A SERMON SERIES
ON THE BEATITUDES
WHEN DOWN IS UP
There was an old woman begging in a street corner. A passer-by took pity on her. He was about to give when he noticed that she’s holding two cans. When he asked why, she answered, “Well, business is so good that I opened a new branch.”
Today we begin exploring what it’s like to have business be this good.
We’re beginning a sermon series today that will take us through
I was going to do four weeks, but it just spoke to me as I began to piece all this together, so we’re doing eight weeks.
This SERMON SERIES IS ABOUT BEING BLESSED, ABOUT BEING HAPPY, ABOUT FINDING JOY THAT CAN’T BE FOUND ANY OTHER WAY. GUARANTEED.
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins what has been called the Sermon on the Mount with 8 descriptions of the kind of people who represent God’s family well.
This is what God’s people are like. They closely resemble their father and understand who they are in light of Who He is.
You’ve heard the beauty of what it’s like to be a Christian read from Eugene Peterson’s The Message.
These descriptions are also called beatitudes. The Latin word for blessed is beatus, from which we get the word beatitude. But in the Greek, the word for blessed means HAPPY.
Look at how Jesus started what must have been many sermons, not just A sermon on the mount but The sermons on the mount.
Applying the translation of beatitude, You’re happy when you’re at the end of your rope.
But Jesus. I’m at the end of my rope.
I’ve had all I can take.
I’ve, I’ve, I’ve.
HERE’S THE MORNING’S QUESTION:
How can one be happy when he is at the end of his rope? How can one be happy when he or she is spiritually poor? WHEN IT SEEMS WE’VE LOST TOO MUCH OF OURSELVES TO BE USEFUL TO ANYONE.
This morning we will discover that “The Secret for WHEN DOWN IS UP.”
Hear it again: Jesus says in verse 3: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
THIS IS ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING THE MORE FAMILIAR: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What he’s saying is when you’re down, get on up, church.
WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT, LOOK UP
So, adapting the two translations to one, Happy is the one who is at the end of their rope, for their home is in God’s kingdom.
Do you get this?
Let’s figure it out together
He is not referring to the financially poor but to the spiritually poor. In the New Testament, there are two Greek words for “poor.”
It’s the difference between being poor and being a beggar. All beggars are poor people. But not all poor people are really beggars. What Jesus called “poor in spirit” is actually a “beggar in spirit.”
Jesus is talking about “the most dire and destitute. Literally, the root means to crouch or cower.
Jesus is talking about a person who’s burden has bent them to the ground.
It’s the person who can’t understand this is a great thing to have happen, particularly spiritually.
And it can happen to each and every one of us. I suggest this morning it must happen to every Christian at some point in their lives, some small moments and some very, very large ones.
-Some scholars believe that this opening of the sermon was designed to shock the audience as Jesus deliberately turned what was commonly accepted upside down.
Most of the shock value has been lost today because we are so familiar with the text.
That’s why the Message’s translation hits me so hard.
Blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
Another way of saying this is God’s favor rests on those who recognize how much they need Him.
Let’s look at the process through three dynamics of what happens when down is up.
First let’s look at
I. LIFE AT THE END OF THE ROPE
(When we have nothing left)
Life at the end of the rope is about understanding we are in need of someone’s help.
For those who really get it. Life at the end of the rope is about understanding that YOU NEED GOD’S HELP.
The Greek word ptokos means poor, lowly, one who crouches or cringes,
WHEN YOU’VE BEEN BENT TO THE GROUND, GET ON UP, CHURCH BECAUSE DOWN IS UP.
When we’re at the end of our spiritual rope, it really means that we are spiritually bankrupt, that we cannot save ourselves, that we really need help!
AND THAT’S WHEN BAD IS GOOD,
WHEN AWFUL IS EVEN BETTER,
WHEN SAD IS HAPPY,
WHEN DEPRESSED IS JOYFUL,
WHEN LOST IS FOUND
When we’re at the end of our spiritual rope speaks of a faithful dependence on the Lord that emptiness often produces as opposed to anger and force of arms that the revolutionaries in Jesus’ time thought would bring about the kingdom of God
When we’re at the end of our spiritual rope it means to be small in our own eyes, like Saul was before he became King.
Realizing we are at the end our rope eliminates selfishness. Certainly there is a place for initiative and ambition, but only in the context of complete surrender to God. The way up is down in God’s kingdom
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to offend someone who is NOT at the end of their own spiritual rope?
The reason is They are pretty sure that the solar system revolves around them.
Therefore, whenever something is said or done that conflicts with their agenda, everybody hears about it.
Here is a good test for each of us to take: Try and remember the last time you were wronged?
YOU REMEMBER, DON’T YOU?
OH, WHEN SO AND SO DID SO AND SO, WELLLLLLLLLL
But when we’re at the end of our spiritual rope we don’t remember things like that, we don’t keep score, we don’t write down who did what to us because we know that we have a defender who takes care of injustices.
Whenever we allow pride to creep into our lives, it often raises its ugly head by causing us to take offense at another person. Love is not easily offended and does not keep track of those offenses.
There’s a story about a little boy at a church service, who on the way out of the sanctuary told his pastor, “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money. “Well, thank you,” the pastor replied. “But why?” ”
Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”
Sometimes to reach life at the end of the rope, we have to allow God to empty us of everything that isn’t him, including our pride. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to reach the end of our rope, to become poor in spirit. When we’re at that point we quit being self-assertive, self-reliant, self-confident, self-centered, or self-sufficient.
CHURCH, RELYING ON GOD IS THE WAY TO OPEN THE DOOR TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD HERE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
Get it: Those folks at the end of their spiritual rope are not overly concerned with self-esteem. They do not boast in their God given characteristics such as their birth, their family, their nationality, their education, their physical looks, their race, their wealth, or their culture. None of that matters. If you’re at the end of your rope you are conscious of your sins and know in your heart that you are completely unworthy of God’s free grace.
Jesus is saying, “Blessed are those who know that there’s nothing they can do to help themselves. Happy are those who humbly realize that they are spiritually bankrupt without Christ. Jumping up and down joyful are those who understand that without God, they can do nothing.
Being at the end of your spiritual rope doesn’t mean you have no hope. It’s just the opposite, Being at the end of your spiritual rope means you HAVE HOPE.
Someone said pride is so subtle that we can even become proud of our humility.
We might even become like the Sunday School teacher who, after telling the story of the Pharisee and the publican, said, ”Children, let’s bow our heads and thank God we are not like the Pharisee!”
There is such a thing as false humility, but I think we all know the difference. That doesn’t make us immune to it, however. Genuine humility is seeing ourselves the way we really are. We have God wants to help us. But just like the baby bird who can do nothing more than chirp and swallow the food its mother brings, we are totally dependent on God for our life and breath and future.
Humility only comes when we receive God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus and begin to see ourselves the way He sees us- totally helpless without Him, but totally blessed with Him. God smiles on those who are poor in spirit.
When we become helpless before God, we have finally begun to
II. WILLINGLY HIT BOTTOM
Friends, being blessed means being approved by God and applauded by all of heaven. So our first steps toward solution for our condition is to willingly let it all go, to hit bottom.
Jesus is telling us that we are to be blessed, and Blessed is being favored, and in fact,. Blessed means happy.
BLESSED MEANS HAPPY
The general Greco-Roman perspective of someone who was blessed was one on whom fortune smiles. A blessed person is a privileged recipient of divine favor.
So, the question is can someone who is at the bottom of their lives spiritually, emotionally, sometimes physically, sometimes financially be blessed?
Here’s the answer: In today’s language, being blessed might mean “having an inward joy that is not affected by our physical circumstances. ”
In other words, when we hit spiritual bottom, we CAN be happy, happy, happy.
We aren’t necessarily blessed in appearance, or money, or health, or in circumstances here on earth, but we know without a doubt because we’ve been emptied of all that is us, we are at a bottom and there’s no where to go but up.
I see Mary the mother of Jesus as fitting this description. We also read about God’s favor or approval being expressed to her by the angel. Luke 1:28-30 “28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”
Think this through, church.
This teenager was pregnant without being married. She was subject to being stoned for her indiscretion. She was subject to losing her fiancé.
Yet she was favored, blessed, looked after.
The worst of predicaments was the most blessed of events in human history. God has a way of affirming the those who are poor in spirit and using them to accomplish incredible things in His kingdom.
Here’s the absolute truth as I see it: God is not impressed by our accomplishments or abilities. He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.
1 Peter 5:5-6 “God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people.”
I AM THE PLAINEST OF PLANE FOLKS. I REVEL IN THE FACT I CAN DO NOTHING WITHOUT GOD.
This is God’s favor, God’s affirmation of a person, when He gives His grace to those who have allowed hitting bottom to drive all the pride out of them.
We are less than deserving when it comes to God’s grace and favor. Yet, He has set His love on us and has chosen us to associate with Him. He sees us in our weaknesses and gives us the grace to trust in Him for strength.
Have you been blessed by God? If so, then I hope you recognize His favor for what it is. The Bible says that God gives rain to good people and bad people. However, His favor is reserved for those who are poor in spirit and recognize that they need Him more than anything else in this world.
My prayer for you today is that God would look down on you and see someone who is poor in spirit and has a heart that is filled with repentance and humility. Because when God sees a heart like that, His favor and His blessing will soon follow.
Well, our final point may sound redundant, because it sounds a lot like God’s favor, but let’s look at what really indicates that God’s favor rests on a person.
When you HIT BOTTOM, THERE’S BUT ONE WAY TO LOOK, CHURCH.
III. LOOK UPWARD
(The Poor in Spirit Are Heavenly Rewarded)
Jesus says that when you look at a Christian, you’re looking at a Kingdom person.
He says: The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit.
This speaks of identity – who you are because of whose you are; identification with God’s kingdom; possessing the kingdom shows a close connection with the King.
Look upward, church.
The kingdom of heaven doesn’t belong to the rich or the famous or the most capable. It belongs to those who are loyal to Jesus. It belongs to those who have begun to realize that they cannot live without the Lord. It belongs to the humble. It belongs to the poor in spirit. It belongs to those who have been at the end of their rope, who have fallen to the bottom of the pit and LOOKED UPWARD.
Hitting spiritual bottom keeps you from becoming proud in spirit. You’ve done nothing but look upward.
When you’ve got nothing whatsoever to brag about, look upward.
When you are as down as down can be, look upward.
The biggest benefit of hitting spiritual bottom is that God’s home is your home. Jesus says “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”
The kingdom of heaven is not only the residence of the King, it is the residence of those who humble themselves before the King!
The phrase “kingdom of heaven” in this context is not simply referring to the place where those who believe will live forever but rather the environment that Christ rules over. It’s like the trusting child who benefits from his parent’s provision. And what kind of life will the poor in spirit have if Jesus rules over them rather than trying to be the ruler themselves?
Among other things YOU WILL receive these four blessings.
IV. BLESSINGS AT THE BOTTOM
(1) God’s grace.
(James 4:6) AND WHAT HE GIVES IN LOVE IS FAR BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELESE YOU’LL FIND. IT’S COMMON KNOWLEDGE THAT GOVE GOES AGAINST THE WILLFUL PROUD; GOD GIVES GRACE TO THE WILLING HUMBLE.
If you’ve been at the end of your spiritual rope, if you’ve hit spiritual bottom, if you’ve turned your eyes to heaven, if you’ve admitted your need for him, if you’ve finally, finally decided that there is no way you can save you that’s when you admit your need for Him, and that’s when He gives mercy, forgiveness and His grace, His favor when we deserve punishment.
At the bottom you get
(2) Less stress. Humility means I don’t have to have all the answers. When I’m humble I realize that the world does not depend on me. I am not the general manager of the universe. When I’m humble I can admit I don’t have it all together. When I’m humble…. I don’t have to fake it anymore. I can relax in the Lord. I don’t have to pretend I’m perfect because God doesn’t demand that I be perfect in order for me to be happy. And things don’t have to be perfect for me to be joyful. Humility accepts the fact that you can be happy because you are depending on God, not depending on everything to be ideal.
When I depend on preaching or teaching or writing or my mate or my kids or my grand kids or my friends or my pets or anything but God himself to make me happy they all invariably fail… because they are not perfect. But God never fails. I’m not depending on things or others for my approval but on Jesus alone. So when I become poor in spirit and walk in dependence on the Lord, it reduces the stress in my life. And when the stress goes down, happiness goes up.
At the bottom you get
(3) Better relationships. Who enjoys being around arrogant, boastful, prideful people? No one likes a selfish person. When you are poor in spirit you take an interest in others. When you take an interest in others, you become interesting o others. Being poor in spirit means you ask forgiveness of others, and you in turn are forgiving. It improves relationships.
And finally, at the bottom you get
4) Results. Having been at the end or your rope releases God’s power in our life. God works powerfully through those who are emptied. We can simply be faithful and diligent and trust Him for the results.
And what are the results of this bottom feeding?
Paul wrote this in a letter to a church in Phillipi”
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
The peace of God, which surpasses our understanding, and our submission and our worthiness and our sins, which exists far beyond our intellect which tells us that we must DO SOMETHING to find this happiness, is ours simply because he exists, he loves, he gives grace.
BOTTOM LINE: YOUR JOY, YOUR SALVATION, YOU HOPE DEPENDS ON HIM, NOT ON ANYTHING WHATSOEVER YOU CAN DO.
So at the end of your rope, at the bottom of the pit, look upward so that you can become
totally dependent on God.
Do you get that?
Not a little.
Not a bit.
It means that no matter how good you are at whatever you do, you’re not good enough.
It means that no matter how long you’ve been coming to church, coming to Sunday School, coming to Bible Studies, doing daily devotionals, whatever that might be, you are never done doing those things.
It means realizing our spiritual deficiencies. It means admitting we are imperfect sinners, ever single one of us, even the absolute best of us; it means more than using the saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” as a cliché, but realizing it was our sin caused Jesus to go to the cross. Those were my thorns, my nails, my cross.
To be at the end of our ropes means to empty ourselves of selfishness, or pride, of all that isn’t of God. Just let him drain us dry so he can fill us back up with himself.
This is the first quality we need in order to find God’s favor. We must understand that we are not good! We must recognize that we are destitute spiritually, that we are poor in spirit. That sounds crazy doesn’t it?
Many of us all our lives have been taught to hide behind our masks, to put on a front, to not let anyone in, to not share our feelings and emotions with ANYONE.
But Jesus says, “No! IT’S OKAY TO UNDERSTAND YOU’RE NOT THAT GOOD, NOT THAT STRONG, NOT PERFECT AT ALL, because if you don’t you will never recognize your need!”
Compared to God we are not great. We are nothing without God, and we will never be content until we understand that principle. WE
IN THE MOST DESPERATE WAY.
Do you want to know God’s favor and blessing? Do you want a share in the kingdom of heaven?
HERE’S THE TRUTH:
The way up is down
The way out is in
The way to more is less.