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POVERTY

Excerpt from sermon #149
HUMBLE TRUST OF GOD’S AFFLICTED PEOPLE

“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” REV 3:18-19.

ZEP 3:12-13 says, “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.  The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” This speaks of a characteristic of those left in the midst of the professing church: they were poor.  “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people.” 

Poverty is the result of these afflictions.  The Prodigal Son came to himself when he was in need.  As long as he had his father’s riches, he was in the professing church, but through the affliction of famine, he came into want.  His soul was starving while he was feeding upon the husks of the swine that the counterfeit church was feeding upon; he was not getting the kernels.  He realized that he was no longer rich, but poor. 

Until we learn to see our poverty, we can never become truly rich.  Afflictions reveal our poverty.  Jesus said to the professing church in REV 3:17, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”  The Lord uses spiritual afflictions to expose our poverty.  The Prodigal became needy, turned from his ways of sin, and returned to his father’s house.  He will no longer do violence to the law.  He will no longer trample upon the Word of God.  He will no longer walk with the professing church. 

This poverty is two-fold.  First, we become poor in attainments.  We try to merit salvation by good works, by the letter of the law, but we see finally that our best righteousness is as filthy rags.  The righteousness of Christ is the only hope for our souls.  Everything we have obtained by works becomes worthless.  Second, we become poor in spirit: poor in spiritual mindedness, poor in love and affection toward God and His people, poor in prayer, and poor in strength to withstand temptation.  We find that we are still attracted to the things of this world, and they pull and toil against the Spirit.  We find that we can go a whole day without prayer.   

Isaiah said in ISA 24:16, “From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.”  Isaiah saw his poverty and the emptiness of his heart before the Lord came with His nearness and showers of His love.  I cannot rise above the prophet Isaiah; if you think you can, you must examine yourself. 

The Apostle Paul’s spiritual poverty brought him to see his leanness when he said in ROM 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”  We need the precious righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ because our best righteousness is nothing but filthy rags in the sight of God.  The blessed righteousness of Christ must be imparted and imputed unto us in order to stand before the bar of God’s judgment.  Poverty teaches us to appreciate the richness of consolation in Christ. 

Jesus says in REV 3:18-19, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”  Those who know they are poor will understand His counsel.  As long as we think we are rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing, we will not hear His counsel. 

Gold that has been “tried in the fire” has gone through the process of purification.  True riches and white raiment are gained when we have been melted in the refining pot and the Refiner can see the reflection of His image in our broken hearts.  When the work of sanctification has purged us from our sin, when we are arrayed in the white raiment of repentance, claiming nothing of ourselves but clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, then “the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” 

“Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve,” which is the gospel.  He leaves the afflicted and poor in the midst of a church that can live without repentance because those afflicted and poor are light and salt.  They will be God’s witnesses in the Day of Judgment to those who continued on in unrighteousness.  Amen.

O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have know,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne
And worship only Thee

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

William Cowper, 1731-1800

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