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Repentance and Confession

(Psalm 51:1-13, 17)

Lesson 12 -- third quarter 1996
August 18, 1996

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1996, Christian Light Publications

How do you respond to sin and failure in your life? So often (it seems) I recognize my sins and shortcomings, but I can explain to you quite well why I sinned and failed. And interestingly enough, those reasons have a way of trying to excuse my sin. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

What an erroneous way to try to deal with sin! True repentance grieves over sin...regardless of what factors supposedly contributed to it. True repentance deals with sin in all its ugliness, and does not try to shed personal responsibility for it. True repentance says, "I sinned this way. It is my fault. I am sorry. Please forgive me."

Forgiveness. Why should anyone forgive me? Again, we can so quickly approach others (even God!) on the basis of those "mitigating circumstances" I listed above. In a sense we say, "Since I am not entirely responsible for this sin--just look at the contributing people and factors!--you are obliged to be lenient and forgiving with me." Contrast this unrepentant perspective with David's approach: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Forgiveness comes because of the forgiver's mercy and lovingkindness. Period. Forgiveness has nothing to do with excuses or reasons presented by the offender. So skip the approach that in arrogance or self-pity says, "Forgive me, after all..." or "I'm sorry, but...."

Repentance is surrender--a surrender of my will, my ego, my excuses, my self; a surrender to God and His discretion in what it will take to purify me. Repentance is a surrender to cleansing. I do not believe that verses two and seven speak of something quick, light, easy and painless. The flesh does not want to give up its sin. The flesh may go along with this business of asking forgiveness, but it reserves the option to indulge in sin all over again. Repentance yields to the washing, cleansing and purging required to bring us back into harmony with God's ways.

Repentance and confession deal with more than the overt expression of sin. David wasn't just interested in forgiveness and cleansing of his murderous, adulterous acts. He wanted spiritual purification as well. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." He wanted freedom from those values and dispositions that contaminated his actions. And so it should happen in our lives. When we covet, lust, complain or gossip, we should seek forgiveness for the specific sins, yes. But we should also ask God to renew our spirits so they no longer turn to and enjoy coveting, lusting, complaining and gossiping. And let's also ask Him to strengthen our spirits by His Spirit so that we can control our flesh which will always keenly enjoy and revel in sin.

Brokenness. Contriteness. Until these mark our repentance and confession, we will not find forgiveness and restoration.

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