by Mike Ratliff
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (Psalms 34:1-22)
What is a contrite heart? The word contrite is not used much anymore. The dictionary definition for contrite is grieving and penitent for sin or shortcoming. Grieving has the same meaning as mourning. Therefore, a contrite heart is one that mourns. Is that all? What does penitent mean? Its dictionary meaning is feeling or expressing humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sins or offenses. A contrite heart appears to be one that mourns and regrets sin. Does this mean a contrite heart regrets sin and feels bad about it? That is part of it. Actually, the key to understanding what contrite means is found in its synonym, penitent. That word does mean having the humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sin, but it is also the root word for repentance.
A contrite heart is one which acknowledges to God that sin has happened, there is no excuse, humbly asks God for forgiveness and grace so repentance can take place. The believer with a contrite heart is continually humbling self before God and walking in Repentance with Joy. The contrite heart does not just become contrite every now and then so sin can be taken care of correctly. The Spirit-led believer has a contrite heart all the time. This believer walks before the Lord with a penitent attitude. God is graciously drawing the believer into all of this.
The Spirit-led know they are blessed and are where they are simply because of God’s grace. They understand God circumcised their hearts and drew them into walking the Walk by Faith. It is God’s good work in their hearts that accomplished everything. None of it was by works they have done. In fact, this acknowledgment to God on a continual basis is the very thing that develops the attitude that God blesses. Why? Walking the Walk by Faith is walking humbly before the Lord. The following scripture passage contrasts the attitude God accepts with the one He rejects.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:4-6)
The contrast is clear. Walking to please oneself, the very opposite of walking with a contrite heart, is considered by God as adultery. Walking before the Lord with a contrite heart is submitting willingly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We cannot submit to His Lordship and remain proud. We cannot submit to our Lord and demand our rights or our own way. Will the contrite heart demand things from God? No, it is the opposite. The contrite heart demands nothing from its Lord. Instead, this heart submits entirely to Him and joyfully accepts His will in all things.
Is walking with a contrite heart sad and depressing all the time because we are mourning continuously? It may sound like it, but actually, this heart is the one that receives grace. What does grace produce in the heart? Joy! Joy is not based on circumstances. It is outside of circumstances. It is not conditional. Joy is better than happiness. Happiness is dependant on how well everything is going or not. When things are going fine then we are happy. When things are not going fine we are not. However, if we willingly humble ourselves before the Lord, walking with a contrite heart, He will give us His grace. Then we have joy.
Where does pride like to grow? It thrives in the rocky, sour, poor soil of the hard heart. It weakens and dies in the broken soil of the contrite heart. The broken up soil of the tender, contrite heart is where Christ-like humility thrives.
Humility is hard to pin down. We cannot try to be humble. If we do, we are simply acting as if we think the humble act. It does not work very well. No, the only way to become genuinely humble is to walk before the Lord with a contrite heart. When we do this, the Lord will continue to form and shape our hearts according to His will and plan. Genuine humility is developing within the believer who does this.
What will the humble contrite heart produce? What will the believer be like who lives before the Lord this way? The following passage contrasts the self-focused way of walking with the God focused way. Take your time. Read it carefully and prayerfully.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:13-26)
What a deal! Give up living for self and become Christ-like or continue to live for self and become just like the world. What has to go for this to be a reality in our hearts? Self-focus, which has its roots in pride, must go. Where does pride root itself? It is deeply rooted in the hard heart of the Soul-led. What is the relationship between pride and the humble Christ-like heart? Where does humility root itself? It is deeply rooted in the tender heart of the Spirit-led. Pride has to go. A believer driven by pride tends to want godliness, but walks with self-confidence. The only way to drive out pride is to develop a broken up, tenderized heart. Why? This heart is contrite. It has no self-confidence at all. On the other hand, it has 100% confidence in the Lord and complete acceptance of His will in all things.
This life sounds like a joyful life to me. It sure does not sound like one that is downcast and depressed all the time. Walking before the Lord with a contrite heart is simply submission to Him and His will in all things. We are agreeing with Him and joyfully accepting all circumstances as His will.
The contrite heart is the heart of the Spirit-led. The Spirit-led believer is becoming Christ-like. That means this believer’s value system matches up perfectly with God’s. This value system is not ignored because the conscience has nothing veiling or dimming it from the Soul. This means decisions are made by heeding the conscience, which is the exercising of Free Will. Prayer brings answers immediately. Wisdom is given and understood because the conscience is hard at work revealing to us that wisdom is from God and is truth indeed.
The contrite heart is subject to a pure and undefiled conscience. The Holy Spirit speaks the truth to our hearts and the pure and clear conscience verifies the truth for us. When the enemy tempts us, this conscience tells us it is just another lie being laid out there to ensnare us. Heeding this conscience makes us even more contrite.
In the last chapter, The Undivided heart, I shared a besetting sin that was continually attacking me that resembled a runaway fire hose. After the truth was revealed to me, I found my conscience had learned as well. Now when any besetting sins attempt to take control of me my conscience warns me right away by revealing that this is another fire hose event. I rejoice right away, turn my heart back to God, thanking Him profusely as I worship Him. Now that this alarm has been set and I heed it this problem is denied and brought under control. Several times a day I will be alerted just like this. I have to remain alert to make this work though, but I certainly do not mind. If I get distracted from diligently monitoring this, I will fail. However when these are caught and dealt with, it is wonderful! It is so precious to have a clear conscience. Now isn’t this better than allowing self-gratification to ensnare us?
How can we attain this level of obedience? We must have a contrite heart. We must be willing to submit to a lifestyle of self-denial and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by dying to self and living for His glory. That is the essence of a contrite heart. When we submit to our Lord and walk the Walk by Faith, we will be changed. We do not change ourselves; the Lord does it by pulverizing and reshaping our hearts. Christ-likeness is coming for those who walk this way. The joy for me, though, is I can sense the Lord rejoicing with me with each victory over self. He loves His children and wants only the best for them. He knows we are fulfilled only when we are completely submitted to Him this way.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.