Gamma 15 – Sermon on the Mount (Study 1)

BEATITUDES PART 1

INTRODUCTION

THE POOR IN SPIRIT

GAMMA FACILITATORS

John Goh012 207 6125jgoh2004@yahoo.com
Dr Lee Fook Sin019 230 9492lfooksin@gmail.com
Moh Ee Lin019 273 2468moheelin@gmail.com
Kong Yew012-2902389kongyew.my26@gmail.com
Michael Tan017-3770008michaeltanttc@gmail.com
Ng Cho Hoo012 878 2128ch88.ng@gmail.com
Patrick Khoo019-2516889patrick_khoo@yahoo.com
Cathrine Ng012-2128086catherine.ngsk@gmail.com
Susanah Ng012 3088670susanah84@gmail.com

Kindly contact any of these Gamma Facilitators. They will be hosting Zoom meetings for Discussions every Wednesday starting from April 1, 2020.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 1

The Blessed Disciple

Question 1
Ronald was sharing with his life group members how blessed he was when he was back in Ipoh as whenever he would pray for a parking spot, a vacant spot would almost magically appear within seconds. However since he had come to KL to work he felt God was no longer blessing him as no parking spots would open for him despite praying in faith. He felt distant from God and less confident to trust God. He had been reading a Good News Version of the Bible which had translated the Greek word for blessing as “happy”. `Is Ronald’s understanding of blessing the same as Jesus in Matthew 5? Can you understand how a wrong understanding will affect a person’s faith?

ANSWER:

The problem is the over simplistic translation of the Greek word “ Makarious” to English “ happy”. The word “ happy “ is derived from the old English word “ hap” which means luck or chance which conveys a sense of randomness which is not what Makarious means as it is not random. Happiness is also subjective and is dependant on circumstances and is transient like in this case getting a parking spot which is a good thing. However happiness will vary according to our moods and emotions and perceptions of how things are going around us which may not necessarily correspond to reality. Makarious is used by Jesus to mean something concretely objective or how God looks at us and regards us which is not dependent on the moment to moment feelings or situations. Makarious is an objective description of a person who is flourishing in the eyes of God. The external situations or circumstances are irrelevant as the person may even be suffering persecution or in pain and sorrow but in the eyes of God the person trusts the Lord and is blessed. Ronald may not necessarily be getting his prayers answered in KL about the parking lots but may be blessed by gaining new insight in to the faithfulness of God who is teaching him to trust Him more instead of being reliant on external circumstances. If a person continually interprets events and circumstances in his life solely in terms of what makes him happy he will them be blinded to the hardships in life which God often also uses to deepen faith. His shallow understanding of blessedness will lead to a one dimensional faith which is easily stumbled because life is difficult and complex.

Question 2
How is Jesus understanding of being “ blessed” different from our normal understanding? Does it cause you some discomfort at this ? Why ? What are some of the ways you can see how the real meaning of being blessed has been distorted by the“prosperity gospel”.

ANSWER

Hence Jesus understanding of being blessed is completely different from ours as we look to the circumstances of our lives to be the basis of our being blessed. We look to the accomplished person, the rich person, the one with good health to be the sole basis of being in a blessed condition which is the basis of the prosperity gospel which links physical riches with spiritual blessings entirely. Jesus understanding is completely counterintuitive as the seemingly poor, deprived person is often the one who is blessed not the powerful rich person.

This understanding causes us much discomfort because it is easier to estimate blessedness on the basis of what we can see feel or touch rather than some internal spiritual value. It is more pleasant to aspire to be blessed on the basis of physical riches or health than spiritual poverty which is humiliation in the eyes of the community.

Question 3
What is the meaning of being spiritually poor in spirit ?

Question 4
David was a deacon serving in the 3rd Baptist church in charge of Alpha. One day some of the volunteers in Alpha told him off because the Alpha meal was not prepared and the people had no meal that day and this was happening too often. David became defensive and said he had a full time job and he had to work over time that week was let this slip. He angrily retorted to the group “ If you guys are so clever why don’t you take over the planning, its not like I am dying to do this job, in fact you should thank God I volunteered to serve in Alpha.
A. Why did David react the way he did?
B. Was his reaction because he considered himself to be spiritually poor?
C. How should he have reacted instead?
D. Why is it so difficult to admit our spiritual poverty?
E. How does spiritual poverty make us look in the eyes of our friends and family?
F. Why is this essential for being in the kingdom of God?
G. How does the Apostle Paul help us understand what Jesus meant in Phil 3: 3-11?
H. What is Paul’s practical out working of his understanding of spiritual poverty in Phil 3:12-14?
I. How can you help each other understand and apply spiritual poverty and dependence on Jesus on a daily basis?

ANSWER

To be spiritually poor is to understand that one is completely incapable or any good works or achievements in our lives to merit salvation in the eyes of God. The picture is being spiritually bankrupt which is like a financial bankrupt if being bankrupt is to mean having no resources at all to meet daily requirements for life and in this case spiritual life.

DA Carson defines it as “emptying our selves of personal self righteousness, moral self esteem and personal vain glory”.

David reacted angrily because the criticism of his failings caused a loss of face. He had built his self esteem on his service as a deacon and the success or failure of Alpha had become for him the basis for spiritual accomplishment and pride. An attack on his spiritual accomplishments in Alpha was an attack on his stature as a deacon and servant of God.

Hence he became angry because he did not consider himself spiritually poor in fact he was proud of his service and his record and an attack on that was an attack on himself. He should have listened to the complaints and evaluated it honestly and even with fellow workers to see if there was any validity to the complaints and if there were to apologise for the short coming and promise to do better next time. However because he was spiritually invested in Alpha he regarded the cricticism as a personal attack on his self worth.

Obviously spiritual poverty makes us look weak in the eyes of our peers because poverty and a low estimation of ourselves is completely opposite to the way our society operates. Everyone is striving to be richer , more accomplished and adding more achievements into our cv’s to impress others and convince ourselves that we are indeed worthwhile individuals. It is what we regard as our basis for self esteem. The rich will use money and assists to form the basis of their self-esteem, the intellectuals will use degrees , PhDs, and accolades, the nobility will use pedigree and royal tittles, the hard working worker will regard integrity, diligence and consistency and others will use good works. All these form the basis of who we are and how we are to be regarded.

Jesus is saying this is not how we are seen in the eyes of God, the one who is blessed is the one who sees himself as God sees him , spiritually bankrupt. The problem with the rest of the world is that they live in an alternate reality in which all these personal accomplishments will serve as the basis of their sense of entitlement to stand tall in the eyes of God. Jesus is revealing to the disciples that in God’s eyes all these count for nothing and the ones who are truly blessed are those who see themselves as they really are naked bringing nothing to the table or merit and hence truly totally dependant on the grace and faithfulness of God.

Spiritual poverty is the only way that we can see our need to submit to Christ and take His sacrifice as the only basis of our reconciliation with God. The penalty and slavery of sin can only be met not with our own efforts but that of the sacrifice and life of Jesus. Everything else that we have done will get in the way of us seeing our lives as what it truly is hence in order to be filled with Christ we have to be emptied of self and self accomplishments.

Paul underscores this in Phil 3

(ESV) 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul no longer looks to his own pedigree or achievements and regards them as rubbish..worthless in order to grasp the righteousness afforded by Christ.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s aim is to press forward to live in a manner emptied of himself and constantly being filled by Christ which is indicated when he says “ I press on to the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”

Hence spiritual poverty is an ongoing process where criticism and failure becomes merely stepping stones in our journey toward growing into His likeness and glorifying Him. Criticisms and rebuke are not longer taken to heart and considered as torpedoes to our self esteem as our self esteem is based entirely on what Christ has done.

Question 5
Why do you think many people do not like to come to small groups and be transparent and share their spiritual struggles? Is it because they are “forgiven little” or are they holding on to their self esteem ? Do you think you can pray for each other that you have learnt from today’s lesson?

Please feel free to post your comments in the comments section.

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