Elements of True Repentance, part 2

Craig N. Johnson
June 15th, 2007

This article originally appeared: http://cafebiblia.com/?p=55. Used by permission of the author.

A couple days ago, I blogged about repentance. I talked about misunderstandings of repentance and then began a study of elements of true repentance from Psalm 51. Once again, here is the overall framework for the psalm:

  • A request for personal restoration (vv.1-2)
  • Confession and contrition (vv. 3-6)
  • A request for restoration (vv. 7-12)
  • A commitment to serve God (vv.13-17)
  • A request for national restoration (vv. 18-19)

We have considered David's request for personal restoration (vv.1-2). We'll pick up at David's...

Confession and contrition (vv.3-6)

David confessed he had sinned against the Lord (vv.3-4), and then lamented his moral impotence (vv.5-6). Let's consider his confession of sin as we look for a fifth element of genuine repentance.

Psalm 51:3-4
3- For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.
4- Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.

Element #5: Repentance causes a man to be haunted by his sin (v.3).

3- For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.

David's sin was ever before him - even though he had committed it almost a year earlier! While He is in God's presence he recognizes that he has sinned.

At the time Nathan approached him, he was not aware of his sin. He had apparently rationalized it away. Now, he agrees with God that his actions were sinful. When he says, "My sin is ever before me," he is saying that his sin always "weighs heavy" on his mind. When we are repentance our sin will haunt us. It will weigh heavy on our minds.

Questions to determine if you have a heart of repentance:

  • Do I care if sin is on my record before God?
  • Do I easily forget my sin or does it weigh heavily on my mind?

Element #6: Repentance requires an awareness that there has been a breach in a relationship with God (v.4).

4- Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight

He knows his sin was against God. It wasn't simply the violation of a code. But, why does he say "Against You, You only, I have sinned?"

God's character is our standard for living. Sin by its very definition is against God. Stealing is considered only a crime in the eyes of the state government. It is a sin when God is in view.

So, David was not denying that he sinned against people; he was acknowledging that God alone is the standard for what is right and wrong. When we are repentant, we recognize that what we did was sin because we broke God's standard. We realize that our sin has separated us from Him - because He is separate from all sin.

Questions to determine if you have a heart of repentance:

  • Do I acknowledge that my sin separates me from God?
  • Do I think about how my Christian life is a relationship with God (rather than following a code of ethics)?
  • Do I see how every action, thought, and word as either done to please or displease God?
  • Do I care when I displease God?

Element #7: Repentance accepts full responsibility for sin (v.4b).

I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

David acknowledges that God is not at fault. He isn't saying, "you gave me the woman;" "we are all sinners - gimme a break;" "don't expect me to be perfect;" or "as long as I am "repentant" it is okay." David isn't into making excuses. He accepts full responsibility for His sin.

Questions to determine if you have a heart of repentance:

  • Do I make excuses for my sin?
  • Are my words of apology to others following up with qualifications?
  • Do I belittle my sin?

Element #8: Repentance causes a man to see his helplessness before God (v.5).

5- Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me

A repentant man is humble because he loses confidence in himself. This doesn't mean he is hopeless - on the contrary, He has much hope! He seeks God for help. God is his hope.

David acknowledges that he is unable to get himself out of his sin. He has not only sinned - that's not the half of it. He is a sinner. He is fundamentally corrupt and weak. He must be rescued.

How did he get this way? He was born in iniquity. In essence, he says, "I have sinned because I am a sinner from birth." A repentant man knows he is helpless to meet God's requirements. He knows he is helpless to overcome his own sinfulness.

Questions to determine if you have a heart of repentance:

  • Do I consider my sin to be minor mistakes?
  • Am I turning to God for help to overcome my sin? Do I really even ask God for help to overcome my sin?
  • Do I think I am still "pretty good?"

Element #9: Repentance understands and accepts God's high standard (v.6).

6- Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

David knows that his whole life has been in tension. He is a sinner, yet God requires truth and wisdom - "reliable and productive living." God's wants men to be holy - completely holy.

God's standard calls for purity in both thought and deed. The standard is incredibly high. This thought follows David's acknowledgment of his deep sinfulness. He is desperate!

If we are genuinely repentant, we will see God's high standard. We will realize that we don't fall short "a little bit" - we fall really, really far short of His standard. We will accept this fact too.

Questions to determine if you have a heart of repentance:

  • Do I care about my thoughts as well as my actions?
  • Am I sorry only for the sins that others see, or am I sorry for the sins no one would ever notice?
  • Am I overwhelmed at God's high standard?

That's all for now.

May God grace us with genuine repentance!

This article originally appeared: http://cafebiblia.com/?p=55. Used by permission of the author.

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