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Reality Check (IV)

One of the distinctives of a conference geared at youth is that the people in attendance tend to have a kind of youthful enthusiasm. You know what I’m referring to, I’m sure. They are excited to be at a conference, are exciting to be with their friends, and are excited to be learning from good and godly speakers. Sometimes this enthusiasm can last well into the night and, when I got my light off at 11:30 last night, it seemed that the night was still young for many of these people. Some of the older people in attendance remarked about that this morning. I guess I must be getting old—I am identifying more with the parents than the teens; more with the people who can’t believe that anyone would go swimming at midnight this time of year versus the people who’d actually take the plunge.

This morning, after an opening time of singing and worship, Paul Washer is going to bring us the second of his four-part series on the beatitudes and he will be followed by the first session led by Jeff Noblit. At noon there will be a luncheon for any youth leaders in attendance and this will give opportunity for them to ask questions of the various speakers. We’ll then have the remainder of the afternoon to explore Chattanooga.

“Blessed” – This word refers to happiness and joy. A person who is blessed is a person who you would want to congratulate for the blessedness that is in his life. The purpose of walking with Christ is not joy, but in walking with Him how can we not have joy, even when we experience trials and sickeness and when everything we know and love is being torn apart. Our joy is fixed in the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ.

These verses, these beatitudes, are going to teach us how to walk in blessedness and how to increase in blessedness. He is going to teach us how to be happy—one of the most blessed aspects of Christianity.

Washer began by showing the contrast between what Jesus teaches in these beatitudes and what is often taught in churches today. Everyone wants to be blessed, but how do we get there?

  • The world says blessed are the self-confident and independent. Jesus says blessed are those who recognize their need of God and live in dependence upon him
  • The world says blessed are those with healthy self-esteem and a confidence in mankind. Jesus says blessed are those who mourn over their own fallenness and the fallenness of this world. They mourn enough to turn their eyes from themselves to Christ and then they experience joy.
  • The world says blessed are the driven who put themselves first and make their own plans and get anything they want. Jesus says blessed are the meek who seek the glory of God—His purpose in the world—and who submit to His will
  • The world says blessed are those who are satisified with the priorities and treasures of this world. Jesus says blessed are those who recognize the temporal nature of this world and hunger and thirst for God, His kingdom, and greater conformity to His will. In other words, blessed are those who realize that this is not their home; blessed are the misfits.
  • The world says blessed are those who give others what they deserve and give rewards and punishment based on performance. Jesus says blessed are the merciful and who reflect God’s mercy as they deal with others.
  • The world says blessed are those who make self-preservation their highest goal. Jesus says blessed are those who risk themselves and everything they have for the kingdom.

We move now to “the poor in spirit”

When we speak of being poor we say that “nothing in our hands do we bring”—we come to the Lord with empty hands. We recognize that we are powerless to cleanse ourselves with sin or to make ourselves right with God. We are reduced to falling on the mercies of God and pleading for mercy from Jesus Christ. This poverty of spirit begins at conversion but continues to increase throughout a person’s life.

Application: how is dependence upon God manifested? How do we know if we are impoverished in this way? First, dependence upon the Word of God. You are not poor in Spirit if you base your life on visions, dreams or feelings. You are only poor in spirit if you look always and foremost to Scripture to see what God’s will is. “Young person, you have so limited your usefulness to God because you don’t listen to anybody and particularly because you don’t listen to God.” Most of what you know has been put into your life by people who are as young and dumb as you are. So much of your life as a believer will be ruined because you will be independent of spirit. Second, dependence upon prayer and communion with Christ. Third, (and this is possibly your greatest offense against God) God has given you authorities in your life to protect you. He has given government, parents, etc, and so many young people reject and belittle this authority. Fourth, by separation from sin. Your problem is that you are not afraid of yourself and of your sin; but you ought to be.

How can we create poverty of spirit? There are things Scriptures tells us to do to encourage poverty of spirit. We are to esteem Christ higher than self. It is created through fellowship with godly people. “One of your greatest hindrances is that you are surrounded by fools.” Yet even though we need to strive for poverty of spirit, we can rest in God’s ability to finish the good work in us. We can go out and begin cultivating poverty of spirit, or God can take ahold of us and do whatever is necessary to make us poor.

So I think I’ve narrowed down why I find it difficult to encapsulate Paul Washer’s messages. Much of what he says is very pointed, very directed at individuals. Those direct, confrontational exhortations are very difficult to easily transfer. They are difficult to adequately summarize. So I’ve had to resort here to just doing the best I can and hoping you can see that there would be value in getting the audio messages and listening to those.

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