Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Poor in Spirit, Rich in Christ

On a recent trip to the UK, I met an African man who exuded Christ.  The big smile Chris wore said a lot.  His gratefulness said even more.  But it was his love for the Scripture that warmed my heart.  After the church service, he introduced himself.

“How are you today?” I reached out and shook the hand extended to me in greeting.

“Very thankful,” was his response.

“I like that reply,” I told Chris.  The unsaved world, frequently grumbling about the lot they’ve been given, often takes note of such words and wonders that believers can be grateful for what they have.  

Gratitude is so often a lost art.  But it’s this spirit the believer is to evidence in the world.  Philippians 2 says plainly,  

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings:  That ye may be   blameless and  harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;  Holding forth the word of life . . . ” (verses 14-16).

I often marvel at the breadth of that promise—the far-reaching effect our thankfulness can have.  As we habitually live in joyful obedience without a complaint in our hearts, we evidence to an unbelieving world the light of Christ.  We live in the spirit of Christianity. It was this Christ-like spirit that blessed me so much as I spoke with Chris. 

The message I heard that evening was excellent; the prayer time, good; the singing, hearty.  But because of the edification I received from speaking with this saint, I left God’s house that night spiritually encouraged to walk closer to Jesus, to let His words penetrate my every thought, and to let God shape my priorities in light of the Great Commission.

My interaction with this brother likewise caused me to consider my typical interactions in God’s church.  Isn't His house to be the place where the saints are refreshed?  Where we heartily engage in sharpening the countenances of our spiritual brothers and sisters?  Where God’s Word is applied and discussed?  

Chris's simple obedience convicted me.  His honesty about his Christian walk encouraged me.  And his heartfelt commitment to the things of God sharpened me.

Having come to Christ four years ago, Chris takes time each day to witness for Him.  Daily, he offers people Gospel leaflets in very public places throughout London, home to many agnostics and atheists.  Chris doesn't have a Ph.D in theology.  He doesn't have all the answers to objections others might raise about the Gospel.  And, while he's learning more about answering others, he hasn't forgotten a signally important truth--as part of Christ's church, he has an obligation “unto the end of the world.” 

To every creature.  

To preach the Gospel.
Chris likewise believes in the incredible power of God's Word and understands his utter dependence on God for all things.

"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” Chris quoted, mentioning that this text had been his meditation of late.  It had helped him in knowing which information would endure in his own life as he encounters multiple decisions.  It had directed him toward the Bible as the everlasting foundation for daily life.  

Chris opened his pocket Bible to show me the words of Psalm 86:11, which he often prays: "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear thy name.”

“If our hearts are united with His,” Chris explained, “we will do His will.  He continued, "I've begun to see that every sinful thing I do is really from my heart.  If I find a wrong attitude in my spirit, I know its source; therefore, I must keep my heart diligently!" 

Placing himself daily into situations that are far from culturally cool, Chris is continually confronted with the realization that His strength is found in Christ alone.  Purposing to habitually obey Matthew 28:19-20 has forced him to realize his poverty of spirit and the richness of the person of Christ.  Knowing that in himself he could never redeem a soul, Chris begs the Lord to fill him, to empty him of self.  He spoke of the reality of spiritual conflict in his daily experience. 

“It’s easy,” he said, “to allow worry about some other thing to dominate my mind; but that’s not what God wants.”  Instead, the simplicity of Christ demands that he focus his mind on a verse of Scripture, letting that be what strengthens his heart as he daily gives the Gospel.

Similarly, George Mueller would read the Word until he discovered in his Bible reading an attribute of God upon which to meditate.  Throughout the day, that particular characteristic would shape his thinking.  Mueller, known as a great prayer warrior, read through the Bible about 200 times after his conversion.  I’ve often wondered how much of a role the promises and character of God played in shaping Mueller’s thoughts, which in turn drove him to pray in faith, believing in God, who does the impossible.

In our day, discussion of spiritual realities is too frequently missing in our conversations with God’s people.  Why?  Is it that we spend far too little time in God's harvest field and thus fail to feel our own need?  Is it that we neglect to acknowledge the reality of spiritual conflict in which we are engaged?  Is it that we too little acknowledge our utter dependence upon Christ because we rarely participate in uncomfortable situations where we must bear His reproach? 

Just what will drive us to our Master?  What will give us insight into our poverty of spirit?  What situations can we choose in accordance with God’s Word that will corral our hearts into the path of life, where we are illuminated by His light and are thus able to perceive His reality?

Perhaps it will take a daily commitment to witnessing in God’s harvest field, willingly bearing Christ’s reproach before men, as Chris has chosen.  If every believer were thus engaged in spreading the Gospel to the “end of the world,” just what might be the result?  How Spirit-filled might believers be throughout the day?  How Word-filled might their conversations be in God’s house?  How thankful might they be?

Oh, may we obey our Lord's commands, convinced of the power of His Word, fully trusting in the simplicity of Christ to draw all men to Himself!

Our Lord is able to take weak, incapable vessels, “poor in Spirit” but filled with Himself.  May we, like Chris, take God at His Word and let Him shape our daily priorities!