Care and Feeding of the Born-Again Heart: In Remembrance of Our Spiritual Forebears
As mentioned at the close of The Training Table last week, please pull up a chair for a feast of the heart from Thomas Watson’s, Poor in Spirit.
As Matthew Henry commented on the Beatitude, “The poor in spirit are happy. This brings to their minds their real condition, when it is a low condition. They are humble and lowly in their own eyes. They see their want, bewail their guilt, and thirst after a Redeemer. The kingdom of grace is of such; the kingdom of glory is for them.” (Matthew 5:3)
Check it out: “These bring their minds to their real condition…”
I was recently reminded of one of my favorite depictions, as rendered in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, of the story of Jesus Christ as He was confronted by the judge at His trial—when Pontius Pilate was authorized by Rome’s prefect Emperor Tiberius to crucify Christ.
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?!”
Jesus answered, “What you say is true.”
And Pilate replies, “Ha! What is truth? Is it the same for you and me?!”
“Ha! What is truth? Is it the same for you and me?!”
Does this sound familiar in any way? Pilate’s question was 98% rhetorical—“Hell no!” And 2% real—“But if you want to prove me wrong, between You and me, I’m open…”
Pilate, like us, had reservations. And often, again just like us, the louder, more violent, Pilate proclaimed his indifference and ridicule of Jesus’ claim of True Truth, the more obvious were Pilate’s hopes and reservations suppressed deep within his heart: Akin to all humanity, Pilate knew deep within his heart of his real condition and the need for a Savior and Lord of his life; but his fallen and sinful predilection compelled him to be his own savior and lord… Thereby, remaining in denial of his real condition… And far, far from blessed or happy about it!
God’s best offer for our temporal and eternal blessing and happiness is in Christ Jesus… “And in no other name…” (Acts 4:12).
Humankind’s repudiation and ridicule of reality, our sneer of cold command of our own life, the breadth and depth of our illusions encompassed in a relativistic worldview… All of it… is in a constant and marauding state of denial of God’s True Truth (Romans 1:18). Overtime, this condition moves from the ideal of being blessed and happy to that of a real darkness and despairing—personally and culturally.
And what we deny the most is the “person and state of God”, and then the person and state of our real condition.
Here’s a Warning and Word for Today:
When any person or culture is RICH… comfy, satisfied, snug, smug, or materially over-contended… in any way, shape, or form—even the tiniest bit rich, prosperous, well-off, or apparently independent—we tend to fast forget what REALITY and our own REAL CONDITION actually consists of, Beloved.
Can anyone attest to the fact that it doesn’t take much wealth to forget how bankrupt we really are?
Can anyone offer a witness to the black-blackness of his or her heart as being so black that it’s only and solely by God’s unmerited mercies and grace from the outside that any glimmer of light at all has broken though?
Can anyone admit to the extremes of God’s Good News akin to, “I wasn’t simply given a hand-up by God… offered a cup of cold water… rescued from certain death… I was actually, truly, certifiably, de facto, spiritually DEAD—and miraculously regenerated, made alive, born-again, converted and resurrected by God in Christ! Amazing Grace is not just a relic of a bygone time for me…”
It is only when we come to grips with our real condition of our utter and absolutely impoverished and beggarly state… That we a truly, unashamedly, and infinitely rich—through an inheritance from God, through the Son, and by the person and power of the Holy Spirit… through the gift of repentance and faith. Amen.
This is why the wonderful Gospel extremes seen in the Beatitude take us from the DEPTH of our reality as being so poor in spirit to the HEIGHTS of heaven itself! [From WAY LOW:] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, [to WAY HIGH:] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
We can never appreciate the manifold, death-defying mercies of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unless we can ALSO realize the undeserving and flinty-dead hardness of our own heart.
Please carefully, meditatively, and communally [in fellowship] see how wonderfully Thomas Watson states the situation:
Poor in Spirit, by Thomas Watson
“He that is poor in spirit is lowly in heart—[God and self-aware, humble, unpretentious].
Rich men are commonly proud and scornful, but the poor are submissive. The poor in spirit roll themselves in the dust in the sense of their unworthiness. ‘I abhor myself in dust’ (Job 42:6). He that is poor in spirit looks at another’s excellencies and his own infirmities. He denies not only his sins but his duties.
The more grace he has, the more humble he is, because he now sees himself a greater debtor to God. If he can do any duty, he acknowledges it is Christ’s strength more than his own.
As the ship gets to the haven more by the benefit of the wind than the sail, so when a Christian makes swift progress, it is more by wind of God’s Spirit than the sail of his own endeavour. The poor in spirit, when he acts most like a saint, confesses himself to be ‘the chief of sinners’. He blushes more at the defect of his graces than others do at the excess of their sins.
He dares not say he has prayed or wept. He lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He labours, yet not he, but solely by the grace of God.” (parentheses added)
In closing, you race-running Saints, don’t forget that due to being born in Sin (Genesis 3), and the habits of our sinning (Romans 7), the default mechanism of the heart is self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, ego, and pretentiousness. By God’s grace in Christ, we have been freed of this state (John 8:36)—but not entirely (1 John 2:1).
Some ways we can maintain the blessing of being poor in spirit are…
> to be RICH in the regular remembrance of our condition when we first came to realize our destitute need and gift of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ;
> to be RICH in the sacrificial giving our or time, talent, and treasure whenever possible;
> to be RICH in serving the poor, the orphans, the widows, the disenfranchised in the name of Jesus;
> to be RICH in meditating on God’s Scriptures each morning;
> to be RICH in being a committed and serving member of a biblically sound, grace-full, disciple-growing, sacramental, and community-transforming church;
> to be RICH as a parent in bringing up a child in the way they should go;
> to be RICH in confessing our sins to another Saint;
> to be RICH in self-forgetfulness;
> to be RICH in forgiveness, making peace, and gospel-based reconciliation;
> to be RICH in procuring the fullness of all the fruits of the Spirit;
> to be RICH in avoiding sins of omission [not doing what pleases God] and commission [doing what displeases God];
> and to be RICH in unceasing prayer based upon a pattern of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and then supplication [making our needs, requests known].
Please join us at The Training Table next week when we chow down on The Doctrine and Astounding Gift of Assurance, by various authors.
‘Till then treasure up, “He lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He labours, yet not he, but solely by the grace of God.”