Monday Reverb – 14February2022

 

The Blessed Poor

Luke 6:17-19,20-26

 

When you think of the poor, who comes to mind?  Perhaps you think of someone who is homeless.  Or, maybe someone on a street corner asking for change?  Maybe you thought of one of those commercials featuring starving children in some distant land?  Does anyone you know come to mind?  Is poverty something you have encountered?  In America, most people do not see themselves as living in poverty.  Oftentimes, people live their entire lives without having a relationship with a person they consider poor.  Is this a good thing?  Do we lose something for not being in close proximity to the poor?

Mother Teresa knew at an early age that she wanted to commit her life to religious service.  At 18, she left home to be equipped to be a missionary, and she never turned back.  She became a nun and soon after began to minister to the people of Calcutta, India.  In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor.  Given her decades of work with the poorest of humans, Mother Teresa had uncommon insight into poverty and our spiritual needs.  She said:

 

The greatest disease in the West today is not [tuberculosis] or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.  We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love.  There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.  The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality.  There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

Mother Teresa saw poverty as a universal problem.  To her, we are all poor in one way or another.  This does not mean that we turn our back on the economically disadvantaged to attend to our own poverty.  Rather, we should identify with the poor and act accordingly.

Jesus taught about poverty in his “Sermon on the Plateau” in Luke 6:

He went down with them and stood on a level place.  A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.  Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.  Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.  For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.  “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.  Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.  Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:17-26)

In order to appreciate the depth of Jesus’ message, we have to put ourselves in the place of the disciples.  Imagine what it was like.  You are standing there with Jesus and many other disciples when an even larger crowd comes to hear Jesus.  You feel excited at first that people from far and wide were coming to hear your teacher.  Then as the people get closer you see that they are the outcasts of society: the sick, the demon-possessed, the infirmed.  You were taught that people in those conditions were sinners — people to be avoided.   Some of them are carrying diseases that made them ritually unclean and they are drawing nearer.  Your excitement turns to trepidation because this is not the audience you wanted for Jesus.  These are not the people around whom you feel comfortable.

You watch as Jesus tries to touch each person in an orderly way, but the crowd keeps growing.  They are now pressing all around you as they try to touch Jesus.  If you were in this situation, what would be your attitude towards the crowd?  Many of us would negatively judge the people.  We may be tempted to make generalizations and judgments about the less fortunate.  We may be tempted to see ourselves as better in some ways compared to the pitiful crowd.

It is at this moment that Jesus turned to his disciples, not the crowd, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  What an astonishing teaching!  Not only was Christ’s message at odds with conventional wisdom, but it also may have been an admonishment to his disciples.  It is likely that after being pushed and shoved by people who were to be avoided in their culture, some of the disciples may have grown tired of the pleading and the tears.  In the same moment, Jesus brought comfort to the crowd and conviction to his disciples.

In verses 24-26, Jesus delivered warnings to the comfortable.  Jesus was not saying there is something inherently evil about being wealthy, happy, or having a good reputationHowever, it is a problem if we see ourselves as wealthy, happy, or having a good reputation by our own strength.  We are in trouble if we allow our comfort to make us think we are better than those we perceive as strugglingIf we see ourselves as healthy and whole apart from God, there is no room for God to address our spiritual needs.  Our physical wealth can mask our spiritual poverty.  Mother Teresa is also quoted as saying, “One day there springs up the desire for money and for all that money can provide — the superfluous, luxury in eating, luxury in dressing, trifles.  Needs increase because one thing calls for another.  The result is uncontrollable dissatisfaction.  Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can fill us up.”

In America, most people aspire to wealth, not poverty.  We have something called “The American Dream” — the idea that if a person works hard, they can achieve status and wealth.  We strive for the house with the bigger garage and pretty fence.  We love “rags to riches” stories and view “riches to rags” stories as tragic.  We have been socialized to see poverty as shameful and to be avoided.  As a result, Christ’s upside-down teaching in Luke 6 can strike us as radical.

Jesus often has to disrupt our flawed thinking in order to better reflect his image.  The Lord exhorts us to reconsider our attitude towards poverty and the poor.  In contrast to our natural inclination, there is some kind of blessedness to poverty.

As believers, we should follow our Lord’s example and be concerned about the economically disadvantaged.  We should be appalled at the deplorable conditions in which some people live simply because human beings are not very good at sharing.  In God’s economy, “those who have” are to give, so “those who do not have” can have.  That way, everybody has what they need (Acts 4:32-35).  Because of God’s lavish love, there is a blessing in both the giving and receiving (Acts 20:35).  Yet, the norm in our society is for people to be concerned about themselves and what they can accumulate to fulfill their own desires.  Our perceived individualism causes us to lose sight of humanity’s interconnectedness.

To Jesus, the poor are blessed because the kingdom of God belongs to them.  The hungry are blessed because they will be fed.  The mourners are blessed because they will be made to laugh.  The marginalized are blessed because they will receive rewards in heaven.  These people are blessed not because of the lowly state in which they find themselves.  They are blessed not because they are learning humility, although learning humility is a good thing.  Jesus says they are blessed because of the response of their loving God.  In his compassion, mercy, justice, and love, God responds to our suffering with restoration and renewal.

This is the mystery that the poor Christian has an easier time understanding: the greater our poverty, the greater access to God’s power we have when we humbly seek our Father.  It is true that poverty can bring humility and less distractions, both of which are blessings. However, the greater blessing is the emptiness that Mother Teresa spoke aboutthe room in our lives and in our hearts that God can fill.

Whatever our state, we should embrace our own spiritual poverty.  We are all in desperate need of God every moment of every day.  Jesus is life itself and there is no existence apart from him.  We are blessed if every day we thank God for our lives and seek him to supply our needs.  We are blessed if we realize we have no strength in ourselves and wait on the Lord to order our steps.  This means that sacred practices like prayer, study, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines that cultivate a dependence on God are profitable ways to spend our time.

At the same time, Luke’s Gospel speaks about poverty in a literal sense.  The author has both spiritual and economic poverty in mind.  Finances are an uncomfortable topic for many; however, the Bible has a lot to say on the issue.  In this passage, Jesus is warning those who accumulate earthly riches to not see their value in their possessions.  Rather, they should submit all that they have to God and see their wealth as a tool to be used by the Lord.  The prayer of the wealthy should be, “Thank you Lord for the gifts you have given and please show me how to use them for your glory.”  In that way, the wealthy do not see themselves as such.  Rather, God is wealthy and in his grace he has chosen to share his riches.  Those who are wealthy are stewards of God’s wealth; they should seek opportunities to build authentic relationships with the poor.  Not only will proximity to the poor create openings to be a blessing to those in need, but it will allow the financially secure to learn emptiness from poor people.

Jesus tells us that those who struggle with economic insecurity should see the blessings we have in Christ.  We are defined by God’s love for us, not by how much is in our bank account.  Jesus represents the end of poverty, and our financial insecurity is temporary.  Even if we do not have a lot of cash, we should follow Jesus’ example and seek to bless others with our time and talent.   Those who are poor have much to teach the wealthy, so the economically insecure should seek authentic relationships with those who have riches.  If God moves upon the heart of the wealthy to give to those who are poor, those gifts should be received as a blessing from the Lord.

In this Epiphany season, it is important that we remember who Jesus revealed himself to be.  When it comes to poverty, the good news is that we have all been made rich in Christ.  Because of Jesus, every spiritual blessing is available to us in this life and the life to come.  In Jesus we have love, joy, peace and every other good thing.  In Jesus, we can be generous in giving.  In Jesus, we can be gracious in receiving.  In Jesus, the rich can be humbled and the poor can be filled.  In Jesus, we can hope for the day when no one will ever hunger or thirst againJesus is the end of poverty because there is only abundance in him.

 


DOCTRINAL REVIEW

 

ETERNAL SECURITY

 

What do most people mean by “eternal security”?

  • Eternal security is the surety that those who have been saved by Jesus Christ will remain saved for all ages.
  • It is based on the understanding that a believer’s salvation is by grace … totally of God … from start to finish.
  • The believer did not gain his salvation because of something he did … so the believer cannot lose his salvation by doing something … The believer cannot do anything to lose his salvation.
  • The believer’s security is guaranteed because he is kept by works of God, not his own works.
  • It is not that we never do anything that could cause us to lose our salvation, but that God is faithful, even when we are faithless.

 

SCRIPTURES that speak to ETERNAL SECURITY

 

  • John 3:15–16  That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
  • John 4:13-14  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life”
  • John 5:24  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
  • John 5:24  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life
  • John 6:35-37  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
  • John 10:27-29   My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 
  • John 11:25-26   Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?
  • John 17:2,12    “… since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”  …  “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
  • Romans 5:9   Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
  • Romans 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
      • There is no condemnation for believers … no matter how often they sin (even though a believer can die prematurely IF he persists in sinning as a way of life
  • Romans 8:2-8 …  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 
      • We have been delivered from the Law … and the Law can no longer condemn us
  • Romans 8:14-17   For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 
      • … Because the believer is now an heir, he cannot lose his salvation
  • Romans 8:28-30 … And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.   
      • … Every believer who has been justified WILL be glorified, eventually  …
  • Romans 8:31-33   What shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?  32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.  
      • God will not accept any charges against His elect, SO every believer who has been justified will be glorified
  • Romans 8:34 …  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.  
      • Because of Christ’s achievement, the security of believers is guaranteed
  • Romans 8:35   Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?   Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril (danger), or sword?   
  • Romans 8:37 …  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 
  • Romans 8:38-39 …   For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
      • Believers are not able to keep themselves, so God is the One who is going to keep them
  • Romans 11:29   For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
      • For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (NET).
  • 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 … even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 1:13-14   In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
  • Ephesians 2:4-6   But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus ….  
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 … For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.
  • Ephesians 4:30   And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (seal = sphragizo = stamp for security or preservation)
  • Philippians 1:6   And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24    Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3    But the Lord is faithful.  He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
  • 2 Timothy 1:12   …which is why I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
  • 2 Timothy 2:13   … if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.
        • It is not that we never do anything that could cause us to lose our salvation, but that God is faithful, even when we are faithless.
  • Titus 3:4-5But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour … 
      • The believer did not gain his salvation because of something he did … so the believer cannot lose his salvation by doing something … The believer cannot do anything to lose his salvation.
  • Hebrews 9:12  … He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
  • Hebrews 3:14   For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
  • Hebrews 6:17-19   So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain …
  • Hebrews 13:20-21  Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • 1 Peter 1:3-5   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
      • The believer’s security is guaranteed because he is kept by works of God, not his own works.
  • 1 Peter 1:23  “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
  • 1 John 2:19   They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
  • 1 John 3:9   No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
  • 1 John 5:4-5   For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
  • 1 John 5:11-13  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

From the Old Testament … 

  • Psalms 20:6   Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
  • Psalms 31:23   Love the LORD, all you his saints!  The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
  • Psalms 37:28   For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
  • Psalms 55:22   Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
  • Psalms 121    
  • Psalms 125:1-2   They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.
  • Isaiah 46:3-4   Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
  • Jeremiah 32:39-40   I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.

 

 

 

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