God Forgives Only the Broken and Contrite Heart
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalm 66:18)
Sometimes Dylan told lies. If his parents caught him, they would punish him. They would also encourage him to pray and ask God to forgive him. At first, Dylan really meant what he was praying – sometimes he would pray for God’s forgiveness even when his parents didn’t know about the lie and weren’t making him pray.
Soon, Dylan found himself praying to God all the time, but not for forgiveness! He would pray that his parents wouldn’t find out about what he had done or said. Dylan was more afraid of being punished than he was of being unforgiven. Soon he started to wonder whether God would listen to his prayers at all.
Dylan did not understand very much about Who God is and what God expects of His children. God does not forgive us if we are not truly repentant. He does not forgive us if we are asking for the wrong reason and our hearts are set on sinning again.
Over time, Dylan had let himself start viewing God as someone who does whatever we ask Him to do. But repentance, forgiveness, and salvation all come from the Lord. We cannot just sin, pray about it, and expect that to fix everything. God tells us in His Word that if we regard (or know about and hold onto) sin in our hearts, He will not even listen to our prayers.
Instead, Dylan ought to look at the sin in his heart and think about it like God thinks about it – as something very evil, hurtful, and displeasing to God and others. Instead of planning to tell lies again, Dylan should pray for help to resist the temptation to tell lies again. He should also be willing to take whatever punishment is coming to him for lies he has already told. Asking forgiveness doesn’t get us out of being punished.
God will not even hear our prayers if we are looking at sin as something we don’t mind keeping around in our lives. But there’s good news for people like Dylan – and us. Psalm 51:17 says this: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” God does hear the prayers of a broken and contrite (or repentant, humble) heart. If we come to Him with repentance and humility, thinking about our sins the way He does, then He has promised to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God will hear you and forgive you only if you ask with a repentant spirit.
» When I ask forgiveness for a certain sin, am I determined to avoid that sin in the future, or do I still want to keep it around in my life?
» When I come to God, is it proudly, with my own interests in mind? Or do I come to Him with a humble heart, thinking about my sin the way He thinks about it?
Truth In Real Life
"I have been asked the question: 'Has God always given you just what you have asked for?' Oh no! For Him to have done so would have been great unkindness.”
Born May 6, 1864, near Kensington Gardens, London, Florence Rosalind Bell-Smith was considered talented even as a child. In 1885, she graduated from the Toronto School of Art and prepared to be a well-respected artist.
But God had other plans for Rosalind’s life. When she was twelve years old, she attended a revival meeting and heard the preacher preach from John 3:16. About that meeting, she wrote:
As he presented with great intensity and fervour the picture of the love of God, I yielded myself absolutely to the Lord Jesus Christ and stood up among others, publicly confessing Him as my Master.
From the time she was saved, Rosalind felt a strong tug-of-war between her love of art and her desire to serve God full-time with her life. She told the Lord that she wanted to get married someday, but only if the man was completely sold out to Christ. When she met Jonathan Goforth and saw how completely worn out his Bible was from being read so often, she thought this could very well be God’s choice for her husband.
Her love of art was overcome over time with a love for serving Christ. On February 4, 1888, the Goforths set sail for China, where they had great plans to spread the Gospel. Two weeks after they settled into their new home, it burned to the ground; and during their years in ministry, they lost five of their eleven children. But in the midst of all their trials and changes in plans, they found God completely sufficient.
Do you really believe that God is wise enough to plan your life? Do you believe His will is best, that it is definitely better than yours? Anything you plan for yourself is bound to be less wonderful than what God has in mind for His higher, better plans. God wants what will be ultimately best for your life, even more than you do!
Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.