What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.3

“Spiritual Riches for the Spiritual Poor”

Matthew 5:3

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.3

Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:3. We’ve just started a study on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7. And as I was studying this week and preparing for today I was reflecting on how much counterfeit spirituality are in churches today.

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The counterfeits are like professional beggars. For example, take Robert and Jamie from Salt Lake City, Utah. They been on the streets since he had a head-on collision. “(The) first week I cried,” Jamie said. “I mean, I didn’t want to go and [beg for money]. But it was our last resort and everything … it’s just embarrassing.” The medical bills forced them out of their home they had to send their two young daughters to family out of state.

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On cardboard, their story seems to check out. But if you do a little digging you would’ve found that Jamie and Robert have 15 years of felonies and arrests, theft, burglary, forgery, DUI and the use or possession of drugs.

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And two weeks after the KSL investigative team interviewed them, they were both arrested and charged with drug crimes.

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Another man, Gary, also had a car accident which left him unable to walk. He said, “I wish I wasn’t in this situation, but a lot of people don’t believe I’ve got a broken leg.” Although he has the medical papers to prove it.

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But the KSL investigative team found that Gary’s been arrested or cited more than 70 times, including convictions of theft, criminal trespassing and three counts of sexual battery.

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Or what about another Gary from Texas who gets around in a wheelchair and appears to be mentally and physically handicapped from a motorcycle accident, in which he was awarded $2.4 million in a lawsuit but his family spent the money!

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When the LEX 18 news station confronted him and told him they knew of his scheme, he actually confessed but didn’t plan on stopping. Gary not only can walk and speak properly, but he has a college degree in speech pathology that allowed him to mimic a mentally disabled person. In Kentucky, the average household income is $42,000 a year, but Gary Thompson can pull in $100,000 a year as a professional beggar.[1]

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Now, one is against helping those who truly need it, but there are counterfeits out there. Counterfeit beggars. Those who by all appearances seem to be beggars, but if you dig into their life a little bit you will realize they are counterfeits.

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And that is exactly what is going on spiritually in Christian circles. We’re just going to read one verse this morning and I’ll explain my point. Matthew 5:3 … Jesus says…

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Matthew 5:3 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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There are those who claim to follow Christ or who attend a church like this, and you talk to them and they are nice and at church, but in reality they are counterfeit. As our Lord says “the poor in spirit,” but there are those who are counterfeit “poor in spirit.” They appear as if “the kingdom of heaven” is theirs, but in reality if you dig into their lives a little bit you realize they are counterfeits, they aren’t really poor in spirit.

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TRANS: And that is my intent today: to dig into our lives a little bit to help all of us to know where we stand on this most important issue. We’ll look at the pronouncement, the pledge and the prescription. First, the pronouncement: Blessed are the poor in spirit.

  1. Pronouncement: Blessed are the poor in the spirit

    Jesus begins by pronouncing a blessing on certain people. The word “blessed” doesn’t mean happy, as if all Jesus intends is a feeling of delight or pleasure. It’s not fortunate, as if luck has anything to do with being blessed. “Blessedness” or being “blessed” refers to spiritual prosperity from divine favor. We can see this in

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Psalm 1:1–3 1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! [The blessed man doesn’t go along with sinners to be with them in their sin…] 2 But [the blessed man’s] delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” This man is spiritually prosperous because of divine favour.

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You can see it as well from another angle when the psalmist blesses the Lord. “To bless the Lord” means to thank Him for His benefits, or how He has prospered you.

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Psalm 103:1–2 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;

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So we bless the Lord when we thank Him for all his benefits. The Lord blesses us when He bestows on us His divine favor which results in spiritual prosperity. What does it mean to be “blessed” then? To be “blessed” means to have “spiritual prosperity from divine favor.” The blessed person is spiritually rich in his soul because God has given him favor, and has pledged unto him some gift or benefit.

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TRANS: Now, who are the ones who are spiritually prosperous because divine favor? “Blessed are the… poor in spirit.” What does this mean?

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  1. Negative

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First, “poor in spirit” does not refer to those who are materially poor. It is possible that someone may be poor in goods, but not poor in spirit. Their clothes may be torn, but not their conscience. “Poor in spirit” does not refer to the materially poor.

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Second, to be poor in spirit is not simply to be a sinner. Everyone is a sinner. The problem is, the vast majority do not know it. As Jesus says in another passage…

Revelation 3:17 17 ‘… you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…

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Poor in spirit is not simply being a sinner.

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Third, “poor in spirit” is not getting down on yourself or lacking self-esteem. It’s not constantly demeaning yourself or believing that you are worthless. Surely Christ has died for such a person and surely God sees His own image stamped on this person’s heart, which gives every person value. Poor in spirit does not refer to lacking self-esteem.

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And fourth, poor in spirit does not refer to someone who would sell their property, vow a life of poverty to live in a monastery. For certainly such an individual could think himself spiritually rich for having made such decisions.

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  1. Positive

EXP: The underlying Greek word for “poor” refers to such complete destitution that leads them to no other option but to beg. Abject poverty, the absolute worst, most hopeless level of poverty you’ve ever seen.

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ILL: It’s like what’s happened to Rosa, her husband, and their daughter and granddaughter this past week after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. The water rose in their first floor apartment. Fleeing to a vacant unit on the second floor, they watched in horror as it continued to rise, swallowing most of the cars in the parking lot. After waiting two days for the flood to recede, they return to the first floor to find all their possessions destroyed. They had nothing 3 years ago when they fled the gangs in El Salvador, and they have nothing now. They have a hammock for the toddler, but that’s it. “We haven’t even bought food because we have to pay rent,” Rosa said. “We’ve just been eating the little things that people have brought by.”

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Or think of Roy, a homeless man when the hurricane hit. Four hot dogs. A bag of shrimp. A couple of cupcakes. His American Tourister rolling suitcase, fitted with a spare pair of jeans and not much else, living under the freeway. He uses the Shell station for a washroom. To eat, he begs. “I have no place to go and it’s going to get bad,” he said last Saturday. “A hurricane is coming and I don’t know how I’m going to live through it.”[2]

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Desperate, destitute people and our hearts go out to them and we’ve been praying for them and many have been giving to them. These people have nothing and thankfully there are many, many organizations reaching out to them to help them.

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But like 3 billion people of the world today who live on less than $2.50 a day, these people are destitute.

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Material poverty like that illustrates spiritual poverty.

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It’s not those who are materially poor who are blessed, but those who are spiritually poor. Just like those people are destitute, miserable over themselves and their condition, so also should people recognize their spiritual poverty and misery before God.

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EXP: The poor in spirit are those who are brought to a deep sense of their own sinfulness. They see no goodness in themselves and they flee only to the mercy of God.

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ILL: As you walk up, you see a man picking through the garbage finding nothing, and he turns to you with both hands held out and strain on his face.

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That’s the way you need to be toward God! That’s the first and foundational step in order to be in a right relationship with God. That’s why Jesus puts this blessing at the beginning, in front of the other seven blessings in verses 4-10.

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Poor in spirit … Deeply aware of your sinfulness, seeing no goodness in yourself, and fleeing only to the mercy of God… That is poverty of spirit.

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ARG/ILL: It’s like Jesus story in Luke 18. Two men go up into the temple to pray, one a self-righteous, self-proclaimed spiritually rich person a Pharisee… And the other, a spiritually destitute tax collector, a notorious sinner.

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Luke 18:11–14 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying to himself: ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away [doesn’t feel worthy to even approach the temple], was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven [doesn’t sense any worthiness to approach God], but was beating his chest [out of a deep conviction over the guilt of sin], saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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The tax collector was deeply aware of his sinfulness and sees no good in himself, and so he flees only to the mercy of God.

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Or it is like on another occasion in Luke 7 when a Pharisee requested to eat with Jesus and Jesus enters the Pharisees house. And there was a woman in that city who was a notorious sinner, at least a lady known for being sexually immoral and probably a prostitute, and when she learned that Jesus was at the Pharisees house, out of deep conviction over her sin, she buys an alabaster vial of expensive perfume.

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And she enters this public setting and standing behind Jesus at his feet, she is weeping. And she begins to wet his feet with her tears and now down on her knees, she kept on wiping his feet with her hair, and kissing his feet and, sensing her deep sinfulness and unworthiness to rise up to Jesus’ head, she instead anoints Jesus’ feet with the perfume.

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She is deeply aware of her sinfulness and sees no good in herself, and so she flees only to the mercy of God.

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TRANS: That leads me to further consider what are the evidences of someone who is poor in spirit.

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  1. Evidences of Poverty of Spirit

1. They cast judgment on themselves. The poor in spirit, out of utter disgust for their own spiritual condition, hate even their own selves as Jesus says is required, and turn against themselves in favour of God’s judgment. They condemn themselves before the righteous Almighty and they agree with the punishment they deserve: eternal death in eternal flames for the sin that they have committed.

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2. They see themselves to be in bondage to iniquity. The one whom the Lord is drawing and working on sees himself, not only as sinful, but in the bondage and sold as a slave to sin. It has possession of him and has infected him, like a putrid sore infecting the entirety of his spirit and body.

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3. He is agitated in his spirit over his poverty.

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Psalm 38:1–8 1 O Lord, rebuke me not in Your wrath, And chasten me not in Your burning anger. 2 For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, And Your hand has pressed down on me. 3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. 4 For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. 5 My wounds grow …

foul and fester Because of my folly. 6 I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go mourning all day long. 7 For my loins are filled with burning, And there is no soundness in my flesh. 8 I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.

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The agitation of the soul over sin characterizes the poor in spirit.

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4. And because he sees how far short he falls, the poor in spirit only pleads for mercy! As a poor man begging for bread cannot sustain himself, the spiritual poor recognize he has no good in himself to commend himself before God. And so he simply pleads for mercy.

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5. And thus he makes no claim that any of his own good works could ever in any possible way contribute to his salvation.

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6. And in the end, only Christ is admired.[3]

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Like the sages in the Christmas story, after they see His star in the East, they approach Jerusalem and tell others that they have come to worship him and when they find him and His mother they lay their treasures at His feet and fall to the ground and worship Him.

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Or like the man born blind in John 9 whom Jesus healed, who also was persecuted by the Pharisees.

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And when Jesus asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

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John 9:36–38 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

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And after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb in the coolness of the morning that first day of the week after our Lord was crucified, after saying an angel to tell go and tell his disciples that He’s risen, with great fear and joy they run to report it to his disciples and Jesus meets them and greets them and they come up and take hold of Jesus feet and worship him.

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APP: Is that you? Do you know what it is to cast judgment on yourself in your own heart and declare yourself guilty before God? Have you ever seen yourself to be in bondage to iniquity? Have you ever been agitated in your spirit over your sin? As a beggar have you simply pleaded for mercy before God? Is Christ the one who is admired,… Blessed Christ, blessed cross, blessed tomb, blessed resurrection!

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Jesus has paid it all! So don’t bring any claim of your own to Him. “Nothing good have I, whereby thy grace to claim, I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.”

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If this is you, Jesus pledges to you His very kingdom.

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  1. The Pledge: Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

    “Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for theirs (“and theirs alone,” is the idea) is the kingdom of heaven.” Poor in spirit is one characteristic that describes those who are in the kingdom of heaven.

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    The kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God is God’s reign over those who submit to Him. REPEAT. Presently, the poor in Spirit experience the indwelling of the Spirit and other manifestations of the kingdom. But in the future, the kingdom of heaven will come to earth when Christ rules from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

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    Now, the thought of participating in Jesus’ kingdom is meant to motivate you to be poor in spirit. It is His pledge to those who are poor in spirit. Blessed or spiritually prosperous are the poor in spirit. What is that prosperity? It is entrance into the kingdom of heaven!

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    That ought to motivate you! To do what? To realize and to confess your poverty of spirit to the Lord!

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    Well, in Matthew 19:16-26, the word of God equates entering the kingdom of heaven, with being “complete,” with being “saved,” with “entering into life.”

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    Today, if you have never confessed your poverty of spirit to the Lord, today you could enter into God’s kingdom! “Yours will be the kingdom.” You’ll have eternal life if you willingly and gladly submit to God’s rule and reign. As it says in Romans 10:9

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    Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

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    Jesus is the Lord; and when you confess him to be such and willingly submit to his rule and reign, confessing your poverty of spirit and believing that God has raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved, you will enter the kingdom.

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    And you will from this day forward be in his kingdom. And one day Jesus as the King will return to this earth and set up His earthly rule and reign.

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    And in the end, He will set up a new universe wherein only dwells righteousness and God’s people will dwell with the Lord for ever and ever.

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    And then… not only will the kingdom be theirs, but they will experience it in full.

    1. Kings have their crowns. So the saints after death have their crowns. ‘Be faithful unto death, Jesus says, and I will give you a crown of life’ (Revelation 2:10).

    Jesus took on Himself the crown of thorns that you may have the crown of life.

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    2. Just as kings have their robes, the poor in spirit, who have no righteousness of their own, will be robed in the whiteness of Christ’s righteousness

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    Revelation 7:9 John looked in his vision, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…

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    3. Just as kings rule, the poor in spirit will rule with Christ … 2 Timothy 2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;

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    Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

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    Yes, and the poor in spirit will even sit with Christ on His throne…Revelation 3:21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

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    APP: That’s designed to draw you in! Seek to be poor in spirit!

    APP: You don’t have to be something special to get God’s favour, you have to be something worthless! The way up is down, the last are first, the way to exaltation is humiliation, the way to freedom is to know you’ve been a slave!

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    You may never preach to thousands, you may never risk your life to preach Christ, you may never be someone that everyone writes about…but that’s not what is expected. There is no pecking order in Christ’s kingdom! No hierarchy whatsoever! You’re not going to be farther from Christ’s throne than the famous Christians of our day.

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    Revelation 3:21 ‘He who overcomes [that’s a Christian, someone who is poor in spirit], I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

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    !!!In Christ, there is finally approval, acceptance, and eternal prosperity for the poor in spirit. And that’s because no one is in the kingdom because of his own merit but because of the merits of Jesus Christ!

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    TRANS: Now, finally the prescription…What do you do with this?

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  2. The Prescription: Seek to be poor in spirit or grow in your poverty of spirit

    Seek to be poor in spirit or grow in your poverty of spirit. That’s the prescription.

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    To motivate you to seek poverty of spirit, consider this…

    If the poor in spirit are blessed, the rich in spirit are what? Cursed.

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    Those who believe themselves to be spiritually rich in themselves, who thinks himself to have something that commends himself to God, he is under a dreadful curse, not a blessing!

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    And to him will not be the kingdom of heaven, but for him will be only the kingdom of darkness, hell, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. Darkness, punishment for sin, forever!

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    Also, if you have no poverty of spirit, no grace for you. If you are full of yourself, God can’t pour in His wonderful grace, just like you can’t pour water into a full glass. No grace for those who aren’t poor in spirit.

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Isaiah 61:1 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

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If you aren’t afflicted, brokenhearted, or in prison, He has no ministry for you! That’s Jesus ministry. Those who are well need no physician!

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Know yourself then to be in deep need! I counsel the lost and the Christian alike then…

1. First, dwell on the wretchedness of your sin! How many of you confessed your sin to God this week? When was the last time you were agitated in your soul over your sin? Confess it! And then be sure to praise God with joy that the penalty for your sin has been paid at the cross!

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2. Dwell on Psalm 38:1-8 which I read a moment ago. Ask the Lord to work this in your heart … Verse 3-4 again say…3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. 4 For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.

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3. Isaiah 66:1–2 1 Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2 “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble [or poor] and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

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Consider that verse and ask God to work in you a contrite spirit, a

Tremble at the proclamation of God in His word; recount and bring to mind His words even as they’ve been preached today and respond in fear at His word.

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4. Fourth, plead for mercy this week! Ask Him to be MERCIFUL TO your INIQUITIES, AND not to REMEMBER your SINS anymore.”

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.3

When was the last time you came face to face in your heart with your abject poverty of spirit? Has that ever happened? You may be here today and think you are fine, that God and you are good. Or you may have professed faith in Christ, but is it really in your heart? Are you broken in your spirit? You may be able to cross your theological t’s and dot your theological i’s, but are you truly broken in your heart over your sin?

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You may give to the poor, but do you recognize that within you dwells no good thing? And has it driven you to your knees about how sinful, wretched, poor blind and naked you really are? Do you know experientially your poverty of spirit?

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Takes these words this week and use them for Christ’s glory and your good. 362 – Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me … just stanzas 1-4

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Go to Matthew Main Page

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  1. https://www.ksl.com/?sid=27782692

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2285423/Meet-man-makes-100K-year-begging-pretending-mentally-handicapped.html

  2. http://www.npr.org/2017/09/07/549132417/houston-s-undocumented-immigrants-left-destitute-and-fearful-in-harvey-s-wake

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/27/us/hurricane-harvey-homeless-houston.html?mcubz=1

  3. Modified from Watson.

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