The Discipline of Self-Loathing

Broken and Contrite Christianity

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

David begins Psalm 34 by testifying to LORD’s work in his life:  The LORD saved David from fear and foe alike (4-6).  He surrounded David with His presence (7).  Then David takes what he has learned and teaches other believers that the LORD can do the same for them.  The LORD can meet your needs (8-10) and grant you a long and prosperous life (11-15).  He can keep you safe and secure from your enemies (17, 20-22).  But the unrighteous must realize that God is against them; His anger and condemnation hover over them (16, 21).

I think verse 18 is the key to this Psalm.  Broken and contrite Christianity always wins the favor of God.  Arrogance and an aggressive overbearing spirit meets only with the fury of God.

Basic to this Psalm (and many others) are two groups of people mentioned in it:  the righteous and the wicked.  The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous.  Our afflictions are numerous, but those who cause them and hate us will be held guilty by God (21).

We struggle because we are so aware of how weak we truly are.  Most of us are well aware of the fact that we have problems.  So much so that we really cannot grasp the benefits and promises God has provided for us here.  And yet we shouldn’t think that God does not allows us to be broken and contrite in order to receive these daily benefits.  So, we need to first understand what it means to have a broken and contrite heart or spirit.  

Contrition

Generally speaking, we should be cheerful and joy-filled when it comes to life.  “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Pv 15.13).  I surely don’t want a broken and dejected spirit like the one described in this Proverb!

Perhaps the word contrite clarifies things for us.  This broken and contrite spirit is aware of his or her sin.  He or she is coming face-to-face with the fact that they deserve the fury of God and wonder how they could ever have the favor of God.

David will say in Psalm 34.8:  “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”  Again, in Psalm 40.12 David says, “My iniquites have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up.”  The sense here is the self-loathing we feel because we remember our iniquities, even our abominations before God (Ezek 36.31).  We will never forget what God has forgiven us even though His fury has been absorbed by the Lord Jesus Christ.  That seems to be contrition to me …it certainly isn’t presumption.

You don’t have to commit great abomination before God in order to know deep brokenness and contrition.  But those forgiven by God for great iniquity will certainly have an increased hatred for it.  And yet none of us can really stand before God with our heads unbowed and souls unbloodied.  We look at our lives and see how far from God we were …how utterly selfish we were, and we can’t help but recoil in the face of God’s great deliverance.

I’m reading through Job right now.  I don’t think I know anyone who approaches Job’s integrity.  Not many people would ever think to refer to us as perfect and upright.  Yet that’s how he is described.  But how did Job describe himself:  “Behold, I am vile …I abhor myself!”  (cf. Job 40.4; 42.6)  You don’t hear that in our self-esteem saturated society.

If we would know God’s near presence and daily deliverance, we must abhor ourselves for our sins.  It is quite humbling to remember just how often we are disobedient and rebellious toward God.  We acknowledge that God is absolutely right when His justice demanded such a sacrifice as the death of His Son for my sin …your sin.

Arrogant sinners don’t believe in a God of Justice.  Their god is never displeased and always gives them what they want.  He won’t send them to an eternal Hell.  Such a thing could never exist if God is truly loving and merciful.  David acknowledges after a year of torment over his murder and adultery cover-up:  “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51.4).

Arrogance kills the Gospel message; contrition prepares the heart for its entrance.  Contrite people say, “What must I do to be saved?”  Arrogant people say, “What need have I to be saved?”  If you wonder at the people who without batting an eye reject your witness, then just remember arrogance is the main reason why they are steely hard.

The Benefit of Brokenness

“The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart” (34.18a).  God resists the proud and arrogant, but He gives grace to the broken and contrite …He is near them.  This is objective fact whether one feels it is true or not.  Sometimes we should pray, “Lord I believe this; help my unbelief.”

“And saves such as have a contrite spirit” (34.18b).  The LORD delivers those who say, “I have sinned, and perverted what was right, and it did not profit me” (Job 33.27).  His life shall see the light (Job 33.28).  God’s deliverance is everlasting …there will be no more shame or disgrace.

Our contrition is a sign that God’s love is upon us.  The LORD is near us.  God has taken away the arrogance and pride and given us humility in its truest form.  I think because people are taught in many evangelical churches that God basically winks at sin, when they do have a heavy dose of contrition, they question their salvation; they cannot rest.  But without contrition, we would never ask God the right questions in prayer.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

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