So important is this great truth of repentance that it was one of the first, if not the very first, word used by our Savior, John the Baptist, and the Apostles (Matt. 3:2 and Matt. 4:17). In the touching scene when Paul calls the Ephesian elders together, he rehearses the work, and one of the first things he mentions is repentance: “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
It is possible that we may need to review, as well as restate, the truth of repentance. The word repentance, among other things, has the idea of “re-thinking.” Often it has been preached and illustrated that repentance is a change of mind, but it is much more than that. It is possible for a person to change his mind from something totally wrong to another thing that is just as wrong. People have been known to embrace the belief of one cult, and change for another. They have obviously had a change of mind, they have done some rethinking, but this is not biblical repentance. True repentance precedes and includes the acknowledging of the truth. Paul makes it clear, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
Repentance would be the absolute admission that I am wrong, and the total confession that God is right! We tend to limit repentance to something in our conversion, as a once for all experience. We are quick in our preaching to tell sinners that God demands it from them, but what about saints? The Psalmist teaches us, by his own personal experience, the need for repentance in the life of a child of God. It is astounding what some are calling repentance. Instead of brokenness, repentance, and true contrition over one’s sin, it is the idea that you are sorry for what happened. It may be that we are sorry that we have to face the consequences more than we are sorry that we have offended the Lord or one of His own.
Confession that one has sinned, is not necessarily repentance. Repentance includes and stands for the forsaking of that sin. Notice that Pharaoh confessed he had sinned (Ex 9: 27, 10:16), but nothing changed. The same with Balaam in Num 22:34. Saul confessed he had sinned, but it seemed little more than feeling sorry for himself. In fact, he states that “there is none of you that is sorry for me” (I Sam. 22:8). Men are quick to acknowledge their sin if they think it would reduce or end the consequences. There is no remorse for their iniquity, only regret that they were caught.
True repentance is marked by the individual accepting full responsibility for what he has done. Cain couldn’t bring himself to it when asked, “What hast thou done?” It is interesting that a man of Solomon’s caliber, with such gifted wisdom, seemingly could not bring himself to admit he was wrong and had sinned. He was so unlike his father! Stubbornness, like sin, can run in the bloodline, but repentance does not.
A person that has truly repented, lives a life of repentance. When he is wrong, he is willing to admit the same, confess to God and whoever else may be involved. David is a lovely example. One hesitates to even mention the sin of such a man, that is, his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. This would be followed by the murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover up his sin, as we read in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. It was the prophet Nathan’s going to him and telling him of his guilt before God that broke him, and it was his willingness to repent that led to his restoration before God. Psalm 51 relates his feelings.
The first thing David does, once reprimanded by Nathan, is to speak to God. He hadn’t done this for a while. There are two things about God that David knows, and these cause him to approach Him. David says, “Be gracious to me, 0 God, according to Thy loving kindness.” This could be translated “Have mercy upon me, 0 God.” “Mercy” is a family-type word. It is what a son would not hesitate to ask of his father. David knew he was part of the family and so he appeals to God for mercy. One that truly appreciates the mercy should be easily able to show it. Note, later, how he deals with Mephibosheth. He said, “That I may show the kindness (grace) of God unto him.” This is the language of a man who truly knows repentance.
He approaches God, and acknowledges his sin. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,” David says, “I have stepped over the line.” The word is sometimes translated “rebellion.” He says, “My sin is ever before me. I awake and it’s there, I lie down to go to sleep and it’s there. It’s always before me.” It is expected that the need for repentance is far more sensitive in the child of God, than in the unregenerate.
David understood that his sin was not just against Bathsheba. It wasn’t just against Uriah. It was against God. So he knows that whatever he gets, he deserves. Imagine, the ruler of all Israel honestly admitting that he had sinned against God.
He also acknowledges his sin nature. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity” (Ps 51:5). David understands that he was born a sinner. Because of the sin of Adam, all are born sinners that sin because of birth and by behavior. We are bom sinners, bom without the life of God in us. Thank God for His loving kindness and His compassion in sending Christ to die for our sin, so that we might be delivered from the course and consequence of a life of sin! It is interesting that the very One who would be born of the line of David would be our Deliverer.
Maybe the reason for much barrenness among us today is the lack of repentance in us as believers. “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).
David was a man who experienced revival in his heart. He was marked by true brokenness and repentance. David was now ready to be used once again. In this world, when something is broken it is put on the shelf and is unusable. But, in God’s kingdom, until the vessel is broken it cannot be used. Another illustration of this is in Gideon’s day, when the vessel was broken to fulfil its purpose. When a man is broken, the Lord can use him.
Our Bible concludes with such words as, “she repented not” (Rev 2:21), “they repented not”(Rev 16:9). Oh, that our course would conclude as it commenced marked by true repentance! May God bring true revival to all our hearts! May we be honest and deal with the sin in our lives! May it bring glory only to Him!