Man must have a knowledge of self before he is willing to surrender self to God.
Do you see it? Do you see how we must suffer in our own wisdom and strength before we are prepared for God to reveal Himself to us? We must first labor in the futility of our own limitations and depravity before we see our need for Christ. Brokenness is the critical part of transformation as God uses it to strip us of self-sufficiency. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17). It is important to understand that brokenness looks differently for every person, but ultimately it is driven by shame and affliction.
Before Christ came into my life I made all my decisions based on emotions—based upon how I felt. We all experience rejection, and as I experienced abandonment and paralyzing shame as a child without the comforting love of God, I formed false beliefs about myself that generated a tide of emotional pain. I was suffocating and had a need to escape. My survival instincts led me to make decisions designed to avoid pain or gain pleasure (Ephesians 4:18-19). There is a way that seems right to a man, pain seeking pleasure (Proverbs 14:12). I had a very real need to be free from toxic emotional pain; pain rooted in false beliefs; pain aggravated by ungodly shame (shame before man).
Brennan Manning, Author of Abba’s Child, states: “There is something inside the fallen personality that says, ‘I’m going to find some way to preserve myself against this pain because my number one priority is self-preservation, and if God wants to help that’s great. If He doesn’t, the heck with Him, I’ll do it my way.'”
Here’s the problem—if my decisions are based only on the selfish and destructive desires of my heart—either seeking to avoid pain or to gain pleasure—then there is going to be significant conflict in my life. As the Scriptures record:
James 4:1-5 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
Here is what the Lord is saying: It is my selfish desires, demands, and expectations that cause conflict in my life. The solution, as we’re about to read in the next passage is NOT anger management, but worship realignment—do you worship self or God? If you worship self you will experience separation from God and torment (Job 15:20)–you will not know peace. The world’s approach to conflict endorses destruction and division (in the name of peace), but Christ sets you free from them. The next few verses of James, chapter four, reveal the answer to conflicts caused by our own selfish desires—starting in verse six:
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 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. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Ken Sande from Peacemaker Ministries writes: “Conflicts arise from unmet desires in our hearts. When we feel we cannot be satisfied unless we have something we want or think we need, the desire turns into a demand. And if someone fails to meet that desire or gets in the way of that desire, we condemn him in our heart and curse, criticize, quarrel, and fight to get our way. In short, conflict arises when desires grow into demands and we judge and punish those who get in our way.”
God says to humble ourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt us (1 Peter 5:6). What He is saying is that the proud, stubborn soul who demands to have his own way will fall, and great will be the fall (Matthew 7:24-27). But the humbled soul—the person who is willing to receive God’s love (discipline), God’s truth (wisdom), and God’s direction (guidance), will be lifted up and will know peace. How blessed we are who receive God’s word (Jeremiah 15:16).
Man must have a knowledge of self before he is willing to surrender self to God. Brothers and sisters, until we see the true condition of our hearts, we will be in bondage to sin. So what is the true condition of our hearts?
Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
Before Christ came into my life in 2013 my heart was self-centered, self-focused, self-serving, self-pleasing, self-seeking, and self-obsessed. My heart was filled with unforgiveness, I loathed myself and everyone else, and stuck needles in my arm to escape. I lived every day taking from others to suit my selfish desires. I had been on the street for three years and had become demonic; crossing boundary after boundary, until I was a shell of a person—broken, empty, lost.
From June of 2012 to May of 2013 I was incarcerated six times—three for theft, once for domestic violence assault, once for felony drug possession, and a DUI—in a stolen car. I tried to end my life by overdose a couple times but just ended up in the hospital—designated SMI (seriously mentally ill).
My entire life I had been a blasphemer—I didn’t want anyone to talk to me about Jesus, I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do. As I sat in jail, I read a book by Edwin Louis Cole that referenced Galatians Chapter Five in the Bible, and it talked about desires of the flesh. Here’s what it says, starting in verse nineteen:
“Now the desires of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
As I read this it was like looking into a mirror—that was me. These verses, charged with power from on high, struck my heart like a bolt of lightning, and I knew instantly that this was truly the Word of God; I suddenly knew that Jesus Christ died on a cross for my sins (Romans 5:8), and that He was resurrected to give me life (1 Peter 1:3).
At that moment my heart was filled with godly sorrow and I couldn’t stop weeping—my heart of destruction and sin was laid bare before God—it always was, I just didn’t see it until that moment. I knew I had offended my Creator and an unfamiliar peace washed over my being—not a peace that the world gives, a peace that only God can give (John 14:27).
You see, God can’t change our hearts until we first have the scales removed from our eyes and are able to see the evil that corrupts our thoughts, emotions, decisions and actions. We have to experience godly sorrow before we can truly experience the love of God.
2 Corinthians 7:9-11 “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation, without regret; but worldly sorrow produces death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent.”
The Godly sorrow I experienced had me sobbing for days; at that time I was overcome by peace and overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace. The power of God in Christ Jesus delivers us from the grip of addiction, from the grip of fear, from the grip of unforgiveness, from the grip of sin (Colossians 1:13).
Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Romans 10:9-10 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Ezekiel 36:25-31 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey. You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Brothers and sisters, this is Good News. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).
Here is an excellent teaching by Louis Reyneke: