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On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus became a broken man.
In a moment – who he was, what he thought he should do, and his visions for the future – all went up in smoke. He who thought he saw so clearly, was now blind. He who thought he knew where he was going, was now lost.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? (Acts 9:1-6)
Before Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he had charted his course based upon his own thoughts, emotions, and ambitions.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. (Acts 26:9,10)
The opposite of brokenness is a proud, stubborn insistence on doing what we have convinced ourselves is good and right.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Before being broken, we proceed down many an evil, destructive path, driven by our desires and emotions left unregulated by God. Even small offenses can propel toward outrageous action. Irritations can flame into fury.
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:11)
The broken man no longer wants to walk in self-will. He no longer wants to be in charge, controlled by his own passions and sense of right. He wants the Good Shepherd to now lead him in paths of righteousness (i.e., what is right in God’s sight.)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3)
The broken man has been brought to his knees. He has no place to look but up.
He has stopped trying to do anything in his own strength and wisdom. He is desperate for heaven’s help.
When we are broken before God, we have no strength, wisdom, or glory, of ourselves. God must “perform all things” for us.
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.
He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. (Psalm 57:1-3)
Brokenness is the beginning of a God-led life. It is the good breaking that ushers us into the life of Christ.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The yoke of Christ is not a bad, hard thing to be under.
A life of dependency upon God is far better than living under the unrighteous rule of our own spirit.
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
Brokenness begins when we repent of having lived a life independent of God; but we now are called to live out the rest of our days walking as Christ walked, in meekness and lowliness of heart. The hope of our calling is that we might grow as believers into an ever-increasing likeness to Him.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love …
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:1,2; 11-13)
The soul of the broken man, is lifted up toward the Lord, not lifted up in itself.
In meekness, it waits on God all the day to be shown how to proceed. It does not trust in itself, it depends completely upon God.
Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. (Psalm 25:1-9)
Our lives going forward will face continual “crossroads. Countless decisions (i.e. judgments) will have to be made.
The broken man is convinced that he doesn’t have what it takes to rightly make his way forward. He will go astray without God.
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)
A real encounter with the living Christ turns our lives right side up. Brokenness involves a soft, slow and humble walk before God. We look for “light” for each step we take. We no longer rely on our own understanding, we are told by another what we must do.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (Acts 9:6-9)
There is a new carefulness in the broken man that depends upon Him for each and every step he takes. He needed God yesterday; He needs Him today; and He will need Him tomorrow.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee (Acts 26:16)
We cannot undo the wrong choices of our past. Those choices may even continue to affect our present. The tests of yesterday cannot be retaken. But no matter the failing grades of the past, we can start to pass the current tests we face if we walk in a brokenness that reaches to God for all things. The true worship of God begins and continues with a broken spirit.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:10-17)