Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What does it mean that God will not despise a broken spirit and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17)?


Psalm 51 was written by King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover his sin (2 Samuel 11). It has been said of David that he sinned big, but repented bigger. He is a model to us of what real heart repentance looks like. He wrote this psalm as an agonized cry to God for forgiveness.

Psalm 51:17 says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” The meaning of this is connected with the verse just before it. Verse 16 says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” David is stating that there is nothing we can offer God to appease Him when we have sinned. More animal sacrifices were not what God was looking for. God desires true repentance.

Many people miss this truth. Rather than repent, they try to "clean up their act," give more, pray more, or busy themselves in other religious activity in the hopes that God will finally "get over" being mad at them. In Psalm 51, David is saying that God wants none of that. External religious activity cannot replace internal, heartfelt contrition (1 Samuel 16:7).

Verse 17 points out the one thing God desires more than any other: brokenness over our own sin. When we agree with God about how bad our sin is, we take the first step toward reconciliationwith Him. As long as we try to justify, excuse, or rationalize the evil of our own hearts, we never find our way back into God's presence. Repentance is the doorway to freedom. Satan knows this and does everything he can to detract us from it. He suggests things that our selfish nature likes to hear: "Your sin wasn't that bad." "Compared to others, you're okay." "God has forgotten it already. No need to confess it." When we listen to the devil’s oily words, we veer away from the doorway to freedom and remain in bondage. We may feel remorse or regret, but neither is a sufficient substitute for true repentance (see Hebrews 12:17).

David reminds us that the only path to forgiveness is a broken heart and a humble spirit (Matthew 5:3). When we throw ourselves on the mercy of God, He delights to lift us up (Luke 18:13-14). When we openly acknowledge our sin against God, turn from it, and cry out for cleansing, God promises that He will hear us and forgive (1 John 1:9).

It is interesting to note that, although David sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, he makes this statement to God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (verse 4). David gets to the heart of why God so hates sin. It is a violation of His very nature. We are created in that image, but our sin mars it, like a smudge on a mirror. A broken spirit and a contrite heart invite God to clean that smudge and restore us to right relationship with Him.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Not About The Money

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain

The film “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius,” follows the life and career of golfer Bobby Jones. In it, there is a critical scene where Jones is confronted by a professional golfer. In the 1920s, Jones dominated the golfing world, even though he was an amateur, and the professional challenged him about when he might grab for the money like everyone else. Highly educated in a variety of fields, Jones unpacked for his adversary the fact that the word amateurcomes from the Latin amo—to love. He made his definition of an amateur clear… doing what you do (in his case, playing golf) out of love for the game, not just for money.
That idea is a little shocking to our day. In our times, an amateur is often seen as second-rate or not good enough to go pro. Certainly there may be many instances where that is the case. But I would like to give a nod to the Bobby Jones perspective. No matter what we are doing, if it is done out of love it should be elevated—not diminished. Money as a motivation will always fall short because there will never be enough of it. Motivation rooted in love, however, sinks its roots into an eternal source and supply.
This idea has particular application when it comes to living as a follower of Christ, because our motives are key. Why do I do what I do? Is it for personal advancement? Is it for personal satisfaction? Is it for wealth or possessions? Indeed, why do I do what I do?
Clearly, those things are not necessarily evil or inherently wrong in themselves. But they can certainly cloud our hearts and minds with mixed motives—and that is true regardless of the arena in which we conduct our lives. Why we do what we do matters.
In the letter of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul is in the awkward and uncomfortable position of having to defend his ministry to people who are questioning his integrity. In 2 Corinthians 5, he is even forced to defend himself against accusations of instability. To that, he responds:
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
What great motivation! To be compelled by Christ’s love in what we do is the greatest of all motivations for, as Paul affirms, it is what causes the follower of Christ to no longer live for himself or herself, but for Christ.
His love becomes a driving force in our lives that allows us to gladly say that, in life, we are amateurs—for we are motivated by love. In fact, we are motivated by the greatest love of all, the love of Jesus Christ.