Part 3: Feeling the Need for Messiah
No Other Way
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom.” That was the first of what we call the beatitudes, the “be happys.” What does that mean, “poor in spirit”? Aren’t we supposed to be jubilant? How does poverty fit in? Poverty means not having anything! How can we be happy if we’re empty spiritually? Jesus was saying that the starting place, the first of the “be happys” is… “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
In the first part of his letter to his friends in Rome, Paul started dressing them down by saying, “Look, you guys need to recognize that being a Jew doesn’t make you anything. And being a good Gentile doesn’t make you anything either. That’s not what this is all about.” The Good News of Jesus Christ starts with recognizing your poverty—“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” We have to start by not believing anything good about ourselves. That’s the starting place. You don’t need a Messiah unless you understand the depth of the poverty in your own heart. If you don’t recognize that you have a total problem, then you certainly don’t need a Messiah.
Many would say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You need a good self-image.” And so people “come to Christ,” because they want to go to heaven, or they want to be part of a “good church.” They read the Bible, and it seems like becoming a Christian is the “right thing to do”—and better than the alternatives. Or maybe it’s a lifestyle thing that mom and dad taught or they have friends that “go to church” so they “go up the aisle and sign the card” too. Well, I have news for you. You will never know the power of God in your life unless you know the depravity of your own heart. You cannot know the power of God as long as you maintain a prideful, egocentric view of what God can do for you, and how you can use Him like a genie-in-a-bottle to get a bunch of friends or get your soul saved or this or that. You have to face the emptiness of your own heart. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom.” You have to start with letting God dress you down. There’s no other way. Only when you face the major crisis of seeing your own sin, then and only then can you really understand how much you need God.
“He who has been forgiven much, loves much,” Jesus said. Who needs to be forgiven much except those who have faced Jesus of Nazareth and gotten on their face before Him? They’ve wept at His feet, anointed Him with perfume and dried His feet with their hair. Until you’ve had that sort of self-abasement and understanding of how deeply you need Jesus and that there’s no other way, you’ll not find the power of God in your life. “Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone” (John 12:24). Until you comprehend that, and go to the cross and deny your very self as having any value—until you start there, you don’t need a Messiah.
Maybe you would rather have a genie-in-a-bottle that does good deeds for you, or some sort of lucky rabbit’s foot. Or you want to keep a set of moral laws in order to feel good about yourself. All of that is empty and powerless. You’ve got to see what Paul was saying to the Romans, “Do you think you keep the law? Do you think you’re a great person? Do you think there’s good stuff in you and that you do good deeds and you’re a wonderful husband or wife or parent? What do you think about yourself? Do you think you’re better than all the other teens? Hey, I have news for you. So what?!” That is what Romans chapters 1, 2 and 3 are about. Whoever you think you are—apart from Jesus of Nazareth washing you by His Blood—you have nothing and you are nothing. If you won’t face that, then you’ll never understand Resurrection Power. I’m not trying to make you paranoid, but I do want you to see that in order to have faith—total dependence—on Jesus Christ, you have to see your need.
If you’re still hanging on to your pride, or your accomplishments, or your good works, or your good looks...if you’re hanging onto anything, you’re dead! You will abide alone. Some people have very little reason to hold on to their old life. Even though they’re miserable in it, they still tenaciously hold on to it. They have very little reason for pride, and yet they still have pride. The battle with your self-life is a battle that can only be resolved in the unseen realm. It’s a war in the unseen—an inner man issue and not just a “logical thing to do.” This is about satan who has birthed offspring throughout the earth. “Your father is the devil,” Jesus said. All of humanity has fallen because of Adam’s sin and is now under a curse. Every person so desperately needs to be bought back from that curse! And the very nature of the curse is that we’re deceived. Our condition apart from God is a life of futile thinking, a darkened heart, and darkened understanding (Eph. 4:17,18). We’ve got a BIG problem on our hands! And until we face it and sense the total need we have for the Glorious Good News of Jesus Christ, we will never know His Salvation, His Deliverance or His Power. There will never be Resurrection Life in our bones, “joy inexpressible and full of glory,” “the power of an indestructible life,” “peace that transcends understanding,” and “full of the Holy Ghost and full of wisdom.” (1 Pet 1:8, Heb 7:16, Php 4:4-7, Acts 6:3). Our inheritance is all of these things, not just that we will go to heaven when we die.
If we want to know the Good News of Jesus, we have to face the very, very bad news that “going to church” and being a good person won’t save us. Doing good deeds and giving things away will not save us. They mean NOTHING to God. “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Until we face all that, we don’t need a Messiah. We think we have a lifestyle that will save us, or one that will make us whole and full. But if you’ve ever found life that’s truly Life—the abundant Life that’s full and complete—you’ve only found it because you’ve fallen on the Rock and declared Jesus to be the answer for your sin, your selfishness and your foolishness. You won’t find it because of a “lifestyle.” You will only find true Life because you’ve become poor in spirit… You’ve made yourself nothing because it’s an accurate assessment of who you are apart from Jesus. Only then will you find “the power of an indestructible life” and “taste the powers of the coming age” (Heb 7:16, 6:5). Then and only then will you find the inheritance that Jesus has left for you. Jesus says, “My peace I leave with you,” to those who have consecrated themselves to Him.
But if your seed hasn’t died, then you’ll abide alone and live in poverty with emptiness in your heart. You’ll be ransacked by sin, temptation, misery, bad attitudes and foolishness. You’ll lack wisdom because you don’t see God, and you don’t hear God. And when somebody else does, you’ll be jealous or embarrassed, and tempted to rear up with pride and comparison. You’ll find yourself full of secret judgments of other people: “Well, they did this, and I can’t believe they said that...” If those attitudes still dominate you, then you have cancer in your heart. You’ve not yet found the Good News of Jesus Christ and He has not yet set you free as He desires to set you free.
In fact, the more you learn about Christianity and Jesus’ teachings, and the more you see the Life of God in the people of God, the more empty and alone you’ll be if you yourself have not died. You’ll be the loneliest person on earth. Seeing the Life, hanging around the Life and hearing about the Life will only make you more miserable and more alone if you haven’t faced Jesus with your own sin. You have to see your own personal, desperate need for Him, and have your own desire to fall on the rock and be broken to pieces because you know you have no other hope.
If someone in your life dresses you down the way Paul did his friends, it’s so that you can find Jesus and cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you. It is meant to cause you to face Jesus in a way that you wouldn’t do, apart from the pain. Paul said the Kingdom is entered with much tribulation. The only way to Resurrection Life is through a cross, and a cross is never without humiliation, it’s never without rejection, and it’s never without pain. You will never find a cross that’s real, if it’s lacking in any of those three things. You need to understand that and face those things.
“Get behind me, satan” was Jesus’ rebuke to Peter. How would you handle that correction? Would it repulse you? Would you reject it and say, “Now, wait a minute. Who are you to talk to me like that!?” If that’s your attitude, and you’re not willing to let Paul or the Life of God in the corporate Life of Jesus put you in a place where you feel the pain, then you’ll never really find Resurrection Power. God sovereignly orders these things for our good and for our growth. Whether they come from our roommates, spouses, parents, or even our children, it is God who sovereignly orders opportunities for us to face our own sinfulness, humble ourselves, and call on His name.
God has made His presence and righteousness known to all of us, without exception (Romans 1). It’s equally true that God gives every last one of us multiple opportunities to face the agony of the cross, as He wants to translate us from glory to glory to glory. You’ll find a variety of things, and different kinds of crosses that He puts in front of you. I want to encourage you as a friend and a brother, to face those things and as James said, to count those trials as pure joy and learn perseverance. Let your faith be tested as by fire and turn your face towards Him. Let your attitude be refined as you humble yourself before Him. I beg you to do that, because there’s nothing anyone can do for you when God Himself has sovereignly and supernaturally ordered humiliation, rejection, and pain in your life through your circumstances. Things will humiliate you that don’t humiliate others, and things will humiliate others that don’t you. It’s an experience that He custom fits for each of us from glory to glory to glory.
Face heartache with pure joy and humble yourself before the exposing light of God, falling on your face before Him, washing His feet with your tears and drying them with your hair. If you won’t do that in humility and grace and go forward, then you will be cutting yourself off and determining your own destiny to abide alone. No amount of good works or knowledge or superficial fellowship (because that’s all you’ll ever have in this state) will keep you from feeling totally alone, if you’ve never faced the Gospel of Jesus.
The Good News of Jesus is meant to forgive your sin and to render sin as powerless in your life. He was manifested not only to destroy the penalty of sin, but also to destroy the devil’s working in your life. You will never experience freedom from sin unless you find in Jesus the need to be poor in spirit. That’s God’s heart for you—to be poor in spirit. Face Him without any claims of your own righteousness—how well you compare to other people…the fact that you don’t do anything too terribly bad…the numerous “good things” that you do and say to others…your “knowledge of the truth”…
You will abide alone unless you face Jesus about the fact that there is nothing good inside of you and that you need Him desperately. Apart from Him, you can do how much? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Great Humility, Great Boldness
“I want to come to you so that I can have a harvest among you just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” That holy boldness came by faith in God, by such a relationship with Him that he wasn’t ashamed to say something ridiculous like that! If today somebody said, “I want to have a harvest among you just as I did the saints in Dallas and Wappahanee,” they would be ostracized to an extreme. People would say, “Who do you think you are? You can give us your ‘sermon,’ but don’t give us that kind of thing—that’s arrogance, presumption!” But Paul spoke unashamedly because his relationship with God was so deep, and his ability to hear God’s voice was so loud and clear that it brought a faith and a confidence that allowed him to make ostentatious, bodacious statements like that.
Think of those who have accomplished the most in life for Jesus. If you got underneath their skin and into their head, you’d find out that they are the most humble people on the earth. They may speak boldly, like Moses. He sounded pretty bold sometimes, but God affirmed that he was the most humble man on the earth. If you got down under his skin, you’d realize that he counts himself for nothing and his boldness shouldn’t fool you; there’s deep humility there. There’s great courage and deep humility, a deep crying out to God for the next breath that comes out of his mouth.
That’s God’s intent for you! Not that you would be a worm and all shriveled up, “Oh, I ain’t nobody. I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” That was far from the attitude Paul took in light of his unworthiness. He was greatly courageous and bold in all of his dealings. That’s because he found all his identity in Jesus alone. Anything else is going to cave in. Anything else is going to fall through and fail. But Jesus never fails. “Let God be true and every man, including myself, be a liar.” There’s confidence in that statement, not pity! “Through Christ I can do all things,” he said. “I am nothing. Anything I’ve ever done and anything I am is dung.” But, “Through Christ all things” shows great courage there. “I was the least of the saints. I was worse than the worst of sinners,” he said. “But His grace began to work in me and I began to see my great sin and that I am of no account. His great grace was poured out and I just decided that I was going to work harder than all the rest” (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul didn’t shrink back because of his unworthiness. Instead, he found his worthiness and his righteousness in Jesus and it thrust him forward with great courage and life and zeal and heart. But he never lost his humility in spite of all his boldness.
That’s what God wants to do with you, too—great boldness and courage in the workplace with customers, employers, and employees. He wants to impart the courage that’s in His heart, which is filled with the humility of knowing, “I am nothing, but Jesus is everything. Therefore, I have boldness to speak to you, because you can’t hurt me. You can hurt me if it’s me doing it, but you can’t hurt me or reject me if it’s Jesus doing it through me.” Because Jesus already died, I died to the world and the world to me, Paul said. That’s the quality of life that brings us before the Throne of God and before the thrones of men with the courage to say, “I wish that you were like me except for these chains.” Great courage, great boldness, great life and fullness, and yet great humility—that’s God’s Life living through us.
To have that Life, we have to find out what Paul’s trying to tell us in these first three chapters to the Romans. We have to see how entirely and incredibly un-worthy we are as human beings and as a fallen race that deserves to die. The wages of sin is still death. “…If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants…you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who say, ‘Do not steal,’ do you not steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (Romans 2:19-22). He was saying this to the people, not because they were terrible sinners, but because he wanted them to see the possibilities in their hearts of stealing, lying, cheating, and immorality. Paul is saying, “Can you not find these things in your own heart? Can you not see that these things exist in your own bones?” We’re all worthless. Until you see it and understand that no one does right—not even one—and that even your righteousness is filthy rags, you will not find the Life of Jesus welling up inside of you.
And because a lot of people in this world don’t see that, they end up making “claims” about Paul’s meaning in Romans 6 and 8. They “claim” those scriptures, but never really experience them. They say, “I find my identity in Christ. You can’t talk to me about something in my life. I have the imparted Life of Jesus—He possesses me, and I Him. You can’t touch me, I’m fireproof because I have my identity in Christ,” and so on. Yet when you look, you see that their lives are empty and worthless, ransacked with sin, selfishness, worldliness and pride. You ask, “How could sin be so rampant in their lives if they’ve truly found their identity in Christ, like Romans 6 and 8 say?” It’s because they claim this imputed righteousness, strength, and sanctification of Jesus, yet they’re powerless! Their lives are carnal and worldly and ridiculous. It’s sickening. They sit under the teaching, but they don’t live the Life.
The problem is that they didn’t start at the beginning of Romans. They never let God strip them of their pride and self-worth. So God couldn’t fill them with His worth. He couldn’t fill them with His power because they were still functioning in their own. We’ve got to start at the beginning of Romans to understand the power of Romans 6, 7 and 8. We’ve got to understand how desperately needy we are if we’re going to find the Kingdom of God in force and in power.
I encourage you that when your trials come, faith in Jesus implies a certain attitude. In spite of the pain, the rejection, the unfairness of circumstances, whether imposed by God or man (seemingly man, really God), don’t kick against the goads. Don’t balk at those things, but rather turn your face with a smile toward God—“Though you slay me, yet will I trust you!” It’s that attitude of Job in the midst of conflict, so that you let your faith be refined as through the fire. It brings perseverance and thick skin. It brings depth of heart and deep wisdom. The Hebrews writer said, “By now you ought to be teachers, but there is no wisdom in you.” They had no wisdom because they weren’t letting God dress them down, so that He could dress them up.
“God, I’m Hopeless!!”
I’m going to say this one more time because it is essential that you understand this. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom.” Only by starting there can you ever begin to find the fullness of God’s Life inside of you. And that’s why so few people ever find it! So many people are filled with platitudes and clichés, words, concepts and competition. But they die empty and in poverty, because they didn’t start at the starting place—being poor in spirit. They never faced the emptiness and lack inside themselves.
The beginning of the Good News is the very, very bad news of who we are and how desperately we need Jesus. I’ll just say it in plain English: You can’t know who you are in Christ until you know who you are in satan. Until you grapple and deal with it and embrace the truth of who you are in the devil—a fallen member of humanity in a worthless society—you can’t have true life. We are altogether worthless. As terrible as that sounds, in view of a Dale Carnegie world that wants to make you feel good about yourself, you still need to face the facts. Would you please do that? As an individual, whatever your name is, would you please face how desperately you need Jesus? I don’t know how else to say it. There is nothing good that dwells in you! You need to face that if you are going to be able to go forward and find Resurrection Life. Please face it. Please cry, weep, wail, and lament. If you can’t find it in your heart to weep at His feet, then you’ve not seen the bad news or the Good News just yet, because it WILL BRING YOU TO TEARS. As emotionless as you are, as “big a boy” as you are, as sure of yourself as you are—the fullness of the gospel will bring you to tears. If you really see it and you really understand it with your heart, you will weep like you have never wept before. The goal is not to shed tears, but the objective before each of us is to see the desperate nature of fallen humanity.
The thing that Paul kept saying was, “Look in your own hearts, boys. You’re a thief, too. You’re a homosexual, too. You’re disobedient to your parents, too.” He gives a long list in Chapter 1 of revilers and slanderers and gossips. But the smug Jews say, “Ha! I’m not like that. I’m not a murderer! I’m not a homosexual! Ha, that doesn’t apply to me!” These Jews were living these righteous, Ten Commandment kind of lives just like we are, right? But Paul goes on to say in Chapter 2, “I’m talking to YOU, TOO!” I don’t care if you kept the Ten Commandments or not. I don’t care if you even taught the Ten Commandments and all about this righteous God to everyone! Look in your own heart and see that you, too, are desperate for God. Just like the Gentiles who never heard the Law in the first place, you are as desperate as they are.
Until you face that, you can’t have Jesus, and you can’t have Resurrection Life. Unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it will abide alone. It doesn’t even matter how much you know about the teachings of all these things. You must face your own heart. You have to face what comes out of your mouth—the bad attitudes you’ve allowed in your head, the things that you’ve allowed to fester, and the way you’ve judged other people and situations. Maybe you find yourself out of the flow of things with others, and you assume that since you feel empty, everybody else must be empty, too. You feel worthless and spiritless, and so you judge other people as being the same. Everybody else is a dufus, too. “They’re just pretending because that’s all I’m doing.” “They must not have anything either. It must not be real.” That’s the nature of the deception. You’ve got to capture all that stuff and face God and realize that the Blood of Jesus and the Spirit of God are the only things that can deliver you. Otherwise, YOU ARE HOPELESS. You’ve got to let those words come out of your own mouth to God. “GOD, I’M HOPELESS!!”
It’s About Miracles
In view of what has already been said, please be sure to embrace the pain. The Kingdom is entered through much tribulation. That’s how you find the Life and Power of God rather than just a bunch of clichés about God…a bunch of cheap fellowship that means nothing and a bunch of barbecues that have no power. The road in to the Glory of God, the real thing that sets captives free and declares the Year of the Lord’s favor and gives sight to the blind and heals the lame…is to face the cross. The thing that brings sinners to salvation and many sons to Glory and Fullness—is to face the cross. The way to find not only salvation, but also Glory and Fullness, is to deny your very life, to humble yourself before the dressing down of God and lift your heart and your voice and your eyes to heaven—to call on His Name. It is to sit at His feet, totally unworthy of anything. To wash Jesus’ feet with your tears and to dry His feet with your hair, making yourself nothing—THAT kind of humility.
Let’s pray for each other and ask for miracles for each other. I’m not satisfied with anything less than that, because that’s what the Scriptures teach that Christianity is about—it’s about miracles. “Behold all things are new”—a transformation takes place, a radical miracle of a changed heart, life, mind, perspective, priority and personality. It’s God Himself filling a person—the Creator of the Universe, who fills the heavens and the earth, living inside of a person! That’s the hope and the promise and the inheritance that He has for each of us. He totally blows away the old, and changes a heart of stone into a heart that’s soft. God desires to do that, and it starts by admitting our true state—’fessing up—and letting God dress us down, so that He can fill us up. Letting Him uproot, tear down, destroy, and overthrow (Jeremiah 1) in order that He might build and plant. That’s His heart.
Turn your face toward the Son of God.
Lord Jesus, You are a baptizer—not only with Your Spirit but also with fire. We’re grateful that You want to kindle a fire to burn up the chaff. We’re genuinely grateful that You are a baptizer with fire. It hurts, but we’re grateful. Now, O God, we pray that as You’ve burnt up the chaff in others, that You would consume the emptiness and the chaff in our own lives. We’re ‘fessing up, we’re admitting these things. We’re not counting on our past achievements, our education, our knowledge or any of those things as having any merit. It’s all dung in Your sight. We’re admitting that.
Father, You promised us in Your Holy Scriptures that in Your Son Jesus You could take a heart and a life that was willing to be emptied before You and do a miraculous transformation—a miracle like the Red Sea and like the dead raised. And we believe that Your Son Jesus is the “Yes” to all Your promises, and we say, “So be it, Amen.” We believe You and trust You that if we’re honest in what we’re saying before You, we know that You desire to do a miracle and WILL do a miracle.
We stand before You united in total trust and belief that You are a Conqueror over the power and the penalty of sin, for us. As the song goes, let Your “wonder working Power” wash us and cleanse us. Burn up the chaff with a baptism of fire and fill our hearts and lives with a baptism of Your Spirit in Your time and way. Show us exactly what needs to happen. We trust You for paths of righteousness and paths of peace and a hope and future for us if we trust completely in the Name of Your Son. For Jesus’ Name and for His sake, Amen, so be it.
God, these are all simple seeds. Please remake us. We’ve got nothing to offer You. There’s no work that we can put our hope and trust in. We just flat need You. Help us.
Father, we ask that You would impart Life to us. The words have piled up in abundance over the years, but we’re asking You to intervene and touch our hearts and lives. Our faith is in YOU. We know that we need to sow the seed, and we do. We go to bed, and You bring life out of sawdust, though we know not how. We trust You for that.
We bring Good News to our brothers and sisters by Your Spirit. It’s Good News to all of humanity that Jesus Christ frees us from the power and penalty of sin—a power unto deliverance. We ask You for that power to be evident, that our faith would ring out and be heard around the world. There are other things we could be known for—good things and wholesome things—but we want to be known primarily for our faith that rings out.
We want our faith in YOU to be the whole substance of our life. We want to experience the obedience of faith that comes from knowing and walking with You—wanting to be with You and like You in every way. We trust You implicitly for Your Power to work itself out in our lives. We trust You and want our faith to ring out around the world, individually and corporately. Glory to Your Name. We praise You, we honor You and exalt You.
We’re humbled by the depth of Your riches, the magnificence of Your Name and by Your plan for fallen humanity. We’re humbled by all that You want to do and all that You want to strip from us first, and fill us with, second. Please tear down and uproot, destroy and overthrow in order that You might build and plant. We yield all these things into Your hands and call on You to intervene in our lives. We do love You, as far as our foolish, darkened hearts are able. Please CHANGE US and let our faith ring out. Continue to pray for us that our faith would not fail, and that we’d be able to strengthen our brothers in response to Your goodness to us. Amen.