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The joy of the poor in spirit is contagious

Jesus, Christianity, poor in spirit, urantia book, evangelizing, Christianity, religion of the spirit

I find a good deal of food for thought in this article called Author John Dickson says 'we are spiritually bankrupt' by Kylie Beach. For those unfamiliar with Dickson, his website refers to him as an "Australian thinker, writer, and speaker - Public Advocate for the Christian Faith; he has an impressive list of published works about Jesus and Christianity. And in this article about him and his views, he pulls no punches in his assessment of modern Christianity. We'll blog about this in light of Uantia Book teachings below, but here are a few snips from the artilce that I found very good:

"...Dickson explains [that] Christians need to accept that they are spiritually and morally bankrupt – or "poor in spirit" – before they are able to accept Jesus' other teachings. It is a necessary posture, he says, for accepting the command to "take the log out of your eye" without taking offence.

"...Dickson told festival attendees that Christians should be encouraged by the example of the early church, which lacked influence and power and yet transformed the Roman world through persuasion and service.

"That did not mean, he said, that Christians belonged on the "sidelines" of society; instead, he asserted, they should be "players, just not the referee."

" 'When many Christians speak [in a public forum], they sound like you're meant to listen to them because they are the referee,' he said."

Click to read the article


Are we poor in spirit?

The opening of this article posits the question of what Jesus might say to the modern church; how would he assess it?

In Dickson's view, he might start by citing this beatitude: "blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will inherit the kingdom of God."

Our musings in these blogs is never meant to be an indictment against the Christian church - or any organized church. The churches are filled with sincere, honest souls who wish to share Jesus. But how best to do it? Is the church doing a good job? We may all wish to revisit Jesus' simple call to become "poor in spirit," in order to do that in a more effective way. After all, even those who are certain about God still have a long way to go to feel superior to any other truth-seeking brother or sister

140:5.7 1. "Happy are the poor in spirit— the humble." In the story of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple, the one felt rich in spirit—egotistical; the other felt "poor in spirit"—humble. One was self-sufficient; the other was teachable and truth-seeking. The poor in spirit seek for goals of spiritual wealth—for God. And such seekers after truth do not have to wait for rewards in a distant future; they are rewarded now. They find the kingdom of heaven within their own hearts, and they experience such happiness now.

It is this joy that is best shared - not as a member of a church, but as a grateful member of God's kingdom, loving all with the fatherly affection with which God loves us

140:5.5 He first talked about those who were poor in spirit, hungered after righteousness, endured meekness, and who were pure in heart. Such spirit-discerning mortals could be expected to attain such levels of divine selflessness as to be able to attempt the amazing exercise of fatherly affection; that even as mourners they would be empowered to show mercy, promote peace, and endure persecutions, and throughout all of these trying situations to love even unlovely mankind with a fatherly love. A father's affection can attain levels of devotion that immeasurably transcend a brother's affection.

Promoting the church vs promoting the Kingdom

For Urantia Book readers, the association of Jesus with the Christian church - while inevitable - is very unfortunate in some ways. As a result of Jesus' bestowal on our world, a church was established, but Jesus did not establish such a church; his mission was the establishment of the kingdom of heaven in the heart of the individual - not a church. The fact of the Christian church's creation was incidental; even the so-called gospel that emerged as its creed was in error.

The Urantia Book explains:

What has happened to these men whom Jesus had ordained to go forth preaching the gospel of the kingdom, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man? They have a new gospel; they are on fire with a new experience; they are filled with a new spiritual energy. Their message has suddenly shifted to the proclamation of the risen Christ ...

The gospel of the kingdom, the message of Jesus, had been suddenly changed into the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They now proclaimed the facts of his life, death, and resurrection and preached the hope of his speedy return to this world to finish the work he began. Thus the message of the early believers had to do with preaching about the facts of his first coming and with teaching the hope of his second coming, an event which they deemed to be very near at hand.

Christ was about to become the creed of the rapidly forming church. Jesus lives; he died for men; he gave the spirit; he is coming again. Jesus filled all their thoughts and determined all their new concepts of God and everything else. They were too much enthused over the new doctrine that "God is the Father of the Lord Jesus" to be concerned with the old message that "God is the loving Father of all men," even of every single individual. True, a marvelous manifestation of brotherly love and unexampled good will did spring up in these early communities of believers. But it was a fellowship of believers in Jesus, not a fellowship of brothers in the family kingdom of the Father in heaven.

Read more about The Beginnings of the Christian Church

And so it is easy to see how the dramatic death and resurrection of Jesus was translated almost immediately into a religion ABOUT Jesus, rather than the religion OF Jesus, which he himself taught throughout his life.

It is no wonder that the church that now bears his name should have among its members those who may have ceded the attitude of the poor in spirit to the authority of the church - those who feel that they have the right - and even the obligation - to demand that seekers for Jesus must adhere to the principles, follow the rules, and otherwise conform to the teachings of the church fathers rather than practicing the simple religion of Jesus, which appeals to the individual. In our view, it is not unlike the Jewish religion of Jesus' time, which contained an astounding 613 "rules of living." When Jesus sent the seventy out to preach he made reference to this. To them, he emphasized:

163:4.8 Teach that man's whole duty is summed up in this one commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself. (This they were to teach as man's whole duty in place of the 613 rules of living expounded by the Pharisees.)

Being part of a religion of authority, such as the Christian church is (along with many others) gives the believer a sense of having found the truth - having found the right religion. After all, all institutionalized religions pretty much teach that theirs is the one true church. And so, it becomes an imperative to preach that belief and emphasize those rules to others.

Referee or player?

And that is where this idea of being a "referee," as coined in the article above comes in. Instead of being a "player" on the field of religion, staunch fundamental members of established religions can sometimes view themselves as arbiters of the truth. They take their authority from the teachings of their particular faith and insist that that is the only way.

In some ways, one can see this attitude as one that turns people away from God, rather than towards him - away from Jesus, rather than toward him. Being one who truly is "poor in spirit" - one who understands that they are seekers rather than arbiters of right and wrong may be a far better way to attract others.

What did Jesus teach?

Jesus did not teach such error. His whole public mission was as a response to the overweening authority of the Pharisees. The religion that he taught provided for a different kind of authority:

"In the Master's life on Urantia, this and all other worlds of the local creation discover a new and higher type of religion, religion based on personal spiritual relations with the Universal Father and wholly validated by the supreme authority of genuine personal experience. This living faith of Jesus was more than an intellectual reflection, and it was not a mystic meditation."

Practicing Jesus' religion of personal spiritual experience places the believer solidly in the role of player - NOT referee. The adventure of personal spiritual experience when shared with others becomes a way of truly sharing the goodness of God - truly sharing the joys of service - truly sharing the love of God that is our reward for following this revolutionary religion that Jesus himself practiced and taught. With it, we come to really know God; and yes, God can be known; he is a real person. Those who practice this religion find that out:

From The Fact of Experience

102:4.1 Because of the presence in your minds of the Thought Adjuster, it is no more of a mystery for you to know the mind of God than for you to be sure of the consciousness of knowing any other mind, human or superhuman. Religion and social consciousness have this in common: They are predicated on the consciousness of other-mindness. The technique whereby you can accept another's idea as yours is the same whereby you may "let the mind which was in Christ be also in you."

The heart of Jesus' religion is the presence of the indwelling Thought Adjuster. He did not call it that, but he did teach that all of us are indwelt by God and it is through the recognition of, and co-operation with that indwelling spirit that the indivudaul does actually receive that personal experience with God that then forms the basis for that authority upon which we base our whole religious attitude - free from intercessors af any kind: priests, holy men, holy women, or any other church official who presumes to stand between the beleiver and God.

Said Jesus:

148:6.10 "No more shall suffering mortals be denied the comfort of knowing the love of God and understanding the mercy of the Father in heaven. While the speech of God spoken from the whirlwind was a majestic concept for the day of its utterance, you have already learned that the Father does not thus reveal himself, but rather that he speaks within the human heart as a still, small voice, saying, `This is the way; walk therein.' Do you not comprehend that God dwells within you, that he has become what you are that he may make you what he is!"

Elsewhere Jesus taught this truth to many individuals on his tour of the Mediterranean. For example:

133:4.4 To the earnest leader of the Mithraic cult he said: "You do well to seek for a religion of eternal salvation, but you err to go in quest of such a glorious truth among man-made mysteries and human philosophies. Know you not that the mystery of eternal salvation dwells within your own soul? Do you not know that the God of heaven has sent his spirit to live within you, and that this spirit will lead all truth-loving and God-serving mortals out of this life and through the portals of death up to the eternal heights of light where God waits to receive his children? And never forget: You who know God are the sons of God if you truly yearn to be like him."

133:4.5 To the Epicurean teacher he said: "The great thing in all human experience is the realization of knowing the God whose spirit lives within you and seeks to lead you forth on that long and almost endless journey of attaining the personal presence of our common Father, the God of all creation, the Lord of universes."

133:4.8 To the mistress of the Greek inn he said: "Minister your hospitality as one who entertains the children of the Most High. Elevate the drudgery of your daily toil to the high levels of a fine art through the increasing realization that you minister to God in the persons whom he indwells by his spirit which has descended to live within the hearts of men, thereby seeking to transform their minds and lead their souls to the knowledge of the Paradise Father of all these bestowed gifts of the divine spirit."

Approaching others with humility

When we become this kind of player in the religious arena, no more will we be tempted to lord it over any of our brothers and sisters; knowing that each one of them entertains this indwelling Spirit of God then becomes the commonality upon which we can base all of our shared experiences of God; not adherence to worn out tradition or smothering dogma, but our lives of originality and freedom before God. All of us have this same spirit, but our varied experiences with that Spirit form the basis for truly intimate and joyful relations with each other, free from judgment and free from any form of damnation for not following the rules of a man-made church.

As a final exercise, you, dear reader, may be interested to read about the three kinds of religious experiences. Which one describes you?

In the spirit of enlarging the kingdom and attracting more followers to the flock, we may all want to examine our religious stance, and alter our evangelizing efforts accordingly.

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