Crying Out from a Heart of Brokenness

Sept. 23, 2016 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

My husband often prays as I’m getting ready to go speak or record. He prays, “Lord, help Nancy to be the one to go first. Help her to say “yes” to You about the things she’s teaching before she’s teaching them.” He prays that God will do the work in me first. And I prayed that myself for many years, and I’m so thankful now to have someone who is praying that specifically as we come into a time like this.

Tonight, we’re going to come together with tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of other women around the world to cry out to the Lord on behalf of our families, our churches, our nations, and the world. But before we can do that, we need God to do the work in us first.

As I was seeking the Lord about what I should speak on this weekend, actually I normally speak on the opening night, Robert said to me a few weeks ago, “I think you need to speak on the subject of brokenness.”

He had heard a message that I’d given on brokenness many years ago, and he said,

I think that’s the message you need to give, and I think you need to do it on Friday morning before you have the concert of prayer, before you have the Cry Out! time.

Well, I had not thought for a moment about doing this message. It’s been many years since I’ve shared it. It’s a message that’s very dear to my heart. I’ve written a book on this subject. But it just wasn’t on my mind. But I listened, and I thought, I think God is leading through Robert’s counsel.

Our team talked. We prayed together. And we agreed that before we pray for others, we need to let God do this work of humility and brokenness in our own hearts so we can pray effectively tonight and in the days ahead.

So over these next moments, I want to talk about the principle of brokenness, what it means, what it is, what it isn’t, and then illustrate it in God’s Word with a number of people that show us what it is to be broken, or not to be broken. Then I want to talk about the fruit of brokenness, and then invite us to take a step of brokenness, however God is speaking.

Now, I know what’s in my notes. I know what I’m planning to say, and I’m praying that the Lord will direct me as I speak, but what I don’t know is how the Holy Spirit will apply what I’m about say to your heart, to your situation.

One of the things I pray going into conferences like this, I’ve been praying it over this past week or so, is, “Lord, would You create circumstances in women’s lives who are coming to this conference that will make them realize how much they need You? Will You make us desperate for You by circumstances that You create in our week?”

How many of you would say, now that you’re here, that God answered that prayer in your life this week? Now, don’t blame me, but God loves us enough that He knows that if we walk into a place like this, and we’re fine, and we think we have no need, why are we going to cry out to Him? You don’t call an ambulance unless you have a need. When you call and say, “9-1-1; it’s desperate. Somebody’s had a heart attack here, or somebody’s fallen down and is injured,” the ambulance comes racing to the scene of need.

I envision God’s grace as being a little bit like that ambulance. You might call it a grace ambulance that comes racing to the scene of our need. When we call out for it, we say, “Lord, I need You.” I think there are hardly sweeter words that God could hear us say.

So God creates circumstances. You thought it was your two-year-old who was the problem. You say, “I wouldn’t have been so reactionary; I wouldn’t have been so angry if my two-year-old hadn’t painted the living room furniture with butter.” But God knew you were an angry woman, and He used that little two-year-old and those circumstances to squeeze you, and what was inside of you came out.

You thought, I’m this sweet, loving, gracious, kind godly, Proverbs 31 mother until my two-year-old filled the dryer with water. And then you realized, I’m crazy. I am an angry woman.

God created circumstances to make you realize you didn’t just need the gospel when you got saved fifteen or twenty, or in my case, fifty-four years ago. I need the gospel today. You need the gospel today. Those circumstances help us realize how much we need God.

By the way, did you bring your hanky with you? Because you might be needing it. If not for tears (we ought to sell water-proof mascara at these events) . . . Tears are a good thing. Maybe it’s just some surrender that’s needed through this morning.

You have that handy. I don’t want to just see white hankies—I want to see them, but God wants to see hearts that are saying, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord,” to whatever He says.

Need is something that makes us eligible. Acknowledgment of need makes us eligible to receive the grace of God.

Let me read to you a few verse from the Old Testament that speaks to us about this matter of brokenness.

Isaiah 57, verse15:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: [God says] "I dwell in the high and holy place, [that’s God’s address, infinitely above us, but God says, ‘I have another address. I dwell] also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

And then Psalm 34, verse 18 says something similar:

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. And saves such as have a contrite spirit. (NKJV)

Psalm 51, verse 16, David says after he sinned this great sin of adultery with Bathsheba:

"[Lord,] You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it. You will not be pleased with a burnt offering." [How much could I give in the offering? What could I do for You? How many hoops could I jump through? How many verses could I memorize? How much could I beat myself up with guilt? That’s not what You want. That’s not what You are looking for.] "The sacrifices of God [the sacrifices He’s looking for] are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (vv. 16–17 NASB).

Isaiah 66, verse 2:  “This is the one,” God says, “to whom I will look.” As the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth this day, what kind of person is He looking for? Will He stop and look at you at your seat? Who’s He looking for? God says,

“This is the one to whom I will look [today]: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

So, what kind of heart does God revive? What kind of heart does God look to? The heart God revives, as we see in those verses and many others, is the broken, humble, contrite heart.

Now, our emphasis in this era is on everything but that. We want to be whole. We want to be full. We want to feel good. When we think about revivals, we often think of revival as a time of great joy and blessing and fullness and celebration. And it will be all of that and more, in its time, but we want a painless Pentecost. We want all the fullness of God’s Spirit. We want to be this great, godly, free and full and fruitful woman without getting to the cross. But God’s Word teaches us that the way up is down. The way to wholeness is through brokenness.

One revivalist, a man who was greatly used of God in revival in the 1970s in Borneo, said, “Revivals do not begin happily with everyone having a good time. They start with a broken and a contrite heart.”

You and I cannot meet God in revival until we first meet Him in brokenness—humility and brokenness.

James chapter 4 says it this way: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to him.” The problem is, God is holy, and we’re not, so we can’t get anywhere near a holy God as we are. So how are we supposed to draw near to God? How can He draw near to us? Well, he goes on to say:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep (vv. 8–9).

Now, can I just say that there are very few modern therapists who will give you that counsel. They’re trying to make us have good self-image, feel good about ourselves. But James says, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”

Nobody walks into a Christian bookstore today or goes online to Amazon or Christianbooks.com and says, “Can you find me a book on how to be gloomy, how to be sad, how to be mourning, how to be wretched?” But God’s way is first down and then up. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

This is God’s way. It’s totally counter of what is natural to us. I think a lot of people are afraid of this whole idea of brokenness. When somebody suggested that I write a book on brokenness, I talked with our publisher about that, and I thought, They must not have a marketing department because that is not exactly a popular topic today.

But I think sometimes we’re afraid of it because we have some misconceptions about what brokenness is.

First of all—what it’s not: Our idea of brokenness sometimes is not the right one. For example, we may think of brokenness as always being sad or gloomy or introspective, downcast, never smiling, never laughing, always going on this witch hunt to try to find something else that’s wrong in my life. Now, there may be moments of sadness, moments of gloom, moments of looking inward, but that in itself not necessarily brokenness.

Some think of it as a false humility, always putting yourself down. For some, the idea of brokenness conjures up an image of crying lots of tears, having a deeply emotional experience. You can shed buckets full of tears in a prayer room or at an altar or in a deeply emotional experience without having a moment of brokenness. And you can have brokenness sometimes without necessarily shedding a tear.

Some equate brokenness with having been deeply hurt by tragic life circumstances. “Back in ’95 this happened to me. I was in this accident, or was somebody unloved, and this happened, and I was broken.” Well, you may have been, but maybe you weren’t. Sometimes those deeply hurtful experiences can make us more hard and less broken, more resistant.

You see, brokenness is not a feeling, though it certainly involves our feelings. But it’s not first and foremost a feeling. Rather, it is a choice. It is an act of our will before a holy God.

Brokenness is not just a one-time crisis experience, although there may be points of brokenness when God deals with us in a specific way and there is a moment of brokenness. But more than that, brokenness is an ongoing, continual lifestyle.

So I don’t want to just know: Were you broken back at True Woman ’08? I want to know: Are you living as a broken woman today? Are you walking, am I walking, in humility and brokenness?

Brokenness is not necessarily all those things. So what is brokenness? What is God’s idea of brokenness?

Well, brokenness is a lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and my life, not as you think it is, but as an all-seeing, all-knowing God knows it to be.

You see, I’ve had help with hair and makeup and wardrobe. I think I look okay. You just see me up here. You see Robert and me up here. We’re holding hands. We’re smiling. I’m not saying it’s fake, but I’m saying you don’t live with me, and I don’t live with you. So what you think of me when I’m up here on this platform doesn’t really matter. Brokenness is a lifestyle of agreeing with God about what He knows, what He sees when He looks at my heart.

Brokenness is a lifestyle of unconditional, absolute surrender to Jesus as Lord. It’s a lifestyle of waiving this white flag and saying, “Yes, Lord. Whatever God says, whatever His Word says, Yes, Lord.”

Think of that stallion, that horse, and we say, “That horse needs to be broken.” What do you mean by that? Does it mean you take a two by four and hit that horse over the back and break it? No! They’re talking about breaking its will so that it will be trained. It will be submissive. It will be responsive to the direction of the rider.

It’s a lifestyle of brokenness, of saying, “Yes, Lord.”

Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will so that the life and the spirit of Jesus may be released through me.

Brokenness is my response of humility and obedience to the conviction of God’s Spirit, the conviction of His Word. If I’m living in His Word, and if I’m walking in the light of His Word and His Spirit, then that conviction will be happening all the time, just in the course of things, and not just because I do something that I act out sin. Sometimes it’s just something I’m thinking.

It’s an attitude, and God convicts my heart: “That was pride. That was selfish. That was self-seeking. That wasn’t loving. When you spoke to your husband that way; you’re looking at that woman and acting like you’re really interested in what she’s saying, but in your heart you’re thinking, I wish she’d go away.” Now, I know you never do that, but God convicts me at times.

What you’re seeing on the outside is not true of what’s on the inside. And so if I’m broken, I will continually be humbling myself and saying, “Yes, Lord,” and then obeying the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit.

You see, brokenness goes in two directions. There’s a vertical dimension, and you’ve already heard this referenced today. And there’s a horizontal dimension. There’s brokenness toward God, and there’s brokenness toward others.

One writer has likened it to our lives being a house and saying that we need to live with the roof off and the walls down. Roof off: nothing between my soul and the Savior.

  • Open 
  • Transparent 
  • Honest before God 
  • Not defending 
  • Not rationalizing 
  • Not excusing my sin 
  • Not blaming somebody else 

Saying, “Lord it’s me. You’re right. I’m wrong.” Justifying God rather than ourselves. That’s roof off brokenness.

But then there’s also walls down brokenness. And I think sometimes that’s harder because God, I know, already knows everything that’s going on so I can’t really fool Him. But you don’t really know. And I’ll tell you, I’m learning in the last ten months, nowhere does this get lived out more, this walls down thing, than in the context of our homes and marriage in particular.

You see, I’m choosing every day: “Am I living with walls up or walls down toward Robert? Am I being honest? Am I being transparent about what’s going on in my heart?” Now, that doesn’t mean you just blurt out everything you think every time you think it. That would not be wise. But it means we’re not putting up walls, and we’ll talk more about what that looks like over these next moments.

There are a lot of examples in Scripture of people who were broken, humble, contrite, repentant. And frequently, those examples are set in contrast to people who were not broken. I want to give you three of those examples from the gospel of Luke in just a moment, but in each of these cases you’ll see that it’s not a matter of who was the worst sinner. We’re all sinners. We’re all in need of God’s grace. So it wasn’t a matter of who sinned more or whose sin was worse. What it is, is a matter of is the person’s response to the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit. That looks very different in each of these two pairs, in each of these pairs of two people.

First of all, in Luke chapter 18:9–14, we see an illustration of two churchgoers. We’re going to look at two churchgoers, two brother at a dinner. The two churchgoers in Luke 18.

Jesus told a parable, and He’s telling us in the Scripture who His audience is. It says “He told this to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous (self-exalting) and treated others with contempt.” (“I am something. You are nothing.”) Now, none of us would say that, hopefully, but how often are we thinking of ourselves in a better light than our mate, or our family, or our coworker, or that neighbor?

So Jesus was speaking to those who thought they were something and others were less. Now, Jesus was perennially dealing with these people called Pharisees, and they were in the crowd that day, and so He used a Pharisee as one of the two people in this illustration.

A Pharisee, who went to church to worship supposedly, but he gets in the presence of God, and he looks around, and he sees this tax collector. “How dare he come into this holy place?” For tax collectors were known notorious sinners. They were cheats. They were thieves. Everybody hated them. They were despised. They were vile. They were scum. They were the lowest of the lowly.

And there’s this Pharisee. He’s got a Ph.D., a Th.D. in theology, and a few other things. These were the holy men of God. They knew the Word of God. They were the pious men. They were the pray-ers. They were the pastors. They were the teachers. They were the Bible study leaders.

So the contrast is great. But the Pharisee exalts himself, and seeing this tax collector out of the corner of his eye, he goes, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other sinners I know, not like this tax collector. I fast. I pray. I tithe.” He starts listing all his spiritual credentials to God.

Now, Jesus may be exaggerating the way that this Pharisee might have talked, but He probably wasn’t exaggerating the way the Pharisee might have thought. And Jesus says, “Those two men left church that day, and one went home justified.” It wasn’t the Pharisee. It was that tax collector.

What was his prayer? The Scripture says he couldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but he bowed his face to the ground, and he said, “Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” No pride. No pretense. No covering. No trying to look better. Just transparent before God. Roof off, walls down.

Which one did God listen to? Which one got his prayers answered?

I think there’s some women in McPherson Women’s Prison who are serving life without possibility of parole for murder one, whose prayers God may hear some days more than He hears my prayers. I don’t have their history, but sometimes I have so much pride, so much performance, so much caring about image.

When I get with those women, you can sense it from the women on the platform, they don’t care what you think about them. They don’t have anything to hide. They don’t have anything to lose by being honest. And so here’s me trying to protect my reputation, public, person. Whose prayers does God hear, theirs or mine, in that moment?

Well, Jesus told a story about two brothers in Luke chapter 15:11–31, and, again, in the audience this day there were two kinds of people. There were the tax collectors and the sinners. They came to hear Jesus. They were sponges. They just soaked in His words. They were humble. But the Pharisees and the Scribes were there. I envision them kind of around the outskirts of the crowd. They’re not going to try to get too close. But the sinners are pressing in to Jesus. They loved Jesus because they knew they needed Him.

The Pharisees, the Scribes, teachers of the Law, they’re the ones with the folded arms, sitting back there scrutinizing, evaluating, critiquing, murmuring. “Where did He go to school? Where did He get His education? I never heard of it that way before.” We’ve got some of them in some of our churches. And aren’t many of us sometimes in that place?

Well, those were the people in the audience that day, so Jesus said, “Let Me tell you a story. There were two brothers.” You know the story. He tells about the younger brother who was hard-hearted, willful, independent, rebellious. He spent his father’s living. He said, “I want what’s coming to me.” He took it early, took the inheritance, squandered it, prolific lifestyle. And then when he’d spent it all, he began to be, the Scripture says, “in need.”

When God puts you in a place where you are in need, thank God. That’s the best place we can possibly be, where we have no solutions. His money ran out. His friends left him. He thought his family was gone. He was desperate. He was destitute. He was in need.

And the Scripture says “he came to himself.” He came to his senses. It’s like a wake-up call. I asked these women a few moments ago, “When did you have a wake-up call?” It’s when they came to themselves. They came to their senses. They got honest about their failure. They admitted their need.

Then there’s repentance. He says, “I will get up out of this pig sty, and I’ll go back to my father.” He was going in one direction: his own way. He was willful. Then he stops. He has this wake-up call. He turns around, and he says, “I’ll get up, and I will go back to the place where I left grace.” That’s repentance.

You can just see him practicing his speech all the way home. He’s scared to death, because if a son was rebellious in those days, and you were caught, they could stone you. He didn’t know would happen, what kind of reception he’d be met with. So he was practicing. “I’m going to say to my dad, ‘Oh, Dad, I’ve sinned against God (roof off). I’ve sinned against you (walls down). I’m no longer worthy to be your son. Would you just let me be one of your hired servants?’" Because he’s thinking, I’m starving here in this pig pen. I’ve nothing to eat, and my dad has hired hands who are better off than I am. Maybe he’ll just let me work out in his field.

His dad sees him “while he was still a long way off,” Scripture says. Why? Because he’d been waiting, longing for God to turn the heart of that son and bring him back. Notice, by the way, he didn’t, in that case, go pursuing after his son.

And let me say, moms and grandmoms, a little parenthesis here, you may have a wayward, rebellious son or daughter or grandchild, and you cry yourself to sleep at night, just so burdened by how they’re destroying their lives. Don’t rescue them from the cross.

Now, I don’t know what that means in your case, in your situation, that doesn’t mean necessarily don’t do anything, but I think there’s some people who think they love their kids who are really enabling them to stay away from God. Let God deal with them. Sometimes you just need to take your hands off and say, “You’re God’s.” That’s hard. I’ve watched a lot of moms go through that. That’s hard.

But this dad let God deal with his son. And the dad comes running out. You see the two. You just picture them embracing, before the kid can even get home. He doesn’t even get the whole speech out of his mouth. “I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against you.” Before he can say the rest of it, his dad is saying, “Welcome home, son. Let’s celebrate. Let’s have a party.”

And they kill the fatted calf, and the music begins, and I think that family had probably been morose and morbid, and everybody was sad all this time. They’re just grieving over this son. Now the lost son has come home. They’re celebrating. Everybody’s joyful except the older brother, who never did anything wrong.

He’s dutiful. He’s firstborn. He’s performing. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do all the time. He’s out in the field, and he hears music, and he’s thinking, There hasn’t been any music around here since my cruddy, younger brother left home. What in the world is going on? So he asks a servant, “What’s happening?”

The servant tells him the facts, but he doesn’t tell him the truth. He says, “Your brother has come, and your dad has received him safe and sound.”

Well, that was the facts, but it wasn’t, like, the whole truth. Look at what kind of condition he was in, and he’s humble, and he’s broken. “Come on, let’s celebrate.”

But the older brother, he’s a picture of those Pharisees, standing at the back of the crowd, scrutinizing, evaluating, critiquing, murmuring. “What?! I never! He ought to have to suffer for what he did.”

His dad hears, “Your son’s out sulking in the field. You better go talk to him.” The dad leaves the party. I’ve been told that in the Jewish culture when the dad or the man of the house would leave the party, the music stopped, the dancing stopped, the party stopped. Well, the dad goes out and deals with this hard-hearted older brother who is a Pharisee, proud and unbroken.

Isn’t that a picture of what’s going on in some of our churches? There’s not a lot of celebrating. There’s not a lot of life. There’s not a lot of joy. You know why? Because the pastors are always having to deal with the Pharisees, the proud, unbroken people. “You took that parking space away? That’s been my parking space, since 1946 I’ve been parking in that space. You’re letting those youth, those teenagers meet in our Sunday school classroom? Listen to them. They’re so loud. Look at them. They’ve got holes everywhere and tats everywhere.” These poor pastors are always putting out fires with the Pharisees.

So people are coming to Jesus, and they’re not all put together. They don’t talk and look and act like everybody else. Some of us are looking at those brand-new baby Christians, and they’re just so full of joy, and every time you sing, they don’t know the words, they don’t know the tune, they just make noise, and they cry, and they lift their hands. And you’re thinking, Give them a few months, they'll get over it. They will if they sit next to you.

Listen, our heavenly Father receives broken sinners. That’s who the gospel is for. It’s not that the Pharisees aren’t sinners. It’s that they’re not broken. They don’t realize their sin. They don’t realize how much they need God’s grace.

Some of us can’t rejoice when God is doing a new work, a fresh work, a sweet work, a deep work, and it’s not neat, it’s not tidy, it’s not exactly as we would have planned it or scripted it. Listen, the longer you’ve been in this Christian life thing, the higher up you go in terms of position and responsibility and influence, the greater the temptation to become a 21st century modern-day Pharisee. I know, I know.

We had a prayer call the last week or two ago with speakers from this event. I don’t know if Janet Parshall is here this morning. She had some difficulty getting here yesterday, but Janet prayed (you’ll hear from her tomorrow morning, Lord willing). She said, “Lord, I want to pray for women coming to this conference who’ve been saved thirty, forty, fifty years, and they know the routine, but they’ve lost the relationship with Jesus.”

Now, I know there are some women here like that, but as she prayed that in that moment. I haven’t had a chance to tell her this—Janet, if you’re here, I want to thank you for what you prayed because sitting where I was in my home on the phone, my heart, my hand went up in the air, and I said, “She said that for me.”

I’m so busy. I know the routine, but just not a sweet, fresh sense of relationship with Jesus. Roof off. “Lord, that’s me.” Walls down. I found my husband, and I said, “I want you to hear what God just said to me through Janet and her prayer.”

I was able to take some steps over those next days, over the past couple of weeks, to just draw near to God in a fresh way, a sweet way, to come home, not as a proud, older brother but as a needy prodigal. And God races to meet us with His grace when we do.

Well, two churchgoers, two brothers, two people at a dinner is the third one, in Luke chapter 7:36–50.

Again, there’s a Pharisee involved here. Simon is his name. He hosts this dinner for Jesus. He’s named. The woman in this case is not named. We’re just told she’s a woman of the city who was a sinner. That means, probably, that she was an immoral woman. She had a reputation. Everybody knew her. You didn’t need to name her. They knew who she was.

How she got in that dinner, I don’t know. She came, probably uninvited. She wasn’t on the VIP list. She wasn’t on anybody’s list. She was an object of scorn and derision and shame and guilt. But she makes her way into that dinner. As I’ve studied this passage over the years, I think that what had probably happened was she had heard Jesus or encountered Him somewhere prior to this moment, and He had changed her life. He had given her His grace, and now she was coming back to say, “Thank You. I love You. I’m so, so grateful.”

She makes her way into this dinner, and everything this woman does is at the feet of Jesus. She’s the lowly one. And the contrast here is between her and Simon the Pharisee. He’s watching all this going. First she “stands behind Him,” Scripture says. What does that mean? You remember how in the East, at the dinners they would eat reclining, propped up on their arm, feet stretched out behind. So she comes, and she stands behind His feet, just quiet.

Now, I am confident that this woman never intended to make a scene, to be seen, to be noticed, much less us standing here talking about her in this meeting thousands of years later. As she stands there, I think she just wanted to be near Him, to say from her heart, “I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful. You saved me. You changed my life.”

As she stood there, the tears began to flow. She didn’t say, “I’m going to cry now.” You can’t script that. But it flowed down from her eyes, down her cheeks, and down onto the feet of Jesus. It’s almost as if she’s embarrassed. She gets down lower at Jesus’ feet and begins to wipe His feet with her hair. I don’t know how long her hair was, but she had to get down at the feet of Jesus.

Then she takes this bottle of ointment that she’d brought with her. Something, perhaps, that she’d been saving as an instrument of her trade (could I say it that way?) to be used on a special man. But now she’s met THE MAN who’s redeemed her life, and what else is she going to do with this?

She breaks open that flask. She pours it, that expensive ointment, pours it on Jesus feet. Quiet, humble, no scene, no performance.

Well, Simon, he’s the host of this fancy dinner. He’s looking around. He sees this woman. (They’ve always got their arms crossed. I’m just actually cold up here.) He’s thinking to himself, If Jesus knew what kind of woman she is, He would not let her do that. How unseemly.

Well, Jesus not only knew who that woman was and what she was doing and what her past was, Jesus knew what Simon was thinking. And Jesus tells a story to Simon. He says, “Let Me tell you . . .” I won’t go into all the details, but He talks about two people. One owed a lot, a huge debt; one owed a little bit, and he got it paid off. The other owed a lot, and he got it paid off. “Which one will love his master the most?”

Simon goes, “Well the one who’s been forgiven the most, of course.”

Jesus goes, “Right. You don’t get it Simon. I came into this house, you didn’t give Me water to wash My feet. You didn’t give Me a kiss (a normal sign of greeting that you would do with a honored guest in your home). You didn’t have oil to anoint My head. (These were signs of hospitality.) You didn’t do any of that because you were too proud. You think you’re the highest thing in this house. Your love, your affection for Me is measured, it’s controlled. But this woman, it’s just all real. She loves Me. And why? Because she knows how much she’s been forgiven. It’s not that you don’t need to be forgiven of a lot, it’s just that you have no idea how much you need to be forgiven.”

In each of those pairs, which one do you most identify with? Do you identify with the prodigal, the shameful, sinful woman, the tax collector, the cheat? You say, “No, I’m not . . . I’d never end up in McPherson Prison. That wouldn’t be me.”

Well then, do you identify with the Pharisee? The proud, older brother, unbroken?

You see, it’s not in the nature of your sin; it’s in the nature of your response. Let me ask you this: Which one in each of those pairs did Jesus feel most comfortable with? Who was He drawn to? He was drawn to those who were broken, and contrite in spirit.

You see—and I don’t want to offend you by saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway: God is more offended by the proud, cold, hard, dry-eyed critical heart of faithful churchgoers and ministry leaders than He is by an immoral woman, a prostitute, an adulteress, a murderer, an abortionist who has recognized their sin and come to the cross in humble repentance.

In fact, I’ll tell you, Jesus really offended the Pharisees, I’m sure of it, when He said to them in Matthew 21, verse 31: “Truly, I say to you, [He’s looking the Pharisees in the eyes] the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” You think that went over well in church that day? I don’t think so.

So, what does it mean to be a broken woman? What does it mean to be a humble woman? And what are some of the characteristics of a proud, unbroken woman?

I want to just list several for you. When you come back this afternoon, or at the door today, I can’t remember, you’ll get a little card that has these and more on it, but I just want you to hear with your heart right now. You say, “Where’d you come up with this list?” I’ll tell you where I came up with most of them. This is pretty autobiographical. I just looked at my own life when I first gave this message. I said, “What are some of the evidences of pride and unbrokenness in my life?” Here are some of the things:

  • Proud woman focus on the failures of others; whereas, broken women are overwhelmed with sense of their own need.
  • Proud women have a critical, fault-finding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope, but their own with a telescope. But, broken women, on the other hand, are compassionate toward others who fail. They can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
  • Proud people are self-righteous. They look down on others. But, broken people esteem all others as better than themselves.
  • Proud women have to prove that they are right. They have to get the last word. But, broken women are willing to yield the right to be right.
  • Proud women are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation. But, broken women are self-denying.
  • Proud women want to be served. They want their husband and their children and everyone else to meet their needs. But, broken women are motivated to serve others.
  • Proud women have a drive to be recognized and appreciated. They get hurt when they’re not thanked or they get overlooked. But, broken women are willing to serve without expecting anything in return.
  • Proud women are wounded when others get noticed or promoted and they get overlooked. But, broken women are eager for others to get the credit, and they rejoice when others are lifted up.

I’ve got to tell you, after I first gave this message, the first time I ever gave it, twenty-one years ago, God moved in on a service something like this in an extraordinary way, and over the next two days, God sent a measure of revival as God’s people’s hearts had been prepared and began to respond to Him and say, “Yes, Lord.” I gave the message, sat down, and got out of the way, and God’s Spirit kept working.

Well, in the days that followed, people took this list, and they reprinted it, and they posted it. We didn’t have social media in those days, but they copied it. There were cassette tapes of the message, and they distributed those all around the world. People started writing me and saying how much this message had meant to them, how much it had changed their lives.

Over time, subtly, I realized one day that all this stuff about this message about humility had become a source of pride in my own heart. I think maybe it first dawned on me when I saw this list published without credit. I thinking, I wrote that, this thing about humility.

And the biggest lessons in my life, about what I’m talking about right here, have come since I gave that first message and each time I give it since, as God speaks to my own heart about this drive to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be thanked.

  • Proud people are self-conscious. But, broken women are really not concerned with self at all.
  • Proud people keep others at arm’s length. But, broken women are willing to risk getting close to others and take the risk of loving intimately.
  • Proud people are rigid and stiff and formal. They’re the ones that want to make sure they don’t cry so their makeup doesn’t run, and “somebody might think I’m like this horrible sinner.” But, broken women, they’re warm, they’re loving, and they don’t care, the tears can flow because they know they’re just sinners who need God’s grace every moment, every day of their lives.
  • Proud women find it difficult to share their spiritual needs with others. So if you have a little small group, “Let’s go around and share what God’s doing in our lives or what He’s speaking to you about or how we can pray for you. Pray for me that I’ll be a better mother, a better wife.” I mean, who doesn’t need that? But, broken women are willing to get specific about their sin and open and transparent as God directs.
  • Proud people have a hard time saying these words: “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” But, broken women are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.
  • Proud women wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness if there’s been a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.

Now, listen, I wasn’t in your home yesterday, but I know what happened in some of your homes. You were getting ready to come to True Woman, and you’re hustling to get out the door and make sure your family’s needs were all met, and everything was going fast, and everybody wasn’t falling in line and doing exactly what you wanted, and your husband, in the midst of all of this, said something that hurt your feelings, and you’ve been nursing it ever since. And you’ve been thinking, When I get home . . . I mean, it’s just growing bigger and bigger in your mind what he did, what he said. It’s now a federal case in your head, and you’re thinking, When I get home, he better be at the front door, standing . . . no, better yet, on his knees, begging me, "I was so wrong, will you forgive me?” That’s a proud woman.

Broken women race to the cross to see if they can get there first. Don’t wait for him. Some of you have been waiting for a mate or a child or a parent who wounded you when you were a kid; you’ve been waiting for them to recognize how wrong they were. I’m not saying they weren’t wrong. But you’ve been saying, “I’m going to hold them at arm’s length until they’re willing to acknowledge how deeply they wounded me and come back and beg my forgiveness.” That is p-r-i-d-e. Self is all at the center of that.

  • Proud people are blind to their true heart condition. (The funny thing is, everybody else—I guess it’s not funny—but everybody else around them can see it. They’re the last ones to see it and know it.) But, broken women realize they have to walk in the light. God shows them the truth about their lives.
  • Proud women don’t think they have anything they need to repent of. (And there are hundreds, if not thousands of women in this room who, coming into this place today, if somebody asked you: “Is there anything you need to be repenting of, any area of your life that God’s dealing with you?” You couldn’t think of anything. I’ve been there. I know what that heart is like.) But, broken women realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.
  • Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they’re sure everyone else does. But, broken women continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
  • Proud women are sitting here thinking: There’s someone else who needs to hear this message. And you’re going to make sure and send them the link when you get home. (I don’t mean, by the way, to suggest that all the proud women are sitting over here. There are probably some sitting over here, too.)

When you think of it this way: Why would anybody want to be broken? Any more than someone would sign up for surgery or for childbirth?

I have a dear friend who this week was sent into emergency surgery. They never wanted surgery. Who does? But they agreed to it because they were told, “What’s going on in your body is so toxic, so poisonous, if you don’t have that surgery, you will die.”

So why do you submit to brokenness? Why do you let the Holy Spirit bring about that kind of sometimes painful thing in your life? Well, it’s because of the fruit of brokenness. Brokenness brings blessedness—blessedness. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That word "poor" is not just like somebody who’s living below the poverty line. That word "poor" in the Greek language is a word that means "utterly, absolutely destitute, poverty stricken." You have no help, no hope, no way of making it if someone doesn’t reach down and lift you up out of the gutter. And Jesus said, “Blessed”—happy, joyful, fortunate are those who are poverty stricken.

Now, that’s not our way of thinking. That’s counter-intuitive. But it’s God’s math. It’s God’s way of thinking. Blessed are the broken ones, those who realize they are bankrupt apart from Jesus and His grace.

So what kinds of blessings does brokenness bring?

Well we’ve seen that brokenness causes God to draw near to us, that God draws near to the humble, broken ones, and, conversely, He stiff-arms the proud.

Do you feel like you’re not close to God? Maybe God is keeping you at a distance because God hates pride in every form.

New life is released through our brokenness. That’s a blessing of brokenness.

Think about that kernel of wheat that Jesus talked about that goes into the ground, and it dies. It sheds its hard outer shell. It’s buried in the ground. No one coddling it. No one singing to it, playing music to it, recognizing it. It just dies. But Jesus says if it doesn’t die, it abides alone. Nothing ever happens to it. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. Brokenness brings increased fruitfulness.

Jesus said, “This is My body which is broken for you.” His death released eternal life for us, and so when we are willing to be broken, humble, contrite before God, His abundant life can flow through us to others.

Brokenness gives us an increased capacity for love and for worship. Think about that woman in Luke chapter 7. She’s broken. She’s humble. She’s grateful. She loves Jesus with all of her heart and nobody has to script for her how to worship Him. She doesn’t need a praise band up there telling her to do it. She doesn’t need noise. She doesn’t need instructions. It’s unscripted. It’s beautiful. It’s precious.

But some of us look at believers who act that way, and we get all Pharisaical about it. “Look at those people over there raising their hands. I don’t want to be one of those chars-matics.” Hey, that’s all right. Sit on your hands. That’s fine. And let me say, if you raise your hands in the air, and somebody next to you doesn’t, and you’re looking askance at them, like, “Why are they so . . .” then you’ve got a problem.

You see, God’s looking at our hearts. When your heart has seen who God is and who you are, and you’ve been broken and humble before God, then love for Jesus, worship for God, love for others, it comes flowing out of you vertically and horizontally. It comes flowing out of brokenness.

Brokenness brings increased fruitfulness because God uses things in people that are broken. Jesus’ body, broken on Calvary, and eternal life released for the salvation of the world.

I just want to address this question for a moment, and then I want to invite you to choose the step of brokenness as God’s been speaking to you. You say, “Where do I start?”

Well, first of all, see God as He is because the closer you get to God and His holiness, the more you will see yourself as you are.

And then fall on the Rock, Christ Jesus, who was broken for you. Cry out to the Lord and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Have mercy on me.”

And then acknowledge and verbalize need. “God, I need You. I need You. It’s not my brother. It’s not my sister. It’s not my pastor. It’s not the elders. It’s not the deacons. It’s not the youth. It’s not the old people. Lord, it’s me, standing in the need of prayer.”

No blaming. Listen, there’s no brokenness when the finger of blame is still pointed at someone else—your husband, your kids, your parents, your small group leader, your pastor, your boss, your whatever. That’s not brokenness.

Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked come to Thee for dress, helpless, look to Thee for grace.
Foul I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.

Acknowledge and verbalize need to God. Roof off. And then walls down, acknowledge and verbalize need to others. There’s no brokenness where there is no openness.

Maybe it's to your husband, that you need to go home or call him before this day is over and say, “I’ve been such a proud, self-righteous, critical, judgmental woman, always evaluating you, always holding you up to my standard of performance. Could you please forgive me?”

Now, I don’t know what your story is, what your details are. I don’t know what your need is. But I know that this is an invitation that God draws near, and He brings to Him those who choose the pathway of humility. And in your choosing that, let me encourage you to do the very thing that you know God wants you to do but your flesh is telling you not to do.

“Lord, I’ll go to anyone, I’ll do anything, I’ll make any wrong of the past right except that one thing. I’ll go to any person except that one person.”

Listen, some of you came as a church group here. You’ve got ten, fifteen, twenty, fifty women here together at this conference. And for some of you, there’s someone in that group where there’s just walls a mile high between you. And who knows how it started or why or how long it’s been going on, but maybe God brought you here today to reconcile your hearts. Don’t wait for the other to come to you.

We’re going to open the altar of God’s presence in just a few moments, and I’m going to invite you to do whatever the Holy Spirit is telling you to do. Roof off. Walls down.

It may be that you need to find that person. Maybe it’s a mother and daughter, you came together, or mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, and there’s been a barrier between you, and you’re blaming. Stop blaming. Don’t do it. God’s not asking you to deal with their sin. God’s asking you to deal with your pride. You may need to take that person by the hand and come here and make an altar out of this front area or perhaps go back to that prayer room or just kneel there at your seat or in the aisle here and say, “I’ve been so proud. I’ve been so wrong. Would you please forgive me?”

How long has it been since you’ve knelt humbly before the Lord and said, “Lord, I need Your grace”? How long has it been since you’ve shared a real spiritual need, a burden with someone else? Some of you have sons and daughters that are far from God, but you’re too embarrassed to tell anybody. Some of you have kids in prison or a husband in prison, and you’re so ashamed, you’re so embarrassed. But you heard these women who are free and full and fruitful because they got honest. Maybe you just need to find somebody in your church group there, somebody who knows you, and just say, “There’s something I’ve been hiding, something I’ve been pretending about. I’m not who you think I am.”

Some of you women have . . . many in this room . . . who have had an immoral relationship, an immoral past, or an abortion, and you’ve hidden. Listen, there’s no sin God cannot forgive. God is not as concerned about the sin that you have committed as He is about how you respond to that sin. Are you covering? Are you hiding? Are you pretending? Or are you willing to walk out into the light?

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to tell everybody everything about your whole life story. But I’ll tell you what, there shouldn’t be anything in your life, or mine, that we’re not willing and open to share if it would bring God glory and if it would help maybe somebody else who’s walking in that same direction.

So I want to ask if we could just stand for a moment, in the presence of the Lord. I know we’ve been here a long time this morning, but you saw a powerful illustration of brokenness and humility in these women who sat up here on this platform, former inmates at McPherson Women’s Prison. I wonder what God has been saying to you as He’s been speaking to our hearts this morning. Here at the front, on the far sides, all the way there at the back, what has God been saying to you?

Let’s just bow our hearts before the Lord for a moment, be still before Him. I want to ask you in these next moments: Would you take some step of humility and brokenness that God is speaking to you about? Maybe it’s to come to the front here and kneel. Maybe it’s to get in that aisle there and just kneel. Maybe it’s just to turn at your seat and kneel there before the Lord.

You say, “Just kneel? What does that do?” Listen, it doesn’t do anything if your heart’s not humble. But if your heart is humble, it can be an expression of humility.

Maybe you need to make your way back to that prayer room and get one of those prayer partners and say, “I need somebody to pray with me.”

Some of you need to get on your phone; go call your husband and say, “We’ve got to talk.”

Now, I’ve known women in a time like this who needed to confess to their husband that there was an immoral relationship they’ve kept hidden. I wouldn’t advise throwing that to your husband on the phone in the next two minutes. But I’d maybe find somebody else and tell them, “I’ve got to make this right.” And then ask God for wisdom. Maybe get another mature woman to pray with you about the best way to bring this into the light.

I’m talking about roof off; walls down.

I don’t know what God’s speaking to you about, but we’re going to be still. We’re going to be quiet. I want you to just stand for a few moments so that those who want to move can make their way out. And then, if you get tired of standing in a few moments, you can feel free to be seated, or however God prompts you.

I’d like to ask you, please, over these next ten or fifteen minutes not to disrupt anybody or anything. We’re just going to wait in the presence of the Lord. God is talking. Don’t wait for somebody else. You move if God is telling you, “You need to make something right. You need to talk to somebody. You need to pray. You need to go to that prayer room.” Whatever it is.

This whole room is going to be a massive altar where we’re just going to come and say, “Lord, it’s me standing in the need of prayer.”

We’re not going to be able to pray for others tonight if our hearts are not repentant and broken and humble before God. What do you need to repent of? What do you need to confess? What do you need to get right about? Where do you need to let the roof off? Where do you need to let the walls down?

You obey the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us in these moments. And, “Oh, Lord Jesus, You are here in this place, in Your people. There are women here who are like that one woman was from McPherson who say, “I’ve been in church all my life. I maybe was a Sunday school teacher, but I don’t know Jesus.” There are women who need to get saved. Give your heart to Christ. Surrender your will to Him.

Lord, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what You’re speaking to people about, but You are the Holy Spirit, You are the God of the universe, and would You move on people’s hearts right now?

Forget everybody else and everything around you and just say, “Yes Lord.” Wave that white flag of surrender.

Lord, have Your way in this place.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.