Elements of True Repentance, part 3

Craig N. Johnson
June 19th, 2007

This article originally appeared: http://cafebiblia.com/?p=57. Used by permission of the author.

I continue today in a study of the 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) and his confession and contrition. We'll pick up with...

A request for restoration (vv. 7-12)

The first part of David's request for restoration is an appeal for cleansing or forgiveness (vv.7-9)

Psalm 51:7-9
7- Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8- Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9- Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.


Element #10: Repentance requires confidence that God will truly cleanse (v.7).

7- Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

David now makes the same request as in vv. 1b-2 but in reverse order (Cleanse, wash, blot out).

Hyssop was used at religious ceremonies to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the altar. This ceremony represented the removal of sin through the shedding of blood. See Hebrews 9:22. Hyssop is a leafy plant used to sprinkle blood or water on a person.

David is confident that his sin can be removed ("I shall be clean"). He doesn't offer up a cry of hopeless desperation.

I think this is a common misunderstanding concerning repentance. A man who is hopeless and weeps over his mistakes (you can even call them "sins") is NOT truly repentant. A repentant man is not hopeless. A repentant man turns from hopelessness. He knows he is hopeless while he remains in his sin, unrepentant. So, he turns from sin to God. A repentant man understands that hope is found in God alone, and that is the very reason he turns to God.

Those that have self-pity might be said by someone to be "too repentant." This is incorrect. One who wallows in his sin is not entrusting himself to God. He is trusting in himself and hoping in himself (while he sees his own weakness).

Questions to determine if you have a heart of repentance:

  • Do I wallow in my sin?
  • Am I hopeful when I cry out to God for forgiveness?
  • Do I repeatedly ask God to forgive me for the same thing over and over and over again?
  • Do I lack motivation to move from cries of forgiveness to obedient action?

Element #11: Repentance seeks joy by means of purity (vv.8-9).

8- Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9- Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.

In verse 8, David asks God to allow him to rejoice. "Bones" refers to the framework of his entire person. He had been collapsing under guilt (Psalm 32:3,4); he was sad; he wept over his sin.

A man with a false repentance may weep over his sin, but he does not seek God for joy. He may seek to reform himself for the sake of joy, but he does not rest in God alone for that joy. He may seek to reform himself in order to have the feeling of joy or to be free from the consequences of his sin. True repentance causes a man to seek joy in God. A repentant man does not love joy or happiness more than purity.

Questions to determine if you have true repentance:

  • Am I sad over my sin?
  • Do I try to seek joy without seeking to be pure? How am I trying to seek purity?
  • What do I think will bring me joy?
  • Do I seek joy as a by-product of seeking God, or is joy and happiness my primary concern?

The first part of David's request for restoration is an appeal for cleansing or forgiveness (vv.7-9). The second part is a desire for inward renewal or the creating of a pure heart (vv.10-12)

Psalm 51:10-12
10- Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11- Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12- Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Element #12: Repentance seeks purity God's way (v.10).

10- Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

David uses the word, "create," which is unusual. He asks God to use His creative power to make his old heart free from sin-stains.

The "heart" is the inner main, the seat of the emotions and the will. David wants a clean heart and a steadfast spirit. He is asking God to make his heart faithful.

A repentant man does not try to make himself pure in his own strength. He does work hard to be pure, but he realizes he can't do it unless God renews a steadfast spirit within him.

Questions to determine if you have genuine repentance:

  • Do I try to reform myself in my own strength, or do I depend completely on God to change me?
  • Do I prayerfully work hard to change?
  • Do I seek wisdom in God's Word for becoming more holy?
  • Do I expect God to change me without putting forth any of my own effort? God's way of making you more faithful, as portrayed in Scripture, involves effort on your part. Many with a false repentance expect God to make them pure with a "holy zap" even though God commands them to work hard to grow in Christlikeness (e.g. 1 Timothy 4:7b).

Conclusion

That's all for today. There are four more elements of genuine repentance in Psalm 51. I look forward to meditating on them with you.

This article originally appeared: http://cafebiblia.com/?p=57. Used by permission of the author.

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