True Repentance

We learned before that there are false kinds of repentance. These are counterfeits and they are repentance unto self. It does not reach high to heaven but stays on earth. Judas’ exhibited a kind of repentance that is almost true but wasn’t true enough since it led to self. But true repentance is directed to God since it is His gift and the work of the Spirit (Acts 11:18). A Puritan once wrote that “True leaving of sin is when the acts of sin cease because of the infusion of the principle of grace, just as it ceases to be dark when there is an infusion of light” (Thomas Watson (1620-1686), Repentance).

We cannot truly repent if the Spirit won’t work in our hearts and minds. Unless the Spirit works no true repentance will be produced. We do not go on saying that I have made it! I repented of my sins! No true believer will say that! Repentance is an act of a humble heart. Pride has no way in the hearts of those who truly repented of their sins.

Psalm 51 is called by Spurgeon “The Sinner’s Guide” since it shows to the humbled sinner how to truly go back to God in the spirit of repentance. In this chapter, we’ll find the three elements of true repentance: Conviction, Confession, and Change (In Tagalog, it is pag-CCC).


In verse 1, David acknowledged his sin and his need for God’s mercy. He didn’t ask for justice. He knows that his sin is before the all-seeing God and he deserves punishment for his sins. He knows that his sin is damaging, that sin without repentance leads to final damnation. Truly, “dying to sin is the life of repentance.” He asked that God may blot out his transgressions. This is more than forgiveness since he wanted to be truly rescued from the filth of sin that corrupts him.

In repentance, we are convinced that we justly deserve hell and at the same time we are convinced that God is merciful. We do not end up in self-pity, but we go to the throne of God’s mercy through His Son.

John Gill writes, “David, under a sense of sin, does not run away from God, but applies unto him, and casts himself at his feet, and upon his mercy; which shows the view he had of his miserable condition, and that he saw there was mercy in God, which gave him hope; and upon his bended knees, and in the exercise of faith, he asks for it.”

In the spirit of repentance, he pleaded to be cleansed by His mercy and to have the strength to sin no more. He cast himself upon God’s mercy, who is able to wash him deep within (v. 2, Titus 3:5).


He did not deny his disobedience (v. 3). We need to observe that this is not a casual acknowledgment. In the Philippines, there is a famous song with this line, Lord, patawad. ako’y makasalanan, makasalanang nilalang.” This is a casual acknowledgment of sin, it does not come from a heart that is hunted by the guilt of his sin. It makes forgiveness meaningless, and a cliché. But for David, His sin and conscience are accusing him …ever before me… He cannot sleep because of it and he wanted to confess it before his God.

There was no attempt at justification. He did not rationalize or excuse his sin, that he is just a man who commits sin. He thought of himself as the greatest of all sinners as with Paul who is the chief of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15).

By the work of the Spirit, he honestly confessed it. He employed an exaggeration when he said that he sinned against God only (but history tells us that he sinned against Israel as their anointed king, Uriah and Bathsheba). Nevertheless, ultimately, all sin is against God. He is our audience when we sin. Oh reader, think about this when you pursue sin. The Holy God, the all-consuming fire is watching. Moses highlighted in his prayer, You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence (Psalms 90:8).

He did not bargain to merit forgiveness for he has none to present before God but sin.

In verse 5, we learn that confession is not only a confession of known sin but also of the deceitfulness of heart. True confession acknowledges that he is wicked deep within, the root of his sin is the heart and it started in conception.

David also confessed in verse 7 that he is incapable of removing the stain of guilt. He says “Purify me…”. He did not say “let me purify myself”. Apart from God’s sanctifying grace, he can never be cleansed within.

Lastly, we observe that confession is painful …broken bones… (v.8). The believer will feel the pain of sinning before God until he has none to do but confess it before his loving Father. There may be varying degrees of it but all will be sorrowful. You have broken… True sorrow comes from God. Since God broke his heart, it made him come to Him all the more.

A convicting post by my sister-in-law from Desiring God writes, “Those who confess sin sincerely also strive to forsake sin completely. So, when they rise from their knees and return to the battle, they do not hold their weapon loosely, as one who expects defeat. They enter with head held high, shielded with new mercy, clothed with fresh power.”

When we repent and confess our sins there is a welcoming promise that God will cleanse us from all of our sins no matter how dark we think they are. (1 John 1:9, Isaiah 1:18).

Change v. 15-17

We believe that he had religion for nine months. He still went to sacrifice and practice his duty as a king. But in verses 15-17, he confessed that all his sacrifices were hypocritical. He recognized that God does not delight in sacrifice and he has no pleasure in burnt offering.

True repentance always leads to change, change of perspective, heart, and will. What kind of repentance it would be if a husband is caught in adultery but did not leave his mistress, a thief caught in the robbery but kept the money for his own, and a lying lip caught speaking lies and yet covered it with another lie?

True repentance breeds inward change that manifests outwardly. Truly, “dying to sin is the life of repentance” (T.Watson, Repentance). Since God hates sin, he will also hate the sin that caused the death of his Savior. The same Puritan once said, “Till sin be bitter Christ will not be sweet” and “Sin seems beloved to us only when Christ does not.”

Isaac Ambrose said that Christ’s death creates in the true believer a sorrow for sin, desire to be free of all sin, and growth in victory over the lusts of sin (Ambrose, Looking unto Jesus).

In all of these, we must be careful of some mistakes concerning repentance

All repentance includes sorrow. Some people think that their repentance is not true enough because they did not cry enough. But our repentance is not validated by the intensity of our sorrows for sin. Yes, there is sorrow. But the degree of sorrow does not dictate the truthfulness of our repentance. If you know you sinned, you’ll go back to the Father to be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb with a greater resolution not to sin again/ You will daily depend upon the grace of God which is powerful enough to transform you from glory unto glory.

Some would cry that they found their repentance wanting, that they think they have not repented enough. But there is no such thing as perfect repentance. Our repentance is not accepted on the basis of its perfection but because Jesus repented for us (John the Baptist, baptism of repentance). He submitted to the ordinance of baptism. He repented on our behalf, that is substitutionary.1He also trusted in the Father by faith. All that He did in His stay here on earth is for us and on our behalf. So as long as it is sincere, wrought by the Spirit, and dependent upon the blood of the lamb, it is true.

The test of repentance is this: it must be sorrowful and lasting. We do not repent of our sins only to find ourselves doing the very sin that we committed over and over and over again without resolute a heart to stop it. The ultimate test of repentance is perseverance. Since God infused the soul with persevering grace, he will have sufficient grace to fight against and triumph over his sins. This does not mean that he will be sinless but that he will have greater hatred for the sins that beset him and greater love for the Savior who bled and died that he may receive cleansing from his sins.

May the Spirit grant us true repentance. In the same article above from the Desiring God, the author provides four questions we must ask how we know that we have truly repented of our sins. In our quiet time with the LORD, prayerfully we must ask ourselves the following questions:

How do I commit your sin? Do you pursue sin or are you pursued by sin?

How far have I come from? Are you falling into the same sin over and over again?

How do I confess your sin? Is your confession marked with a sincere resolve not to commit that sin again? or do you confess with silent resignation to sin’s inevitable power? Do you confess with a welcoming thought that you may fall again with the same sin?

How do I fight your sin? Do you fight like your soul is at stake? or Do you watch and pray against temptation? Do you set yourself in a lifetime battle against sin? Stephen Charnock asked once, “Can you take any pleasure in that which procured so much pain to your bestfriend?

We might find ourselves fighting over the same sin for a season but we also find ourselves keep coming back to God in the spirit of repentance and faith, trusting that God is faithful to sustain us. As Christians we live on the basis of the shed blood of Christ in every sphere of life to the glory of God. Daily apply yourself to the power of the blood of the Lamb!

Note: This post is taken from our pastor’s sermon during our midweek service at Bella Vista Outreach.

Cover photo by kalhh from

1 For better understanding of Christ’s repentance for the believers, the reader is encouraged to read Does Jesus Repent for Us? by Patrick Ramsey from

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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