The Contrite Heart

The convicted, broken, contrite heart that’s receptive to the will of God is a sweet offering sure to be blessed of God.  To offer our brokenness to God by way of a contrite spirit is showing sincere remorse, regret and/or sorrow for our daily sins or offenses. Literally meaning, “worn out, ground to pieces” the word contrite is ideally suited for the image of a heart broken open for a deeper work of forgiveness and sanctification to occur.

For those who are more pliable to the Spirit, a contrite attitude toward our brokenness and our desperate need for God is trustingly displayed. You may have heard about the sculptor who after finishing his work of art sees that there’s a crack in it. Knowing that it was imperfect, he decides to start over. He breaks the sculpture into pieces and then adds water. Once he does so, the sculpture became clay once more and he is able to re-create his work of art.  So it is with our lives…imperfect and flawed, needing to be broken and forgiven, we become whole once more by the gentle and loving hand of God the Master Artist.

For many, however, the genuine nature of a contrite heart meets internal resistance due to our pride and stubbornness. A contrite heart requires mourning over and regretting remorsefully our sinfulness and disobedience to God’s commands.  The essence of the gospel is that once admitting our arrogance and pride and submitting our lives into the hands of the Sculpture God, we are baptized as the water of His grace softens the hardened clay of our brittle hearts.  When we encounter defiance in our heart toward the need to become malleable to God, a spiritual wall is erected between God and our soul.

King David had a hard time coming to recognize his need for a broken, contrite heart after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, his sin of murder toward Uriah her husband, and his sin of lying to God and others about his multiple offenses (read 2 Samuel 11 for the detailed story). It wasn’t until he was confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Sam. 12) that he finally was convicted of his sinfulness, and was broken and contrite before the Lord.  Here was the shepherd boy turned king, leading the people of God, his army and officers, a musician and psalmist unlike any other, suffering from the struggle of running away from the most important response of all: repentance.

Psalm 51 is considered his tome on confession, forgiveness, and faithfulness – all ensuing as a result of his broken, contrite heart.  It’s the way we too must think and feel about our own sin, and our desperate need for God’s merciful touch of healing. He owns his sin and turns to God, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your compassion blot out my transgressions” (vs. 1). He prays for cleansing, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean” (vs. 7).  He pleads for renewal, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (vs. 10).  He delights in his restoration, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (vs. 12).

Psalm 51 proclaims the goodness of God and the righteousness of the people of God, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (vs. 17). Yes, a contrite heart is what pleases and honors God and brings about His favor (cf. Isaiah 61).  This is foundational to everything in life. Being a Christian means being broken and contrite – for this is the flavor of deep unending joy, peace, praise, and witness. Jonathan Edwards said it well, “All gracious affections that are a sweet aroma to Christ are brokenhearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love” (Religious Affections, p. 339). Will you open up yourself to God with a contrite heart today?

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