“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” These comforting words of Christ are addressed not to the proud, not to the boastful and self-conceited, but to those who realize their own weakness and sinfulness. Those who mourn, the meek who feel themselves unworthy of the favor of God, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, are all included in “the poor in spirit.”
But thousands of souls know not their poverty. They are filled with a craving for something which they do not possess. The wealth that men accumulate does not satisfy, although it preoccupies the soul, and keeps it from the possession of true riches. But those who are accounted blessed are those who empty themselves, who have room for spiritual and eternal riches. They are the hungry, thirsty souls who reach out for the strength and grace of Christ. They are not among those who think themselves whole and are satisfied with their own righteousness. They are not of those who feel no need of higher attainments. They are those who feel the need of forgiveness, and who long for the grace of Christ that bringeth salvation.
There is forgiveness for the penitent, for Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Christ came to this fallen world to contest the claims of Satan for the sinful human race. He knows the conflict of every soul with the powers of darkness, and through the gift of his Holy Spirit has undertaken to make men more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. For God is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those that ask him, than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children. But the battle of overcoming is one that is presented to every soul who would enter into the kingdom of God. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” The followers of Christ are to war against every evil tendency which they have inherited or cultivated; for evil practices defile the soul. Many have been deceived in themselves, and have considered their character to be as good as the average. Though the word of God lifts up the danger-signal to warn them, they yet press on from one point of resistance and disobedience to another, and while living in sin they flatter themselves that they have acted in a meritorious way, that they are not depending upon any one for help, but can of themselves be good and do good. They do not believe the word of Christ when he says, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
Those who strive for eternal life will practice self-denial, because they love Jesus. They will count themselves as pilgrims and strangers in this world. They center their hopes above, and are looking for the day of God. Where the heart is, there will the treasure be also.
The young ruler who came to Christ flattered himself that he had placed his hopes upon heavenly things, and that he needed little in order to gain eternal life. He came to Christ and said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet?”
The world’s Redeemer knew that while the young man had a theory of religion, and flattered himself that he was keeping God‘s commandments, he was very far from doing so.
He did not love God with his whole heart, might, mind, and strength, nor his neighbor as himself. Jesus brought to bear upon him a test that would expose to the young ruler the weakness and poverty of his heart. Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” When the young man asked of Christ, “What lack I yet?” he thought himself a perfect man. The words of Christ revealed to him his idol; but did he quickly expel it from his heart, that he might be perfect? Jesus looked with pity upon the young ruler, for he loved him. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions! Though Jesus had come to the world to save him, he rejected the Saviour and yielded to his inclination to cling to his idols. The young man loved his possessions more than he loved God.
There are many in the same danger, who allow their means to come between them and their Saviour, and when the test is brought to bear upon them, and Christ bids them “sell all that thou hast, and come and follow me,” they draw back. They love money more than they love God and his righteousness.
Many profess to believe the Bible, and with the young ruler they are saying, “All these things have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet?” They address Christ as Lord, and yet they fail to recognize his claims in the poor and the oppressed, and thus cut themselves off from true union with Christ. They will not practice the self-denial that is necessary in order to keep the commandments of God. Like the young ruler, they turn away from the treasures of heaven, because they allow their spiritual eyesight to be perverted, and value the earthly treasure above the heavenly. Christ offers to them the precious treasure of his grace; but they have no room for his rich gift. Their attitude is that of the young ruler, as he asked, “What lack I yet?” Christ turns from those who feel whole to those who acknowledge their poverty of spirit, who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and he will supply their needs from his immense storehouse of grace.
Longing for God
The poor in spirit feel their poverty, their want of the grace of Christ. They realize that they know little of God and his great love, and that they need light in order that they may know and keep the way of the Lord. They dare not face temptation in their own strength, for they realize that they have not moral force to resist evil. They have no pleasure in reviewing their past life, and little confidence in looking to the future, for they are sick at heart. But it is to such that Christ says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Christ saw that those who feel their poverty may be made rich.
The true Witness delineates the condition of those who feel that they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Of them he says, thou “knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” They are a class who have had great privileges, who have been blessed with light and knowledge, and who have not responded, who trust in their own righteousness, and boast of their spiritual advantages. But the true Witness says, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire [faith and love] that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed [that is the righteousness of Christ], and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
What great privileges are within the reach of those who feel the poverty of their soul and submit to the will of God! The remedy for soul-poverty is found alone in Christ. When the heart is sanctified by grace, when the Christian has the mind of Christ, he has the love of Christ, which is spiritual riches, more precious than the gold of Ophir. But before there can be an intense desire for the wealth contained in Christ, which is available to all who feel their poverty, there must be a sense of need. When the heart is full of self-sufficiency, and preoccupied with the superficial things of earth, the Lord Jesus rebukes and chastens in order that men may awake to a realization of their true condition.
A Work of Faith
Whom Christ pardons he first makes penitent, and it is the office work of the Holy Spirit to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The sinner acknowledges the perfection of God, the righteousness of Christ, and thus glorifies God. By beholding this perfection the sinner sees his sins, and repents, and believes in the atonement of Jesus Christ, “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
The Jewish nation were under a fatal deception in flattering themselves that they were the elect of God, when in character they were wholly unchristlike. They refused to accept the virtues of Christ, and rejected him who alone could help them; for it is through the acceptance of Christ that faith makes us partakers of the divine nature. Cain presented an offering to God, and thereby acknowledged him as his sovereign; but he made no confession of sin, no acknowledgment of guilt, expressed no desire, and felt no need of a Mediator who could cleanse him from sin. But he who does not see Christ as his all-sufficiency will become attracted and ensnared by the things of earth that can not satisfy the soul. He will not experience the blessing that is pronounced upon all those who have a sense of their deep soul-poverty. But those who distrust self, who feel that they have not strength for the burdens of life, will find strength by looking to Jesus. Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He bids you exchange your soul-poverty for the riches of his grace. No one is worthy of his favor, but Christ, our surety, is worthy, and is abundantly able to save all who shall come unto him. He says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You may come to Jesus in faith, and without delay. His provision is rich and free, his love is abundant, and he will give you grace to wear his yoke and to lift his burden with cheerfulness. You may claim your right to his blessing by virtue of his promise. You may enter into his kingdom, which is his grace, his love, his righteousness, his peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. If you feel in deepest need, you may be supplied with all his fullness; for Christ says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus calls you to come. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.”
— E.G. White, Signs of the Times, 8/1/1895