Three Requirements for Repentance
When you do something wrong, how do you make up for it?
We’ve all been there. We have made a mistake or messed up royally.
Men, when you’ve done something wrong and you need to make it up to your wife, what do you do?
Well, it depends on the severity, right?
For some things, a card, flowers, or chocolate might ease tensions.
You make take her on a date or on vacation somewhere.
Or you might finally get around to that honey-do list.
If you’re a student, you might ask the teacher if you can turn in an assignment late, find out what make-up work there is, or if there is any extra credit.
Most of us have a sense of justice, a desire to make up for the wrong we have done so that we can be forgiven.
Most of us have some innate desire to repent and be forgiven.
“How can I make this up to you?” we might ask if we’re unsure.
As Christians we recognize this innate desire and use it to find true forgiveness.
King David was in a position where he needed that forgiveness more than ever.
In 2 Sam. 11, we see this king, this man after God’s own heart, this person whom the Seed promise would pass through—we see him fail.
He commits adultery and essentially murders the woman’s husband.
It didn’t just happen, as most sin doesn’t.
It’s easy to fall for something if you have been getting closer and closer to that edge.
Nathan the prophet confronts him about it, and he shows genuine repentance.
He even writes this psalm to pour out his heart and express his immense desire to repent.
And in this, we find three requirements for repentance in Psalm 51.
Prayer (51:1-2, 7-12).
What is a prayer but a communication to God, often expressing our earnest desires? (51:1-2).
That is precisely what we see here as David opens up this psalm.
He begs for mercy for what he has done.
Mercy is often described as not getting what you deserve.
As we have seen, David deserved death for breaking two of the Ten Commandments.
The Lord, however, was merciful to him and allowed him to live, even forgiving him of his transgression.
Three types of wrongdoing are mentioned here: transgression, iniquity, and sin.
Transgression is outright rebellion; iniquity is intentional wrongdoing; while sin is missing the mark.
You might describe sin as aiming for a target but missing, iniquity as not aiming for that target at all, and transgression as aiming right at the heart of God Himself.
David had such a strong desire to be rid of this weights around his neck.
He wanted them to be erased from God’s records—while we may not be able to forget what we have done, God can and has if we have been forgiven.
He wanted to be washed thoroughly, like one might wash clothes—it is not a gentle process.
He wanted that sin gone, cleansed and forgiven!
Later, he continues to make his wishes known (51:7-9).
He wants his sins to be purged, alluding to the purification rituals that they had in the OT Law—in doing so, he could be as white as snow.
One of the requirements of repentance that we often talk about in our studies with people is that of a godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10).
That godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, and David here lets us know that he has not been experiencing any joy or gladness lately.
Sin certainly has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? It over-promises, makes us think it’ll be the greatest thing ever, but ends up dragging us down even further.
If we keep it up, we end up feeling numb to it, forgetting that there is a better way.
Guilt is a good thing, for it drives us to do what’s right and to keep from doing wrong.
And that’s just what David was experiencing here, even saying that the Lord had broken his bones! – not literally, of course, but it certainly felt like it.
He further prays for a renewal and restoration (51:10-12).
When our conscience has been damaged by sin, we need it to be restored, to be rebuilt.
That’s precisely what David is asking for here: a clean heart, a renewed spirit, a blessed Presence, and a restored salvation.
How much he longs for them, and how wonderful that would be to get them back.
We need that renewed heart, mind, spirit, conscience to help us do what’s right, and stay in His blessed Presence and to restore the joy that comes with salvation.
But you see, God will not forgive us unless we want it, unless we ask Him first.
There’s nothing special in the words itself, but in the humility that is required to make such a request.
In the act of asking for forgiveness and renewal, we must swallow our pride and be honest with our Lord.
Honesty (51:3-6, 13).
Honesty requires an acknowledgment of sin (51:3-4).
Another way of saying that one has acknowledge his sins is to say that you have confessed them.
It is one thing to ask for forgiveness, it’s quite another to truly recognize that we have done wrong.
He can’t escape that this sin is always before him—he can’t shake it!
What a shameful day when we can shake sin as if it’s nothing.
Jeremiah describes that day among the Jews (Jer. 6:15).
Were they ashamed when they had committed an abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. …
Their sin was so great, yet they could not feel embarrassment over it. How seared was their conscience!
He goes on to describe how great their fall would be.
That’s something David (and us I hope) wanted to avoid!
If we ever get to that point, how much more difficult will it be to repent!
Honesty requires telling the truth (51:5-6, 13).
David felt his sin was so great, it was almost as it he was born in it.
And he recognized God’s desire for honesty, for “truth in the inward parts.”
When we sin, it’s so easy to justify ourselves, say we didn’t really sin or that it wasn’t really our fault.
But that’s not what God wants—He wants the truth!
He wants you to take responsibility for what you’ve done—quite the opposite advice a lawyer might give you!
Yet your Advocate is Jesus Christ—He wants you to own up to what you’ve done so He can pay your penalty.
It is through His sacrifice that we can do this.
We have to be so honest, that we would be willing to teach others about this so others might be converted.
We must offer a sacrifice of praise (51:14-16).
While they had to offer animal sacrifices to atone for their sins, David here reveals that God doesn’t actually want them.
Wait, what? He doesn’t? What about all that He commanded in books like Leviticus?
While animal sacrifice is an important part of the Old Law, the Lord wanted—the Lord wants—so much more!
He wants to recognize His righteous, to sing His praises!
This is what the writer of Hebrews calls the “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).
What a mighty God we serve—why wouldn’t we want to praise and honor Him?
If you truly know God, who He is and what He’s done, you would naturally want to worship Him.
This is why the more someone digs into the Word and lives a Christian life, the more that person becomes devoted to Him, wanting to sing His praises.
That’s why heaven is going to be full of such praises to Him.
And here, David is expressing that desire as a man after God’s own heart, despite his wrongdoing and sin.
David also offers a broken spirit and a contrite heart (51:17).
In other words, you have got to mean it!
This is the godly sorrow that produces true repentance.
Unless you have these sacrifices of contrition, sacrificing your price on the altar of God, then you cannot be saved.
God desires humility before Him, a recognition that He is who He is, the great I AM, and that we are nothing in comparison.
Think, imagine if you will, who God is and what He’s like—rubbish compared to the real thing.
We’ve sent men to walk on the Moon. Wonderful! He created the Moon!
We’ve cured diseases, He designed a system that keeps creating them.
We’ve built this and that, but who has made man’s mind?
You see, in every measure, we cannot compare to Him, nor can we conjure anything close to His greatness and majesty.
So we must be humble before Him, and recognize our wrongdoing, truly seeking forgiveness.
These things can only happen after we’ve asked Him for it, and done so honestly. If we are truly honest, we will offer this sacrifice of contrition.
You see, if we truly realize the magnitude of what we have done, of how this has hurt our relationship with God, we will be sorry for it.
Our spirit will be broken, and our heart will be contrite.
These things the Lord will not despise.
Finally, the animal sacrifices can be made (51:18-19).
After David has honestly asked for forgiveness from a spirit of contrition, only then will the Lord accept his sacrifice.
Of course, our sacrifice is not that of a mere animal, but of Jesus Christ Himself.
That is what we have remembered a few moments ago when we ate the Lord’s Supper.
It is this sacrifice that now covers our sin, but more than covers it—it erases it from the mind of God, as if we had never done it.
But we need these three things first before He will forgive us.
David was forgiven of his sins—will you be?
David did a terrible thing.
He was sinner, just as we all are.
He did some terrible things, things which perhaps we have never done or never will do.
But we are all sinners just the same.
We have all upset God at some point in our lives.
I am so grateful that He is a loving and merciful God.
Because while David did those things, he was still forgiven.
We, too, have an opportunity to be forgiven if we do what he did.
We often go to Acts 8:22 to remind us what a Christian needs to do to seek forgiveness: “repent and pray God.”
Well, prayer is that first step. We must turn to God and ask for forgiveness.
We must do so honestly, not half-heartedly or simply to get our “get out of hell free” card.
And we must mean it, we must have that godly sorrow, that broken spirit, that contrite heart, that sadness over our sin.
Then our repentance can be accomplished, and that leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).
If you’re not a Christian, there are a few other things left to do.
First, it doesn’t make sense to repent when you don’t believe in all this to begin with.
So believe in Jesus so you might be saved.
Repent as we have talked about here—though you will call upon God in another way.
You need to confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
And you’ll need to be baptized as Acts 22:16 states, this is how we call upon the name of the Lord to be saved initially.