Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
I started a Bible reading plan today with the goal of systematically reading through the entire Bible in 90 days. This is a significant undertaking, to say the least—one that I eagerly anticipate as the Lord leads me forward. As always in my reading I find familiar passages that I have known of my whole life but because the Word of God is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), the Lord reveals new and fresh applications that have a refreshing impact in my life.
When reading the Creation account in the first few chapters of Genesis I read how the God created all useful and pleasant things in preparation of his crowning achievement: man. And before the fall the relationship between God and man was perfect as he enjoyed the millions of created gifts on display and at his disposal given to him by the Creator. As A.W. Tozer states, “In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come” (The Pursuit of God, p. 30).
All of God’s creation was ruined in one moment when man sinned which allowed the corruption of sinful man to permeate all of that which the Creator had given life. At that moment when sin entered the world, God was no longer given the highest place in the hearts of humanity. The very creations God had made now contended for affection within the soul of humanity, transforming into idols within the human heart. Today this is an accurate picture of our struggles today, we see the evidence throughout the world of today. Man has chosen multiple things in his life to sit on the throne of his heart and have excluded the glory of God as preeminence. We have allowed our hearts to become dependent on the things we hold most dear and the thought of removing our precious icons seems to be overwhelming and catastrophic to our own sense of being even to the point of having a negative impact to our very identity.
Jesus addresses this paradigm in His instruction in Matthew 16:24-26, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul (ESV)?” We can begin to see, through the words of Jesus, what has taken over the heart of man; “self” and “life” has overgrown the heart of man like a parasitic growth over a fallen log. Jesus warns if we allow this infection to grow it will be the end of us, there will be nothing left to give to Him or to others. His answer to our dilemma is not to seek out more “things” or to desire better “things”; His message to us is to lay it all down. If we allow the enemy to live in our hearts, we will lose everything, but if we allow Christ to reign in our hearts by giving everything up we hold so dear, we will gain eternal life in Him. The only way to defeat the enemy of “self” is through the cross of Jesus Christ.
I fondly recall a moment from years ago when my eldest son, Kelly, was a young child and we attended church one Sunday morning. Kelly, always brimming with energy and a thirst for new experiences, seized this particular Sunday as an opportunity for a playful adventure. As the service was about to commence, Kelly delighted in the idea of dashing to the front of the church and occupying the pastor's chair behind the pulpit. With a mischievous grin, he perched himself on that lofty seat, wearing an expression of joy that suggested he had earned a moment of honor within those sacred walls, if only fleeting. In response, I swiftly made my way to the front of the sanctuary, gently reprimanding him and coaxing him to leave the pastor's chair, guiding him back to sit with me in our pew. Reflecting on this incident, I realized how our hearts can mirror such scenarios at times. In the intricate dance of life, there are moments when something, perhaps an aspiration or a desire, competes for a chance to sit on the throne of our hearts—even if only for a brief moment. These fleeting instances allow it to declare, "I was here, and I mattered to you."
So there will be moments throughout our lives where the Holy Spirit will begin to remove the idols in our hearts to make room for Christ to sit on his throne and these moments will be valleys of difficulty as our soul is emptied of what was once precious and the vacancy appears impermeable. But Jesus steps in with the message of hope and salvation when He comforts us with these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, ESV). The term “poor in spirit” refers to individuals who continually yield to the Holy Spirit, allowing a cleansing within their hearts. They seek to restore the Creator's initial purpose for the human heart—His eternal throne. The one who is “poor in spirit” is the most free, the burden of idolatry has been broken from him and the chains of bondage to “things” no longer consumes the flesh, mind, and soul.
One of the first characters of the Bible where we see this kind of divine intervention for the removal of idols is found in the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. Abraham waited 25 years for the promise of God to be fulfilled and in his old age his precious son Isaac was born. This baby boy represented the fulfillment of the beginning of God’s promise to Abraham. Abraham had amassed unimaginable wealth and God has blessed him in amazing ways and this little boy who was born was the pinnacle of everything precious to him. God in all his sovereignty and providence knew that in order for His covenant with Abraham to be fulfilled, Abraham would need to experience a paradigm shift in his heart and the idol of his son Isaac would need to be challenged. Genesis 22:2 introduces God’s divine interruption for discipline in Abraham’s life with these instructions, “Take you son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (ESV). God was calling Abraham from where he was to a place of isolation for the purpose of worship with clear instructions that required obedience; this is how the Lord works in each one of us when He desires to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). God led Abraham to the place of no return and as Abraham’s faith was tested to its limit, it was in that moment when the heart-change occurred and Isaac no longer presided in the heart of his father. Abraham knew that even if he were to kill his son, God would not break his covenant and would resurrect Isaac and bring him back to life.
God did just that in His son Jesus Christ; Jesus is the perfect picture of Isaac. Jesus is the son of God who was sent to this earth to as a propitiation for our sin; He died a terrible death, was buried and triumphantly broke through the barriers of death so that we can have eternal life in Him. It is because of His redemption of us the throne of God is once again restored in the hearts of all men who have received Him. In June 2013, a ferocious forest fire tore through the picturesque landscape of Black Forest, just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The inferno voraciously devoured 14,000 acres of once-dense and breathtaking pine forest. Tragically, over 500 families found themselves bereft of homes, and the trauma reverberated through the entire community, leaving a scar that seemed insurmountable. Despite the devastating loss and desolation, hope began to sprout from the ashes with astonishing swiftness. Less than a year after the cataclysmic event, I drove through the charred remains of the forest and bore witness to a remarkable transformation. Emerging from the still-charred earth were new trees, fresh grass, vibrant plants, and colorful flowers—creation’s resilient response to adversity. In this breathtaking resurgence, I discerned a profound metaphor for the redemptive power of faith. It illustrated that just as life can return and flourish amidst the scorched ruins of a forest, so too can our hearts experience a renewal of hope and vitality when we surrender our lives and will to the Lord Jesus Christ.
After that exhausting and blessed experience, Abraham descended from that mountain as a man who the world would still recognize as rich, but since his heart had changed he knew he was utterly poor in spirit and had no desire to ever negate the priorities of his heart again. Clinging onto “things” as lord of our life is the most damaging habit and vice of our lives. We will be required to face our deepest fear anytime the Holy Spirit exhorts us to examine the throne of our heart especially when that prime position is occupied by treasured loved ones and friends. Picture a radiant, clean heart gradually losing its layers of dust and dirt, representing the cleansing process by the Holy Spirit. As the layers disappear, the heart becomes a pure and inviting dwelling place for God.
While the Lord masterfully conducts the transformative symphony of change in our lives, we must embrace this tender process of sanctification within His cherished children. His purpose is not to unleash destruction, but rather to nurture new life from the ashes of our former idolatry. As it's written in Luke 9:56 (NKJV), 'For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' Despite the enemy's attempts to haunt us with reminders of our past through shame and fear, these tormenting messages do not emanate from our loving Heavenly Father. For, 'God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,' as affirmed in 1 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).
God is calling us to complete obedience and surrender to him through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. It is through Him we have redemption of sins and we are justified, “just as if I’d” never sinned. God is calling us today to a place of worship with the intent of examining the darkest reaches of our hearts in order to clean out the “things” that so easily entangle and to make room for his eternal reign in the throne room of our hearts.