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When a famous scientist, artist or celebrity is interviewed on television, the host will ask about his or her amazing talents and most outstanding achievements.
If Christ were on such a show, I believe He would simply answer: “The most significant thing in my life? I am broken, a nobody and a worm” (see Psalm 22:6).
“Come, follow Me and become like Me,” He would add, “and this is the way you get there: ‘Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart’ ” (Matthew 11:29).
Learning from Jesus how to be broken and lowly is authentic New Testament Christianity. It is so alien to our modern version that conditions us to become strong, independent and able to articulate theology.
Both God’s work and ours
Next to the Bible, there are a handful of books that have changed my life, and Roy Hession’s book The Calvary Road is one of them. Listen to what he says about brokenness:
“The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us is broken. This simply means that the hard unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows to God’s will, admits its wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus, surrenders its rights and discards its own glory—that the Lord Jesus might have all and be all. In other words, it is dying to self and self-attitudes. . . .
“Being broken is both God’s work and ours. He brings His pressure to bear, but we have to make the choice.”
People are mistaken if they think they can become instantly holy and godly by praying for it. You see, righteousness is a gift, but godliness is not. Godliness can only be gained through dying to self and obedience to Jesus, learning from Him how to walk in humility. That’s the reason He stands at the door and knocks, continuing to speak to us through His Word and many other ways. But because the only door to godliness is brokenness and yielding, He must wait until we choose the way of the cross.
We see Him
Usually the last thing we want to do is to give up our cherished self. What then will motivate us to desire to be broken? It’s when we behold the willingness of Jesus to choose the cross for our sake.
We see Him “who, being in the form of God . . . made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6–8 ).
“We see Him willing to have no rights of His own,” says Hession, “willing to let men revile Him and not revile again, willing to let men tread on Him and not retaliate or defend Himself. Above all, we see Him broken as He meekly goes to Calvary to become men’s scapegoat by bearing their sins in His own body on the Tree.”
It didn’t come easy for Jesus, who knew no sin, to humble Himself to the point of being completely cut off from God there at the cross. The very thought caused Him such agony that His sweat became like drops of blood. In anguish He asked His Father if there was any other way for us to be saved than for Him to drink this cup of suffering—but then He responded, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
No other way than surrender
Likewise, there is no other way to godliness than through brokenness and dying to our self. We, too, must come to a place where we surrender our self-love and self-preservation and say to the Lord, “I am ready to take Your yoke upon me and learn from You how to die to myself, to pick up my cross and follow You.”
Many believers mentally understand the importance of brokenness, and they recognize that it is the only door to the life of godliness they desire. However, in their hearts they cannot find the motivation or willingness to embrace death to self.
If you find yourself in this place, I encourage you to spend time reading and meditating on the passages of Scripture that describe what it took Jesus to become the sacrifice for your sin. Then, ask God to open the eyes of your heart to truly see Him as if you were there, watching Him suffer and die for you. This internal vision will help create the desire in you to follow Him on this path of brokenness that leads to godliness.