“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Regardless of the religion, Christ Jesus is acknowledged as being an influence upon the world. This is because Christ did not come to form a particular denomination or theology. Rather, he came to teach specific spiritual guiding principles to help us see our way more clearly through our journey on earth in these bodies.
He came to teach how to overcome illness and impoverishment. He taught how to understand life and death, pain and sorrow, and how to manage and overcome all of the challenges that life in human form bestows upon us. He did not come to see that we became Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Baptist or Protestant. Organized religion is man-made. Religious doctrines and theologies come from the mind of man, not God.
It is what man does: we take ideas and attempt to order them, even force them to make sense to us. If we disagree with one particular aspect of an idea, of a religion for instance, then we create a new denomination, sometimes a completely new religion.
The truth is that we are spiritual beings, and Christ came to connect with that part of us and to demonstrate how we can connect with that part of us. Because we resist this idea and prefer to cling to the physicality of who we are, we are apt to misinterpret the principles of Christ as we filter our perceptions through our human thinking, expectations, and desires.
Christ said that he came that we may have life and have it abundantly. He also warned that our recurrent habits of sin – which is erred thinking, harmful behavior, and unproductive attitudes – can bring severe consequences, and that we are actually punished by our own mistakes. Regardless of how off track we get, no matter how many mistakes, and how dark our lives become, we constantly have access to an all-loving, ever-forgiving Divine One, who guides us, strengthens us, and opens our hearts and minds to who we truly are – a Child of God.
Jesus taught to set aside the temptations of the world, everything “out there,” and encouraged us to establish order to our inner spiritual essence. As 2 Corinthians 3:6 teaches: “…the letter kills, but the Spirit brings life.” This means that the old ways, outer appearances, and the old laws governing merely our behaviors are insufficient distractions to spiritual life; our inner spiritual aspects and our relationship with Spirit are where we need to focus.
We are taught that if we can raise our consciousness beyond the limitations of the physical plane, that is, if we turn inward and pray from our ‘secret place’ or ‘hidden room’, as Jesus refers to it, then we can affect the physical world. Prayer changes things; it always leads us to our highest good.
Our thoughts and feelings mold our outer circumstances. We choose how and what we think, what we embrace mentally. We do not suffer the sins of our fathers or man’s original sin; we suffer the effects of the seeds we have sown; that is sufficient suffering.
Jesus taught much about praying, and it is through prayer that we refine and direct our thoughts and feelings by aligning with Spirit. Some of the clearest expressions of Christ’s teachings come from what has come to be called The Sermon on the Mount, as written in all the Gospels, but most descriptively in Matthew Chapters 5-7. There is a vast amount of wisdom in these teachings.
The great sermon begins with what is called The Beatitudes. They have been referred to as ‘beautiful attitudes’, and there are nine of them in Matthew 5:3-10, with the ninth being in a different form:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you
and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
This sermon came early in Jesus’ ministry, and the beatitudes served as foundational principals for his disciples, including us, to strive toward. The word ‘beatitude’ is defined as a “condition or statement of blessedness.” It is derived from the Latin word “beatitudo,” which is best translated as “utmost spiritual joy.”
Jesus used the beatitudes to describe an innate spiritual serenity, independent of the circumstances of our lives. He wants us to know the joy that comes from following Him, and the assuredness of our entry into the Kingdom of God.
I want to look at the first Beatitude this week. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There are words used in biblical translations that can stymie our modern minds. One of them is the usage of the word ‘poor’ in this first Beatitude. To be ‘poor in spirit’ has nothing to do with being impoverished in any way. It means that we have emptied our self of all desire to do things our way, and released all preconceived ideas, opinions, attitudes, and belief systems as we open our minds and hearts to God. It means to be willing to surrender to Spirit anything that blocks our awareness of the Christ nature expressing through us. To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to be open, receptive, and grateful to God’s guidance. This does not mean that we give up our way of life, stop having fun, and sell everything we own to become a beggar on the street – although some of them do quite well financially, as I understand.
To be poor in spirit is to stop allowing the trappings of the world to affect the way we think and control our habits and desires. Unlike the Rich Young Man in the Bible, who had great possessions but denied himself the opportunity to spend time with Christ, we can keep our possessions and deny their influence over us.
So often, we reject the gifts that Christ offers, because we "have great possessions"; and we’re not just speaking about money, or treasure. We are also speaking about preconceived ideas, familiarity with our belief patterns, judgments we have made long ago and still cling to, academic prowess, and attachments to organizations, habits, fears, and all the other ego-based frills that capture our attention. These all are possessions, great possessions, that keep us chained to limitation and suffering.
Possessions do not make us prosperous in the spiritual sense, which is the only sense that matters. The prosperity the Bible speaks of is the wealth gained through prayer, through expanding our relationship with God and Christ, and the prize we win from the Kingdom of God.
Although it is true that Deuteronomy 8:18 says that God gives us the ability to produce our own wealth, our true prosperity comes within the Kingdom of Heaven. This prosperity includes all that we have been promised by Christ: that our burdens will be lifted; that we are being taken care of more than the birds of the air and the lilies in the fields. We are promised the ability to do the right thing and are promised peace and joy. We are promised his abiding presence and acceptance, eternal life and eternal love, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, answered prayers, fruitfulness in good works, spiritual rewards, and a heavenly home.
Biblical prosperity is a spiritual blessing. Matthew 6:33 tells us to: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” and all our desires and needs will be met; our fears and worries will vanish. What heartens me is that we are told to ‘seek’ the kingdom first - above all other things – and all these things will be given to us. We don’t need to find the kingdom, we need to seek the kingdom as our first life priority, and all other things will fall into place. It’s not the destination or acquisition that is important to Christ; it is our direction, our focus. It is what and who we become on this journey that is important.
We are to remember that God is to be worshiped in spirit, as is Christ. Jesus told us of the Kingdom of God, and it is a spiritual kingdom. In Luke 17:20-21 we read: “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
This was the message Jesus came to deliver: The Kingdom of God was not coming; it was already here, available to us right now through our thinking, believing, faith, focus, and our attitudes. The nature of the Kingdom of God cannot be known using our physical senses. It is not observable with the human eye, nor can we hear it with our human ears. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:50 - “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” The Kingdom comes to us by the Spirit of God. It is not through the teachings, instructions, and wisdom of man, but the wisdom and grace of God that we are led to God’s Kingdom.
That is what to be ‘poor in spirit’ means: to trust in God, not our earthly possessions and our earthly knowledge and beliefs. The poor in spirit have come to realize that whatever ideas and attitudes they have brought with them up to this point in their life are no longer relevant. They are ready to release their control and their plans and begin afresh with Christ leading the way. They are ready to receive all the abundance of God, not just that of man.
This is true with all aspects of our lives. Sadly, we sometimes don’t recognize the value of friends until we don’t have any around. Our bodily health is ignored until a drastic medical problem arises. Our financial situation is discarded until we can’t pay our bills. Our marriage and personal relationships are taken for granted until we lose them in death or through lack of attention.
It is my prayer that we can avert the challenges we face in the world by being poor in spirit and embracing the Kingdom of God within. As this week progresses, I pray that with humble spirit we accept with gratitude God’s spiritual gifts of love, joy, and peace, and the worldly gifts of family and friends. It is my prayer that we stand in gratitude for all we have been given and recognize that there is no greater abundance to be had than experiencing the Presence of God within us, around us, and moving through us.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.