Summary: We must be broken before God can reach our hearts
September 14, 2003
Fruit vs. Stone = Soft vs. Hard
(Demonstration: use a piece of fruit and a small rock. Use some sort of tool to try to penetrate each.)
To get to the middle of this fruit, the “heart” of it, if you will, to penetrate this fruit, it doesn’t take much effort. However, to get to the middle of this rock, to penetrate it, it takes quite a bit of effort. In fact, it takes some destruction, some breaking, doesn’t it?
This past week, we remembered one of the most terrible and important days in America’s history. All over the news were those memories again. Jets crashing into buildings. Buildings crumbling, and thousands dead.
It has been two years since September 11 set our world, in some ways, on a new course. That day led to war in Afghanistan, and later to war in Iraq. That day has contributed to a new sense of insecurity when we travel. That day has done a lot of things, but I’d like for a moment to consider what that day could have done, and didn’t.
What such a day could have done is break us as a nation. It could have brought us to our collective knees. And I mean that in a good sense – not in the sense that we’re broken and defeated militarily.
But it could have broken us, in a good, biblical sense, which we’ll focus on this morning.
And for a short time, it seemed that’s what might really happen. I can still remember the scene on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, shortly after September 11. There, congressmen and senators, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals alike, stood on those historic steps and sang together, God Bless America. It was a moving moment.
It was a moment that gave me, and many Christians, real hope for America. It gave me hope that perhaps the good that would come from this terrible event, might just be an awakening to God, to His purposes, to His plans, to His will.
It might have been a turning point for our culture. But in hindsight, it’s obvious today, just two years later, that it wasn’t that. We could have been broken, but we were just bent. Yes, this event threw us back on our heels as a nation for a short period of time. Yes, briefly, it humbled us. Certainly it changed a lot of things. But very quickly, within a matter of weeks, our society was headed right back down the same wide road to spiritual destruction we were on before this terrible event. A very brief window of opportunity, a very short window of a sort of national softness of heart, a very brief time of vulnerability, quickly gave way to renewed hardness of heart to the things of God, and then, back to business as usual. This was an event that could have, that should have, broken us as a people.
But it didn’t. Without speculating about God’s purpose and plan in all this, without speculating about whether or not this was a judgment of God on America...we can see quite clearly in scripture, that God can and often does use hard things to break us, and He allows this, because He wants us broken before Him, so that when we are weak, He can be strong for us. So that our strength is completely in Him, and not in ourselves. We’re going to look this morning about why that’s true, why it’s important to live lives of constant brokenness before Him.
And it relates to our opening illustration...it has to do with softness that God’s Holy Spirit can penetrate, versus a hardness that requires breaking.
Psalm 51:16-17 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Last week, Jacob sang a song during the offering that provided much of the background of this psalm. David, who wrote Psalm 51, was crying out in repentance, because he had not only committed adultery with Bathsheba, but his sin had led to murder.
He wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit in me.”
He even went so far as to ask God not to take His presence from David.... not to take His Holy Spirit away. These verses we just read follow this plea to God. These verses are a recognition by David that there is no adequate sacrificial atonement for his sin. David knew that there was no sacrifice he could bring to appease God’s wrath over his sin.
What’s more, David seemed to recognize that God wasn’t looking for a sacrifice, per se, at least in the way his culture had come to think of sacrifice. What God wanted was David’s whole heart. It was the only thing David had to offer.