The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 5 – The Contrite Heart

by Mike Ratliff

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalms 34 (NASB)

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. The Spirit-led believer has a contrite heart as a way Walking by Faith. 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 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 by Faith is walking humbly before the Lord. The following scripture passage contrasts the attitude God accepts with the one He rejects.

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:4-6 (NASB)

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, which, via the fruit of the Spirit, 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 at all. 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.

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:13-26 (NASB)

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 Flesh-bound. 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 and attempts to please God through piety. Piety is just another form of legalism. 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 is beginning to match up 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. Prayer brings answers. Wisdom is given and understood because the conscience is hard at work revealing to us that wisdom is from God and is truth indeed. All of this if bound to the Word of God.


Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 5 – The Contrite Heart

  1. Mike states, ” 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.”

    This can only be if one has a correct understanding of God’s sovereignty. If we believe that God is sovereign and perfectly good in all He does then we will understand that all things in our life, even things we think are bad, are under God’s sovereign rule and that the purpose is for our good. When one reaches this place, a contrite heart that is totally dependant upon God, there is peace and joy that naturally flow out. When we forget this, which I do often, we find our selves walking a joyless life and the path is hard. And we often find ourselves going back to that idol to make life work. This is nothing but pride. God will have nothing to do with pride!

    Thank you for this post….contrition is the posture that we must be in to be able to see God. More should give attention to this subject.


  2. Wow buisedreed,

    I couldn’t have said it any better. I too go back to that powerless idol. How silly. However, I believe God allows this to show us our utter helplessness without Him. That is why we must hear the Gospel or preach it to ourselves as much as possible. Awesome.

    Great comment

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


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