The Heart That God Revives
By Tim St. Clair
Edited from a message delivered at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May 26-29, 1998. Tim St. Clair is a revival team speaker with Life Action Ministries, Niles Michigan.
What is God looking for when He looks for a person in which He will do a fresh work of revival? We read in Isaiah 57:15, “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place….” There is another place God dwells: “…with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.”
David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:17). “To this man will I look,” God said, “to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word” (Isa. 66:2).
Something seems to happen to us the further we get away from the early days of our new life in Christ or even from days of a fresh encounter of revival with God. We can get to the place that even with our best intentions, we come to church or to a conference, and we focus on the pastor or the speakers rather than on the Lord. We can get to the place where we focus on our busyness rather than on our godliness; on our habits rather than on our heart; on others’ needs or what we perceive to be their needs rather than on our needs.
We place emphasis on our age as a Christian rather than on our health, that is, how long we have been saved rather than how healthy we are spiritually at the time; on our knowledge about God or Jesus Christ rather than on our personal obedience to Him. There is a desperate need for us to be brought back continuously to that first love relationship to the Lord.
Why Do We Lose Our First Love?
Why do you think we lose the tenderness of our first love and our desire to be everything God wants us to be? A study of God’s Word leads me to believe it is because we either unconsciously cut off the process that brought us to that place of tenderness or, in some cases, even deliberately leave out key points and still hope to get the same end result.
I see God working in a person’s life in a cycle of revival. The pattern begins with brokenness. Someone has said that humility is the key that opens the door to everything God has for us as believers. Brokenness leads to repentance, and repentance leads to forgiveness; forgiveness leads to freedom, and freedom gives us a deeper capacity to love; love always leads us back to a true worship of God and worship of God leads us to deeper levels of brokenness.
Brokenness is not one-time happening in our lives; it is to be an ongoing, continual process. There may have been a time twenty years ago when you met God in a specific and special way and God brought brokenness to your life. If that is the last time you experienced brokenness God wants to do it afresh and anew in your heart.
What Is Brokenness?
Brokenness is like a seed that has to be planted in the ground and die. It is that process whereby God begins to break off all of the outer shell of our flesh, our natural abilities, our self-confidence, in order to release the very life of His Spirit and His divine nature within us.
Someone has given this definition of brokenness: “It is the shattering of a person’s will so that every response is under the control of the Holy Spirit of God.” Here is a practical working definition of brokenness that has helped me: brokenness is our response of humility and obedience to the conviction of God’s Spirit or the revelation of God’s Word.
Humility has two key ingredients in it. One of these is agreeing with God. That is what the word “confess” in First John 1:9 means, to call our sin by the same name as God calls it. Humility involves agreeing with God and saying about my sin what God Himself says about my sin.
The second key ingredient in humility is to acknowledge my need. Too many times we are like the Laodicean church and our testimony is, “We are rich. We are increased with goods and have no need.” But God says, “What you do not understand is that you are poor and wretched and miserable and blind and naked. I counsel you to repent, to get eye salve put on so that you can see clearly.”
Humility involves agreeing with God and then acknowledging my need.
Brokenness also includes obedience. We have defined in our ministry that, obedience is doing exactly what God says to do, when He says to do it, with the right heart attitude. We can agree with God about our sin and acknowledge our need, but if we do not act on what He has said, we will not experience brokenness. It is not enough to agree; it is not enough to acknowledge my need. I must obey!
I am finding out personally that brokenness changes me as a person. Brokenness changes the way I respond to my family. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to be a “Christian” in a church than it is to be a “Christian” at home? We know how to act in church. But what you are behind the doors of your home demonstrates who is in control of your life. Brokenness changes the way you respond to your family.
Brokenness changes the way I receive rebuke and criticism. It is hard enough to receive rebuke and criticism from people who love us and want to help us, let alone from somebody who is just being disagreeable. Brokenness changes that. Brokenness will cause you to be more receiving of other believers who do not look like you do and do not dot their I’s and cross their T’s exactly like you do.
Brokenness will change a natural fear of man into a fear of God. There are times when I’ve found myself struggling and burdened when preaching, saying to myself, “I wonder what the preacher is thinking. I wonder what those people are thinking. Oh, that person did not respond well to that. I wonder how they are receiving that….” Brokenness changes a natural fear of man into a fear of God.
I went through a period of time for about a year and a half to two years, in which God would have me write as He did on this message today: G.M., G.T., G.A. It stands for God’s Man…for God’s Timing…for God’s Approval. The Scriptures say that we speak before God, in Christ. I have a higher audience to give account to than just you listening to me. For a time, after every message God would require me to go down to the front row, get on my knees and before I talked to any other human being, talk to God and say, “God, were You pleased with what was said tonight? Was my spirit pleasing to You? O, God, if it was, then we can face whatever has to come as a result.”
Brokenness changes a self-righteous, critical spirit into a burden-bearing, compassionate spirit. Brokenness changes a demanding spirit into an appealing spirit.
Godly Sorrow Works Repentance
In Second Corinthians 7:10 Paul writing to the church, says, “Godly sorrow works repentance.”
I am grateful for the wonderful privilege of First John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I am grateful that when I have sinned against God there is a provision and that it is a just and righteous act on the heart of God to forgive me and to release me.
But it would be tragic if we somehow got away from the importance of godly sorrow working repentance into our very being. It is the idea of a potter who takes the clay and turns it over and shapes it and molds it and beats it to get the air bubbles out of it, etc. When I am in the process of godly sorrow, God is working and shaping and molding in my life.
If I were to align godly sorrow with the Beatitudes, it would be, “Blessed are they that mourn” (Matt. 5:4). I believe the Beatitudes are consequential, following one another as a result of the previous one or ones. I believe you cannot experience the fifth one until you have experienced the first four in your life, and you cannot experience the third one unless you have experienced the first two in your life. If you take in order the first three, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are they that mourn” and “Blessed are the meek,” and tie them together, you have Jesus saying, “Blessed are the broken ones.”
I believe the process of mourning is godly sorrow, and godly sorrow works repentance into our being. Repentance leads to salvation or to deliverance, to setting us free. Today we seem to be afraid to mourn over our sins. Many of you remember the days in a church when in the front you had a bench called the “mourners’ bench” where people would come and not get a “quick fix” but they would wrestle and cry out to God until He brought them through to release. Mourning is learning how to grieve over my sin, learning to hate what God hates and love what God loves.
We may be struggling in some area of our life where sin is a problem and we feel we are incapable of gaining victory. We have never become serious enough to let godly sorrow work repentance into our very being – that repentance that leads to freedom.
Have you ever wondered why people were so attracted to Jesus? Hebrews 1:9 gives us an insight into that when it says of Jesus that He was anointed with the oil of gladness above all of His fellows. Why? Because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity. There is great power to be found by grieving and mourning and allowing God to show me His picture of sin.
Brokenness leads to repentance which leads to forgiveness, which leads to freedom, which leads to love, which leads to worship…which always leads to a greater level of brokenness in my life.
Worship is self-effacing, not self-centered, not man-centered, as many of us think. Worship is not for you and me. Worship is for God. In worship we should feel at home on our faces before God. You see that in the Book of Revelation (5:11-14). The Bible tells us this is what John beheld in heaven. The twenty-four elders coming off their thrones, falling down before God and casting their crowns at His feet and worshiping Him. Worship always leads to a deeper level of brokenness in my life.
The Sinner Woman in the House of Simon the Pharisee
I want to show you the cycle beginning with brokenness in the life of the sinner woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee. Try to get a visual picture of this in your mind:
“And one of the Pharisees desired [Jesus] that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment” (Luke 7:36-38).
This woman was not invited but she was very desperate.
First, notice that what she did was a very deliberate act: the Bible says that “she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house.” She went because she knew Jesus was there. You do not meet Jesus “accidentally.” Usually fresh encounters with Jesus come because I seek after Him.
Secondly, it was a very determined act on her part. She took with her an alabaster box of ointment. Here was a woman who felt she had nothing of value in herself to offer Jesus, and so she brought this alabaster box of ointment of great value into the house. She knew before she went into the house what she was going to do with that box of ointment. If we do not determine definitely to surrender our most precious possession to God, we may miss Him!
Thirdly, what she did was a very desperate act. She was not invited to the dinner but she was willing to risk rejection by the Pharisees in order to find reception with Jesus. Was that not true in your own life – first of all, when you got saved and then secondly, in times of fresh works of revival in your life? You have to come to the point that it does not matter what your wife thinks; it does not matter what your preacher thinks; it does not matter what people in your church think. You have to get Jesus!
See the cycle beginning with the brokenness in this woman’s life. Here is a woman “which was a sinner.” She had not grown up around Jesus and did not know how she was supposed to act. But notice with me several things. First of all, everything she did physically is demonstrating what is taking place spiritually in her life. Secondly, everything she did brought her lower in the presence of Jesus. Do you say, “That is unhealthy”? No, it is not. The lower you get the more He can exalt you.
Thirdly, everything she did, she did at His feet. Fourthly, everything she needed to minister to Jesus she brought with her. She thought it was the ointment, but there was much more that this woman did to minister to Jesus than just with the ointment. Finally, everything this woman needed she found in Jesus. Whatever our need is today, Jesus is the one who can meet that need.
Notice what the woman did. There was a common practice in Bible days that when somebody came to their house there were several things they would do to honor them. The first thing they would do is to greet them with a kiss, like we greet each other with a welcoming handshake. The second thing they would do is to take a little bottle of inexpensive oil kept near the door, and rub a bit of it in their palm and then rub it upon the guest’s head. It was a picture of honor: “We are so honored to have you here.”
The third thing they would do is have a maid servant come in with a basin of water and a towel. She would kneel down and wash the guest’s feet. Why? Because in a few minutes they were going to sit down to eat. In those days they did not sit on a chair with their feet under the table. They sort of leaned to one side on an elbow or hand. In almost an oriental style, they would sit at a low table with their feet off to the side. Next to their head would be the next person’s feet and their body, and so on all the way around. People wore sandals or had bare feet. They had been walking on the dirty street, and so it was a common practice that the maid would wash their feet before a meal.
Jesus’ Parable to Simon
Jesus spoke a parable to His host Simon: “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell Me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, thou hast rightly judged.
“And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment.
“Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And He said unto her, thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:41-48).
Jesus said to Simon as He is giving the parable, “Simon, I came into your house; you gave Me no kiss. I came into your house; you gave Me no oil. I came into your house; you did not wash My feet.” If there is anything that describes much of Christianity and the experience many believers are going through, it is this: no water...no kiss...no oil. We have left the place of servanthood; we have left the place of adoration; we have left the place of worship.
Notice that the cycle of brokenness in this woman takes place at the feet of Jesus. She stands behind by the feet of Jesus, and as she stood there the Bible says, she was weeping. These tears from her face fell on the feet of Jesus. We can have brokenness without tears and we can have tears without brokenness, but in this case I believe as she stood behind Jesus, the greatest needs of her life were about to be met, and God reached down and squeezed her heart like a sponge. Those tears started streaming down. And Jesus did not cry, “Emotionalism!” as some would cry today. This is a picture of brokenness as she stands there and as God grips her heart. The tears start streaming down her face and on to the feet of Jesus.
Next is repentance. Each step in the cycle brought her lower. She went from the position of standing at the feet of Jesus in brokenness to where she begins to wash His feet. She had to leave the position of standing to at least kneel to reach His feet. In that position she took those tears and began to wash the feet of Jesus. It is a picture of repentance. Why? She took upon her the position of a maid servant. Remember how Paul, after he got saved, wanted to be known only as a bond servant, a bond slave to Jesus Christ. The prodigal, when he came back home, said, “Father, I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” This woman took the servant’s position to wash the feet of Jesus.
Brokenness led to repentance and repentance to forgiveness. She leaves the position of washing the feet to lower herself so her hair could reach His feet, and she “did wipe [His feet] with the hairs of her head.” Why is it a picture of forgiveness? First of all, because she was washing the filth of the streets of Jerusalem off the feet of the Son of God. But at the same time He was wiping the woman’s heart clean. “Thy sins are forgiven,” Jesus said to her.
This is the moment she was saved. Because of that repentance there was forgiveness that took place. Then what happened next was freedom! Here was a woman who was so conscious of the presence of Jesus that she is oblivious to the presence of others. Jesus said, “This woman…hath not ceased to kiss My feet.”
The Pharisees were sitting around judging in their minds and condemning her and feeling awkward and uncomfortable in her presence. Most of us would feel uncomfortable in that kind of adoration of Jesus. In the midst of this she is caught up in the adoration of Jesus the whole time He is talking. She is so free. She came in concerned with what these people were going to think, but all of a sudden she said, “It doesn’t matter; He is meeting the needs of my heart!” This leads to love. She left the position of taking her hair to wipe His feet and she begins to kiss the feet of Jesus. Jesus said the whole time He was talking she did not stop. What a love relationship to Jesus! Have you ever been that free in your heart with the One who gave His all for you? Are you that free right now? Do you love as you once loved? Do you adore as you once adored? Or is something gone?
Worship at the Feet of Jesus
The woman took that precious box of ointment of great value and put it on Jesus’ feet. It is a picture of worship. Here is a woman who thought, “I have nothing of value to offer to Him.” But the word “worship” comes from two words: worth – ship. It is demonstrating to Jesus His great value in our lives. She took the ointment and put it upon the feet of Jesus. Brokenness, repentance, forgiveness, freedom, love, worship – always leading back to a deeper level of brokenness.
This woman discovered what many of us have lost in our 20th century Christianity, and that is the realization that worship takes place at the feet of Jesus. We are more interested in co-occupying the throne than we are of bowing in His presence. This woman was caught up into the heavenlies with Jesus. Others were sitting around judging and criticizing and condemning her.
There are some of us who know we are not as tender as we once were. We are more conscious of what other people think than we are conscious of God. Would to God we could become so conscious of the presence of Jesus that we would be oblivious to the presence of others. What do we need to do? If we have agreed with God and acknowledged our need, then let us take steps of obedience regardless of what people think. Get to the feet of Jesus. Get back to the feet of Jesus!