“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17 RSV
The God of the Bible will not be carried away by external religious observances, routine rituals and even costly sacrifices. He seeks something that lies much deeper in a worshiper – a heart that is broken, crushed and contrite as it remembers its shortcomings and sins.
As people with sinful affinities, we tend to ignore our sins. We may seek to justify our ways and attitudes. A contrite heart is diametrically opposed to the proud, self-sufficient disposition of a sinful heart. A person with a contrite spirit will, in all humility, acknowledge the gravity of his sins before God. He is overcome by sorrow because of the realization that his actions have broken the heart of God.
For a season, every new Christian remembers the price that Jesus Christ paid on the cross to buy him forgiveness and eternal life. He appreciates the mercy that God showered on him while he was lost in sin. This vision of the cross rules the forecourt of his mind and he is led to worship God out of gratitude and love. The cross of Christ and the description of Christ’s sacrifice dominates his songs, worship and prayers.
Sadly, after a while, we tend to forget how grievous our sins were. Even when we draw closer to God in worship, we fail to revive the memory of our sinful past and the wonderful grace God showered on us. Thus, instead of continuing to maintain an attitude that’s becoming of a forgiven sinner, our hearts become callous, proud and ungrateful. Even in such a state, we get used to going through the motions of church life. We might continue to observe all our external actions of spirituality. In the place of humility and a broken, contrite spirit, we’ll feel happy about ourselves and all that we do for God. Our songs, prayers and meditations become more about what makes us happy. Our acts of service, sacrifice and ministry thus become detestable in the eyes of God.
One of the marks of a proud church is the talk about ‘religious rights’ – the rights of men, women, clergy or even of those engaged in acts detestable in God’s sight. Some clamor for ‘equal rights’ in ministry while others fight for the right to sin! We forget that it was God’s unmerited favor that admitted us into the Church. How true are David Wilkerson’s words! “The church used to confess its sin, now it confesses its right.”
In a Christian’s life, however ‘mature’ he might think he is, there should never be a time when he thinks he has outgrown the need to remind himself that he is a forgiven sinner who once broke God’s heart and incurred a heavy cost upon heaven for his redemption.
“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.”
– John Piper
The easiest way to return to a state of brokenness is to draw near to God and confess one’s sins, seeking forgiveness and grace. Let God’s light shine on your heart. In the light of His holiness, you will be able to see layers of accumulated sin. The more we confess, the more of our sins He’ll reveal. There’s no better way to brokenness than to see ourselves the way God sees us. “A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.“