Psalm 51:17 - The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
A "broken spirit"? A "contrite heart"? What kind of sacrifices are these?
King David is speaking of repentance here—of being sincerely sorry for our past sins and turning to God for mercy and forgiveness. But how does this work, really? How can our sin-ridden hearts seek to turn away from that "sin which clings so closely (Hebrews 12:1b).
Well, that's part of God's truly good news. Repentance isn't something He is demanding that we "come up with," or "generate" from within ourselves, through some religious effort or mystical experience. The good news is that it is God who gives repentance to us.
Writing to Timothy, St. Paul explains that God grants "repentance that leads to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25b). Here God gives repentance to each of us as a gift; this is the only way anyone can have genuine repentance.
In the book of Acts, we read that through Jesus Christ, God gives "repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31b). And later, in Acts 11, many early Jewish Christians learned from Peter that "to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life" (Acts 11:18b).
God gives us the gift of repentance through His cleansing, life-giving Word. In somewhat the same way, God graciously leads us to repentance through the power of His Law. In Romans, Paul writes that "if it had not been for the Law, I would not have known sin" (Romans 7:7b). This, too, is God's gift, as the Holy Spirit works through God's perfect Law, declaring to the world its sin. "And when He [Jesus] comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8).
Through God's Law and Gospel, the Spirit of God works in our hearts. He assures us that no matter what sin we have committed, no matter how far we've strayed from our Heavenly Father, He still loves us. It was God the Father who sent not just a son but "His only begotten Son" Jesus Christ (see John 3:16) to die on the cross and pay the supreme penalty for our sins. In Jesus' ultimate sacrifice, His Father was satisfied with the offering Jesus made for all our sins. So much so that "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
These riches are for you, too, my friend. You can have a new and a better life going forward. There is no need to live burdened with guilt or regret over your past mistakes. Jesus took them all to the cross. As John the Baptist, said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).
Through His sin-cleansing and life-giving Word and Spirit, God is near you. He wants you to be part of His kingdom now! Like a parent draws a son or daughter close, so also through God's gift of repentance, the Heavenly Father is drawing you close unto Himself. And, when there is repentance before God, there is forgiveness. And where there is forgiveness, there is life and salvation for you today.
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, lead us unto lives of repentance each and every day. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "Getting a New Start!" a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Why is repentance important in the life of a Christian?
2. How is it that our "broken and contrite heart" matters to God?
3. How does God work in our lives through our repentance?
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