Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests], and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to my example in living and, if need be, in dying also]. (Matthew 16:24, Amplified, emphasis added)
This journey is one that I share with any who hears the call of discipleship and desires to answer this call. The call to discipleship comes with a call to denying the self and this is going to take character, Christian character, to accomplish. Without character discipleship cannot be accomplished; and without seeing yourself as you are character building cannot begin. We must begin with self-assessment. I have to admit, once again, that this Beatitude is difficult for me because my self-assessment revealed that I have been weighed in the balances, and founded wanting. To see this was a crushing blow for a person who desires the image of Christ to be built in his life. Years of being a Christian had not developed the character I have desired. Do you find yourself in a similar situation? Can you look at your life and say that you are poor in spirit? My hope is that with understanding what is meant by this passage will allow our will to align with His.
As we tackle being poor in spirit we must honestly see ourselves as we really are and admit we need help. As the Apostle Paul struggled with who he was (Romans 7 is a good example) he called out for help, “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release me from [the shackles of] this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, Amplified) There is only one answer to this problem that I share (and I guess you might) with him, and it is the subsequent verse, “O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord!” (Romans 7:25, Amplified) Here is an important point: it must be recognized from the onset that nobody can change himself. It is only by the Holy Spirit through the finished work of the Cross that we can become poor in spirit.
The one obvious question at this point is “what do I need to do to be poor in spirit?” The answer I propose is that we do nothing; rather we allow the Holy Spirit to build character because it is not what we do that matters. It is who we are that matters; or put more succinctly, who we are in Him is what really matters. In order to obtain the character that you and I earnestly desire we need to make a game plan starting with this most difficult of the Beatitudes and learn how to stop blocking the Holy Spirit from changing us into the image of Christ. This game plan includes answering the questions that arise when addressing this first Beatitude. Since we face common conditions (call them sin and pride), let us together see what the Master Rabbi is telling us in this Beatitude and how this Beatitude looks like when developed into Christian character. We need to change. Let us desire that change starting with becoming poor in spirit.
Take a self-assessment right now and ask: What is lacking in your character? Are you prideful in certain areas of your life? Do you suffer from spiritual pride? If you can swallow your pride and ask people you trust to give their honest assessment with these questions; it could be a spouse or a close friend. Take stock of your spiritual life now and it will pay dividends later on.