As we read about the biblical patriarchs, it is easy to set them on a pedestal and view them as super godly. We see them with faith so strong that they can boldly stare into the mouths of lions, defy Pharaoh, and battle nations. It seems like some had such a love for God that they were willing to sacrifice all, even their only son.

David can seem like one of those kinds of men, filled with faith that led him to bold action.

But we should never forget that all of the people in the Bible, no matter how godly they were, were also sinners in need of repentance.

Repentance is one of the marks of a believer. When Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, he placed this as number one: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

But what exactly is repentance?

James P. Boyce’s Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine (1886) gives a simple and accurate definition. “Repentance is sorrow for sin, accompanied by a determination, with the help of God, to sin no more.”

Let’s break it down:

1. Seeing

Some things are painful to look at and our sin is one of them. We need to take a careful look at our words, actions, and hearts. If you are a sinner like me, you will find a lot of ugliness. The only way we begin to see our sins is through the truth of God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 4:12; John 16:8).

2. Sorrow

Once we truly see our sin we will feel sorrow. This is not the superficial sadness of getting caught. It is what Thomas Watson called a “holy agony” of the soul. The Bible calls it a broken heart (Ps. 51:17). Speaking to God, David says in Psalm 51:4, “… against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Despite the people he had wronged, David understood that ultimately he had sinned against his holy God. This goes for us as well. When we bark at our kids, speak disrespectfully to our spouses, waste our money or neglect our bodies, we are sinning against God and this should break us.

3. Confession

With sorrow comes confession. Repentance always includes a sincere and remorseful confession of the wrong that we have spoken, acted, or even thought. Sometimes it means confessing it to others. But it always means confessing our sins to God; owning what you have done without making excuses. Confession glorifies God (Josh. 7:19), humbles us, and makes us more dependent on Jesus. Confessions is a means in which our hearts are softened.

4. Hatred

This is one of those times in our lives when it is okay to hate. Sin is a satanic destroyer that brings ruin to man and creation, and the only feeling appropriate to have concerning sin is holy hatred (1 John 3:8; Zech. 3:4-5; Ps.119:104). We should hate it as it grieves the Lord and damages our lives.

5. Turning

Lastly, we must turn away from our sin and turn towards God (Acts 26:20).

Repentance does not make a person perfect. You will never perfectly repent this side of heaven. It also does not save us because we are already saved. But repentance is an ongoing, daily activity for us because we remain sinners in need of daily mercy.

One thing to remember is that repentance is not a way to manipulate God into blessing you and giving you what you want. It is not a way to earn favor with God or a way to make Him “happy” with you. You can’t manipulate God into being good. He already is good. He already loves you more than you can imagine and He always blesses his people.

Repentance is a gift for us. It keeps our hearts soft towards others so that bitterness doesn’t take root.  And it keeps our eyes focused on Christ and His work on the cross because we become very aware that we are helpless in our sin and we’re in need of divine help.

Looking To Jesus,



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