Like yesterday’s post, I will be taking a break from my traditional themed posting (Tuesday theme – recent reading) that was scheduled for today. I have had a number of people request I post a synopsis or reprise of my comments I made at Rick Wright’s Memorial Service. So I am going to do my best to repost the essence of Saturday’s message from that service.
“Being Poor in Spirit” (Matt 5:3) – Memorial Service for Rick Wright, 11.15.14
Whenever I come to services like this one and fill roles like I am filling today, I essentially ask two questions:
- What would God want for us to talk about during this portion of our service?
- What would – in this case Rick – want us to talk about during this portion of our service?
And I am always thankful when the answers to those questions are essentially the same, which is what I believe we have today. Rick would want us to share what is on God’s heart; and God would want us to share what is on Rick’s heart … especially since Rick is now in heaven and has a whole new perspective on eternity.
Some of may not know that this past August Rick released what we thought would be the 1st of other books to come on the Beatitudes. The book was on what it means to be poor in spirit. The more I thought about that helpful little explanation that he wrote about that Christian character, and the reason for us gathering today, and what God would want us to talk about and what Rick might share with us today, I kept coming back to the Gospel.
I am want to preach a little to you from Matthew 5:3, but I want you to look past me and hear Jesus preaching it as he once did, and we are going to do that through the lens of Rick’s little book so Rick can some preaching as well.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In his book on the beatitudes, Rick said that this verse sets the stage for all the other beatitudes to follow in the Sermon on the Mount. It isn’t too difficult to understand that those who get to heaven – as Rick – are “poor in spirit.” Jesus says, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So we need to ask and answer, “What does it mean to be ‘poor in spirit’?” If Rick is in heaven today – and we believe he is – he was “poor in spirit.” And if any of us want to see him again, and more importantly, fellowship with our Creator for our eternity, we need to also be “poor in spirit.” In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus said,
“24 If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
That is what it means to come to Jesus for the Gospel. It is not self-sufficiency but self-abasement. In Rick’s book, he said that is why “poor in spirit” is the 1st beatitude. In his book, Rick does an excellent job capturing the meaning of this fundamental characteristic of every genuine believer. He wrote that poor in spirit realizes
“that in God’s eyes they are pathetic, wretched sinners. There is not one thing righteous about them. They cannot come into the presence of God. They are separated from the Creator of the universe because of their sin against God. That is being poor in spirit.”
To be poor in spirit is to be a Christian. It is to approach God with deep-seated humility. It is to see your true self, in comparison to the true Savior and respond appropriately.
In his book, Rick described what it means to be “poor in spirit.” He took a portion of his book to unpack this foundational element of who we are as Christians.
- To be “poor in spirit” is to say, “I am morally unclean before God.” Everyone says they are good. And it a fleshly instinct to compare ourselves to others. But if you use Jesus as a frame of reference, we are unclean and unrighteous. We have a serious problem in our hearts. Even the apostle of apostles said at the end of his spiritual journey and at the end of his life when he was “most holy”, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (I Tim 1:15).
- To be “poor in spirit” is to say, “I am spiritually bankrupt.” In other words, we cannot save ourselves. Paul would also say, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). In other words, we can try to be good, but one sin will keep us from perfection (Matt 5:48). There is nothing we can do about our moral uncleanness. There is not a moral bank account we can draw from and say to God, “See all these good things I have been doing.”
- To be “poor in spirit” is to say, “I am unworthy before God.” Remember the prophet Isaiah? When he was given a vision of God, he saw God in His holiness. He saw God in His majestic perfection. And he was confronted with who he – Isaiah – really was. He says. “… Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa 6:5). God is holy and demands something holy.
That all of this may sound a little negative for a funeral service, but it is the truth. And if I know my friend Rick well, he would want the truth no matter how awkward or untimely or hard it may be to receive it. In fact, in his book Rick wrote,
“The kindest, most loving thing we can do for those around us who do not know Christ is to make them aware of their own sin. The world will tell us that this is not a loving approach, but indeed it is. The realization is the only way for a person to step into the great and glorious eternity that God desires for us. It sounds horrible if it stops right there, but unfortunately, it only begins there.”
The truth is always loving. And the truth of the matter is that you and I can do nothing about our depravity. We can do nothing but keep trying to be good and still see ourselves as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Now, if Rick were here right now, he would say, “Charles get to the good news.” And here it is.
The good news is that we don’t have to solve this problem of God’s demand of our holiness. The problem’s solution was conceived in eternity past when the Father decided to send His Son Jesus Christ to help bridge the gap between God’s holiness and our sin. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus became holy for us and Jesus paid the debt owed to God. He became our ransom. He satisfied the wrath of God by dying a death on the cross that each of us deserved so that we could live a life none of us deserve. Rick knew that, because the Bible teaches that. And because Rick was “poor in spirit,” he is experiencing the joy of heaven at this very moment.
You will see Him again if you have put your faith in Christ, repented of all sin, rejected yourself and sworn a surrender to follow after Christ.
If not, Rick would probably say, “Why won’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to enter eternity with peace and serenity? Why wouldn’t you want to have the assurance that death earth is as good as it’s going get?”