Do we enter the kingdom of heaven through a special portal into an alternate reality like walking through the wardrobe in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or boarding the train to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts?
The short answer is, “yes.”
His name is Jesus.
But there is a secret to actually living in the reality of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus preached the good news the kingdom of heaven, healed diseases, delivered from demons, and in the process he gained a large following. His followers probably thought back to the glory days of David and Solomon and imagined the kingdom of heaven to be a rise of the nation of Israel. It must have been exciting stuff.
One day, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sat down on a hill and spoke the words that we know as the famous Sermon on the Mount.
He began with, Blessed are…
How would his listeners expected Jesus to finish that statement?
Blessed are…the righteous?
Blessed are…the prosperous?
Blessed are…the Jews?
Blessed are…the powerful?
Imagine their confusion when Jesus declared, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”
The beatitudes are bookended by the phrase, “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” applied to the poor in spirit (v. 3) and those who are persecuted because of righteousness (v. 10). In between are promised blessings for those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and peacemakers.
This made no sense.
Until Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a stallion and carried a cross instead of a sword.
Maybe it makes no sense to us either, until we realize that the secret to actually living in the kingdom of heaven is to recognize our spiritual poverty before God. Personal righteousness, power, wealth, and fame, all the commodities that the world calls “blessed,” count for nothing in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is the portal through whom we enter the kingdom of heaven.
Righteousness, eternal life, and life in the kingdom are ours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When we elevate our Savior and humble ourselves, we are blessed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
How have you experienced blessings when you recognize that you are poor in spirit? Is it difficult for you to live in the alternate (yet ultimate) reality of the kingdom of God?
Note: This post is inspired by a recent sermon series on the Beatitudes at my church. If you’re interested on some excellent teaching on the subject, you can find it here.
I love the Beatitudes – i like to think of them as God’s upside down kingdom. It is actually where I started my blog on day one. Always I start with Jesus’ wonderful preaching.
I love the point you make about His “triumphal” entry making clear the kingdom He was going for.
Very good post – thanks much.
The beatitudes are a good place to start any thought, now that you mention it! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Ben.
Thank you for this, Judy. I have been all over the bible lately, looking for verses and scripture pertaining to my situation; while I have spent a significant amount of time reflecting on Job, I had not thought of the beatitudes. If ever there were a time in my life when I was poor in spirit, it would be now, most definitely. I AM blessed, because with less of me there is more of Him.
Cara, I pray for the Lord’s richest blessings to fill your heart: His love, his perfect presence, his joy, and his peace that passes all understanding. Judy
Hi Judy! I don’t know if it’s a matter of semantics, or if I don’t understand the scripture verses, so maybe you can tweak things for me. If “spiritual poverty” means that I would have nothing, most especially salvation, without Christ–then, that I understand clearly. But I always think of myself, and openly claim, that I am RICH in spirit–meaning that because of Christ, the Holy Spirit, I am “full up and wealthy”, as a daughter of the King. So, am I off track, or what? God bless you abundantly today–love, sis Caddo
I love that you are “full up and wealthy” and “rich in (His) SPIRIT,” which I think is different from being poor in our own spirits. You know what I love about your comment, Caddo? The fact that you can’t imagine being poor in your own spirit means that you are so completely and constantly full of His spirit! I, on the other hand, find myself waffling a bit, and at times must come back to my Savior with a new confession of my poverty. A spiritual re-set, so to speak. Oops, Lord, I tried to do it myself again. You are not off track, Caddo – I think you are speeding along on the Kingdom Express and you are mightily blessed! Blessings back to you, Caddo, and thank you for your beautiful witness! Judy
Oh, Judy, I hope I haven’t misled you in any way whatsoever. Of course I am “poor in my own spirit, strength”–and I go back to Him for periodic re-sets, Absolutely–I know about that! Please forgive me if I sounded boastful or arrogant, because I can only boast in Christ–I’m more than well aware that, without Him, I’d be nothing–probably dead. My concern sometimes, when I go to blogs like yours, is that maybe I’ll discover I’ve been cruising along in my “happy buzz”–and missing a significant point of the Gospel. ‘Course, even as I write this, God reminds me that I’m saved by His Grace, and not by any works I do–including interpreting His Word. So I guess I’m good to go, for tonight! I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts, and being able to discuss things here freely, with no fear that I’ll be deemed to stupid to come back!! Thank you for listening to me go on and on–and encouraging me.
Caddo, rest assured that you never sound boastful or arrogant. I love our conversations!
The word paring, spiritual poverty is a phrase most of us don’t think about. Thanks for bringing out into the light. I think it’s easy to live just outside the gates of the kingdom, knowing we CAN go in, but it’s easier to do things our way. I’ve become so sensitive to the terminology people use “I’m spiritual but not religious,” because I have to doublecheck myself. I have grown to believe there’s nothing wrong with being religious because those are the boundaries, the standards, the corral I have to live in safely inside the Kingdom. I’ve been outside the gates of His Kingdom one too many times and I love the sanctity of the space with Him. Even though I do not know the full glory of His Kingdom, I sure do love his disciplines and teachings – even when I’m kicking and screaming. Or as one of my clients said as he has returned to the teachings of his youth, “Thank God for the Dude on the Donkey or I wouldn’t be standing here today. I’d follow him anywhere because my way sure didn’t work!
“I think it’s easy to live just outside the gates of the kingdom, knowing we CAN go in, but it’s easier to do things our way.” What an astute observation, KJ. I’ve noticed that in myself too. It takes great confidence in the Lord to truly surrender, to trust Him instead of trying to take control of things oursleves. (The idea that we actually have any control is an illusion, but we really like it:) Pondering these Kingdom values and practices has really challenged me to try it His way. Thanks for your thoughts!
The best statement that I have ever read about the kingdom of God was written by Sam Storms: “The Kingdom of God is now, but not yet.”
Part of the Kingdom of God we can walk in now by giving our lives to Jesus and becoming like a little child, but part of the Kingdom of God will not be available for us until Jesus returns to earth. Thank God for the part we can walk in now and we look forward to the rest.
Well said Larry (and Sam Storms). That is a helpful thought for me too.
My initial reaction to the Beatitudes is “Well, if, for example, being ‘poor in spirit’ is qualification for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven/God, then I’m in…I’m there already!” While I offer this somewhat “tongue in cheek”, there is a reality that I believe, and that you assert, Judy — we all have access to the Kingdom of God RIGHT NOW! Death and a nice funeral service are not needed BECAUSE Jesus has already done that for us! The Kingdom of Heaven/God can be RIGHT NOW if we choose to see and live life in loving and faithful ways. And there is the sticking point — living life in loving and faithful/faith-filled ways. Society calls for something different…society calls for winners and losers, haves and have-nots, etc. God’s creation and hope for us is something quite different and by God’s grace we are gifted with a tremendous responsibility — the gift of Free Will. WE must decide for ourselves and collectively to choose God’s way…God’s kingdom way…God’s way of love and life. I work daily at not being sucked into society’s world but rather to cling to the newness and freshness and glory of the Kingdom of Heaven/God. And, Judy, I know you do too!
It’s not easy to keep from “being sucked into society’s world” or its ways, is it? God’s way is so counter-cultural, or perhaps I should say that the world’s ways are so counter-God! From my own experience, and observing others, we adopt worldly ways without even realizing it and seek to advance God’s kingdom using the methods of the world: power, money, politics, etc. I think there is an unavoidable tension that we must always negotiate between living in the realities of our world yet in the power of the Kingdom of God. I once saw this beautifully illustrated by a musician who played a major (Kingdom of God) chord simultaneously with a minor (kingdoms of the world) chord. The dissonance is very familiar. Thanks for your thoughs, Dan. Keep seeking the Kingdom and His blessings.