♣ The Essence of a Broken Spirit

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

HOW MANY OF us really consider the nature of a fragmented spirit and a penitent heart? More over, can we go beyond mere definition to an actual realisation of it in our own experience? Brokenness is not a casual, well ordered and clinical state of mind; our flesh hates it and ‘self’ will do anything to avoid such a condition. Naturally (according to the flesh), all of us feel secure by a sense of self-sufficiency and independence which is in essence a proud spirit. We haven’t always to be overtly conceited to be culpable of such; pride is ingenious at masquerading itself, and often takes the grace and mercy of God to expose and uproot it. No wonder King David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

God does not derive pleasure from inflicting pain, neither does He desire our perpetual mourning or misery. He is not an ogre as some people fearfully think, but He will not tolerate sin, although merciful toward the sinner. He certainly does require our repentance; He calls us to grieve over our sin, and there is an absoluteness in calling us to turn away from pretence, instability (divided in heart) and shallowness. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8-10). Despite the author writing to believers, many are turned off by the flavour of this passage that counters our narcissistic society; it has to be wholeheartedly received as New Testament Scripture – the very Word of God. But how many dare preach on this today? Of course it’s too negative for the majority of our current day; it would be ridiculous for any pastor to expound on this – if he wants to keep a full house that is; no-one would be in their ‘right mind’ to come and listen to him anyway if it were announced beforehand. Yet, spiritually many need to hear this. Much of what is classed as nourishment in the churches today is no more than a spiritual Atkins diet – all protein and no carbohydrates; all optimistic and nothing ‘pessimistic’ (anything that is realistically and truthfully sobering). There’s no balance; all we pine for is ‘happy meals’ – the kind of messages that make us feel we’re important, that somehow God owes us something – but never the kind that calls for clean up before God. We can deny it all we want, but what our appetite craves for says so much about ourselves.

Do we really believe that God opposes the proud? Or do we think we are exempt from a proud spirit when feeling we’re humble enough to come before God? “A broken spirit and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Broken in spirit is to be bankrupt in spirit, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling” Are we mindful of how good we’ve been, that just somehow we feel we have the right to come waltzing into the presence of God because we stopped practising certain sins, or that we have sacrificed our time to be with Him? Throughout all of our days and throughout all of eternity, the fact will never cease that only because of the atonement of Christ are we are fit to stand in the presence of God. It is of no small aspect that one of the great hymns of ascriptions resonating throughout the unending ages of eternity will be ‘Worthy is the Lamb’. I hear so many say they’ll be getting their crowns when they get to heaven. I wonder how many of us know what kind of a crown that will be – because we will all wear the same royal apparel, some ‘may’ have more jewels in their crowns than others (a mystery and depth too profound for us to doctrinally emphasize), but one thing for sure – we will all be wearing a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). James speaks of the crown of life (James 1:12); Peter speaks of a crown of glory, but they all speak of the language of God’s grace bestowed upon us. It will not be the crown of our righteousness, but that of Christ making us perfect in holiness as He is – fully conformed to His image; it will be His glory crowning us and His life crowning us. We will never feel worthy of ourselves to wear such honour but will accompany those who cast their crowns before God – “Worthy are You, our Lord God, to receive glory and honour and power” (Revelation 4:10-11), as with the Lamb of God, “Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12-13). John wept loudly because none initially was found worthy in heaven or the earth or under the earth to open the scroll and look into it, but – “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:4-5). ‘For our crown’?? Really?! Since when did any of us feel worthy to have such a thing attributed to us? We’re accustomed to hearing so often when addressing God, “in wrath remember mercy”; there is a tendency today to exploit the mercy, love and grace of God that we forget what He has rescued us from, but what about addressing ourselves the other way round to stamp out our over-familiarity: “In mercy remember wrath.” Has our informality made us forgetful of Who God really is in all of His other attributes? Do we love much because we have been forgiven so much? And I don’t mean the words that can often sound so casually trite, “Ah, yes, God forgives…wonderful, let’s have a cup of tea”, but rather being beside ourselves knowing that we deserved nothing, absolutely nothing but His wrath. God’s love is a holy love as Oswald Chambers said, “The background of God’s love is holiness.” Or as William Rees penned in his famous hymn, ‘Here Is Love’ “…heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.” This is the greatness of God’s love, Who would have been perfectly just to treat us as vessels of His wrath, but here is the wonder and grandness of God’s love – this is what magnifies the love of God in the light of all this – that having deserved all that God should have given us, instead He demonstrated His righteousness in being just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in the Son of God who suffered in our stead (Romans 3:21-26).

“God be merciful to me a sinner” is the cry of our heart when it descends ‘rock bottom’, that indeed we cannot even lift up our eyes to heaven for being conscious of our unworthiness. Is it wrong to feel that as even as Christians? There is something seriously wrong with our foundations if we are without a sense of our own vileness and unworthiness as Christians. On the other hand, it is a positive indication of spiritual life and health to discover with greater brevity the depravity of our sinful nature years after having been regenerate. Should it be any wonder why we, as Christians, need to frequently have the Gospel recapitulated, after having a natural inward tendency to revert back to works salvation?

God does allow our falling and failing to demonstrate how helpless we are in and of ourselves; the grace of God works mightily, works at its best, bringing Him glory when we distrust ourselves, thereby leaning wholly upon the God of all-sufficient grace. Spiritual progress is not so much made in giving up sins per se – that only promotes self-righteousness – as in understanding (and experiencing) the power of the gospel in liberating one from the captivity of sin. We have not encountered the grace of God unless we know it abounding above and beyond where sin has reigned, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”(Romans 6:20).

The Psalmist said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). That is the outcome of a broken man – not a sulking mood of being hard-done-by, but a repentant man whose spirit of self-sufficiency was broken; the essence of saying, “I can manage without God.” “It is good for me that I was afflicted” is a manifestation of God’s effective work of grace that carries the same inference as Hebrews 12:11: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. It is the peaceful fruit of righteousness that enables us to say, “It was good that I was afflicted.” As we look back in retrospect, a thankfulness arises with a knowledge that had God not mercifully intervened in our foolishness and obstinacy, we dread to think what may have become of us, and only eternity will reveal the measure of God’s continual salvation; we have been saved, we are being saved and we shall be saved. Sometimes the deepest care of God is overshadowed by His blows that cause our pain, “Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face” (William Cowper) that only ripens us for the goodness He has laid up for us. God does indeed oppose the proud, the conceited, the self-satisfied and the self-important that sense no need of God (apart from when it’s convenient for their own ends). Affliction is the discipline of God that drives folly out of our hearts – and thank God for it!

“You delight in truth in the inward being”, David declared in Psalm 51. God loathes hypocrisy and loves honesty. A broken spirit and a contrite heart has no falseness about it; it is a downright honesty – and humility – in the presence of God where one is conscious of being a recipient of His grace, where He lifts up our heads (Psalm 3:3). He wants us soberly minded (not gloomily minded, but alert, sharp and spiritually intact), not to torment us, but to deliver us from living a lie to realising His liberating truth, and it is in that state of utter dependence on God that the alabaster jar is broken, releasing a God-pleasing aroma of worship in spirit and in truth.

Posted on June 12, 2012, in ♣ Devotional and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. absolutely brillant. this one is one i determined to read again every few days. very convicting and i appreciate that. thanks.
    just me, heidi

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