Summary: God desires for us to grieve and mourn over our sin, which separates us from him.
What Repentance Is and Does
Repentance is defined as “a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.” Repentance is not only turning from your sin. It is turning to God. It’s not just feeling sorry. It’s being convicted, becoming inwardly humbled and visibly reformed. It’s a directional change in your life from sin to God. It’s one of the foundations of Christianity. It’s mentioned over 60 times in the NT. Jesus’ first words in his ministry were “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). You can’t understand Christianity without it. For those of you who trust Christ for salvation, this isn’t new. For those who don’t yet trust Jesus for salvation, let me ask you, what do you do with your guilt? What do you do with the bad things you’ve done and thought? How are you going to change? The Christian gospel has the answer. I’m pleading with you, listen to David’s story, David’s words, and David’s Lord. So, what repentance is. Repentance is three things. First, repentance is turning from sin. Every sin is treason against our Creator. So, lest we think we are better than David, let us see that our sin is just as wicked in God’s eyes. Seeing the sins of others is easy. But seeing our own sin is hard. It took David nearly a year and a prophet from God to see it. When he does, he uses strong words about himself. He turns. He refuses to blame-shift, or make excuses. He owns up. In verses 1-5 he admits his sin: “my transgressions,” “my sin,” “my iniquity.” In transgressing, he knowingly steps over the law. In sin, he misses the mark of righteousness. In iniquity, he twists what God has made straight. He calls these acts what they are: evil. Repentance begins when we start using I and my. Personalizing our sin creates sorrow over it. And we start hating our sin when we see what it does to our relationship with God. You’ll never turn from a sin you don’t hate. So, we need to see that sin is always first against God. Every sin you’ve committed is because you loved something else more than God. That’s why in verse 4 David says his sin is against God alone. God is right to judge him. Notice what he’s saying. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, but the first sin of adultery he committed was against God. David didn’t go from perfection to murder. It never happens that way. We sin step by step, smaller to greater. The first step is always cheating on God.
Second, repentance is turning to God. If we think of repentance as only turning from sin, we won’t ever do it. We can’t. It’s too ingrained. What we need is a power greater than our sin. We need a greater love to drive out our love of sin. And there is no greater love than God’s love. We need to understand God’s heart toward sinners. David understood. That’s why he could come to God in this moment of brokenness and plead. The lower we go in repentance, the clearer we see God. Sin clouds our vision. Repentance cleans the window. In repentance, we position ourselves under the grace of God, waiting on him to pour it out. Third, repentance is believing the gospel. Repentance always moves us close to God. That’s why we must do it constantly. The gospel alone compels us to repent and has the power to change us. Only in the gospel do we have a message that says, “I know you’ve sinned, but your sin can’t keep my love from you because I paid the penalty for it.” We can deny our sin, we can beat ourselves up over our sin, or we can believe the gospel that God’s love has covered our sin. The greatest power for change is always love. So, here’s the goal. Let’s be a church staring at the love of God. As we hear the word of God in scripture and from one another, he’ll call us to repentance, and we’ll have to think it through, and we’ll have to change, but we’ll have a power to change because the gospel never changes.
The Holy Spirit Dwelling Within Us
David prays that God would not do the same thing to him that he had done to Saul. I.e., he prays that God would not withdraw the equipping presence of the Spirit from him, thus effectively ending his service to God. His concern has nothing to do with the saving presence of the Holy Spirit, because this was something no one had or even knew about in Old Testament times. David knew what it was like to lose the blessing of God and to have the Holy Spirit taken away. He saw it happen before his eyes. And so he says, “Lord, don’t let that happen to me!” This is the heart of his prayer: “Lord, without your Holy Spirit to strengthen me, I have no power. Without your Holy Spirit to guide me, I cannot find my way. Without your Holy Spirit to give wisdom, I cannot lead these people.” It is a prayer that he would not lose the Spirit’s blessing upon his life.