The Captive Heart- Psalm 34:18, Luke 15:7, Matthew 5:3-6

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart
Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine which need no repentance
Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness
Previously we spoke of how Jesus came to rescue the lost and the broken, and so long as we maintain that we’re “just fine,” there is very little that he can do for us. The Psalmist also recognized that the ones that the Lord is nearest to are not the perfect and seemingly well-put-together, but rather those with broken hearts and contrite spirits.
Indeed, Jesus goes so far as to say that there is greater joy in heaven for the lost soul that is saved, than for ninety-nine saved souls that were retained. He also specifically calls out blessings on the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, and the hungry.
The gospel takes the things that are paradoxes and contradictions in normal life, and makes them possible. And in the gospel, it is blessed to be broken.

The Captive Heart- Mark 2:17

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

COMMENTARY

They that are whole have no need of the physician
When Jesus told Peter “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8), he was repeating a message that he had already shared before. Those who are whole do not need the doctor, those that are perfect do not require repentance, those that are clean do not need to be washed. But if you are not broken, or if you are not dirty, or if you are not sick…then you have nothing to do with Jesus, for that is who he came for.
I have recognized in myself the desire to not be a bother to my Savior. I yearn to be totally perfect so that he doesn’t have to be burdened by the weight of my soul. I think it is a good thing he suffered and died for the world…but I don’t want the guilt of knowing that he suffered and died for me.
And so I say to him the same thing that we say to each other any time our emotional wounds come up. “I’m fine, I’m totally fine. I’ve had some rough stuff in the past, but,” shrug “it weren’t nothing.” We are too afraid to admit that we have been hurt and hurt deeply. Afraid to show that we are broken. Afraid to admit that we are not okay.
We’re fine, we’re totally fine. And so long as that is our claim, Jesus sighs, smiles sadly, and says “thou hast no part with me.”

The Captive Heart- John 13:6-8

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

COMMENTARY

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
I always wanted a teacher and a mentor in Jesus, someone who was could come and show me how to do things right, someone that would motivate me to overcome my flaws. But I always struggled to receive kindness from others, even from my Savior. Kindness is healing, and healing hurts.
I have heard it best described as an intense light that scorches and burns away festers and barnacles. My shame and my wounds run their roots deep into me, and I feel it when they are pried off. It is painful…but it is a good and healing pain.
For though it is hard to take the scrubbing, I always feel so clean and refreshed afterwards. My Savior does not only purge out the refuse, he also applies balms and oils, binds up the wounds carefully, places pillows under my head and feet, and dresses me in new, comfortable robes.
With strength and decisiveness he purifies me, but then with utmost love he cares for me.

The Captive Heart- Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

COMMENTARY

He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted
To preach deliverance to the captives
Recovering of sight to the blind
Set at liberty them that are bruised

After fasting for forty days Jesus officially began his mortal ministry He did so by formally announcing who he was, the Son of God, and clearly laying out exactly what he was here to do. In this moment he was essentially giving his divine mission statement to the world. And in all of the stated objectives that he gave there was a common theme of healing the people who are hurt.
But he didn’t just want to do good., Jesus further specified that he was anointed and sent of God. Thus his desire was united with power. He can help us, and he wants to. There remains only one other variable then, and it is the one that is determined by us: will we let him help us?

The Captive Heart- Question

The end of my last study was very impactful to me. It brought up the point of how we so often choose the very things that hurt us the most, and how God must intervene to save us from our own selves.

But to be sure, each of us are also victims to the onslaughts of others. Indeed most of our own acts of self-harm have their roots in the way others cut our confidence out from under us. We were made to question our worth, and that wasn’t right. So God must also intervene to save us from others.

Yet is it any wonder that others have learned to be cruel, given how harsh and uncompromising this world can be? Sometimes it is neither ourselves nor another that causes offense, it is the misfortune of nature, of chance, of having a physical body and a frail mind, of being subject to disease, deterioration, and death. So God must also intervene to save us from the mortal world.

And He does so. With this study I would like to examine how we are assaulted, and how we find reclamation in the gospel. In the meantime I would invite you to consider in what ways you have been hurt by yourself, by others, and by the world? How are you hurting right at this moment? In what ways is God trying to rescue you? Are there ways in which you are blocking Him? What are the reasons why?

Who Am I?- Summary

This study felt like it had two distinct halves. The first was captured in the title: Who am I? The other was: And what does that have to do with God? An unanticipated follow-up question that came up for me was: Does being God’s creation compromise by individuality?
One dynamic from my life is that I am the fourth of nine children. And many times I really felt just like that: the fourth of nine. I wasn’t sure what my personal identity was, separate from the mass. As a result, my pattern for life has not been to choose an identity for myself, but to let identities choose me. And that has led to some unfortunate results.
It is not unusual to yearn to understand oneself better, I would say it is a fundamental need that we all feel. After concluding this study, I am convinced that that need cannot be satisfied without God. Let’s examine why.

We Want There to Be an Us

There is inherent in each of us a desire to be a real person. That might seem a strange thing to say, obviously we’re all real people, aren’t we? But yet we all have experiences where we feel that we are non-persons. We feel overlooked, or lumped in as just part of a larger conglomerate, or not worth personal consideration. In times like these we receive a message that we might occupy a space, but we are not a seen, validated identity.
Being a person is essential to being a person. We cannot abide the contradiction of feeling that we aren’t what we obviously are. We feel hurt when a sense of non-personness arises in us because it is contrary to our very nature. Just as the pain in our hand teaches that touching the hot stove is wrong, the pain in our heart teaches that accepting the role of “nobody” is wrong as well.
And this is healthy and natural. When we were formed, we were designed to have this need for the self. It is neither a mistake nor a selfishness to demand that we are full individuals, that we are distinct and totally real persons, that we are our very own soul. This sense exists in us because He is a very real person, and He made us in His image.
Genesis 1:27- So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Luke 4:13- And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

We Get Lost Looking For Us

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all: no one is so lost as when searching for themself. Unfortunately we most often respond to those moments of doubting ourselves by trying to build up artificial identities instead. We try to win the attention of those that overlooked us, which most often leads to either radical conformity or radical defiance. Whether they see us because they love us or see us because they hate us, we intend to make them see us.
Of course playing for the attention of the very ones who ignored us is a losing game. The fact that we try to prove our somethingness instead proves how deeply we feel our sense of nothingness. The more we try to pour into these facades, the less real us we have to work with.
In the end the only point we prove is our sense of having no worth. We would rather be something bad than to not be anything at all. But the lie is in believing that those are our only two options.
Luke 15:18-19- Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Exodus 3:11- And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

God Rescues Us From Ourselves

But because we have claimed these identities as our own, we often find it difficult when we hear that God refutes them. To be sure, the statement that “God loves me just the way that I am” is 100% true. But that doesn’t mean He wants me to stay just the way that I am. He isn’t that cruel.
God does not come to save me because He despised who I was. He comes because I despised myself, and He wants to prove to me that I am still worthy of love. I hated myself, and He came to help me see that what I thought was myself was not myself. What I hated was but a shroud, while my actual self has been preserved just the way it should be.
He invites me to let go of the artificial identities that gave me no pleasure. He says that it is time to stop letting these identities choose me, to let Him choose for me instead. He tells me that in His family I am neither four of nine, nor one of billions. I am just me. The only one of me that He has. And He proceeds to teach me to myself.
It goes against the grain to admit it, but there is no real me without God. It takes humility to say that I do not define myself, that He does. It hurts my pride to confess my nothingness. But as I do, I finally find my somethingness.
John 15:16- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.
Luke 15:24- For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

Genesis 17:5- Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham.

Who Am I?- Luke 4:3, 13; Matthew 16:13-14; Mark 6:3; Matthew 26:63, 65; John 18:33

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

COMMENTARY

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God…
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

In the account of Jesus’s temptations in the desert, twice the nature of his divine identity is brought under attack. Satan tries to stir doubt that Jesus really is who he is, and goads him into proving hos holy sonship.
It is an ingenious ploy, for to rise to the challenge and prove that he really was the son of God, would be for Jesus to reveal that he actually had an insecurity about it. If you really know that you are who you are, you don’t need to prove it to anyone.
Jesus resists the temptations, and finishes the encounter safe and secure. Surely, though, this was not the end of the his and the devil’s duel. Indeed, the entire exchange finishes with the telling phrase “he departed from him…for a season.”

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Is not this the carpenter?
Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God….He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?
Art thou the King of the Jews?

In fact, a review of the gospels readily proves that the assault on Jesus’s identity was far from over. Many times the claims of his divine sonship was challenged, questioned, and rejected.
People tried to tell him that he was a carpenter, a devil, a blasphemer, a prisoner. Even those that probably meant well mislabeled him as John the Baptist, or some other prophet. At one time Jesus remarked that even his own disciples did not know who he really was (John 14:9).
Satan knew that Jesus’s entire mission could be broken if he could get the Savior to question who he really was. If he could make Jesus unsure, even once, he would be defeated.
But Jesus was sure.

Who Am I?- Luke 15:11-13, 17-22, 24

A certain man had two sons:
And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
And when he came to himself, he said, I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

COMMENTARY

Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me
The son took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living

I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son
Previously we considered how the disciples had already carved out identities for themselves before Jesus gave them a new role to fill. In the parable of the Prodigal Son we meet another who tried to carve out an identity for himself, this time to devastating results.
For the Prodigal Son was born with an initial identity, but he rejected it in favor of his inheritance. He did not care to be his father’s son, he would rather be a spender and an enjoyer. But he found that we was unable to sustain that role, and when it was gone he was left to instead play the part of hungry and ashamed.
After suffering for a time, he had a glimmer of hope, and chose yet another identity for himself: not a son to his father, but a servant. Thus he went from a son to a rioter to a starver to a servant.

But the father said, this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found
And this is why God disrupts us in our lives and gives us identities that we did not ask for. Because the ones that we give to ourselves aren’t very good!
We might assume that when we are left to our own devices we will give ourselves the identity of hard-worker, or accomplished man, or beautiful woman, or great friend. But when left to our own devices that is never how things actually play out. Instead we end up putting ourselves in the roles of sinner, ashamed soul, and self-doubter. When we try to define ourselves, we define ourselves as bad.
But when we go to our Father, He meets us on the road, takes away the toxic role that we have chosen, and gives us the identity of Son or Daughter instead.

Who Am I?- Matthew 4:21, John 15:16

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

James, and John his brother, in a ship , mending their nets; and he called them
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Yesterday we considered how Moses was not a prophet when God called him to be a prophet. Now that might seem stupidly obvious, but it is actually a very important lesson for our own journey of self-identity and it is a pattern that was later repeated when Jesus called his disciples.
They were not disciples originally. They were fishermen and tax collectors, individuals that had already carved out a definition for themselves and had their own lives, which he came along to disrupt. And Jesus didn’t limit the surprise callings to his lifetime, either. After his death and resurrection he came to Saul, who had defined himself as being against the church, and called him to be a disciple instead. It frankly didn’t matter who the disciples were, only who they were to be.
And sometimes they didn’t measure up to the identity he gave them, but still he gave it to them, and did so repeatedly. Whether they were ready for it or not, whether they would perform it well or poorly, whether they even wanted the identity or not…they were all still called, named, and given who to be.

Who Am I?- Exodus 3:10-11

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

COMMENTARY

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
When God extended His calling to Moses, Moses showed surprise. “Who am I, that I should go?” he asked, believing that he wasn’t the right person for the job. His doubt is understandable, because who Moses was at that time was not the person that God was calling him to be. But then, who exactly Moses was had been a very fluid concept his whole life long.
Moses had been born a Hebrew slave. But that was not who he was meant to be. He was liberated from that position and instead given the role of an Egyptian prince. But that was not who he was meant to be either. Moses rejected the identity he had been given, and finally chose one for himself, that of a shepherd in the desert.
But that was not who he was meant to be either. In the end, Moses’s identity was not to be defined by the situation of his birth, or the titles others tried to put on him, or by the vocation he, himself had chosen. In the end, his identity was to be the one that God alone gave to him.