The Kingdom of God and Heaven

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:1-3

A Reflection

Right On Time for Those Who Needed and Wanted Him Most

As

 
the people sat upon the green hillside, awaiting the words of the divine Teacher, their hearts were filled with thoughts of future glory. There were scribes and Pharisees who looked forward to the day when they should have dominion over the hated Romans, and possess the riches and splendor of the world’s great empire. 

The poor peasants and fishermen hoped to hear the assurance that their wretched hovels, the scanty food, the life of toil, and fear of want were to be exchanged for mansions of plenty and days of ease. In place of the one coarse garment which was their covering by day, and their blanket at night, they hoped that Christ would give them the rich and costly robes of their conquerors. All hearts thrilled with the proud hope that Israel was soon to be honored before the nations as the chosen of the Lord, and Jerusalem exalted as the head of a universal kingdom. 

Christ disappointed the hope of worldly greatness. In the Sermon on the Mount He sought to undo the work that had been wrought by false education, and to give His hearers a right conception of His kingdom and of His own character. Yet He did not make a direct attack on the errors of the people. He saw the misery of the world on account of sin, yet He did not present before them a vivid delineation of their wretchedness. He taught them of something infinitely better than they had known. Without combating their ideas of the kingdom of God, He told them the conditions of entrance therein, leaving them to draw their own conclusions as to its nature. The truths He taught are no less important to us than to the multitude that followed Him. We no less than they need to learn the foundation principles of the kingdom of God.

Christ’s first words to the people on the mount were words of blessing. Happy are they, He said, who recognize their spiritual poverty, and feel their need of redemption. The gospel is to be preached to the poor. Not to the spiritually proud, those who claim to be rich and in need of nothing, is it revealed, but to those who are humble and contrite. One fountain only has been opened for sin, a fountain for the poor in spirit. 

The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ. The Lord can do nothing toward the recovery of man until, convinced of his own weakness, and stripped of all self-sufficiency, he yields himself to the control of God. Then he can receive the gift that God is waiting to bestow. From the soul that feels his need, nothing is withheld. He has unrestricted access to Him in whom all fullness dwells. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

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ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.


This article is part of our 2021 January / February Issue
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For Those Who Don’t Have Enough

Times can be hard and then seem to get even harder. Sometimes it seems the deck is stacked against you. No one wants to complain, but have you ever felt that life wasn’t fair? Maybe the challenges have impacted your spiritual life? You don’t feel like you’ve been on point with your relationship. You wonder about your standing with God. What if I told you that you are actually in one of the best places possible? Join us as we journey through the benefits of feeling like you don’t have enough.

 

 1 Read Matthew 5:1; Luke 4:18; Isaiah 7:14 

Imagine being born to be God. This is the reality of Jesus. For about thirty years Jesus has been living day-to-day in order to be life for the universe. He has worked some miracles before His sermon in Matthew 5 but has yet to preach a sermon. Some scholars characterize this portion of His ministry His year of popularity. Can you imagine the electricity as this hometown miracle worker goes up on a mountain to preach his first sermon? 

 2 Read Matthew 5:1-2; Luke 2:11; Matthew 2:1-2

There had to be rumors of Jesus being the Messiah circulating. The one that the Jews had waited for and hoped would deliver them from Roman opposition. The stories about Him turning water into wine and healing the sick had brought excitement to a fever pitch. I can only imagine that those in attendance were sure that His words would galvanize them to overthrow their tormentors. Have you ever expected something of God that may not have been what He had in mind? Tell us about it on social media using #MessageMag.

 3 Read Matthew 5:3; 1 Corinthians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 12:9 

With the momentous buildup of the moment, the words that first escape Jesus’ mouth are “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” How do think the people reacted? What do you think was their first thought after hearing these words? Let us know on social media using #MessageMag 

 4 “As something strange and new, these words fall upon the ears of the wondering multitude. Such teaching is contrary to all they have ever heard from priest or rabbi. They see in it nothing to flatter their pride or to feed their ambitious hopes. But there is about this new Teacher a power that holds them spellbound.” These are the words from the book Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing. Even in 2021 these words should hit us like a ton of bricks. Take some time to put yourself in the shoes of the hearers of these words. 

  5 Read Matthew 5:3; Matthew 15:24; James 4:10 

The first words out of the mouth of Jesus in Matthew 5 turn upside-down what many feel about their spirituality. The implication is that the Kingdom of Heaven is for those who don’t feel they are spiritual enough. This was contrary to what the rabbis taught and very different from what many of us have gotten from church. What does it really mean to be poor in spirit? We’d love to hear your definition on social media using #MessageMag. 

 6 Read Matthew 5:3; Psalm 34:18; Revelation 14:6

The everlasting Gospel that is to be shared is not one for those who are completely stable in their spirituality, but instead for those who wonder about their standing with the Lord. If you’ve ever wondered if your devotional life is where it is supposed to be, the Kingdom of Heaven is for you. If you’ve ever prayed and wondered if God heard your prayer, the Kingdom of Heaven is for you. If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t enough or had enough, the Kingdom of Heaven is for you!

 7 You are in a better place than it feels like. You may be dealing with unfair situations, exhausting circumstances, and seemingly insurmountable odds, but we want you to not give up. When you come to the end of yourself and say that “I don’t have enough” it is at that moment that you will realize that Jesus has all you need. Sometimes He allows you to become empty of yourself so that He can fill you with more than you can imagine.  

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


This article is part of our 2021 January / February Issue
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