I believe most people want to be better people. That’s why we make New Year’s resolutions. We want to be different than who we are today. We see ourselves today and think; ‘I want to be better tomorrow.’ We make commitments to change and be better. We join the gym to get in shape. We join a weight loss program to lose weight. We reprioritize our lives to have time with family. We study harder to get better grades. In general, I believe most people want to be better people.
I also believe, people go to church because they want to be better. They want God in their lives. I have never met a person say, “I am miserable, so I am going to church to be even more miserable.” However, many people who attend church, aren’t different. They aren’t better, they are the same as the year before.
Think about that for a second. I go to church to be better. I try to follow a set of rules I’m supposed to follow, and I’m still struggling. Over time, that person begins to think, “Why am I going to church? Where is God? I thought if I did a few good things, God would do a couple good things for me.”
I want to read for you what is written in Psalms 51:16-17
16 You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. 17 The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise. NLT
Same verses, different translation.
16 Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. 17 I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. MSG
Scripture says, God doesn’t want us to play religious games. Do you know what I mean when I say ‘religious games’? That means we think we can cut deals with God. We do a couple good things with the expectation; He will do a few good things for me. I attend church, so God is on the hook to make my life comfortable, easy and successful.
We end up doing good things but not for the right reasons. We go through the motions. Scripture says, stop that. Stop going through the motions. That doesn’t get us anywhere with God. It’s a religious game. Do you feel like that sometimes? Like, if I could, I wouldn’t even be a Christian right now. I’m just doing a good thing because my wife wants me to. I’m going through the motions.
Another religious game; I’m going to try to live a perfect life. Normally, that means, I going to try to make others think I live a perfect life. It’s a tough way to live. We feel torn up inside but we have an image to keep up. God says, stop it. I’m not after your attempt to give a perfect performance.
If God doesn’t want us to go through the motions, if God doesn’t want a perfect performance from us; what does God want? Scripture says, God wants a broken and repentant heart. A heart-shattered life – a life with no pride in our hearts. That means; I see how badly I need God and it literally humbles me.
Can I ask you a question? Are you playing religious games? Are you just going through the motions? You know; you are faithful to your spouse, paying the bills, going to church, but it’s only because you feel like you have to. Are you trying to make others think you are perfect? You are scared about others finding out about who you really are. You are so tired keeping up appearances. I want to tell you, it’s not what God wants for your life. What God wants is your broken and repentant heart. To daily see your need of God to the point that it humbles you.
That’s really the first step in being different spiritually. To be broken. Recognize your unbelievable deep need of God every day.
There is a story in scripture where a young man meets Jesus. He appears to be the perfect Christian. He follows all the rules. He keeps all the commandments. He would be a great leader in any church. If you had a daughter, you would want him to date her. He’s awesome. But at the end of the story, he walks away from Jesus stunned and confused because he was playing religious games. He failed to see his need of God. He didn’t have a broken heart.
Once a man came to Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me concerning what is good?” answered Jesus. “There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.” 18 “What commandments?” he asked.
Jesus answered, “Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; 19 respect your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.
23 Jesus then said to his disciples, “I assure you: it will be very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of heaven.” GNT Matthew 19:16-24
What happened? The young man did everything right, he just failed to see his need of God. He thought, if I can give a perfect performance for God, I will get into heaven. Jesus challenged him; it’s not about your performance or your ability to do good things. It’s bigger than that, it’s about your heart. Jesus looked into his heart and saw his biggest heart issue was greed. Jesus challenged him to have a heart-shattered moment, destroy greed and give. The young man couldn’t see it. He walks away from Jesus dazed and confused.
I believe that until you see your need of God, until your need of God humbles you, you won’t be different. You can attend church, follow the rules, do good things; but until you have a broken heart, God’s grace won’t be real to you. You can go through the motions but that doesn’t make you different. You can try to give a perfect performance, but that doesn’t make you different.
So let me ask you. Do you see your need of God? Are you so aware of you need of God that it makes you take a step back and think; ‘Wow, God, Your grace is almost too good to be true. I don’t deserve You!’ Or do you think; ‘I’m pretty good. The bills are paid. I’m comfortable. I don’t really NEED God.’ Here is a better question; Are you doing life without God? Do you just jump into the day with no prayer, no connection, no God stuff?
If you want to be different this year, spiritually different, it begins with being broken. Heart-shattered. So aware that you need God that it humbles you. That’s when God’s grace becomes real to you.
So, what does it take to be broken?
23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. MSG Romans 3:23-24
Do you see the part that says, ‘both us and them’? That means people who go to church and people who don’t. Paul is writing everyone saying, when it comes to spiritual matters, we have made a royal mess. Everyone, people who go to church and people who don’t, every day, are utterly incapable of living out God’s holy standard.
When you read that and agree with that, that is the beginning of being broken. To read that and think, “I’m pretty good.” That is called pride. Pride says, “I don’t need God, I can live life on my own terms.” You live disconnected from God. You aren’t driven to Him to be your Lord and Savior. You feel like you are going through the motions. You feel like have to give a perfect performance or God will be mad at you.
Being broken simply means, every day, I realize I’m a mess and I need God.
If you want to be different, spiritually different, it starts with seeing your need of God. Are you broken? Are you heart-shattered? Are you so aware of your need of God that it humbles you? You are so aware of you need of God, it drives you to be with God and build a relationship with Him.
Here is why being broken is the foundation to being a Christian. When you are broken, when you see your need of God, you will follow. If you aren’t broken, when Jesus calls you, you won’t follow. Broken is the foundation to being a Christian.