Saved through Poverty of Spirit
Brokenness isn't something that's talked about much anymore, but it is essential for true restoration and healing. It is the mark of every heart that has had a true sight of the Cross and of the mercy of God in their lives. In this interview from our archives, Mike Johnston discusses with Jeff Colon about the importance of poverty of spirit and what true brokenness looks like.
Mike: Jeff, it's great to see you again thanks for coming in.
Jeff: Thanks, Mike; it's good to see you.
Mike: Jeff, as we continue our discussions in i: the root of sin exposed, we want to talk today about poverty of spirit, and let me just begin by asking this question: how critical is poverty of spirit in the life of a believer?
Jeff: Well Mike without poverty of spirit our Christian walk is founded on sand because this really is the first thing in the process that God needs to do in our lives. I could say it this way: it's the foundation, really, that everything else rests upon.
Mike: Well it is the opposite of pride, of course, and we deal with pride constantly as we work with men coming out of sexual sin. But really that's just the natural human condition for everybody; we're by nature prideful. How do we begin to come into a poverty of spirit which is, as you said, the foundation even of our very salvation?
Jeff: Well if we define poverty of spirit it really is just when we come to an end of our self and come into the reality that my situation is helpless; there's nothing I can do to save myself. And, really, only the Holy Spirit can make that real to us. Jesus said, “When the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin,” and that really is what happens initially when the Holy Spirit impresses that upon someone's heart. Whether we're praying for that person or God just intervenes in their life, and they come into the reality that “I am lost; there is no hope for me; I have nothing but the mercy of God to help me.”
Mike: You know, Jeff, there are many people who I wouldn't necessarily classify as a believer, a follower of Christ, someone who's truly been converted, but surely they have some sense that they are needful, that things aren't going well for them, that they see things wrong inside of themselves; but that in and of itself really isn't enough to enter into the kingdom of God. What else is required?
Jeff: Well I think about my own testimony: I remember when I, myself, came to that place when I was bound by drugs and sexual sin and God had intervened in my life. I knew my life was out of control, I knew I needed help, and I remember going to church with my sister. I remember as I look back at that time, I saw my need, but I wasn't ready to relinquish my life in this world or the things of this world; my self-will wasn't broken. I wanted help but I still wanted my life as I knew it, and that's not what true brokenness consists of.
Mike: I would imagine as I could say was true for me, was true for you also, that even though you saw those things in your life that, if you were to see some other people around you, you could probably find others that you thought, maybe you were a little bit better than them, and maybe that gave you some sense of hope. I know we hear people all the time saying, “well I think I'm going to make it into the kingdom of God because after all you know I'm not as bad as this person or that person.” Jesus had something to say about seeing our need that way.
Jeff: That's true Mike, it really is tragic. I know from my own life… I went on for years thinking I had really come to God, but really, I came with more of a worldly sorrow. Yeah, I was tired of my circumstances, but like you just said, I wasn't that bad of a guy, I just had some issues in my life that were causing it all. What I think about is the example that Jesus gives us where the 2 men go up to the temple to pray, and one goes up and all he does is share his accolades of all he has done for God: he tithes, he goes to church regularly, and he's really a devout man and sees himself, probably, as an asset to God. But this other man can't even lift his eyes to God; all he can do is beat his breast and cry out “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” It's obvious when you look at these 2 men: one was in the utter reality of his desperate need for God; he was a sinner—he didn't just have some issues in his life—he was a sinner through and through, and he understood that his only hope was “God, have mercy on me.” When in contrast, the Pharisee saw his good works and justified himself before God.
Mike: You know as we look at that example that Jesus gave us in the context of the modern church that pharisee would have been seen as an outstanding church member.
Jeff: Yeah absolutely and we all can put on an outward form, but God is more interested in what's going on in the heart.
Mike: But you know the flip side of that is you take that person who is truly broken and stick him in too many, unfortunately, churches today and the 1st thing people are going to want to do is rush up to him and try to encourage him not to see himself that way.
Jeff: Yes that’s true; we almost don't want people to feel bad about their sin anymore, but that really is a precursor to coming to the Lord in a real way and really coming into true salvation. Unless that happens, we're never going to understand the realities of the Cross and the mercy that God has had on us; in that state, really, the whole blessed thing about it is we look up and realize there is mercy.
Mike: Well that is the blessedness of poverty of spirit.
Jeff: It is, you know, it's not a morbid, horrible thing that... I'm just in this state of seeing my sin and bemoaning what I'm like, but in that reality, I realize there is hope that Jesus died for that and he's willing to take my wretchedness upon Himself and I can be forgiven, that is the blessedness of poverty.
Mike: You know I look at the men that come into our Residential Program, Jeff, and you just watch this happen for them—I can say it's part of my testimony; a part of yours—for the 1st time in their lives, they really get a sense of how desperately needy they are for a Savior, and I can say for the 1st time in my life how beautiful he appeared through the lens of that need. So if you don't have that sense of need you're never going to see Jesus as He really is.
Jeff: It's so true Mike. The reality of the cross will never be unveiled to the person who hasn't come to the sight of his utter wretchedness and need for God. I know for myself that's when the cross became everything to me.
Mike: Well, Jeff, no doubt there may be some people listening today who, if they really evaluated their relationship with the Lord, they would have to acknowledge that they've never had that experience of really being broken and seeing that deep need. What should they do to have that?
Jeff: Well, Mike we can't see it on our own as I said when we started; we need the Holy Spirit to really make that real, but if we're sincere, and we want that kind of brokenness, I'll encourage guys sometimes pray over Psalm 51. Ask God to make those words that David prayed when he was broken and in sight of his need, “make that real to me Lord; God help me; Lord I want to be broken, God I want to see my heart the way you see it.” If we cry out to God like that, he's going to answer that prayer, he's going to help us by His Holy Spirit to see what we need to see about ourselves.
Mike: That is our testimony; he's done that for us, and we can surely sit here and say it wasn't us, it was the Lord who did it for us and that's his heart—Praise the Lord. Well, Jeff thank you so much for talking to us today about poverty of spirit.
Jeff: Thanks Mike.