2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”
Have you ever wondered why some “Christians” seem to live lives no different than the self-centered sin filled lives of others? Could it be that we’ve stopped preaching the word that the Apostle Paul was commissioned by Jesus to share with the world found in Acts 26:20, “… but [I] kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” Of all the commands of the Bible, undoubtedly the hardest one is the command to repent!
The word “repent” is not frequently used in common, every-day conversation, and thus has been relegated to “religious” settings. This is unfortunate, because many have no idea what the word means, and how much the word and concept of repentance are a part of the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the early Church and the entire Bible. The word “repent” occurs 46 times in 43 passages of Scripture in the King James Bible. The word “repented” occurs 32 times and the word “repentance” occurs 26 times. The matter of repentance is a very important subject to be considered, and I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of repentance, or any subject for that matter, but I do think we need to make sure we are saying what the Bible is saying.
We are given a sense of the importance and urgency of this subject when we see that the first recorded words of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, consisted of a command to “Repent. . .” (Matthew 3:2). Likewise, the first public proclamation of our Lord Jesus Christ was “Repent. . .” (Matthew 4:17). Thus, the urgency of repentance is emphasized when we see that while the gospel consists of: (1) facts to be believed, (2) commands to be obeyed, (3) promises to be enjoyed, (4) however, repentance falls under the commands to be obeyed. Many books have been written on the subject and many have conflicting ideas of what the Bible says about repentance. One consistent theme of God’s messengers and ministers is the message of repentance, which is woven throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament alike.
There are a few things of vital importance in both beginning and maintaining a walk with God after accepting His Son, Jesus Christ as Savior, and repentance is one of them. You can neither be saved without it nor can you walk (and work) closely with God without it. It is an urgent enough concern in your relationship with Jesus, that both He and John the Baptist preached “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and in no uncertain terms to warn of the wrath that ultimately comes from a lack of repentance. May this study on “Biblical Repentance” challenge that area of your life that defines how close you are in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God?
- WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
The word repentance is the Greek word “metanoia, which is translated “repentance” in our English Bibles and means “to change one’s mind.” In the theological and ethical sense a fundamental and thorough change in the hearts of men from sin and toward God. Although faith alone is the condition for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10; Acts 16:31), repentance is bound up with faith and inseparable from it, since without some measure of faith no one can truly repent, and repentance never attains to its deepest character till the sinner realizes through saving faith how great is the grace of God against whom he has sinned. On the other hand there can be no saving faith without true repentance. It is the determination of the will to turn one’s heart from sin to God.
Repentance is sorrow for sin, a detestation of one’s sins and a self abhorrence for being such a sinner. Repentance is the change of the inward springs of one’s very being; it is a penitent attitude, a changed mind-set, an admission that God is holy and right, while I am a lost sinner. Repentance is to start obeying God. Repentance requires action: it is sins acknowledged, despised, and abandoned. It is making restitution for wrongs. It is a change of heart that is demonstrated by a changed life. Repentance is to surrender to God; it is a commitment to live a new life. Repentance is a self declared sinner’s cry to God for mercy. Repentance is also granted by God (Acts 11:18). When we repent this way God forgives us, and He will remember our sins no more. It is the attitude of the publican who, fearful of even looking toward heaven, smote his breast and cried, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
In many organizations, change is like putting lipstick on a bulldog. There’s a tremendous amount of effort involved, and most times all you get is some cosmetics, and an angry bulldog.” So writes Dave Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle. Real change, whether in a business, church, family, or in ourselves, can be difficult and elusive. While we long for a deep and lasting transformation, we often get only a temporary cover-up that solves nothing and satisfies no one. The word repent is used in the bible to describe the beginning of genuine spiritual change. Language scholar W. E. Vine says that to repent means “to change one’s mind or purpose.”
In the New Testament it always involves a change for the better as a person turns away from sin while turning toward God. Jesus began His public ministry with the call, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). When we feel sorry for doing wrong or for getting caught, it may be nothing more than a spiritual cosmetic. But true repentance occurs deep in our hearts and results in a visible difference in our actions. Thus, when we turn to Jesus Christ and yield ourselves to Him, He produces real change, not just a cover up. In a nut shell “Repentance is not just words but actions.”
- REPENTANCE OF SIN
The idea of repentance is an easy concept to grasp once the correct context has been established. To put it bluntly, repentance is the act of turning away from sin and back to obedience to God. However, for this to make any kind of sense, we need to have a most clear understanding of what sin really is. Since God is who He is, He is the only One who decides what is right and wrong. One basic thing the Bible teaches quite clearly and often (which goes contrary to popular opinion) is that God really leaves no gray area about right and wrong.
God does not allow for what is termed situational ethics, the idea that something may be wrong most of the time but may be right if the circumstances appear to warrant the action. This idea generally comes from an incomplete or incorrect understanding of how God looks at things. The Bible also illustrates in many places how often God’s right and wrong may not seem correct in human terms. This does not, however, alter God’s sovereignty in the matter. Basically, sin is defined as disobeying God, and He summed up all that is right for us to do in two simple commandments:
(1) Love Him ahead of anything or anyone else in life, and
(2) Love others the way you love and take care of yourself.
Jesus Himself declared these two commandments as foundational to every other biblical truth in Matthew 22:37-40. Thus, when we tell God that He is right in saying we did something wrong by His judgment, that is called confession. When we take action, using the strength that God makes available to us, to fulfill one of God’s commandments in opposition to the sin, then that is turning from the sin and that is repentance. From what I have described, you can see, there is far more to repentance than just saying you are sorry about what you did. Real repentance is a trigger for actions to counter the sin. When you really repent of lustful thoughts toward someone (for example), you go out of your way to think about God’s Word against adultery or how you can help someone less fortunate than you. Is this an easy thing to do? By no means, but that is why Jesus offers His strength to help you.
Sin thrives on self-deception and doesn’t look ahead to the end result. The sin back at the dawn of creation recorded in the book of Genesis, in essence, is the same as it is today … defiance against God. The Bible isn’t a written record of perfect people (except Jesus Christ) … thus, from the beginning that is recorded in Genesis to the end recorded in Revelation, God’s Word points out in painful detail the mistakes made by its characters. Adam and Eve failed to obey God’s specific restrictions (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7). Abraham lied about his relationship to Sarah (Genesis 12:10-20). Moses grew angry and struck the rock in disobedience to God (Numbers 20:7-12). David committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12). Solomon started out well but turned from God for a time (1 Kings 3:5-9; 11:1-43. Peter denied knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). These are just a few examples … so brethren, it is for our instruction that the Bible records the sinful actions of many of its key figures, but more importantly the Scriptures also provides a means by which we can truly have repentance from these actions.
- WHY IS REPENTANCE SO IMPORTANT
There are several reasons why repentance is important. However, the most fundamental one is that it fulfills the first commandment, to love God before all else. To fail to repent is to call God a liar about what He says is wrong. You cannot show love to God if you consider Him a liar and He cannot be anything but silent when you believe this of Him. A lack of repentance guarantees a broken relationship between you and God, and true repentance on our part will establish and/or restore that personal relationship once again. “Oops I sinned, so I need to ask for forgiveness.” Is this the way it works for you? It’s really not what the Bible teaches. David’s Psalm of Repentance reveals his thoughts and emotions about seeking to repent of his sin, which were actually capital crimes involving lying, adultery, murder, and enlisting the aid of others in the execution of the same. It’s very easy to rush through this Psalm and over-focus on some of the most quoted Scripture in the Bible, but don’t. As we examine each of David’s thoughts and actions, ask yourself, “Is this how I go about it?” You may find the answer to why some issues keep recurring in your life in spite of having brought them to the Lord many times before. You may simply be “venting” instead of “repenting”.
- DAVID’S PSALM OF REPENTANCE – (Psalm 51:1-12)
An example of true repentance is found in Psalm 51:1-12. My brethren, this Psalm talks about the whole of sin, about the root of sin, about the fruit of sin and about the devastating effect of sin. However, it also speaks clearly of the forgiveness of sin and the joy and peace received. It leads the listener to recognition of sin, the wrath of God and the mercy of God. At the beginning of this psalm we see a sinner (David) troubled by the knowledge of his sin and the burden of his conscience. David, one of God’s greatest servants walked on the roof of his home in the late afternoon of a beautiful Middle Eastern day.
As he looked from the roof of his home, his eyes came to rest upon a woman who was bathing, perhaps in a courtyard or on a roof nearby. The woman was beautiful, and thus began the story of David’s great sin with Bathsheba; the murder of her husband, Uriah; and the death of an illegitimate child. David’s sin led him into darkness, misery, despair, disgrace, and defeat. David didn’t resolve to straighten out his life or do better before he confessed his sin and experienced cleansing from his sin. Only after God had forgiven him and had renewed his life did David resolve to serve the Lord anew, once again.
As was his custom, David wrote those words in the form of a song, Psalm 51. The first eleven verses contain prayers; a prayer of repentance in verses 1-9 and a prayer of renewal in verses 10 and 11. Psalm 51:1-9, (1) Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. (4) Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (5) Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (6) Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (7) Purge 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; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. (9) Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
(1) David’s plea or cry for MERCY and for clearing the RECORD
Psalm 51:1, Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions
When the prophet Nathan confronted David and condemned him as the stealer of a woman and the murderer of an innocent man (2 Samuel 12:1-9), David’s spirit was crushed within him. Guilt piled upon guilt in his broken heart. David’s approach to God began with a plea for mercy. In the hours that followed, David humbly comes before God with a confession of his complete unworthiness and with a cry of faith looking solely to God as his only hope. Here we see a true and repentant heart which finds no hope or comfort in itself but sees only sin and misery and comes before the eternal God for help. The only plea of a repentant sinner is in the mercy of God. The person who finds any comfort or help in himself cannot sincerely speak these words. The only anchor to which the sinner clings is the unfailing love of God. “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.”
Mercy may be defined as God’s withholding from us what we justly deserve (Lamentations 3:22, 23, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness”). Often when we sin, we feel as though we cannot lift our eyes toward God. We need to understand, however, that God sees us in Christ. In Christ, we enjoy a perfect standing with God. Even when we sin, God relates to us as a loving Father. Our sin does not negate the promises God made to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father does not cast us out of His family. Although He despises our sin, He loves us. When we confess our sin, He restores us to fellowship with Him, and He cleanses us as stated in 1 John 1:9.
Psalm 103:11 says, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him”. Here is that great mercy of God as expressed by His Son who remains as stated in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.” This God of salvation forgives sins not by the merit of the individual but by the merit of the Son of God who wiped out the sins of mankind who removed them “as far as the east is from the west.” David’s sin and our sin, is great, but God’s grace in Christ is greater. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20. David knew that he had broken his relationship with God because of his sin. In tears he pleaded, that God would blot out his transgressions. The term “blot” means, “to wipe off, remove, erase, or get rid of.” David requested that God would clear the record based on His tender mercies. Tender mercy is like a compassion a parent has for a child. When a child does something wrong, the parent has the option either to forgive and forget or to discipline the child. Many times when the child recognizes his or her sin and repents, parental tenderness carefully erases the child’s transgression. From beginning to end this is the repentant sinner’s comfort and assurance that God’s mercy has blotted out the handwriting of sin, in this case adultery, murder, and a year of hard-hearted refusal to acknowledge the transgression committed. David pleaded for that kind of tenderness.
(2) David’s request for CLEANSING
Psalm 51:2, Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Sin pollutes the heart, the conscience, and the entire life of a person. That which removes this pollution or in this case cleanses the heart, conscience, and life is the grace of God. “Washed completely” is the cleansing by which God declares the sinner justified by the Gospel of Christ and His redemption. Before God the sinner stands cleansed by the blood of Christ, the sin that was as scarlet became as white as snow. David wanted God to cleanse him vigorously so he would be completely clean. He didn’t want to retain any part of his sin or to become involved in it again.
Those who engage in lies, deception, fornication, adultery, cheating, stealing, and murder to reach their own self-centered goals are living in iniquity, as this world defines it. They too need a vigorous cleansing from their warped, sinful way of life. The Hebrew terms used for sin underscore what a wretched thing it is. As “transgressions” it is nothing less than rebellion against God, as “iniquity” it points out the perversion and twisting of moral standards as “sin” it implies that the divinely appointed goal that has been set for man has been completely missed by man. David prayed that God would wash him from his iniquity and cleanse him from sin. David had a strong sense of his own polluted condition and asked God to remove his uncleanness. His repentance was genuine
(3) David’s recognition of SIN
Psalm 51:3-4, For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Psalm 51 verse 3 begins with a full acknowledgment of David’s transgressions and further demonstrates his genuinely repentant attitude. David didn’t blame anyone but himself. When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately responded by passing on the blame: Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither one was repentant. The human part of restitution to God after sin is summed up in the first words of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins ….” True confession is not a lifeless acknowledgment of committed sin. It is a vivid consciousness of our sinfulness; it is often accompanied by restlessness, anguish, and a burden of wrong that causes us to cry out to God.
David acknowledged his transgressions in the light of their awful significance. So intense was David’s guilt that he could never forget his sin. Regardless of the beauty of the evening or the peacefulness of the hillside, his transgressions loomed before him. He could not escape their haunting presence in his life. God had used the searing words of Nathan the prophet like a branding iron to impress upon David’s mind the reality that he, like any of his humblest subjects, was a sinner. Sins against God’s people are called sins against God Numbers 12; 1 Samuel 8:7-8; Matthew 25:37-45; Acts 5:4, speaks about Ananias and Sapphira lying to God concerning keeping back part of the price of the land which was sold. Furthermore, all sin indicates a denial of God’s right to rule our lives.
In verse 4, David concluded that he had sin against God. Certainly in David’s case the sins of adultery and murder were directed against man also. Uriah was dead, and Bathsheba was pregnant; nevertheless, David’s major concern lay with God. He realized that he had to deal eternally with Him. A man may sin against several different people, yet every one of his sins goes against God. We must realize that envy, lust, backbiting, and failures such as neglecting to pray and withholding good deeds 1 Samuel 12:23; Proverbs 3:27 are indeed sins against both God and man. In all aspects of life, man is responsible first to God as Joseph also stated when tempted to commit adultery (Genesis 39:9).
(1) Do you see sin as something that actually offends God and God alone?
(2) Do you see it as a personal break in your relationship with God?
(3) If so, how do you attempt to repair the breach?
- THE PROCESS OF REPENTANCE
So far we have discussed the following areas in the process of repentance written by David and contained in Psalm 51:1-12: (a) A plea or cry for MERCY; (b) A plea for clearing the RECORD; (c) A request for CLEANSING; (d) A recognition of SIN. We need to take a further look at other areas in David’s repentance over his sin:
(1) A realization of his DEPRAVITY
Psalm 51:5-6, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Why does man commit sin and rebel against God? The truth explained by David – man is a sinner by nature and he was no exception. Man is sinful from his very beginning to say nothing about the thoughts, words, and works that follow. His mother bore him into a world of iniquity. In contrast with his perpetually sinful condition, in verse 6, David presented the high standard God applies. God wants men to be upright. “Ye shall be holy” is God’s will. God loves the inner truth, not the outward piety which may really be a deception of what is in the heart of man. Wisdom or the fear of God is what is humbly desired. This is not to be an outward change, but in the part of man that is hidden, where no human eye can penetrate. God’s requirements reach far into the unseen parts of a man, far beyond the human standard of outward conformity. Such a deep problem as the inherent sin nature (v. 5) cannot be solved by treating only the symptoms. Its solution can be accomplished only by changing the heart.
Mark 2:10 tell us that, “The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”
A story has been told about a man with a nagging cough who tried all the over-the-counter remedies he could find, but none worked. Finally he went to a doctor, who quickly discovered he was suffering from pneumonia. The man was trying to ease the symptoms when what he needed was a cure. The doctor treated the deeper, more serious problem and in a short time the cough was gone. When Jesus was in Capernaum, a large crowd came to the home where He was staying. As He was teaching, some men made an opening in the roof and lowered a paralyzed man on a mat. Jesus initially responded not by healing the man but by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven”.
The deepest need of the man was not physical but spiritual. Then, to show His authority to forgive, Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way – not only with legs that moved but with a heart that was forgiven. The world is full of pain and problems. It’s tempting to spend a lot of time and resources to treat the surface symptoms and feel we have done our part. Like Jesus, however, we need to deal with the heart issues. We need to tell people that their sins can be forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel holds the cure for our deepest need. Sin is the disease Christ is the cure.
Ezekiel 26:26, “I will give you a new heart”
It was the first time I met my neighbor, who had just moved in a few days before. He told me he had heart trouble and had sold his business on the advice of his doctor. He seemed quite surprised when I said, “Yes, I know, and I understand you were born with a bad heart.” Emphatically he replied, “Oh no, I had a heart attack just a year ago! Before that my heart was perfect.” “ But I added, “I read just this morning that you were born with heart disease.” I referred him to what God says about the sinful human heart and the need of a new heart.
It was the first time he had heard the real diagnosis of his heart condition. My good neighbor had physical heart trouble, but his spiritual heart condition was a much more serious problem. We all have this problem because Adam introduced sin into the human race – Romans 5:12-14. The prognosis for this heart trouble is more than physical death – it is spiritual death as well – Romans 6:23. My friend, there is only one remedy. The Great Physician, Jesus Christ, must supply a “new heart”. He does His work in us as we acknowledge our heart trouble and let Him operate by His grace and give to us eternal life.
(2) David’s plea for a SOLUTION
Psalm 51:7-9, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Having shown the contrast between his deep-seated problem and God’s high demands, David cried out to God for three things that would rectify the situation.
(1) In Psalm 51:8, David requested that he hear the sounds of joy and gladness again. His sin had dulled his spiritual senses. His entire world was painted in shades of blue and black and darkness. His soul, burdened with sin, could not hear the songs of gladness. David recognized that his sin was of the worst kind and needed that which had the greatest cleansing power. This is equally true of all sinners who are in need of that great cleansing power of Christ’s blood. No other power will do, for that alone can thoroughly cleanse. Wash is a word which includes vigorous pounding, stamping, and rubbing in order to get all the dirt out and thus make white. By the blood of Christ a man stands before God truly and thoroughly cleansed.
David wanted to hear joy and gladness so that the bones that God had “broken” might rejoice once again. Bones is a figure of speech which refers to the whole, in this case the entire man. Spiritually these bones had been broken. David had been totally crushed by Nathan’s conviction, “Thou art the man!” Once the sinner has heard, “Your sins are forgiven”, deep joy follows. A joy which produces a calm and peace in the heart. Washed and cleansed by the hyssop of God’s grace, this sinner is raised from his knees to a height that only a repentant man can fully understand.
(2) In verse 9, David asked God to hide His holy face from his sins. David was poignantly aware that God had seen every horrible activity of his past. The first part of this verse is a prayer that God would totally disregard what the sinner is guilty of before Him. David desired for God to cover His face so that He would not see the things he had done. But even more, the second part stresses that God would do away with these sins so that they are as completely disposed of as is the writing on a slate that has been gone over with a wet sponge; and
(3) In the last part of verse 9, David asked God to erase, to blot out, all of his iniquities. To have them blotted out was to have them removed from the record. Only God can do this delicate operation. A clean heart, empty of all sin and love of sin is the work of the Creator and His divine power.
Which part of this process is the most difficult and why? I would say it is the recognition of sin.
- THE REQUESTS OF RENEWAL – (Psalm 51:10-12)
Psalm 51: 10-12, Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (11) Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. (12) Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Thus, in his prayer of renewal, David asked for four specific things. They form a pattern for anyone who desires to be equipped again for service to God. David’s Psalm contains his request of renewal for:
(a) A CLEAN Heart
Psalm 51:10a, Create in me a clean heart, O God
The Old Testament characterizes the heart as the center of thinking and planning. In effect David asked, “O God make the center of my planning clean once again so that when I am thinking, planning, and preparing to live my life, I will do so without defilement.” He thought that if his plans were right, his life would be right as well. Psalm 19:14 uses the term “the meditation of my heart.” None of us can contemplate, plan, or even daydream evil and still lead a life that glorifies God. David’s great son Solomon, who was born sometime later to Bathsheba, addressed this issue when he wrote, “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:6, 7.
Spiritual Heart Care – Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence”
You’re up at dawn, doing your exercises. You’re not going to let your heart get weak! You’ve trimmed the fat from your diet. You get regular cholesterol checks. And you’re exercising four times a week to keep your cardiovascular system in peak condition. However, you’ve let your spiritual heart turn to mush. Preoccupied with the temporary, you’ve neglected the eternal. You seldom read the Bible anymore. Your prayers are lists of requests to God to make your life more comfortable and pain-free. By the time you reach the church door after the sermon, you can’t recall what the pastor said because you were thinking about something else. If this describes you, it’s time to get into a spiritual heart-care program. It begins where David (a man after God’s own heart) was in Psalm 139, by acknowledging that God knows all about your heart. It continues in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” And it results in the prayer of Psalm 19:14, “Let . . . the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.” Taking care of your body makes sense, but it makes even more sense to gain spiritual fitness by walking with the Lord. That’s an exercise program with eternal value! To keep spiritually fit, keep walking with the Lord.
(b) A GOOD Spirit
Psalm 51:10b, and renew a right spirit within me.
The word “right” in the term “right spirit” is the Hebrew word for “steadfast.” The sinful king requested the renewal of a steadfast spirit within him. He had planned and carried out his dreadful sin because he had first entertained sinful thoughts toward another man’s wife. He desired to be moral and clean on an enduring basis. He did not want to be ambivalent in his relationship to God and people. On several other occasions David had responded to trials spontaneously and unwisely, no doubt because his heart had not been steadfastly fixed upon God’s truth (v. 6). In one instance David wanted to kill Nabal, Abigail’s husband, in the heat of anger (1 Samuel 25. On another occasion he ordered the Ark of the Covenant to be transported on an ox cart, which led to the death of Uzzah 2 Samuel 6:1-11. In an act of pride, David numbered the people in his kingdom 2 Samuel 24:1-7. Recognizing his leaning to such rash behavior, David asked God for a steadfast spirit.
(c) The PRESENCE of God
Psalm 51:11, Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
As a part of his renewal, David called for the continuing presence of God with him. He knew that God had rejected Saul because of his sins of rebellion and disobedience (2 Samuel 13:13, 14). As David contemplated the severity of his own sin, he was smitten with the possibility that God might also cast him away. In David’s heart, forgiveness was not enough. Continued fellowship was his compelling desire.
(d) The RESTORATION of joy and motivation
Psalm 51:12, Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. In his prayer of renewal, David asked for four specific things. They form a pattern for anyone who desires to be equipped again for service to God.
David asked God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. The word “restore” means “to give back” or “to cause to return”. David had experienced no joy since the terrible days of his secret sin with Bathsheba. The word “salvation” means “deliverance”. David longed for deliverance from bondage. David was bound, not in sin, but by the condemnation of his sin. He pleaded for the joy that would result when God granted deliverance. In no way was David implying that God had snatched away his joy. He knew that he alone was responsible for its destruction. God had not taken it. David had lost it, and in his miserable condition he asked God to tenderly rebuild joy in his life.
In verse 8, David had asked God to make him hear joy and gladness. God had undoubtedly opened his ears, but David had not yet experienced the thrill of fully restored joy because of God’s forgiveness. David went on to request that God would grant to him a willing spirit that would further help him keep the resolutions he would make in verses 13-19. Sometimes a believer who possess heavy feelings of guilt may refuse to work or witness for God. He isolates himself and becomes unwilling to give or to serve. He often finds fault or makes feeble excuses as he shuns the responsibility of serving God. Just so, David was broken by his sin. He had no confidence in himself; he could not stand as a witness for God against the enemies of God. David needed joy and motivation to return to full service to God.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”
A woman who restores valuable paintings says an expert can save many works of art that seem hopelessly damaged. Rebecca McLain has brought color and life back to dulled oil paintings by carefully removing dirt and discolored varnish. However, she has also seen the damage done when people attempt to clean their own soiled art with oven cleaner or abrasive powders. Her advice? If you value the art, take it to an expert in restoration. The same need exists in lives soiled by sin. Our efforts at ridding ourselves of the guilt and defilement of sinful actions and attitudes often end in frustration and despair. In our attempts to get rid of guilt, we sometimes blame others. Alternatively, we simply give up, thinking that we cannot be any different.
However, Jesus our redeemer is the expert who can restore the most damaged, defiled, and discouraged person. Christ died so that anyone who by faith receives Him can be completely forgiven and restored. With His own blood He will cleanse us (1 John 1:7) and make us a new creation, God’s own “workmanship” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:100. When it comes to cleansing the canvas of our souls, we cannot do it ourselves. Only God can transform a sin-stained soul into a masterpiece of grace.
- PROPHETS, APOSTLES AND CHRIST PREACHED REPENTANCE
Those who do not preach repentance or who make light of it or who claim it is the same as faith or who redefine it so that it has nothing to do with sin are not following the Bible pattern for evangelism. They are following a manmade program. The bottom line is that Bible prophets, apostles and Christ Himself proclaimed repentance. If faith is the same as repentance, this would make no sense. Those who follow the Bible will preach repentance and will require evidence thereof. When Christ and the Apostles preached repentance it involved a change of mind toward God, toward sin and resulted in a changed life, wherein a person’s affections is changed from earthly things to heavenly things. The gospel message preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost, by the Apostle Paul after Pentecost required repentance, and defined that as a mindset to turn to God from evil works.
The gospel requires that the sinner exercise repentance toward God and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Biblical repentance is a change of mind toward God and sin, which results in a change of life. To say that it has nothing to do with one’s attitude toward sin is to throw away the Bible and the many centuries of Bible-believing preaching. When the very Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared upon the scene in His public ministry, He came preaching the narrow and exclusive doctrines of repentance and faith. Mark 1:14-15, Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” If Jesus Christ, God’s only Son felt compelled to preach such a message before a lost and dying world, so should we. Galatians 1:6-9 teaches that there is only one gospel, and if any gospel message leaves out the doctrine of repentance or faith or both, you can be assured it is a false gospel.
(1) Repentance preached by John the Baptist – “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. In addition, the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and the entire region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:1-10).
(2) Repentance preached by Paul – “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30); “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21); “But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20). There is no Bible example of people being saved who did not evidence a change in their lives. The Apostle Paul, reviewing his ministry before King Agrippa, noted that he went about preaching to Jews and Gentiles “that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20). This is exactly the message we are to preach today.
(3) Repentance preached by Peter – “And they went out, and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12); “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38); “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19); “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31); “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23). The Bible says that God is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
(4) Repentance preached by Jesus Christ – “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17); “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13); “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. … Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7, 10). “And said unto them, thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48); Christ’s goal in dealing with men was not merely to lead them in a sinner’s prayer, but to bring them to repentance and genuine salvation. He described salvation in terms of coming to repentance.
- BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF REPENTANCE – There are numerous Bible example which tell of God’s mercy to the sinner who truly repents. Here are a few examples of so many woven throughout the Old and New Testament, which testify to Yahweh’s great mercy, love and grace.
(1) King Manasseh – This young man was the son of good King Hezekiah. He ascended the throne when he was 12 years of age and within a few years he undid the wonderful work of reformation carried out by his father. Manasseh rejected the commandments of the Most High and turned to the basest forms of idolatry. Warning after warning fell on deaf ears as he went from bad to worse. He then turned his hatred on the people of God and “filled Jerusalem with blood, from one end to another.” Then God punished Manasseh and he repented. The story of his repentance and forgiveness is found in 2 Kings 21. Read the chapter, as it will open your eyes to this great truth: that Yahweh is a Being of infinite love and compassion and when true repentance is displayed and forgiveness sought, He is ready to forgive. (2 Chronicles 33:10-19)
(2) The Prodigal Son – recorded in (Luke 15:11-32) is another excellent example of repentance in the teachings of Jesus Christ. When he came to his senses he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” So he got up and went to his father … The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:17-21). Jesus declared the prodigal’s humility, regret, acknowledgment of sin and return to the Father caused this son to become alive again from his spiritual state of dead and lost: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate (Luke 15:24). This is obviously spiritual life and death, since the prodigal son was not affected physically by this death.
(3) Repentance is Nebuchadnezzar humbling himself before God. Nebuchadnezzar was a King who never once had the pie of humility served in his sumptuous palace menu. Daniel chapter 4 narrates another of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, this time of an immense tree, which Daniel interprets. While boasting – as usual – over his achievements, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by God. The king loses his sanity and lives in the wild for seven years eating grass. After this, his sanity and position are restored and he praises and honors God. “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).
(4) Repentance of the Philippian Jailer running from his sin to Jesus Christ and becoming a kind helper of Christians. “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:33-34).
- REPENTANCE ISN’T MERE REMORSE FOR WRONG ACTIONS
The Bible tells us that men can be remorseful about their actions without exercising genuine repentance unto salvation. This is described as the “sorrow of the world” in 2 Corinthians 7:10. There are key examples of this in the Old and the New Testaments. King Saul is the prime Old Testament example, because he was sorry that he was caught in various sinful acts, but he did not demonstrate repentance because his actions did not change (1 Samuel 15:24; 24:17; 26:21). Judas is the fearful New Testament example of a man who was remorseful but did not repent toward God (Mathew. 27:3-4). Thus, remorse is man-centered rather than God-centered. Those who repent change their mind about their relationship with God and the results is a change in the way they live. Judas regretted his actions, but he did not turn to God.
- REPENTANCE ISN’T MERELY THE SAME AS FAITH
(1) If repentance and faith are the same, why does the Bible make such a plain distinction between them? “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In reality, repentance and faith are two different actions though they are intimately connected and cannot necessarily be separated in time. Repentance is acknowledging one’s sin and rebellion against God and changing one’s mind about sinning against God. Faith is trusting the finished work of Christ for forgiveness. Repentance and faith are the two aspects of man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.
(2) If repentance and faith are the same, why did all of the New Testament preachers proclaim repentance? Many arguments have been given to justify not preaching repentance, but the bottom line is that the Bible preachers proclaimed repentance. If repentance is totally wrapped up in believing, why did the Lord Jesus Christ preach “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)? Why did Peter preach, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted” (Acts 3:19)? Why did Paul preach, “God … now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)? Or, “[men] should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20)?
(3) If repentance and faith are the same, why did the Lord Jesus Christ say that repentance is a part of the Great Commission? “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The answer is that repentance is to be preached, and faith is to be preached. While these doctrines are intimately connected, they are not the same. Biblical salvation involves both: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). That is what the Lord’s Apostles preached, and they are our only infallible guides. Those who claim that repentance does not have to be preached or that it is exactly the same as faith are denying the plain teaching of the Word of God.
- FURTHER REFLECTION
As sin has been a part of the human condition since the Garden of Eden, so also has God’s demand for repentance. The Apostle Paul’s words are still true today, “God commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Our Lord is not slack in his promise to return, he is longsuffering. His patience provides time and opportunity for us to repent of our sins and turn to Him. Peter would say in 2 Peter 3:15, “and account that the longsuffering or our Lord is salvation.” But we must understand that God’s longsuffering is not eternal! We must seize the opportunity. The words of our Lord are as vital today as ever! The message for sinful men, women and children is still “repentance!” Alien sinners still need to “repent and be baptized” and erring disciples still need to “Repent, therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.” Gods call to repentance is evidence of His love for us. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
- CLOSING ILLUSTRATION
Mark 1:15 tell us, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Evangelist J. Edwin Orr said that “the first word of the gospel” is repentance. It’s a turning away from sin and toward the Lord. The prophet Zechariah cried out to the people of Israel to repent and return to the Lord: “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds” (Zechariah 1:4). My friend, salvation begins with repentance. It involves a change of mind about sin, which leads to belief in Jesus Christ and brings us the forgiveness of god. Yet, repentance is more than a once-for-all act that initiates salvation. It is an ongoing choice, a change of mind that sees sin as wrong, confesses it, and rejects it. Martin Luther put it this way in the door of the Wittenberg church, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent,’ He willed that the entire life of a believer be one of repentance.” It’s an ongoing mindset toward sin.
Here’s the point. The change of mind that is the heart of repentance should become a pattern of thinking – a lifestyle. Even though we are secure in Christ, we must continue to see sin through God’s eyes and acknowledge it as evil. And when we sin, let’s repent, confess our wrongdoing, and receive the forgiveness of God. The Apostle Paul said godly sorrow for sin leads to salvation and a new life (2 Corinthians 7:10), whereas the sorrow of the world, merely feeling bad about sin’s consequences, leaves a person unchanged and leads to death. True repentance doesn’t mean we never will sin again. But if we admit that we are helpless sinners, if we believe that Jesus died for our sins, if we are trusting Him for salvation, and if we have a deep desire to live for Him, our repentance is genuine, and we have been forgiven.
Until we see our sin, we will not see our need for a Savior.