Poor in Spirit: Oswald Chambers on the Sermon on the Mount

Last week, I saw a quotation from Oswald Chambers in the Billy Graham museum in Wheaton, and I thought it captured the essence of what it means to come to Christ.  It does not mean willing oneself to live perfectly as Jesus lived, nor does it mean praying a simple prayer of salvation and then living as you please.  Rather, Christ calls us to come to him, broken and impoverished, so that he can live through us.  But, Mr. Chambers put it better than I can:

THE GATEWAY TO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Matthew 5:3

Beware of placing Our Lord as a Teacher first. If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I can not attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. What is the good of telling me to be what I never can be – to be pure in heart, to do more than my duty, to be perfectly devoted to God? I must know Jesus Christ as Saviour before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives are based on that disposition.

The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the natural man – the very thing Jesus means it to do. As long as we have a self-righteous, conceited notion that we can carry out Our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to go on until we break our ignorance over some obstacle, then we are willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from Him. “Blessed are the paupers in spirit,” that is the first principle in the Kingdom of God. The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility – I cannot begin to do it. Then Jesus says – Blessed are you. That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The knowledge of our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier where Jesus Christ works.

______________________________________________________________

Well said, Mr. Chambers.  I think of the words of another man more eloquent than I, Rich Mullins:

“Jesus, they say you taught a lame man how to dance,
When he had never stood without a crutch.
Well here am I Lord, holding out my withered hands,
And I’m just waiting to be touched.”

Let’s all look to Jesus, and confidently expect him to do his work in and through us.

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About hjimkeener

Education: B.A.: Moody Bible Institute GCTS: Knox Theological Seminary M.Div.: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Ph.D.: Baylor University Ministry Experience: I have served as a Youth Minister, Associate Pastor of English Ministry, and a pulpit supply preacher. Teaching Experience: In addition to teaching in various volunteer and professional ministry settings, I have taught as a University Professor (Teaching Fellow; Baylor University) and as a Seminary Professor (El Seminario de la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Bolivia). I have also given lectures and sermons in Spanish.
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2 Responses to Poor in Spirit: Oswald Chambers on the Sermon on the Mount

  1. Carlton Meredith says:

    What a great passage by Oswald Chambers, Jim. Thanks for passing it on. I especially liked:

    “… Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives are based on that disposition.” Wow. Well said.

    I also appreciated his paraphrase, “Blessed are the paupers in spirit”; it is a good counterbalance to the common misreading that places all the emphasis on the word “poor” (as though Jesus were talking about this-worldly economics!), and leaves out the “in spirit” part. Recognizing our abject spiritual poverty before the God who is there is where the most exciting of all journeys begins!

    Take care,

    Carlton

  2. hjimkeener says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Carlton. I think of Charles Wesley’s, “Jesus Lover of My Soul”–one of my all time favorites:
    “Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
    Leave, ah! leave me not alone. Still support and comfort me.
    All my trust on Thee is stayed. All my help from thee I bring.
    Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing!”

    Untill we admit our abject helplessness, we are helpless indeed.

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