As we discussed yesterday, Abrahm decided for himself what he should do without first looking to the Lord. And in his own human thinking, he deliberately sinned to “save himself from death”. When Abrahm left Egypt, he went back to Bethel, where he had erected the first alter to commemorate his encounter with the Lord God; where he believed and trusted in the Lord. “There Abram called on the name of the Lord.” (Gen 13:4b) and he repented.
Repentance means “to turn around, to stop sinning, to change your mind”. Specifically in the case of Abrahm and me (as I have shared with you), that means to stop deciding that I think I know best, and self-direct my life. The Lord has shown me that this is idolatry–it is thinking of myself as a god, which I have put before the Lord. And it is pride–the same sin that caused Satan to be thrown out of heaven. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6)
So how do we actually repent? It is not saying “I’m sorry” with words and no action. Many people, rather than repent, they try to “clean up their act,” give more, pray more, or busy themselves in other religious activity in the hopes that God will finally “get over” being mad at them. That is not repentance. Just like we can’t work our way to heaven because of any good deeds we may do, we can’t clean up our own act. Again, that is pride and idolatry–that is not repenting. That’s just saying on my own power, God, I’m going to be a better person.
Even David, who God said was after His own heart, sinned; even after he knew God and lived his life for Him. In Psalm 51, David gives us an excellent example of a prayer of repentance. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps 51:1-2) It is only the Lord that can wash away our sins, we can’t do enough to ever do that. To believe otherwise, is prideful and idolatry.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Ps 51:10-12) These verses recognize that only the Lord can cleanse our hearts and give us a new spirit, and sustain that spirit. It is only when I ask the Lord to guide me and I follow Him, that the willing spirit only He can give, will be sustained within me. I must be willing to submit to Him.
And to repent, we must humble ourselves before the Lord. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Ps 51:16-17)
“When we agree with God about how bad our sin is, we take the first step toward reconciliation with Him. As long as we try to justify, excuse, or rationalize the evil of our own hearts, we never find our way back into God’s presence. Repentance is the doorway to freedom. Satan knows this and does everything he can to detract us from it. He suggests things that our selfish nature likes to hear: “Your sin wasn’t that bad.” “Compared to others, you’re okay.” “God has forgotten it already. No need to confess it.” When we listen to the devil’s oily words, we veer away from the doorway to freedom and remain in bondage. We may feel remorse or regret, but neither is a sufficient substitute for true repentance. David reminds us that the only path to forgiveness is a broken heart and a humble spirit (cf. Matthew 5:3). When we throw ourselves on the mercy of God, He delights to lift us up (Luke 18:13-14). When we openly acknowledge our sin against God, turn from it, and cry out for cleansing, God promises that He will hear us and forgive (1 John 1:9).” (This last paragraph is from Got Questions.org)