taking a closer look at that right now and we'll be having a discussion about how this applies to our own lives. Richard Valdivia gave us a great resource for this; it's the work of a Puritan named Thomas Watson.

The Puritans lived in England in the 1500s and 1600s, and they were hoping to purify the church from the grip of Roman Catholicism and external religion. As a result, much of their writings are tremendously deep and practical. They typically focus on what real Christianity looks like (from the heart). If you can get past the Old English style, their writings are a gold mine for spiritual insight.

That being said, I just wanted to pass this resource along. Besides buying the book on Amazon, "The Beatitudes" by Thomas Watson is available for FREE online. 

  • CCEL has an online version to read, or you can download a TXT or PDF file. 
  • Monergism.com has a Kindle MOBI, EPUB, and PDF versions. You can also download free mp3s of each section if you'd rather listen to them.

Since we're focusing on "Poor in Spirit" let me give you a condensed version of what Watson says. I hope it motivates and challenges you. If you want to read the full section, you can use the links above to access it.

Watson starts with some preliminary observations about the Beatitudes:

  1. One extreme in life produces the other.
  2. What Christ calls us to is the opposite of what the world values.
  3. True religion requires difficulty.
  4. Christ calls us to grace by promising rewards.
  5. All the graces listed are connected like a chain.

Watson also explains what being "poor in spirit" does NOT mean:

  1. It's not those who are economically poor, especially if due to foolishness or wickedness.
  2. It's not those who are spiritually poor and do not know their poverty (Rev 3:17).
  3. It's not those who are filled with discontentment (Eccl 6:1-2) or who give themselves over to sin easily.
  4. It's not those who take a vow of poverty.

So, what DOES it mean to be "poor in Spirit?" Here's what Watson says:

  • It means you're aware of your sins and see no goodness in yourself.
  • It means you're completely dependent on Christ's mercy (Luke 18:13; Php 3:9).
  • It's the basis of all the qualities that follow in the Beatitudes.
  • It's the cause of genuine humility.
  • It means you denounce and part with yourself.

Watson also gives 3 reasons why being poor in spirit is important:

  1. It enables us to receive grace. "If the hand be full of pebbles, it cannot receive gold."
  2. It makes Christ precious to us. "Before we see our own wants, we never see Christ's worth."
  3. It allows us entrance into heaven. "Poverty of spirit pares off the soul's superfluity [excess], and now a man is fit to enter in at the [narrow] gate."

How can you tell if you're poor in spirit? Watson offers 7 tests:

  1. You are weaned from yourself (Psalm 131:2).
  2. You admire and think highly of Christ.
  3. You complain of your spiritual state, rather than boast in it.
  4. You are lowly in heart and credit God for holiness (Gal 2:20; 1 Cor 15:10).
  5. You are much in prayer.
  6. You receive Christ on His own terms, instead of bargaining with Him.
  7. You exalt free grace. You magnify mercy. You are exceedingly thankful.

Watson closes his discussion on being "poor in spirit" with 4 truths to persuade Christians:

  1. It entitles you to all the riches of Christ.
  2. It makes you honorable in God's sight.
  3. It quiets your soul and brings true peace.
  4. It paves the way for true happiness and blessedness.

Like I said earlier, if you want to read Watson's full explanations for yourself, use the links above. But beyond all that, don't read past this material without stopping to respond to God in prayer. Pray for yourself, and pray for us elders as we seek to grow toward Christ (Php 3:12-14; 1 Tim 4:16).

Blessings in Christ.

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