"Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah" (Psalms 4:4) Reading through the Psalms I found this verse to be very descriptive of my state lately. Not a night goes by where I don't ponder my own heart as I go to sleep. I lie there dwelling on all the mistakes I've made throughout the week, throughout the day, throughout life. I think about what might be in my life that I need to give up before God. I also dwell on things that life has handed to me, things I can't change, and these things indeed do make me angry, which is fine. It's okay to be angry. Paul also translated this verse later in Ephesians, "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26) But what I've failed is the latter part"do not sin". Or "Do not let the sun go down on your anger." There are indeed things about me that I cannot change, things that I dwell on every single day, not just before I go to bed. These things cause me to sin, because in my anger I let it rule over my love for God. But I am missing the most important part of this verse to ponder my own heart before God. The verse after that states "Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord." But what exactly are the right sacrifices? Is it giving up my material possessions? Forsaking all my time for God? These things may be beneficial, but any man can give up material possessions. It may bring him closer to God for a while, but no matter how many things we give up, new distractions will always arise. There can always be something distracting us from God, and there can always be something new to be sacrificed. I believe the true sacrifice God is seeking from us is our hearts, broken before Him. Which is why we are to ponder our hearts before God.
Later in Psalms, David wrote this after sinning with Bathsheba, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (51:17). David could have given up all his riches, all he had to make things right with God. To show God he was serious about turning his life around again. I have found myself doing this many times in the past. I get super convicted, I repent over my sins, and to show God "I have changed this time", I will give up something, whether it be throwing away all my R rated movies, throwing out all my secular music, throwing away this or that, getting rid of this or that, and these things are good for a while, but were my heart and spirit really broken before God? I was convicted, yes, but were my heart and spirit broken? That's a different question. Without a broken heart and spirit, all the things I gave up was frivolous. They are meaningless without brokenness. I think this is what happens a lot of times with believers. It would explain why so many young people are convicted at youth crusades, they go home and are on fire for a couple weeks, they give up all the stuff in their life that is distracting them from God, but before they know it they are on the same path they were before they went to that crusade. The thing is, their hearts weren't really broken. I realized that the reason I am not seeing much of a change in my life lately is because I am not broken. That is the sacrifice God truly wants from me. He wants me to ponder my heart before Him, and to be broken over it, because our hearts are deceitfully wicked above all else (Jeremiah 17:9).
The point of this? You can give up all you want for the sake of following Christ, but if your spirit and heart is not broken, you've given up nothing. You've sacrificed nothing. God wants your heart, your spirit. Not your R rated movies necessarily, not your secular music, but your heart. Brokenness will weed things out on it's own by the leading of the Holy Spirit, but to give up things for the sake of getting closer to the Spirit without first being broken is only going to lead to 1) self righteousness, 2) dissatisfaction in giving those things up or 3) Regret for giving up those things only to take them up again. God help me accept the things I cannot change. But what I can change is my heart and spirit. I need brokenness, as do us all. This is for me more than anybody, but no matter where you are at in your relationship with God, there is always something to be broken over. There is always sin that needs to be taken out. God break us all.