Meditations: SOTM7 Matt 5:3 (4)
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:2-3 (ESV)
The King of the Ages is the centre of the Kingdom, and worthy of all our adoration and hope and enjoyment. He is so, so worthy of our entire heart, every fraction of our desire and pleasure. Nothing can ever compare in pleasure to simply enjoying Him – Who He Is and the sublime reality of intimacy with Him.
But we must learn also about the Kingdom in which He reigns – the realm which manifests His nature. So what is the Kingdom of God like – this “realm of His reign” He came to establish, which the “poor in spirit” alone possess? Well, that is easy because from beginning to end the scriptures hint at and describe this Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is really a teaching on the Kingdom of God, and the book of Matthew is a manual for those who enter the Kingdom of God – it teaches the lifestyle of the Kingdom, the mission of the Kingdom, how the Kingdom will grow, what community life is like in the Kingdom of God, and the future of the Kingdom after this life. But Paul sums it up best in 2 statements:
- For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of (1) righteousness and (2) [wholeness]** and (3) joy (4) in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 (ESV)
**[though translated peace most of the team, it does not mean peace in the sense we understand peace in modern western culture, but rather how they would in ancient eastern culture, which is wholeness. It is translated from a word (eiro) meaning to unite all the essential parts, or bring wholeness, which fits well with the Hebrew understanding of the kingdom of God being a place of Shalom, wholeness, prosperity in every important regard]
- And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18 (ESV)
The SOtM focuses on the experience of the Kingdom of God we can expect in this life: righteousness, wholeness, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
When Christ reigns in our heart, our inward state will be righteous, because we will be “poor in spirit” and so by faith lay hold of the righteousness of Christ; we will be “mournful” and so repent; we will be “meek” and so submit under the reign of the Holy Spirit; we will be “hungry and thirsty for righteousness” and be “merciful” and so devote our lives to “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God”; we will be “pure in heart” and so worship Him and not seek pleasure and comfort in the things of this world; we will be “peacemakers” and so love our enemies. That is who He will make us as He reigns in our hearts. This inward state of the heart reveals the King Himself Who’s gracious reign in our hearts through faith, will yield increasing faithfulness to the Constitution of His Kingdom, which centers on “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5 – ESV). By implication, it is never His Kingdom when love (works of charity) come from selfish motives, guilt, or outward efforts to manufacture faithfulness. It is not about outward practices that appear righteous, but about a heart-state which yields the fruit of outward righteousness. So those under the reign of the King will never murder because the Holy Spirit reigning in their heart will not permit anger in their heart (Mt 5:21-26); they will never commit adultery because the Holy Spirit reigning within will cause them to yield lust to the cross (V27-30); they will not be responsible for divorce because they the Holy Spirit within will give them commitment and grace to be faithful to Father’s eternal purposes for the marriage covenant (v31-32); they will not make oaths because by the Holy Spirit within they will have integrity, always doing just as they say they will do (v33-37); they will not retaliate because the Holy Spirit within will grant them compassion and love for even those who despitefully use them, and will not allow bitterness in their hearts (v38-42); they will love even their enemies because real Kingdom love loves selflessly, not just the loveable and those who love in return (v43-48). Their motives will be pure, rather than self-serving (6:1-18). Through deep fellowship with Father by His Spirit within, they will treasure Father and His Kingdom, rather than things on this earth, and therefore not have worries (6:19-34). Knowing their own rottenness apart from the grace of God, they will themselves be gracious rather than critical (7:1-12). In summary, they will ask for grace to live righteously and it will be given to them (7:7-12); they will therefore bare the fruit of righteousness, proving themselves to be disciples of Jesus (7:12-20); they will know Jesus’ Presence in their hearts (7:21-23) and they will therefore build their life on the rock of His ongoing instruction (7:24-27) by His Spirit within.
The second point Paul makes, though, is equally important. The Kingdom of God does not spring up overnight but is growing from one degree of glory to the next until in the end the fullness of it will be revealed. The Kingdom is going from glory to glory in at least 3 dimensions.
(1) In our own hearts, the Kingdom of God increases it’s influence over our hearts as yeast placed in a corner of the dough slowly affects the whole lump, eventually causing it all to rise. (Matt 13:33). It is a process and that process takes us from one degree of the glory t the next of the King’s reign in our hearts (1 Cor 3:18). We must not fall off the horse on the left or the right. We must not feel condemned for not being perfect. We do not start perfect and we will not be perfect this side of death. There is no condemnation for we who are in Christ (Rom 8:1). But we must also not think He will be pleased if I am as mature in Christ next month as I am today. That is not His will for me. His will is that I believe Him to take me from one degree of glory to the next (1 Cor 3:18), day to day, month to month, always.
(2) In the world in general, the Kingdom of God increases it’s influence over all the world like a mustard seed, starting off the smallest of all seeds (one man, dying on a cross) and in the end will be a great tree (body of believers), giving shade to all the birds of the air (blessing all people in the world) (Matt 13:31-32). There are 2 kingdoms present in this world (Matt 13:24-30) and the other one loves the deeds of darkness, driven by selfish motives, being justified by the cultural norm of selfishness; and it grows up alongside the true Kingdom. Which kingdom is your church of? Is it self-seeking and man-glorifying, or is it self-abasing and God-glorifying? The true Kingdom-dwellers, with a lifestyle of selfless love under the reign of the King, are guaranteed to be “persecuted for righteousness sake” and “reviled and persecuted and falsely accused”, though the mustard tree of the Kingdom benefits the whole heart, being the salt which halts the total corruption of the world that would rapidly emerge if the reign of selfishness in human hearts were not checked by the conscience, brought on by witnessing selfless love in the world. Despite the persecution the Kingdom will grow until it’s shade covers the whole earth, from one degree of glory to another. Again we must not fall off on either side of the horse. We must be filled with hope for the world despite the great corruption we see. On the other hand, we must not be complacent, satisfied with where the world is. He is growing His Kingdom in the world, from one degree of glory to the next.
(3) But even that increasing glory of the Kingdom in the world is not the end of the story. There will come a day when the “wheat and tares” will both be gathered – both unbelievers and professing Christians will be separated from those who love, obey and serve the Lord (Mt 25) – and the tares will be separated and burnt, the wheat brought into the barn (Mt 13:24-30). That kingdom of the usurper will be judged, and all who did not know the Lord (Rev 19; Mt 7:23). What a terrible day that will be. But in that day will come a degree of glory not seen since the fall of man: the great Millennial Kingdom in which Christ will reign in His glory from His seat in Jerusalem (Rev 20). Then the man who dies at 100 will be called an infant and “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord”. (Is 65). But that is still not the end of the glory of the Kingdom, for then there will still be death and some pain. There will come a day still future from there, where the full glory of God’s Kingdom will be revealed. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Rev 21:1-6 (KJV). Then for the first time we can say, “they all lived happily, ever after”.
For now, our focus is on the Kingdom growing in our hearts, leavening all thoughts, desires and pursuits with the manifest Presence and reign of our King. As we yield to the reign of the King in our hearts, so we become increasingly blessed because we increasingly “possess the kingdom of heaven” (in our hearts), are ” comforted” (by the presence of the Holy Spirit), look forward to “inheriting the earth” (in the future, when the Kingdom of God is established outwardly by the second coming of Messiah), are “satisfied with righteousness” (by faith in the atoning and sanctifying work of Christ now, but more fully in the Millennial Kingdom and eternal Kingdom), “receive mercy” (in approaching God now, and then in the coming judgment), “see God” (now dimly as through glass, though still how wonderful to behold His beauty; in eternity clearly, shining like jasper in the brightness of the sun) and live in the reality of being “sons of God”.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Rev 21:7-8 (KJV)
Original date of work: 19 Jan 2011
By: J Goldberg