Lifting Up Your Empty Cup
By Dr. George Alquist, Jr.
“Have mercy upon me, 0 LORD, consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:
“That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.” -Ps. 9:1 3,14.
David was in a bad way: he was troubled and suffering at the hands of his enemies, even to the point of death. He called out to God to lift him up, to save him, to take him from the gates of death to the gates of Zion. He was seeking the mercy of God while he was lying at the “gates of death!”
David’s situation was one of physical need, yet these verses also speak of man’s spiritual situation.
I. Lying at the Gate
The practice of begging has been going on for a long time. I’m sure you’ve walked down the street many times and seen folks holding out a tin cup, begging for money. And they do their begging in a high-traffic area, a place where the most people will see them and help them.
The Gate Beautiful
“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
And all the people saw him walking and praising God:
And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.” -Acts 3:2-10.
The lame man, lying at the gate Beautiful because it is a place of high traffic, is there to ask for money from the passersby.
Let’s look at some of the other people who may be at this particular gate.
There is a dying man, hoping someone will have pity and mercy on him and give him money so he can get the medical attention he needs.
Close by is a man who is destitute; he has no money, so he sits there day after day, begging for alms.
We also find at the gate Beautiful a derelict who has lost his way. He has no direction, no guidance, no one to help him; and he lies at the gate, asking for alms.
There is a disabled man. He would work if he could, but he has been lame from birth, and his legs will not support his body. All he can do is beg for alms.
All of these people are lying at the gate, their bony, empty hands reaching out for mercy from passersby: “Won’t someone put a coin in my hand?” they beg.
Occasionally someone will toss a penny their way, but it is seldom out of mercy. Their “kindness” is most often out of guilt or to soothe their own conscience or, as is most often the case, to make themselves look generous and charitable in the eyes of others. But the beggars care not for the motive; they care only for the money.
The Gate Death
Lying at the gate of death is where Jesus finds us when we are in our sinful condition, when we are lost and without guidance or direction or hope. We lie there just as miserable and just as needy as those found with the lame man at the gate Beautiful.
When we are born into this world, we are placed at the gate of death. We lie there year after year-sometimes decade after decade-until one day we go through that gate. The Bible says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4); “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
The Gate Hell
Not only is there the gate of death" there is also the gate of Hell (Matt.16: 18). That is where death takes the sinner. He will spend eternity in the lake of fire with “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars” (Rev. 21:8).
From the moment of birth we are physically dying, but if we are not born again, we are also dying spiritually. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13).
We are like that dying man, destitute of all personal righteousness: “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).
Paul tells us in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
Without Jesus Christ, we are spiritually bankrupt and spiritually destitute; we have nothing to offer to God for His acceptance.
Are you fearful? Are you an unbeliever? Have you ever told a lie? Is the lake of fire your destiny? When you enter through the gate of death, will you then enter through the gate of Hell?
The Gate Disability
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” -Titus 3:5.
We are not able to work our way or to earn our way into Heaven. We are unable to lift ourselves or to help ourselves. The Bible says:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2: 8,9.
The Gate Dereliction
The word derelict means “to be without a captain.” Before we are saved, we are like a ship without a captain, a plane without a pilot, we are wandering and drifting and lost, our nature corrupt and without hope because we are lost at sea, for there is no one at the controls.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. – who can know it?"-Jer. 17:9.
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." -Rom. 7:18.
Being born into the human race, we are in an unsaved condition; we are without moral compass; we are without power to do right, we are without direction; we are aimless and hopeless. Outside of Christ, there we lie – pitiful, writhing wrecks of willful humanity.
Maybe you’ve never looked at yourself as a derelict, but that is how you are if you have not been born again. Oh, we gloss it over with our works for humanity, and we pride ourselves on our accomplishments and abilities, but under the light of the Bible we see our true selves.
II. LOOKING AT THE LAMB
"The next day John [the Baptist] seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." -John 1:29.
Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God, was sent to die for the sins of the world. What is it that places us at the gate of death and the gate of Hell? Our sinful nature. And Jesus came as the Lamb of God to die on the cross to pay for the very sins that placed us before these gates! He came to lift us up away from those gates; He came to save us and to release us from the gate of death and the gate of Hell.
But wait a minute! Before we are released from these gates, we must respond to the Sacrifice. And how do we do that? By looking to the Lamb.
John said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and he said that to bring our attention away from ourselves and to turn our eyes toward Jesus, because there is “the Lamb of God.” But how do we “behold the Lamb of God”? How do we turn our eyes upon Him and away from ourselves?
1. We must recognize our need. “Behold” means to look to Jesus, and in looking to Him, we must recognize our need.
The lame man recognized his need. He needed to eat and to clothe himself, but he knew that he had no ability within himself to acquire the things of which he had need; therefore, he asked of another.
As sinners by nature and by choice, the first thing we need to do is to recognize our need.
The man in Acts 16:30 knew he was lost, and he wanted to be saved. He recognized his need, and he came to the Apostle Paul and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
If you are not saved, the first thing you need to do is recognize that you have that same need.
2. We must repent of our own way. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).
You may have your own religion, your own ideas, your own way; but the Bible says that the way that seems right to you is the way of death! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” John 14:6).
If we are going to look to the Lamb, we have to recognize our own need, then repent (change our minds) because we cannot get to Heaven our way. We cannot get saved our way. We have to come in God’s way (on His terms), and His way is through Jesus, who is the only Way. He is the only One who was born of a virgin; He is the only One whose shed blood can avail for our sins; He is the only One who was buried and rose again; He is the only One who ascended into Heaven and will descend from Heaven of His own power. Jesus is the only One who can forgive sin.
A lot of folks think there are many different ways of getting to Heaven, but they are all the ways of death. The Bible says, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3); “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
This tells us very plainly that we have to turn from what we believe will get us to Heaven and believe what God’s Word says about the way to Heaven! We must change our minds, or our way will lead us straight to Hell!
3. We must receive His gift. We must reach out and take the free gift of salvation given by God’s merciful hand.
Look again at the man lying at the gate Beautiful. “He gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them” (Acts 3:5).
This man recognized that in order to have his needs met, he had to get what he needed from the hands of someone else. So he sat at the gate and held up his cup and received help from the hands of others; he was at the place where he could receive their gifts.
You must recognize your need of forgiveness for your sins; you must repent of your own ways and come to the Way, the Lord Jesus Christ, you must simply receive the free gift of eternal life.
John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
We are like the beggars sitting at the gate, and we need to receive what the Lord has for us- the free gift of eternal life.
What would happen if the lame man moved his cup just as someone was trying to drop coins into it? The coins would fall to the ground, he would miss the gift, and we would think him a fool.
What would happen if someone came to the lame man and said, “I will take you to a doctor who can heal you and make you well,” but he answered him, “Forget it”? He would remain in his afflicted condition, he would miss the gift, and we would think him a fool.
But this is what people do with Jesus’ gift. They are lying at the gate every day. When He passes by and offers them the free gift of eternal life and healing, they refuse it, and we think them fools.
But this lame man lying at the gate Beautiful was glad to receive the gift, and he was healed, and we think him not a fool.
Jesus offers you eternal life, forgiveness of your sins, Heaven as your home. You can’t earn it; you’re destitute. You can’t work for it; you’re disabled. You can’t find it; you’re derelict. And you are dead. What can dead men do? Nothing!
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. " – Eph. 2:8,9.
III. LIFTING UP YOUR EMPTY CUP
Did anyone expect the lame man to do anything for the money they would give him? No. He was a lame man of helplessness who needed the compassion and gifts of others. Those who gave him money didn’t say, “Sing me a song, and I’ll give you some money,” or “Let’s see you juggle some balls,” or “What can you do to earn this money?” or “Entertain me if you want my money.”
Passersby willingly and freely gave the lame man some coins, and he had to do nothing for them-except to lift up his empty cup and accept their gifts. And God doesn’t expect you to do anything for His gift-except to lift up your empty cup and accept it.
Is there anything we need to do after we receive His gift? Yes. Rejoice!
“And he [the lame man who had been made well] leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” -Acts 3:8.
If you are saved, then you ought to be “leaping, and praising God”! You were once lying at the gate – dying and disabled and destitute and derelict, without hope-but when Jesus passed by, He offered you eternal life, and you received it. When you stood up, did you also leap and praise God? You should have then, and you still should be “leaping, and praising God,” rejoicing in your salvation.
Every day ought to be a happy day for us. Yes, we have problems, trials and troubles, but we’re not lying at the gate anymore! Bless God, He gave us new legs on which to stand and run and leap.
Are you “leaping, and praising God” and rejoicing that today may be the day you get to go Home to see Jesus face-to-face? Or are you, after having received the gift of eternal life in Heaven, still lying down? Will your new, strong, agile legs cause you to leap; or will they begin to wither and become atrophied because of limited use?
When the lame man understood that his legs were healed, he walked and leaped and praised God. And our lives as Christians continually ought to reflect that same enthusiasm and joy.
IV. LONGING FOR THE KINGDOM
"Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. " -II Pet. 3:12,13.
The Bible says we-the ones who were lying at the gate of Hell -ought to long for the kingdom.
We stand in Christ outside the gates of the Golden City. One day the trumpet will sound, the voice of the archangel will shout, and it will be entering-in day. We who were lying at the gate are now standing at the gate, waiting to enter.
We were once a pitiful sight, sickly and lying at the gate of death. But Jesus didn’t pass by; He stopped and gave us life eternal.
The Bible says, “…and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” (Eph. 6:13,14). Christians are to stand, not lie; but how do we stand?
First, we must stand saved. Romans 5:9-11 says:
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”
Outside the kingdom waiting for the entering-in day, we stand as saved. Saved! Saved from the wrath to come! Saved from the gate of Hell! Saved from the gate of death!
Second, we must stand safe. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”
If you have your trust in man – whether a priest, a pope, a rabbi or a preacher-you are not saved. If you put your faith in your own abilities, your personality, your works, you will die and go to Hell. Your trust must be only in the Lord; for the only safe place, the only sure place, is with the Lord. The Bible says that we are safe only when we put our trust in Him.
The Bible says that God is "a strong tower from the enemy" (Ps. 61:3), and they that run in are safe. Satan, as a roaring lion, can chase us all over the field, trying to devour us; but within the Strong Tower is safety. Just like Noah was safe in the ark, we are safe in Jesus.
Third, we must stand secure. It is one thing to run inside a strong tower for safety, but it is another thing to be secure inside that tower, knowing that nothing can get inside to harm you.
Second Timothy 1:12 says, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
He is saying, “I am persuaded, I know without a doubt, I am confident I am one hundred percent sure that Jesus Christ is able to keep me safe and secure until the day I go to be with Him!”
He committed his soul to Him and knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was able to keep him.
Aren’t you glad that no enemy can overcome the strong arm of God?
It rained for forty days and nights after Noah got in the ark, the depths were broken up, the water came down and began to rise up-but Noah was safe inside the strong tower of Jesus. And as he rode above the wrath of God, safe and secure, the waves could not overcome him, lightning nor thunder could not overcome Him, because he was secure inside with Jesus.
Paul tells us in Romans 8:38 and 39:
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hear how Paul began: “I am persuaded….” Friends, we need to get persuaded that we stand saved and safe and secure.
Fourth, we must stand serving. “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24).
It would have done the beggar no good to have had his legs healed if he had remained lying on the ground; his healing was only beneficial when he stood.
But he was healed, and he could run and leap and work and play. I imagine that this man sat very little throughout the rest of his life. Every day he probably said, “I’ve got these new legs! Whew! I can do something!” Every day was a new day of joy!
My friend, we have a new life in Christ, and we must do everything we can with it. We should say every morning when we wake, “Bless God, I’m saved! Bless God, I’m secure! What can I do for Him today?”
God the Father considered our trouble and had mercy on us. He sent His Son to die for our sins, and in doing so we have been lifted up from the gate of death and the gate of Hell. Now we are standing at the gate of the kingdom, and we’re standing saved and safe and secure.
We are to do exactly what David did. He said, “I’ve been lifted up; I’ve been saved. God saw my trouble and He delivered me, and I’m going to bring forth His praises in the gate of Zion! I’ve been given a new place, and I’m going to make sure that God gets all the praise!”
And we are to rejoice in His salvation. We are ever to be rejoicing that we are no longer lying at the gate of death or the gate of Hell. Rejoice that you are standing at the gate of Heaven – Zion’s gate, the gate of Glory! Rejoice that you are standing saved and safe and secure. And by the grace of God, stand serving.