David answers this question in Psalm 51:17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise”.

“A broken spirit”, in the original Hebrew is in the passive sense—to allow oneself to be willingly broken, non-resistance, a principle which has its full impact in the complete surrender of our will to the word of God. In a personal sense, God’s will must become ours where rebellion and iniquity once reigned because of sin. This principle of non-resistance must also be extended to our surrender to God’s appointed wise chastening, which are often the consequences of rebellion, so that we might be purified and refined from that evil which lays at the root of all our sinfulness, and be the recipients of God’s mercy. “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercy is a great: and let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).

“A broken and contrite heart” submits, mentally and physically, and is bruised, wounded, or suffers, according to the will of God. The Hebrew root of the word “bruised” is in fact used to describe the sacrifice of our Lord; “yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him”; “he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5, 10). So in a very real sense, this “broken spirit and contrite heart” (the scriptural definition of repentance) is inextricably linked with the exceedingly painful death of the flesh by crucifixion (Galatians 5:24).

“The Clapham Change” pages 19–20, July 31st 1940.

It identifies us with the thief who was crucified with Christ (John 20:20), who came to see in the dying of his Lord the principles of life, and at last allowed his will also to be broken and put his faith in a crucified man saying, “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:40–42). This man feared God. He recognised the just reward for sin of which he confessed, and saw the righteousness of God declared in His only begotten son. He, having faith in the forgiveness of the son of man, was forgiven instantaneously and completely. Though he lingered upon the cross, well after his Lord had died, his Lord’s heart had become his in all contriteness. When the Romans came with a wooden mallet to break his legs to end his suffering, his death with his Lord’s memorialised that Christ came to save sinners, and vividly exemplified the means by which this could be accomplished.

“I am crucified with Christ”, says Paul, “nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

If we seek forgiveness as David did for murder and adultery, sins which all Israel came to know, (like the thief crucified for his sins for all to see) then with broken spirit and contrite heart, we too will have to linger upon the cross while the flesh is put to death. Yet in this excruciating process of dying, we live and become more alive, for Christ in his sacrificial love becomes the all-pervading force in our life.

By Christ’s sufferings or his stripes, we are healed (1Peter 2:21–24). This is the fruit which every repentant son and daughter of God shall reap—when the bones which in crucifixion are finally broken and the ordeal ends in the death of the man of the flesh, when those very bones which have been broken shall rejoice (Psalm 51:8), for they have been healed. It is not the man of the flesh which is the product of this healing, but the man of the spirit; that which had been cultivated as a result of repentance or “the broken spirit, the broken and contrite heart”.

These are the sacrifices that God requires from those who have committed sin including those who have sinned by divorcing a spouse who is innocent of porneia, and have remarried. If these scriptural conditions are manifested, do we dare suggest that God will not forgive? Scripture clearly states that such a one when this repentance is manifested is forgiven and mercy is extended. The iniquity is blotted out through faith in the sin covering efficacy of the blood of Christ.