What is a broken and contrite heart? How can we obtain such a heart? Only that kind of heart is acceptable to God.
This post is part of my book launch, God’s Triumphant Mercy: A Reflection of Psalm 51
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
True worship is heart worship. It’s not found in following certain rituals and regulations, no matter how good they may appear. Even with the Christian faith, it’s not about doing the “right” things, as though we think we could do them apart from Christ, it’s about having the right heart. It’s only when we have the right heart that we can do the right things, “for from it [the heart] flow the springs of life” (Pr. 4:23).
Jesus told us this story: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing afar off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Jesus concluded: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).
The Pharisee had all the “right” externals, but not “a broken and contrite heart.” The tax collector had such a heart. What was the main difference between their hearts? The Pharisee boasted in himself, while the tax collector had no pretensions. The Pharisee looked down on others, while the tax collector could not look any lower. The Pharisee had a sense of entitlement, while the tax collector had no such sense. He deeply felt his utter need for God’s mercy.
What about us? Do we boast in ourselves and look down on others? Do we have a sense of entitlement, especially when we think we’ve done all the right things or hold to the right doctrines? Do we believe we deserve God’s blessing? Even good things can swell our hearts with pride.
A “broken and contrite heart” doesn’t boast in itself or look down on others as though we’re better. Such a heart has only one realization: I need God’s boundless mercy. The idea of deserving and entitlement are completely foreign, not only in one’s theology, but also in one’s emotional makeup. That’s why God will never despise such a heart. Indeed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
Heavenly Father, create in me a broken and contrite heart.
The Devotional Writer
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