What Type of Person Does God Look Favorably At? #189 (+ What’s the Worst That Death Can Do To a Christian)

Hello everybody, and happy July 4th! So far our plans for the 4th have been dashed to pieces by the coronavirus, but we are still going to have a great family cookout, play some bean bag toss, and hopefully have a wonderful day. For the evening, we get to go to a neighbor’s house to socially distance watch some safe and sane fireworks. For our non-California listeners, safe and sane fireworks are not what you think of when you think of fireworks. Back in Alabama, we would launch mortars, guided missiles, bunker busters, tactical nuclear warheads, fuel-air bombs, depth charges, scuds and laser guided bombs, shaking the city with up to 10 megaton atomic blasts. In California, you can’t do that, because the state only gets about 1 millimeter of rain between May and November, and one tiny spark could basically set our whole state on fire. This means no chasers, no bottle rockets (or anything like that!) no firecrackers, no long sparklers, no mortars, no roman candles, and – at least according to the law, no torpedoes. I’m honestly pretty good with the torpedo law – I don’t recall ever shooting those off in Alabama, and I do feel like torpedoes probably shouldn’t be in the hands of civilians, though my city is 8 miles from the ocean, and I honestly doubt that any submarines or boats would be threatened by us shooting torpedoes. Our city has a group called neighbors against illegal fireworks, and I am pretty sure the ‘neighbors’ are actually the firefighters, but I am okay with that, as I support our brave fire-rescue men. Here is their awesome poster to help you celebrate safely: 

Anway, happy 4th. Don’t blow any fingers off! Today’s Bible reading will mark the second straight day that we’ve deviated from Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s reading plan, but we will be back on track by Monday. We’ll go ahead and read Joshua 7 today (and have one less chapter to read on Sunday), plus Psalms 135-136, Isaiah 66 (the last chapter!) and Matthew 14. Our focus passage is Isaiah 66, and it has this powerful statement in it:

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.

Isaiah 66:2

God looks with favor on those who are humble, contrite and tremble at His Word. Contrite is not a very common English words, so just FYI, to be contrite is to be sorrowful at one’s sins or shortcomings. This is the kind of person that God looks with favor on. Not the confident. Not the proud. Not those who believe they have it all together. Not those who never look back and have no regrets. Not those who are never shook by anything,  but the humble one, who grieves over his/her sin and those who tremble in genuine fear at the Word of God. Let’s read Isaiah 66 together and ponder this word from God.

Here are a few profound thoughts on having a contrite spirit:

Stoop if you would climb to heaven. Do we not say of Jesus, “He descended that He might ascend?” so must you. You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards; for the sweetest fellowship with heaven is to be had by humble souls, and by them alone. God will deny no blessing to a thoroughly humbled spirit. Humility makes us ready to be blessed by the God of all grace, and fits us to deal efficiently with our fellow-men. Whether it be prayer or praise, whether it be work or suffering, the genuine salt of humility cannot be used in excess.

C. H. Spurgeon, Daily Help (Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company, 1892), 253.

Gracious affections, as was observed before, flow out of a contrite heart, or (as the word signifies) a bruised heart, bruised and broken with godly sorrow; which makes the heart tender, as bruised flesh is tender, and easily hurt. Godly sorrow has much greater influence to make the heart tender, than mere legal sorrow from selfish principles.

Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections: In Three Parts … (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 168.

This is foundational to everything. Being a Christian means being broken and contrite. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you get beyond this in this life. It marks the life of God’s happy children till they die. We are broken and contrite all the way home—unless sin gets the proud upper hand. Being broken and contrite is not against joy and praise and witness. It’s the flavor of Christian joy and praise and witness

John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014).

Therefore, let everyone of you pray to God while he may be found, because the contrite, un-mule-like heart which prays is forgiven, protected, counseled, and made ever more glad in an intimate fellowship with the Lord.

John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).

The disciples are gathered together in seclusion. They are afraid of the Jews and are in danger of their lives; they are fearful and faint-hearted and afraid of sin and death. Had they been strong and courageous, they would not have thus crept into a corner; later, when the Holy Spirit came, strengthened and comforted them, they were made so courageous that they stepped forth and preached publicly without fear. This is written for us, that we might learn that the gospel of Christ’s resurrection comforts only the faint-hearted. They are the poor, conscience-stricken ones, whose sins lie heavily upon them, who feel faint at heart, are loth to die and are well-nigh startled by the sound of a rustling leaf. To these contrite, poor, and needy souls the gospel offers comfort, to them it is a sweet savor.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 141–142.

Though thou think that Christ will not come to such a one as thou, and though thou beg prayers of others, as thinking he will not hear thy own, thou little thinkest how this self-abasement and self-denial prepareth thee for his tenderest mercies, and his esteem. When thou art contrite (as the dust that is trodden under feet), and poor, and tremblest at the word, then will he look at thee with compassion and respect.

Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 16 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 83.

Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit …’ ”
There it is. There are two places where God’s power dwells: in the highest of highest heaven and in the heart of a humble person. Do you know why this is true? Because God’s salvation was achieved by humbling, and it’s received by humbling. What do I mean by achieved? Jesus. How does God’s salvation come into the world?
First of all, he was humbled at his birth. The Lord of the universe became a little baby who could only wiggle and need to be nursed and had to be changed. God had to be changed! If you trust and believe what the Bible says about the virgin birth, there was a time in which the Lord of the universe was a single cell. Utterly humbled.
Not only was he humbled in his birth, he was humbled in his life. As we said, Jesus did not come as a general, or a philosopher, or a political leader. Instead, he was a humble carpenter. He was a wandering preacher. He said, “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
But most of all, he was humbled at his death. He had no power at his death; he lost all power at his death. He lost all honor. He was crucified outside the gate. He didn’t come with a sword in his hand; he came with nails in his hands. And yet, look! He triumphed through defeat. He got ultimate power through giving all his power away. He became incredibly rich by becoming utterly poor. How so? Through the humbling came power. Real power.
What is probably the greatest power, the most inexorable power, the most unstoppable power in this world today? You’re probably thinking of a lot of things, but I’ll tell you what it is. It’s death; you can’t stop death. But Jesus did. Do you realize by humbling himself, becoming a cell, becoming a baby, becoming a servant, becoming a condemned criminal, tortured, smitten, killed … Because he did that in your place and my place and because he paid for the sins of the world, now when death comes upon you and pounces on you, do you know all it can do?
All it can do now is make you better. If you believe in Jesus Christ, when death comes upon you all it can do is make you happier than you were before. More glorious, more wonderful. That’s an utter defeat of death! How did he do it? Through humbling. How did salvation happen? Through humbling.
Therefore, how does heaven open into your life? How does salvation come into your life? How do the angels of God, how does the power and glory of God, come into your life? Only through humbling. That’s how salvation was achieved and that’s how it’s received. How so? First of all, heaven will not open to you unless you humble yourself before God and admit you’re a sinner.

Are you willing to admit you’re morally and spiritually bankrupt and even the good things you’ve done and do are there, to a great degree, to keep control of your life rather than having to give it over to God, to justify yourself, to feel good about yourself, feel better than other people? Have you looked into your heart far enough to see you’re a sinner? Have you humbled yourself before God? If not, heaven will not open to you. That’s what the message of Christmas is.
Secondly, you not only have to humble yourself before God, you actually have to humble yourself before other people. When Joseph heard from Mary that she was pregnant and when he believed her, he loved her and believed what she told him was the reason, he knew if he married her, he would kiss his reputation goodbye for the rest of his life. Or let me put it another way. The only way for Joseph to get Jesus into his life was to kiss his good reputation goodbye. Which, by the way, in a shame-and honor culture was really, really bad.
The fact of the matter is, if you want to identify with Jesus Christ, you may not become a laughing stock. You may not lose your reputation. You may not be passed over for a promotion. You may not be shunned by people. You may not. But if you want to identify with Jesus Christ, you have to be willing for all that to happen. If you’re not willing for that to happen, if you’re not willing to be humbled before other people, heaven will not open to you.

Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).

Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).


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