A contrite spirit

Forty years ago – as fairly new Christian – I found that I was becoming uncomfortable with things I was doing and saying – perceptions, emotional reactions, attitudes and actions.

I would later realise that it was the Spirit of God working in my heart, causing my discomfort, enabling me to see what I’d been doing and saying by a different standard – by God’s standard.

If only someone had explained to me back then that what I was experiencing was the best possible thing that could be happening to me! It was the evidence that God was at work in my life.

There had to be justice

By this time I had understood the Christian Gospel. I knew that  the searing holiness and perfect justice of God could never be reconciled to our sin – there had to be justice! Even at a human level we should be able to understand this. Society demands justice where there has been injustice!

I also knew that the vast love of God was willing to pay the price of that justice through Jesus, The Son Of God, coming down to earth, specifically to die – in order to atone for human sin. It was the blood of the crucified Saviour shed upon a cross at Calvary that was able to reconcile to God’s exquisite holiness and perfect justice  with His immense love and astounding mercy.

The old Christians used to talk about sin being “under the blood“.  My sinful thoughts, words, attitudes actions were atoned for by the blood of Jesus. All I had to do was to come to God with a contrite heart and ask for His forgiveness. This is called repentance.

Emptied of self

The great Bible commentator, Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714), explained that the prayers that God hears are the prayers of those who are contrite “that is, humbled for sin, and empty of self. They are very low in their own eyes and have not confidence in their own merit and sufficiency, but in God only.

Contrite! Humbled for sin! Emptied of self! We don’t hear that very often these days do we? In an effort to offend no-one – to be socially acceptable – churches are  becoming less and less inclined to properly explain about sin. Sin is perhaps mentioned in passing – and there can be confession as part of the church service.  But all too often, sadly, there is little explanation from the pulpit of just what sin is  – and what it cost God to bring together his holiness and his mercy in order to forgive sin.

Never be content with a mere intellectual knowledge that Jesus died for your sins. This is why the lady on the market stall refused my Christian leaflets all those years ago. She was so right – these ‘soundbites’ are a dangerous way to present the Christian Gospel. Too often nowadays people are pronounced “saved” – when have simply said the correct words – yet have never truly experienced real sorrow for what their sin did to Jesus. They have never experienced a truly contrite spirit.

Such people struggle for years – getting by on a head-knowledge of God – never experiencing the supernatural revelation of God. The ‘eyes of their heart’ never being opened’,  they are “ever hearing, but never understanding – ever seeing but never perceiving.” Decades can go by yet they never become spiritually mature.

They pray ‘shopping list prayers’ – more interested in what God can do for them – than excited by who He is and what He is like.

shopping list prayers

The prayers that God hears are the prayers of those who are contrite! When the world is dark and frightening we need to be sure that we are in the right place – forgiven, blessed, under the protection of God. True, heartfelt repentance is critical for our eternal safety.

He alone can do it

So how do we get that contrite spirit? This is absolutely not something we can manufacture for ourselves. It’s a work of God and He alone can do it. When sin is properly explained – and why Jesus shed his blood on a cross in order to make forgiveness possible – then the power of God accompanies the explanation. This is the divine power that convinces the heart, brings sorrow for sin and creates a contrite spirit within us.

We can pray for  that contrite spirit. That is a powerful prayer – and one that God delights to answer! That contrite spirit is the gateway to a transformed life – to forgiveness – to a powerful enlightening of the understanding – and to a real, tangible relationship with Jesus.

A Prayer

Heavenly Father, please do for me what you alone can do. Reveal yourself and your searing holines to my heart and create in me a contrite spirit. Amen

A prayer of repentance

Dear God, I want to know you, glorify you and enjoy you now and forever. But I have done wrong in your sight. I recognise my sin(s) (you can name specific sin(s) here if you want to). I know that it is you personally that I have wronged. You are right to condemn my sin and you are justified when you judge it.

So this is my sacrifice to you –  a broken spirit and a contrite heart.  I know that you will not despise my sacrifice, O God, so do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Jesus, because of your unfailing love and great compassion, have mercy on me and forgive my sins. Wash them away, I pray, because of your blood, shed on the cross. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity, because of your atoning sacrifice for me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant to me a willingness to be sustained and changed by you so that I am made more and more in your likeness.

Holy Spirit please do for me what you alone can do. Continue to reveal my sins to me and give me an increasingly contrite spirit.  Create within me a pure heart, and a faithful, trusting nature. Amen

(Loosely based on psalm 51)

That contrite spirit inevitably produces a heart filled with love for Jesus – love, not just for what He has done for us – but for for who He is – for what He is like. As God gives us a heart-knowledge of himself He becomes more and more glorious to us.

The extent of the heart-knowledge of God is dependent upon an increasing freedom from self-interest