The Sermon on the Mount is probably Jesus’ most famous teaching. It was revolutionary because He changed the way people thought about living life with God and how they thought about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount with nine statements of blessings called the beatitudes. The beatitudes give a beautiful picture of what life with God looks like for someone who wants to be part of the kingdom revolution of Jesus.
Read Matthew 5.1–12.
The very first beatitude is in verse three: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus tells us what kind of heart we need to be part of the kingdom of heaven, but what exactly does He mean when He says “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”?
The Jewish people were very aware of the brokenness surrounding them in the world. Because they knew that God ruled over the world, they had hope for the day when God would send a Messiah—a rescuer—to redeem and restore that brokenness.
Jesus based His first ever sermon on this text and He also said that it would be fulfilled in Him. This is the kingdom of heaven that He refers to. In this kingdom of heaven, God will bind up the brokenhearted and heal deep emotional wounds. He will free spiritual captives and liberate us from guilt and shame. He will comfort those in mourning and give them profound joy and peace. And we have a part in the kingdom of heaven, because God says that He’s going to use His people as agents of redemption, restoration, and renewal all over the world.
Theologians throw out the phrase “already/not yet” a lot when they refer to the kingdom of heaven. While we know that these promises won’t be fully and perfectly fulfilled until Jesus comes back to earth (the not yet part), we can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus already began fulfilling them (already). Matthew 4.23 tells us that Jesus was preaching the good news of the kingdom and “healing every sickness and disease.” The reason that people were so excited about His ministry is because He was backing up His words about the kingdom with action; He was already ushering in the kingdom of heaven.
Question: What brokenness are you most looking forward to seeing redeemed or restored when Jesus returns to earth?
The good news is that He’s still ushering in the kingdom of heaven today. There are so many stories—even just around Engedi—of redemption, of joy in a time of mourning, and of the kingdom of heaven coming down to earth. Jesus isn’t promising some kind of distant hope, He’s promising something real and tangible and available now for those that are willing to step into it!
Question: How have you personally seen the kingdom of heaven come in today’s world? What are some areas of your life where you long to see the kingdom of heaven?
How do we step into the kingdom? Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. The best definition of what it means to be poor in spirit is found in Isaiah 66.2: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” The word for “humble” is also the same word that’s translated as “poor” throughout the Old Testament. This verse makes it clear that someone who’s poor in spirit is someone who’s humble before God. Someone who’s humble before God is someone who’s very aware that they need God. They realize that, without Him, they don’t have any resources—material, intellectual, or moral—that would increase their standing before God. Jesus makes it clear that a person who has this kind of desperate dependence on God is the person who gets to take part in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ teaching shows that there’s a really strong connection between humility and the kingdom of heaven. This connection exists for three reasons.
1. Humble people depend on the power of God.
People who feel like they’ve got it all together or they’ve got what it takes to succeed in life on their own very rarely rely on God’s power. Humble people know that they don’t have what it takes and that God’s power is the only thing that will make their lives a success.
2. Humble people rely on the word of God.
Prideful people are confident in their opinions and expertise. They don’t think they need God’s Word. Humble people are desperate for God’s word and, because they live it out, they can take part in the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.
3. Humble people credit their success to the glory of God.
The Bible tells us that only God is worthy of glory. Prideful people are so confident in their abilities that they’re quick to take credit for success. Humble people, on the other hand, experience success and are quick to point back to God’s amazing grace as the only reason for it.
Question: Where do you see the need for more humility in your life? Are there places where you see yourself taking credit for your own success or relying on your own abilities? How do you think your perspective would change if you began to humbly rely on God?
The connection between humility and experiencing the kingdom of heaven is strong, but we can’t just wake up one day and decide to be humble. Instead, it’s something we develop in our lives. We cultivate humility in two ways:
1. We recognize our true position before God.
Romans 3.23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In fact, we fall so short that the only way for God to save us was to send His innocent Son to die on the cross for our sins. When this becomes real to us—when we realize that an innocent man had to die in our place—we’re humbled by it. God loves us and created us with amazing potential and talents, but it was our sin that led Jesus to the cross.
2. We put ourselves in places of dependence on God.
Jesus is sending His disciples out on mission, but He tells them not to take anything with them. Why does He do this? To ensure that they are completely dependent on God to provide. Without God’s provision, the disciples’ mission would’ve been a complete failure. They put themselves in a place where, without God, they would fall flat on their face. This kind of dependence is what produces the kind of humility that leads to the kingdom of heaven.
Question: Have you ever put yourself in a situation where you were completely dependent on God? What happened? What opportunities to put yourself in that kind of situation do you see in your life now?
Since we’re imperfect people, we know that we can never be humble enough to access the kingdom of heaven on our own. It’s because of Jesus’ humility that we can access the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.
Read Philippians 2.7–8.
Humility is incredibly important and is something that we can work to cultivate in our lives as followers of Jesus. We can be encouraged by the fact that our access to the kingdom of heaven isn’t determined by our imperfect humility. Rather, it’s given to us because of Jesus’ ultimate humility. Jesus had every right to exalt himself: He lived a perfect life on earth and was the Son of God. But instead of exalting himself, He humbled himself on the cross so that we could share in His blessings.