Delightful Dependence

DELIGHTFUL DEPENDENCE
      When I say the word dependence to most American’s they have a negative reaction.  However, I want you to consider this more deeply.  A brand new baby is delightfully dependent.  It is when men pridefully grasp for independence from God, that life begins to unravel.  All the way back in the Garden of Eden, men and women made their proud declaration of independence from God, telling him that his one restriction was unnecessary and they would do what they want.   Mankind has followed this path ever since.
     Jesus Christ begins his famous sermon on the mount with the first beatitude “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).  This is shocking to our ears because we think the ones who are blessed are the strong, the successful, beautiful, popular or powerful.  So what is “Poor in spirit” about?  This beatitude is basically saying to us that the vibrant, flourishing life is exhibited in the person that humbly puts their trust in God.  This is the person that sets aside self righteous pride and understands that they are spiritually bankrupt.  Author Brennan Manning once said, “God loves you as you are, not as you should be.’   That is good news!
     Let me share some examples.  Jesus once preached the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The tax collectors were collaborators with the hated Roman conquerors of the Jewish people.  They were considered the lowest of the low.  In contrast, the Pharisees were considered the Spiritual Army Rangers of their day.  They were disciplined, elite and admired.  Some sources say a boy who became a Pharisee would eventually memorize the entire canon of Hebrew Scriptures.  Which Christians call the Old Testament which is 39 books. I am impressed; I cannot even remember all my passwords for my various accounts!    
         A Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray.  The Pharisee prayed a proud prayer.  In essence, he was comparing himself to others and pointing out to God how righteous he was.  On the other hand, the tax collector simply cried out, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner.”  The Pharisee approached God based on his own righteousness.  The tax collector approached God humbly asking for mercy.  Jesus said the tax collector went home justified.  This verdict would have shocked the original audience. 
     An incident in the life of Jesus also affirms this message that the kingdom of heaven is for the poor in spirit.  Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner.  However, he did not extend to Jesus any of the typical hospitality that would normally be offered to an honored guest.  No kiss on the cheek or hand of welcome, no washing of his feet, and no anointing with olive oil.  Simon probably had dozens of Messianic prophecies about Jesus memorized but did not recognize the Messiah right in front of him or even his need for the Messiah.  And yet in the middle of the dinner a “sinful woman” (most likely a prostitute) burst into the gathering uninvited.  She washes Jesus feet with her tears, kisses his feet and dries them with her hair.  She anointed him with expensive perfume.  Simon the Pharisee is shocked that Jesus would let a woman like that touch his feet.  Jesus offers her forgiveness and offers Simon the Pharisee a rebuke.    
     At another time, Jesus once had a conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was part of the Jewish ruling body.  Jesus looked at this pious, respected religious leader and told him that he must be born again.  Interesting image?  I have been in the birthing room five times with my wife and not once did I ever see the doctor encouraging the child to work harder or make more of an effort.  Spiritual rebirth is a gift of God’s grace based on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; not our own good works.  The Apostle Paul says it this way:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
     When Jesus died on the cross at one point he cried out, “It is finished.”  Not “it is almost finished.”  Not “I did most of the work, you take us over the finish line.” Author David Murray calls it the “gospel of Done.”  Salvation is a gift of God’s grace.  But it is a gift that only the poor in spirit are willing to accept.  I encourage you to acknowledge your spiritual bankruptcy and put your full trust in God.  What Jesus did on the cross is enough.  Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian said it best: “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church