Friday, April 14, 2006

Brokenness

There is no true Christianity without brokenness.

If we are not broken, then we have not met God and we do not know ourselves.

Isaiah's response to the vision of God's glory was “Woe to me, I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the king – the LORD Almighty.”
Isaiah 6:5, NIV

Why should we be broken? Because God is not like us.

When we start to see what he is like, we realise that we are nothing.

If we understand something of God's power – that power that spoke and the heavens and earth were formed – the power that sustains everything, upholds everything and can accomplish whatever he wants – we cannot fail to see that we are totally impotent and pitiful.

If we begin to fathom the extent of his wisdom – that he sovereignly planned all things, from the intricate functioning of atomic nuclei to the most distant galaxies, and who uses even outright rebellion against him for his glory – we must then realise we are totally ignorant and foolish.

If we glimpse something of his love – the love that would seek out his enemies and die so that they might be reconciled to himself, then we see that we are condemned by our selfish uncaring attitude even towards our friends.

The more we see that contrast between ourselves and God, the more we are reduced to a state of shocked silence as we see that we are totally unworthy of even existing in his universe, the more we see that we are incapable of understanding him and the more we must throw ourselves onto him.

That is not a bad thing – it is the right state for us to be in and the state in which we are most useful for God. As Paul wrote:

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4:6-10, ESV

It is when we are at our most broken, our most clearly foolish and powerless, our most dead that the power and wisdom that is working in us and the life that is displayed in us is most clearly not our own.

And yet, so often, we see and hear even church leaders approaching God in prayer and in praise without this sense of reverent silence, of brokenness. So often we hear people pray without recognising the One to whom they are praying. I know for my part that I find that increasingly difficult to do – I find it really offputting when others do it, but ultimately I suppose I feel sorry for them. If they have not been struck with awe at what God has done – if their god is so small, so weak, so foolish that they can approach him like that, then I cannot see how they can be satisfied in him or rejoice in him either.

I have been very much struck recently by Mark 1:39-3:6. There are six episodes there – the first three with outcasts, the unclean and sinners coming to Jesus for physical and spiritual healing. The second three have confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees who thought they were righteous, cumulating in them plotting to kill him. And in the middle, we have Mark 2:17.

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

I act as if I am righteous every time I condemn someone or think myself better than them. I act as if I am righteous every time I pretend that I am ok and that I am capable of holding myself together. I act as if I am righteous every time I try to come before Jesus other than broken and crying out for mercy and grace. If we think ourselves righteous, Jesus does not call us, a path which leads ultimately to us killing Jesus because of his claims (as in 3:6). Wholeness leads to condemnation.

If we recognise that we are sinners, and come to Jesus humble and broken, as the leper did in 1:40 who came begging on his knees, then Jesus will heal us and forgive us, then he has come to call us and save us.

If we do not, then he will not.

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