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40 Days of Prayer, Day 28

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Day 28, Saturday, September 17

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Psalm 51:12-13

The Contrite Heart and the Care for Others

David’s lack of care for others created his traumatic sin of adultery and murder. His complete disregard for Uriah and Bathsheba and their families, along with the rest of the nation, led to one of the greatest moral failings in the history of God’s people. In this psalm, a psalm that was dedicated to confession and repentance, David asked God to restore him. Then, once restored, David requested God to use him. He asked God to restore him so that he could focus his energies on the care of others. Maybe David learned some valuable lessons in the midst of his rebellion against God? Maybe David now sought to be an instrument of good in the lives of others? He had done so much evil and had caused so much pain. His sin had ripple effects for a whole generation of his family and for Israel. Now humbled through the gracious hand of God, David longed for a restored, joyful spiritual life. Out of this horrific experience, he now sought for God’s work in the lives of others. “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.” His self-centered focused created this crisis. Now he longed for an others-centered life as evidence of his restoration by God.

A humble, contrite heart is a heart that cares for others. A humble, contrite heart longs for the good in others. Those who are truly contrite seek the good in others by serving, helping, encouraging, and supporting. The prayer of the contrite is, “Use me, oh God, to help others.” David’s request came from the heart of a repentant believer. Having our sins forgiven, now that we have experienced so much undeserved good in our lives from God, we now seek good in the lives of others. Remember the act of humble service by Christ on the very night of His betrayal. He was betrayed into the hands of the Jewish leaders followed by His subsequent execution at the hands of the Romans. The disciples seemed too proud and too busy to wash their own feet as they entered the home where they were celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover. They certainly were too proud to wash anyone else’s feet. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, stepped into the upper room and found it filled with egos far too big for the significance of the events that would unfold in the coming hours. Shockingly they received no lecture from Jesus, just a display of humility. He said nothing to them. He just got up from the table, took a towel and basin, and started to serve by washing their dirty feet. Though a variety pointed truths were on display in this incredible moment, He left them with these words to clarify what they had just seen and experienced. Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. John 13:12-15 This is the life of the contrite-hearted. This is our life as believers in Christ. Having been freed from the bondage of our sin by His merciful work on the cross, He gave us an example to follow. May we imitate our Savior’s life of service.

 

Prayer Focus

Lord, teach me to serve others. Out of an abundance of mercy You have forgiven me. You have also called me to serve others.  Open my eyes to the needs around me.  Give me the courage to help.  Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
There are the sorts of people that tremble at the words of God, and that are afraid of doing anything that is contrary to them; but they are only such with whose souls and spirits the Word has had to do. For the rest, they are resolved to go on their course, let God say what he will. 'As for the word' of the Lord, said rebellious Israel to Jeremiah, 'that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goes forth out of our own mouth' (Jer 44:16). But do you think that these people did ever feel the power and majesty of the Word of God to break their hearts? No; had that been so, they would have trembled at the words of God; they would have been afraid of the words of God. God may command some people what he will, they will do what they will. What do they care for God? What care do they have for his Word? Neither threats nor promises, neither punishments or favors will make them obedient to the Word of God; and all because they have not felt the power of it, their hearts have not been broken with it. (Acts 9:4-6, 16:29, 30). Trembling at the Word is caused by a belief of what is deserved, threatened, and of what will come, if not prevented by repentance; and therefore the heart melts, and breaks before the Lord.

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 27

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Day 27, Friday, September 16

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Psalm 51:12-13

A Contrite Heart and a Concern for Others

In the confession of Psalm 51, in the midst of David’s heartfelt contrition, David not only asked God to restore the joy of his salvation, but also to sustain a willing spirit within him.  Willing spirit for what?   David requested a willing spirit in order to free others trapped in the pain and sorrow of human sin.  A contrite heart produces brokenness over our own sin.  A contrite heart also produces a brokenness for others.  Just as God pursued David through the prophet Nathan, so he pursues transgressors and sinners through us.  We are the brokenhearted that have been turned to the pursuers of the brokenhearted for God’s sake.  We see this displayed most clearly in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He, who unlike David and the rest of us, is absolutely perfect.  Even still, He empties Himself in order to save those who are completely empty.   Jesus told His followers in Mark 10:45, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Unlike us, He is only truly holy One and yet He allows Himself to be broken in order to accomplish His mission of seeking and saving those who are by nature unholy.  We see this incredible contrast in the life of Christ.  We see in Christ the holy power of God combined with the humility of the lowest servant. 

 

James Stewart, the Scottish Theologian described the juxtaposition of Christ’s divinity and humanity in this way: He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him, and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break, his whole life was love, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all of our stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes. He saved others, yet at the last Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.

If Christ, the Son of God, the infinitely holy Creator of the universe humbled Himself for others, we must follow His example.  If He came to serve others, then surely we can allow God to renew a willing spirit within us so that we may serve others.

 

Prayer Focus

Create in me a willing spirit, Oh God.  Give me compassion for those around me.  Just as Christ came to seek and serve, help me to seek and serve the broken people that I will encounter today.  In the name of Christ Jesus, Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

The Word of God is an awful Word to a broken-hearted man. Solomon says, 'The word of a king is as the roaring of a lion'; and if so, what is the Word of God? for by the wrath and fear is meant the authoritative word of a king. Hence you have a remark set upon them that tremble at God's Word, they are the ones that keep among the godly; they are the ones that are apt to mourn, and to stand in the gap, when God is angry; and to turn away his wrath from a people.  It is a sign the Word of God has had its place, and worked powerfully, when the heart trembles at it and is afraid, and stands in awe of it. When Joseph's mistress tempted him, he was afraid of the Word of God. 'How then can I do this great wickedness, ' said he, 'and sin against God?' He stood in awe of God's Word, did not do it, because he kept in remembrance what a dreadful thing it was to rebel against God's Word. When Eli heard that the ark was taken, his very heart trembled within him; for he read by that sad loss that God was angry with Israel, and he knew the anger of God was a great and terrible thing. When Samuel went to Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled; for they feared that he came to them with some sad message from God, and they had had experience of the dread of such things before (Gen 39:7-9; 1 Sam 4:13, 16:1- 4).

40 Days of Prayer, Day 26

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Day 26, Thursday, September 15

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:1-3

The Contrite Heart Produces a Humble Heart
God is a God of relationships. He rescued us from our human pride, the source of all other sin and rebellion in the world. He rescued us from our pride by sending His Own Son to take on our humanity. As Paul wrote in Philippians, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” God rescued us from the devastation of our pride by sending His Son in humility. Christ Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was the only human that ever had the right to make much of Himself but instead became the servant of all. Through His humility we are rescued from our pride.

When David boasted, he boasted in the LORD. When we boast in ourselves, our independence, our freedom, our own accomplishments, we separate ourselves from God because it demeans His unbelievable work in creating us and in saving us. When we boast in ourselves, we are elevating ourselves into God’s rightful place. However, when we boast in the LORD, acknowledging His greatness and our dependence on Him, then those who are “humble will hear it and rejoice.” They even join in the chorus of praise to God. “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.” Humility is absolutely necessary for salvation to occur. We cannot think much of ourselves and think much of God at the same time. We cannot make much of ourselves and make much of God at the same time. Those with a contrite heart turn their praise heavenward, away from themselves and toward God.

The following is from Andrew Murray’s book Humility.
The life God bestows is imparted not once for all but each moment by the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence upon God, is from the very nature of things the first duty and the highest virtue of His creatures. And so pride – the loss of humility – is the root of every sin and evil….It was when the serpent breathed the poison of his pride-the desire to be as God-into the hearts of our first parents, that they too fell from their high estate into the wretchedness to which all humankind has sunk. In heaven and on earth, pride or self-exaltation is the very gateway to hell.

And so it follows that nothing can save us but the restoration of our lost humility, the original and only true relationship of the creature to its God. And so Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us partakers of it, and by it to save us. In heaven He humbled himself to become a man. The humility we see in Him possessed Him in heaven; it brought Him here. Here on earth “He humbled himself and became obedient to death”; His humility gave His death its value, and so became our redemption. And now the salvation He imparts is nothing less and nothing else than a communication of His own life and death. His own disposition and spirit, His own humility, as the ground and root of His relationship with God and His redeeming work in us. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of people as a creature by His life of perfect humility. His humility became our salvation. His salvation is our humility.

The life of those who are saved, the saints, must bear this stamp of deliverance from sin and full restoration to their original state; their whole relationship to God and to man marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit; without this no abiding faith or love or joy or strength. Humility is the only soil in which virtue takes root; a lack of humility is the explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a virtue along with the others, but is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God and allows Him, as God to do all.

Prayer Focus
Oh, Lord God, I praise You. You alone are worthy of my praise. Forgive me for making much of myself. Forgive me for thinking too much of myself. You have created me for a relationship with You. My pride and self-reliance broke that creative intent. Now, Oh Lord, receive my prayer of confession and my prayer of dependence. I need You every hour, most gracious Lord. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
Another sign of a broken heart is a crying, a crying out. Pain, you know, will make one cry. Go to them that have upon them the anguish of broken bones, and see if they do not cry; anguish makes them cry. This is that which quickly follows, if once your heart is broken, and your spirit indeed made contrite. I say, anguish will make you cry. 'Trouble and anguish, ' David says, 'have taken hold on me' (Ps. 119:143). Anguish, you know, naturally provokes crying; now, as a broken bone has anguish, a broken heart has anguish. Hence the pains of one that has a broken heart are compared to the pangs of a woman in travail (John 16:20- 22). Anguish will make one cry alone, cry to one's self; and this is called a bemoaning of one's self. 'I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, ' God says (Jer. 31:18). That is, being at present under the breaking, chastising hand of God. 'You have chastised me, ' he says, 'and I was chastised, as an oxen unaccustomed to the yoke.' This is his meaning also who said, 'I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.' And why? Why, 'My heart is pained within me' (Ps. 4:2-4). This is a self-bemoaning, a bemoaning themselves in secret. You know it is common with them who are distressed with anguish, though all alone, to cry out to themselves of their present pains, saying, O my leg! O my arm! O the groans, the sighs, the cries, that the broken-hearted have, when by themselves, or alone! O, say they, my sins! my sins! my soul! my soul! How am I loaded with guilt! How am I surrounded with fear! O this hard, this desperate, this unbelieving heart! O how sin defiles my will, my mind, my conscience! 'I am afflicted and ready to die' (Psa 88:15).[9] Could some of you carnal people but get behind the chamber-door, to hear Ephraim when he is at the work of self-bemoaning, it would make you stand amazed to hear him bewail that sin in himself in which you take delight; and to hear him bemoan his wasting of time, while you spend all in pursuing your lusts; and to hear him offended with his heart, because it will not comply with God's holy will, while you are afraid of his Word and ways, and never think yourselves better than when farthest off from God. The unruliness of the passions and lusts of the broken-hearted make them often get into a corner, and thus bemoan themselves.

 

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