True Repentance is Characterized by Humility
By humility I mean truly recognizing your complete and utter helplessness before God.
David doesn’t come to God saying God this is what I’m going to do, or this is how I’m going to make everything better. He doesn’t say to God, here’s my little plan, or let’s work together and we’ll get this job done.
No, when this psalm begins, he’s at his end.
God, my only hope is You.
“Have mercy on me O God”
Now many of us have come to points in our lives where we cry out to God for mercy, but when we do, we often try to give God reasons He should be merciful to us. We’re like God, I need you to be merciful to me because this is a one time deal, or because I’m a pretty good person overall.
Not David. Notice, there’s no bargaining going on. He doesn’t say God have mercy on me because I’m really spiritual, because of what I did for you in the past – remember I defeated Goliath, because I’ve written all these psalms, because I’m an important person – God you know who’s talking to you here – it’s me the King, because what I did here is completely out of character for me, no he says God, have mercy on me, not because of who I am and what I am like, no God have mercy on me, because of who you are and what you are like.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”
Seems like a pretty simple place to begin, doesn’t it?
True Repentance Begins When We Stop Trying to Fix the Problem on Our Own and Instead Start Falling Flat on our Face Before God Acknowledging Our Need for Him to Do What We Cannot.
Yet it takes a whole lot to bring us to this point.
In fact, it’s obviously a supernatural work – only something that the Spirit of God can do. True repentance is a work of God, because the natural tendency, what we do on our own when we sin, is look to ourselves and try to figure out what we can do to get ourselves out of it.
We feel like we are repentant because we are sorry for our sin, but we aren’t truly repentant because we haven’t been sufficiently humbled by our sin. We still think if we work hard enough and we do this or that, that we can fix the problem by ourselves and boy won’t that really make God happy.
No it won’t, that’s a counterfeit kind of repentance – it’s penance.
The truly repentant person understands that even the best things he does are full of sin, so if he
looks to himself to fix the problem, it’s only go to make the problem worse. In repentance, he turns
from trusting in himself at all, really he’s renouncing that, and he says as David does here,
“God, if things are going to be right in my life, I need you to pity me, to show love to me, to do for me what I am absolutely powerless to do for myself – to blot out my transgressions, to wash me from my iniquity, and to cleanse me from my sin.”
True Repentance is Marked by a Willingness to Call Sin What God Calls It
One of the signs that a person isn’t truly repentant is that although he may say he is sorry for what he did, he doesn’t describe what he did the way God does. He minimizes it.
He uses strong, bold, graphic language to describe the problem he is bringing before God.
God, I need you to…
Verse 1, “Blot out my transgressions…”
Verse 2, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity…” “Cleanse me from my sin…”
Verse 4, “Against you and you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight…”
Verse 14, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation…”
He’s not using fancy little words to describe what he did. He’s calling sin sin.
When he calls it transgression he’s calling it rebellion against God’s law. The word for transgression was actually one used in military contexts to describe an open and intentional rebellion.
When he calls it iniquity he’s calling it perversion, a twisting of God’s law.
When he calls it sin, he’s saying he has missed the mark.
When he calls it evil he’s saying it is wickedness.
When he describes it as bloodguiltiness, he’s saying that he’s guilty and that his sin deserves the most extreme form of punishment.
David’s agreeing with God. God, what I’ve done wasn’t some thoughtless mistake, it was out and out rebellion, perversion, I completely failed to do what you’ve called me to do, I chose evil over good, I deserve any punishment you might mete out.
When a person is truly repentant that’s what he does.
He calls sin sin, and he means it. He owns up to what he did. He doesn’t make light of it, he doesn’t minimize it, he doesn’t make up nice words for it, he doesn’t come to God with reasons why his isn’t serious, he doesn’t say yes it is sin, but you’ve got to understand all this other stuff…
No true repentance involves a confession, you say that you agree with God about what He has said about your sin in His Word. When you repent of your sin you are saying, like David, God I stand on your side – you are right about what I did – it is rebellion, it is perversion, it is evil, it is sin.