Bible Study: With Bended Knee and a Broken Heart
At some point in our lives, probably many times, we have had to come face to face with what we truly are on the inside, with what God has already told us about ourselves in the Scriptures. After all, God is a God of truth and is faithful to show the truth to his people. The fact is that we are rotten to the core. As the apostle Paul has written: "There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one. Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of vipers is under their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes"; (Rom. 3:10-18).
Of course, when we received Christ as our Savior, we admitted that we were sinners, but probably few of us realized how deep sin ran in our lives and how completely Satan had run our lives for so long. And although Christ came into our hearts as soon as we received him, Satan continued and perhaps even continues to run our lives from the outside.
In Psalm 51, David is praying for God’s forgiveness for the sins of adultery and murder. Perhaps we have never committed sins like these, but what David says applies to all of us, for all sin is really an expression of Satan’s spirit of self-for-self. He who sins is of the devil, according to 1 John 3:8. So there are really no better or worse sins, though perhaps some sins have worse consequences for ourselves and others. The question that concerns us here is how we can get a new spirit operating us and stop the seemingly inevitable cycle of sinning and asking God’s forgiveness, and I believe that David provides us with an answer.
But let us first start with what the wrong answer is: it is not a matter of endlessly repeating to ourselves that Christ is living His life through us or saying that who we truly are is Christ in our forms as if it were some magical mantra that will make us different. Christ living in and as us is not a label we slap over our sinful lives–that would just be another form of self-deception. In fact this is the first thing we can learn from David: "You desire truth in our inner selves" (Psa 51:6). More than anything else, we must be rigorously honest with ourselves, about what we have done, why we have done it, and what we have gotten for ourselves in doing it.
We must call what we have done sins and not mere mistakes or lapses. We must allow God to strip away all our excuses and self-defenses. In the past we might have admitted we did wrong, but have we truly faced it in all its ugliness and confessed it? Mere admission usually means that there is some kind of "but" attached to the end of the sentence: Yes I know I sinned but…it isn’t that bad…but that person did something worse…but the other person deserved it…but if it weren’t for…but if I only had the opportunity…but I really needed…but I just wasn’t myself…You know all the excuses. We’ve all made them for ourselves and we don’t like to think we are as bad as all that.
And if anyone dares to point out that we really are that bad, we whine and pout and complain that they are putting us in the worst possible light. The truth is we are that bad, and God demands rigorous honesty in facing the truth about ourselves–He desires truth in the inward parts.
And truth is really the one thing we can bring to the table. We can’t change ourselves, we can’t get for ourselves a new heart and a new spirit; we cannot even produce brokenness over our sins in ourselves. Those are all gifts from God. What God demands is the truth. So the point where the battle is joined with Satan is whether we are going to bend the knee and say what the unvarnished truth is. What is bending the knee? Bending the knee to God is simply acknowledging that He has the right to demand truth from us and then giving it to Him. We will either bend the knee in this life or in the next when every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10), but by then it will be too late. What God desires from us is that we bend the knee willingly as his children, not as his enemies when Jesus returns.
It is not enough, however, to bend the knee to an invisible God up in heaven; we must bend the knee to God in our Christian brothers and sisters–only then can we know that we have truly bent the knee. We submit to one another out of reverence for Christ in them (Eph. 5:21), acknowledging that we are accountable to each other as forms of Christ. As James says, confess your sins to another that you may be healed (5:16). So we bend the knee by openly and honestly admitting to another human being what we have done, without making excuses or justifications for what we have done. As David says: "Against you and you alone have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment" (51:4).
When we confess our sin, we acknowledge God’s absolute right to judge us, that we are totally in the wrong no matter what mitigating circumstance we might come up with in our heads. We have an inner spirit knowing that we are wrong, since our sin, and not that of others, is always before us, and we can put up no defense for our actions and motives. It is a burning in our heart that we are just plain wrong.
If we put up any kind of defense that is just proof that we still think we are right after all and that there was a legitimate reason for disobeying God. But God never forgives excuses. It is possible for Satan to come along and to steal the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin if we do not act on it right away and confess the sin. And as he steals that pinhole of light from us, he fills our minds with excuses and self-justifications and a willingness to fight whoever tries to convince us otherwise.
If we do not grab hold of the lifeline God offers us and see ourselves as He sees us, then Satan will do our seeing for us. But if we bend the knee
when God gives us a moment of truth, then God can produce in us the broken and contrite heart that he requires (Psa. 51:17).
What is a broken and contrite heart? Brokenness translates a word that refers to being defeated in battle by one’s enemies–it means that the fight has gone out of you, and you acknowledge that you have lost the battle. So brokenness means that the fight has gone out of us to defend ourselves and make excuses for ourselves and to blame others for the consequences of our actions. It means that we acknowledge that God is in the right and that we have disobeyed Him.
Most of all, however, it means that we are filled with a deep pain and sorrow over what we have done, and shame that we have done it. It is not a shame that "I" have done it, as in "how could I have done such a horrible thing" (thinking that normally I am such a good upright person that it is unbelievable that I could have done such a thing). No, it is shame that we did the deed at all, or failed to do the good that God was requiring of us.
Although we know that the truth is not in our soulular feelings, at the same time, brokenness is always accompanied by a deep pain and sorrow over what we have done, and a shame for having done it. If not, then the brokenness is not genuine and rest assured, we will sin in that way again and again until we are broken.
A contrite heart is one that is humbled. Being humbled simply means facing the truth about ourselves and having an accurate picture of who we are. It is different from feeling humiliated, a feeling that others have mistreated us and portrayed as worse than we really are. But since we really are that bad, humiliation is really just a sign that we are still full of Satanic pride.
The only true humiliation is not one that we feel–it is allowing Satan to continue to run our lives when we know better. But when we humble ourselves and tell the truth about our sin, then we can no longer think that we are better than anyone else, or worse for that matter. There is level ground at the foot of the cross.
And so when we have truly bent the knee and our hearts are broken over what we have done, then God puts a new and right spirit within us (51:10). Of course, the Spirit of Christ has been dwelling in our hearts all along (Rom 8:9), but now because we are freed from the foothold Satan established in us because of our sin (Eph. 4:27), Christ is free to express Himself through us and as us. Then and only then are we free to say that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20). So this is God’s pattern: we bend the knee by honestly confessing our sin and taking direction from others as to how to get out of it, our heart becomes broken and contrite over what we have done, and in the process there is a change in the spirit who operates us and lives through us.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 25 No 2
- The Way To Abide
- The Crisis Experience
- Bible Study: With Bended Knee and a Broken Heart
- My Spiritual Waterloo
- The Prodigal
- True Repentence: Testimonies of Young Lives Transformed
- Quick Down, Quick Up
- Conviction, Confession, Cleansing
- False Condemnation
- Unexpected Visitors
- The Joy of Hosting a Zerubbabel Get-Together
- It Remains Tough
- Godly Sorrow Leads to Repentance
- Words to Live By