Brokenness and Right Believing (Part 1)

This blog is about brokenness and right believing. Salvation is the experience of a moment that continues to work out in the process. I respectfully invite those who hold an opposing theological position to continue reading. I don’t have all the answers, and I am by no means an avid Bible scholar, but I’ve observed and learned a lot about human nature during my 45 years of pastoring. Brokenness have been a part of many people’s lives.

Second, count me among the evangelicals who insist the altar is our starting point. Sinful, lost people need to encounter the life-changing, delivering power of Jesus Christ. They need to be born again. Jesus told his late visitor and a leader of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7). This is where it all begins. Life begins at the altar, whether at an undisclosed area in Jerusalem, at the front of a church, or beside a tree stump in the woods. Altars come in all locations, sizes, and shapes! God invites us to bring all our needs to the altar. At the altar, we die to sin. It is the place of death. Salvation happens whenever hearts confess and repent. ”If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

I’m thankful I grew up in a tradition that included regular altar calls, usually after the preaching of God’s Word, inviting the lost to come to Christ. However, I’m also grateful for the many testimonies that involve people coming to Christ while at home, in the privacy of their bedroom, on the job, or wherever. The Spirit’s work is not restricted to church! The overriding need is that individuals experience the grace of God through the blood of Jesus. “In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

One day, while reading and studying the Scriptures, it occurred to me that much of my adult life had been spent unlearning the Scriptures, unnecessary church traditions, or legalistic hang-ups, taught to me in my youth! It’s true. However, I for one minute do not accuse anyone (and their brokenness) of purposely trying to mislead me as a young believer. I appreciate the pastors and other believers who did their best to teach and lead me. They ministered to God’s Word according to the light and understanding they had at the time. And all of them, I believe, possessed a pure heart.

However, this reality reminds me that until we get healed from our brokenness and of our personal soul wounds, we may very well teach and preach out of any unresolved personal issues. Anger, brokenness, pain, or whatever the soulish manifestation, make for terrible filters when we communicate the gospel, or even interact with people one-on-one. I’ve been guilty in my own ministry of preaching through an anger filter or expressing personal convictions as God’s revealed truth for everyone. I followed a long-term ministry in one of my pastorates, where the man carried an unresolved anger issue. He left not only an anger-driven pulpit, but many in the church were angry, too. I know because they took their anger out on me! You see, unchecked, unrelenting anger is a spirit that can be transferred.

I marvel that God chose to use imperfect vessels to present his perfect Word! May God help us to “rightly divide the word” in a pure manner, free from offense, anger, or any other unhealthy means. I love what 2 Timothy 2:15 says in the New Living Translation: “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

The apostle James understood the importance of correct teaching and thinned the ranks when he wrote, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (3:1). It’s an awesome task to teach and preach God’s Word, one that carries great responsibility. However, the rewards are wonderful. Having said this, I’m reminded of the many Sunday School teachers we placed in church classrooms to fill positions instead of those who possessed recognizable calls to teach. We, who handle the Word, must make sure we present an accurate expression of God’s mind as it pertains to a given text. Only His “engrafted word saves souls.” James 1:21 says, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”  When preached under the anointing, the Word of God convicts of sin and reveals the beauty of Jesus.

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