It was a thrill to think that Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works on that piano! The student who fancied herself a good pianist who had played for years asked the museum guard if she might play a few notes on it. She offered him a little money on the side to let her play. He agreed and the girl sat and played a tune. As she finished she asked the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.” To her surpise he said, “Paderewski, the famous Polish pianist was here a few years ago, and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.” This story highlights an important issue in God’s kingdom, humility (poverty of spirit).
As I wrote in my last post the idea of the “Kingdom of God” centers around His active rulership. The best thing that can happen to any person on the face of the earth is for more of God’s loving rulership (Kingdom) taking over more of their life. As that happens His Kingdom continually advances in and though our lives (Mat 13:31-32, Mk 4:30-32, Luk 13:18-19).
“If you are wrapped up in yourself you will be a very small package.” Benjamin Franklin
The initial step, and continuing steps of receiving His Kingdom in any area of our lives is humility (poverty of spirit). When we abandon poverty of spirit we will prohibit the Kingdom from advancing in our lives.
It usually goes something like this; we become aware of an area of our lives, an attitude, or a reaction that is not under His rule. As we are challenged about it by the Spirit, the Word, and often through His people, we are faced with a decision. We humble ourselves (poverty of spirit), confess our sin, repent (turn away from it), and freshly yield ourselves to Jesus. His restoration follows.
The opposite of poverty of spirit (pride) keeps us from this process. That is why poverty of spirit is the first step, and continual first step of receiving His Kingdom. I like what the great saint Augustine said about it, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility (poverty of spirit) that makes men as angels.”
Poverty of spirit is that sweet root from which all of God’s virtues will shoot.
Sheep and Goats
One of the analogies Jesus used about those who continually receive His kingdom and those who don’t are sheep and goats. Sheep humbly receive; goats proudly resist. Goats are famous for butting others. That resistance is part of their nature. We have all exhibited qualities of goats when we resist/butt others who are trying to help us receive His kingdom in various areas of our lives.
Here is a cue that we are acting more like a goat. When we find ourselves resisting truth about our attitudes or actions by using the word “but”… but you don’t understand…but you did this…but I was having a bad day…but who are you etc., it should be a wake up call. Sheep respond with yes Lord, while goats respond by butting.
Another problem with goats is their destructive influence on others. Shepherds sometimes train a goat to associate with sheep to lead them to specific destinations, like to be corralled or slaughtered. The name they aptly give for this goat is the Judas goat after the Biblical character. Isn’t that an accurate spiritual metaphor of what happens with goats among sheep? Goats possess a stubborn streak and resist directions they don’t like and God clearly shows us He doesn’t like it (Zechariah 10:3, Matthew 25:31-33). They always end up leading sheep astray from God’s kingdom not just in what they say but in attitudes and actions.
When our desires, ideas, and will crosses His, we are faced with the issue “Who is in charge here?” Is Jesus ruling or are we? Is His way the right way or ours?” The poor in spirit yield; the goats resist. Poverty of spirit is what makes us able to walk with God and the imperfect people He joins us to.
Here is a good poverty of spirit test:
- Do I live with a constant awareness that I am dependent on God, or do I think I have enough ability, strength, and wisdom to manage my life?
- Am I anxious about my life and future? Humbly trusting God leads to peace.
- Am I consistently self-conscious? Am I overly concerned about what people think about me or replay in my mind how I looked in various situations?
- Do I have a fear of man more than a fear of God? Am I afraid to take stands or make decisions because of what others think?
- Am I easily embarrassed and often feel insecure?
- Am I always comparing myself to others?
- Do I desire to receive credit and recognition for things and feel slighted when I don’t?
- Am I deceptive about myself in front of others in order to preserve my reputation?
- Am I selfishly ambitious and/or overly competitive?
- Am I easily inconvenienced when asking to sacrifice or serve?
- Do I feel a sense of favor when I help others succeed and I get no credit for it?
- Do I feel better than others?
- Do I make it hard for people to challenge me without attacking them or what they are saying?
- Do I tend to see myself as more gifted and talented than others?
- Do I feel deserving of things or entitled rather than seeing them as a gift?
- Do I wallow in self-pity or am I overly consumed with how I am treated?
- Am I jealous or envious of others abilities, possessions, positions, or accomplishments?
- Do I tend to be a know it all?
- Do I find it easy to reveal my own mind and have answers for practically every situation?
- Do I have a hard time getting things out of teachings because I usually think of someone else who needs to hear them?
- Is it hard for me to admit I am wrong?
- Do I encourage people to correct me, but then make them feel uncomfortable in doing it?
- Am I stubborn?
- Is it easy for me to find things to criticize others about?
- Is it hard for me to point to any one I am submitted to in a real way?
If these things look familiar run to the good shepherd and He will work His nature in you (Phil 2:11-13)..
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