Friday, May 19, 2023
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Lagos, Nigeria

esus in the last three years of His sojourn on earth, launched out to proclaim the good news of salvation, which He came for.

A multitude of people usually milled round Him because He spoke with a kind of wisdom never seen in the history of mankind. Not only that, He spoke with authority and He healed all manners of diseases. On one of such a day, He climbed on a mountain and taught His disciples in what is popularly referred to as "Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes"

He opened up by saying "3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:3)

Was Jesus referring to the people who are struggling to make ends meet, the people who had nothing to feed on, people with no clothes to wear and no house to dwell?

It is this opening statement of Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" I want to clarify in this broadcast.

Let us pray.

The topic of my sermon once again is the opening statement of Jesus's sermon on the mount "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:3)

Was Jesus referring to the people who are struggling to make ends meet, the people who had nothing to feed on, people with no clothes to wear and no house to dwell?

Certainly not, but they can be included in the group if they fulfill the condition.

A good example of someone, poor in the spirit can be found in the record of St. Johns 3. It is the story of a highly respected learned man in the law of Moses. His name is Nicodemus. Nicodemus was not only religious but a leader of the religion. He was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, meaning he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the tribunal or highest organ that presides over matters of the law and religion. The people revered them as second in command to God. They also see themselves as such (John 3: 1-3)

With all those super resume of Nicodemus, why would he visit Jesus?

In spite of all his knowledge and practice of the Mosaic laws; not missing any hourly prayers, giving alms, fasting twice a week, praying at streets corners, yet he went to Jesus who he believed that God has sent to teach us. Nicodemus further said to Jesus "Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you (John 3:2)"

He knew something was still missing in him. He heard of Jesus and He visited Him in the night.

This is an example, typical of a person poor in the Spirit. He did not see himself as arrived spiritually. Jesus said that to such people is the Kingdom of heaven. Nicodemus saw himself naked, unworthy of heaven in spite of his religious zeal and he went to Jesus for clothing.

But why did he choose to visit Jesus in the night? Perhaps to avoid bickering, gossip, backbiting or criticism of fellow Rabbis and other Jews. However, Jesus explained to him what he must do to get to heaven.

But Jesus knew that he was a Pharisee, who did not joke with religion. Jesus politely told him that all his religious zeal could not take him to heaven.

Jesus told him, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God."

Let us compare Nicodemus with another learned fellow in the Jewish religion in a story told by our Lord Jesus in Luke 18. This fellow was not named, Jesus simply referred to him as a Pharisee.

9 He told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 "Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[b]: 'I thank you, God, that I am not like other people-cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.'

13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.' 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

The poor in the spirit is one who recognizes his sinful wretchedness, who recognizes that it is not the labor of his hands ie no good deed, which he can do can fulfill the Lord's demands, not his religious zeal eg fasting, sleeping in Church or Mosque, not the many times he visited the Holy lands or giving large donations to the Church or Mosque, not the several unending tears etc but his dependent on the water and blood, which flowed from the wounded side of Christ for the washing and cleansing of his sins. This is the meaning of what Jesus told Nicodemus 5 "I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit"

After coming to Jesus, things become different, what he loves before have passed away, things he loved far more have come to stay. He can boldly sing "Things are different now, something happened to me, when I gave my life to Jesus" He becomes a new creation. Now in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2Cor. 5:17)

He says like the Apostle Paul:

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal.2: 20)

Are you a Nicodemus who saw the need to visit Jesus or are you a Pharisee who had great confidence in his religious activities, zeal and righteousness as described in Luke 18?

To be poor in spirit has no relation with being rich or poor. If the rich recognizes himself as being poor in the spirit i.e admits that all his good works are incapable of taking him to heaven and takes the necessary steps, he will be saved and if the poor does likewise, he too will be saved. If the poor refuses to do, he will go to hell in spite he has it rough on earth.

I urge you not to delay your salvation. Tomorrow may be too late.
Let me close with a song written by Ira Stanphill "Happiness is to know the Savior"
Happiness is to know the Saviour
Living a life within His favour
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord.
Happiness is a new creation
Jesus and me in close relation
Having a part in His salvation
Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine
No matter if the teardrops start
I've found a secret
It's Jesus in my heart.
Happiness is to be forgiven
Living a life that's worth the living'
Taking a try that leads to Heaven
Happiness is the Lord.
Real joy is mine,
No matter if the teardrops start,
I've found a secret,
It's Jesus in my heart,
Jesus in my heart.
Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that's worth the livin',
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord,