Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

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Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

In the Beatitudes the Lord Jesus paints for us a picture of a Christian as a person distinctly different from a worldly person. He is not describing an elite class of Christians; Here He is describing for us how the Christian ought to be.

The Lord begins with this statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven(Mat 5:3).”

The Beatitudes are not a set of haphazard, random sayings. There is a proper system, a pattern which follows logically. Spiritual poverty is indeed the foundation upon which all the other Beatitudes are built.

There is a fundamental principle we observe in scriptures: conviction before conversion. When we pay careful attention to every conversion account in the book of Acts, we will realise that this principle holds true.

The Jews on Pentecost were convicted by the gospel. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do(Acts 2:37)?”

When a person comes to the realisation that he is truly a spiritual pauper, he will see His need of the grace of God offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican…And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner(Luke 18:10, 13).”

David in his penitential Psalm acknowledged:

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psa 51:16-17).”

This is just the attitude of the heart the transcendent, almighty King of heaven and earth finds acceptable. He is above all, and we must know our place—we are beneath Him, mere creatures completely dependent upon His good grace.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa 57:15).”

Immediately we are aware that this attitude of being poor in spirit runs against the grain of the world’s philosophy. The world despises it. The world promotes self-reliance, self-confidence and self-expression.

The tentacles of these worldly ideas have crept insidiously into the church, entrapping many well-meaning brethren with its sweet, deceptive philosophy. In the place of humility we have men and women demanding their ‘rights’.

We judge as a worthy leader a brother who is self-assertive and confident. We appraise a preacher not so much by the soundness of his sermons but by his style. The apostle Paul would have been roundly criticised by us today. Paul went to Corinth “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” and preached “not ourselves but Christ” (cf. 1Co 2:3; 2Co 4:5).

To be poor in spirit does not mean we are diffident, nervous, distressed or lacking in courage. It certainly does not mean that we are to ‘play humble’ and try to drum up the ‘fact’ that we are meek and lowly.

We sometimes make ourselves out to be worse than we are (“Oh I’m nobody; I’m never going to be good enough, etc.”), hoping perhaps at the back of our minds that a friend may come along and affirm us, telling us we are not quite as bad.

But the truth is we are far worse than we could ever make ourselves out to be. That is why we need the gospel. A person who needs to remindothers in some ways that he is ‘poor in spirit’ is surely anything but that.

To be poor in spirit is to be painfully aware of our condition without the mercies of God in Christ. It is to have the veil removed from before our very eyes and see that wehave all sinned, and come short of the glory of God (cf. Rom 3:23; 1Jo 1:8).

It is to know that even after we have been added to Christ, we are still completely dependent upon Him; that we are nothing without Him. There is no room for boasting, no ambition to impress God or anyone; no climbing up the ladder for preeminence in the church (cf. 3Jo 9-10).

There is nothing in us—not our social status, not our talents, skills, intelligence and good behaviour that will stand us in good stead before God. It is all by His grace.

The poor in spirit are stripped of pride and self-reliance. They do not try to negotiate terms with God. They look to God in utter submission for His grace and mercy. These are the ones the Lord calls blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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The Beatitudes—What We are to Be

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying(Mat 5:1-2)…”

And thus began what became known as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the most famous and quoted from sermon ever.

The Lord launched into His sermon by introducing a series of pithy sayings—brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigour and substance. These sayings are widely known today as the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes means “the blessings.” They are called such because the first word of each of these sayings is “blessed.”

The Greek word makarios, translated into our English Bible as “blessed”, means in its simplest definition “happy.” What the Lord introduces here in the Beatitudes are the keys to true happiness.

Happiness is the pursuit of every man and woman. Much of what we do is because of pleasant results we hope to attain. We work hard for the paycheck because we can then provide for our families. It brings us happiness when our loved ones are provided for.

We also enjoy the (licit) pleasures of life. Recreation—sports; reading, etc.—are pleasurable activities. We can read in the American Declaration of Independence that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right.

In other words, we are free to live howsoever we choose to make us happy as long as we keep the law and respect the rights of others.All these are fair and good. But it is also right here in the pursuit of that fleeting sense of pleasure that man has bought into the ancient lie that sin will bring happiness.

We are meant for so much more than the pleasures of this earthly life. The Lord Jesus gives us the keys to true blessedness—true happiness—in the Beatitudes. He is saying to us, in effect, that if we want to be truly happy, we must do it His way.

A read-through of these sayings will immediately impress upon us the stark contrast between the world’s understandingof true happiness and the Lord’s definition of it. What could possibly be the rationale behind the connection between spiritual poverty, mourning and persecution with true happiness? Whatever could Jesus mean by that?

In the Beatitudes the Lord is describing for us the character of the Christian. The rest of the sermon deals basically with the Christian manner of life. But conduct is an outpouring of character, and so it is here at the Beatitudes that our Lord begins His great sermon.

What can we draw from this? First of all, since the Lord is describingthe Christiancharacter, it dawns on us that every Christian ought to develop the character set forth here.

No, he is not describing an elite class of Christians. There is no such class. Every Christian is a saint (Rom 1:7, 1Co 1:2, Eph 1:1, et al.), called out of the world and sin by the gospel (2Th 2:14) for God’s holy purpose and service.

Secondly, every Christian ought to exemplify by daily living every one of these character traits.

Jesus does not mean for us to exhibit some and not the rest of these characteristics. We are not to choose which of these Beatitudes is more suitable to our temperament or disposition and focus on them to the neglect of others.

The Beatitudes are not personality traits, where the melancholic are more likely to mourn whereas the sanguine are cheerfully optimistic, spared from mourning and the comfort which the Lord says will follow.

Each one of us, whatever our personality may be, is to manifest the Beatitudes in our lives.

These Beatitudes are not disjointed, stand-alone sayings. It is a system of traits closely linked with each leading necessarily to the next. It is a progression; we develop our Christian character beginning with the first.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mat 5:3).” It leads on to the next, “Blessed are they that mourn (Mat 5:4).” It is those who are aware of their spiritual poverty who will mourn for their condition.

And such grief for one’s spiritual poverty makes no room or allowance for pride. The worldly idea of self-confidence (or confidence in one’s abilities or sense of identity without consideration of God), is set aside. Instead we find meekness. “Blessed are the meek (Mat 5:5).”

Jesus paints for us a picture of a Christian as a person distinctly different from a worldly person. We are meant to show the world the difference between them and us. In the same sermon the Lord says that we are to be salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Mat 5:13-16).

We need not fret ourselves too much with how we could attract more visitors to our worship services, or how we could interest a friend to study the Bible with us. When the world sees the difference, their interest will be piqued.

They will respond generally in two ways: they will either become curious to know more, or they will resent our difference from them and hold us in contempt. The Lord does not shield us from the very real possibility of suffering persecution for His sake (cf. Mat 5:12).

The power of the gospel, not only to save us but to change us, is real and in the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount we see how the change is to be manifested in our lives.

True blessedness is the saints’ glorious heritage.

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A New Year of Spiritual Journey

We are given 52 weeks in a year and now we have 51 left to go. How has it been for us thus far into 2019? It is good and appropriate that we begin the year with God, and press on with Him.

The Book of Proverbs has some wise words for us on our spiritual journey into this year.

“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Pro 3:1-4).

The New Year brings with it various challenges, excitements and mundaneness. Yet through it all, we are exhorted to remember the law of the Lord and to do His commandments.Solomon urges us to keep the word of God close to our hearts, like engravings that cannot be erased.

“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee.” Mercy can be understood in its widest sense: the mercy and kindness of God toward us and the mercy and kindness of man toward one another.

We need the mercy of God every moment of our lives. If it wasn’t for the mercy of God so generously poured out on Calvary, the word ‘hope’ would cease to have any meaning for us.

Everything is built upon the atonement of Christ on the cross: our peace with God, our relationship with Him, our hope of eternal salvation and our destiny of heaven. Well may we cry out with Paul in adoration unto God:

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Rom 11:33)!

The word of God is not only for intellectual stimulation. They encourage us; even provoke us, unto good works. True faith is active, never passive. We may recall the words of James on this score:

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas 1:22).

As we have obtained mercy from God, we ought also to be merciful unto others. The Lord says, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Mat 5:7). If we withhold mercy, how can we reasonably expect God to be merciful toward us?

These are wise words indeed to anchor our souls that we may not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14).

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Pro 3:5-8).

Trust is at once both an easy and difficult thing to do. Whenever we trust a person, there might be at the back of our minds the lurking thought that he/she might let us down.

Trust is a commitment. It is not offered lightly; it is earned by being trustworthy. Our Lord wants us to trust Him wholeheartedly. He is most definitely worthy of trust. In fact, He is the only one worthy of complete trust.

Unlike our fellow man, the Lord is infallible. He is morally perfect; He cannot do anything against His own holy nature (cf. Titus 1:2). He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Mat 5:45).

Our God richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1Ti 6:17). Above all that, He exhibits His forbearance by sending His only begotten Son as a propitiation for our sins by His blood.

“It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).

Everything that God has done and does tell us of His trustworthiness and faithfulness. Friends and loved ones may let us down in spite of best intentions. We fail those whom we love because we are fallible creatures. But not God; He cannot fail.

Man has turned his back on God and has been leaning upon his own understanding since the Garden of Eden. Where has that led us? Nothing butmore pain and misery.

The history of mankind is a testimony of man’s futile attempt to be his own little god. It is the story of creatures created in the image of God, creatures meant for so much more but settled for so much less.

Our Lord calls us to rest our full confidence in Him. Trust Him, live the way He has designed for us to live. Put Him in the preeminent place, reverence Him, have nothing to do with evil. The test of our trust is in braving the storms of life with our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).

May the Lord watch over us and bless us in the New Year as we press on with Himfor the joy that is set before us.