March 24, 2010

To Live is Christ — contrite of heart

A slow start today was compounded when I turned on my computer Bible program and it offered updates. These took another thirty minutes, but during this delay, I asked the Lord to speak clearly this day and show me my needs and His will for me. For the past few days, I’d been convicted of wasting time and not giving the Lord the best of both hours and effort. To do so means personal sacrifice because my “I wants” always divert my attention from doing the will of God.

Finally the program was updated and opened. Today’s devotional reading gave me a deeper look at God’s will. These verses point to an easily overlooked flaw in the idea of sacrificing personal wants to serve God. 

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:15–17)
Serving God can become an empty ritual. Self-sacrifice can be self-serving — when I think I am serving God, but my heart is full of pride or has any trace of self-righteousness. He isn’t interested in those things or that kind of service. He wants brokenness and a contrite attitude.

A broken spirit and contrite heart are difficult to describe. I’m trying to think that this attitude does not feel good, but in reality, it seems when these are true of me, I am not really aware of it. It is sort of like humility which is as fleeting as a shadow. As soon as I think I have it, it disappears.

I’ve an old tract that is titled “Characteristics of the Self-life.” It is about the opposite of having a broken spirit and a contrite heart. It is also very convicting. (Each point has Scripture references to go with it, but for space they are left off.)

Reading this list does a number on my heart. It begins by asking if I am conscious of these things:

•    A secret spirit of pride or an exalted feeling in view of your success or position—because of your good training or appearance — because of your natural gifts and abilities—an important, independent spirit?
•    Love of human praise; a secret fondness to be noticed; love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation; a swelling out of self when you have had a special open door in speaking or praying?
•    The stirrings of anger or impatience which, worst of all, you call nervousness or holy indignation; a touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when disapproved of or contradicted; a desire to throw sharp, heated remarks at another?
•    Self-will; a stubborn, unteachable spirit; an arguing, talkative spirit; harsh, sarcastic expressions; an unyielding, headstrong disposition; a driving, commanding spirit; a disposition to criticize and pick flaws when set aside and unnoticed; a peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and implored?
•    Carnal fear; a man-fearing spirit; a shrinking from reproach and duty; reasoning around your cross; a shrinking from doing your whole duty to those of wealth or position; a fearfulness that someone will offend and drive some prominent person away; a compromising spirit?
•    A jealous disposition; a secret of envy shut up in your heart; an unpleasant sensation in view of the great prosperity and success of another; a disposition to speak of the faults and failings, rather than the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated than  yourself?
•    A dishonest, deceitful disposition; the evading and covering of truth; the covering up of your real faults; leaving a better impression of yourself than is strictly true; false humility; exaggeration; straining the truth?
•    Unbelief; a spirit of discouragement in times of pressure and opposition; lack of quietness and confidence in God; lack of faith and trust in God; a disposition to worry and complain in the midst of pain, poverty, or at the dispensations of Divine Providence; an overanxious feeling whether everything will come out all right?
•    Formality and deadness; lack of concern for unsaved neighbors; dryness in your devotional life; indifference to a living relationship with Jesus Christ; lack of power in prayer?
•    Selfishness; love of ease; love of money?
The tract ends with the challenge to hold my heart open to the searchlight of God until I see the very inside, and to ask Him to . . .  
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23–24)
Just as God always answers a request to reveal my needs, He also always answers the request to lead me in the way of Christ, knowing that following is made possible when my spirit is broken and my heart is contrite.

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