THE process of repentance
We must fully accept our guilt
There is no point of explaining or downplaying the seriousness of sin. We have become masters of litigation – to make God and people understand that we had to commit to such a sin and thus, we should not be handled so severely.
A remorseful David did not beat about the bush. He did not use parables to explain out his pathetic situation, he prayed: “For I acknowledge and accept, my transgressions and my sin is always before me,” (Psalm 51:3).
We must acknowledge that we have offended God
The tragedy of our time is that when we offend the people of God, we think God does not care. When we sin against one another we sin against God and he must be involved in the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.
David prayed that “against you only have I sinned and done this evil in your sight”, (Psalm 51:4). It is strange how far we can sin against God and live as though everything is alright, even when we have not attempted to ask Him for forgiveness.
We must declare that God is completely blameless
There are some good Christians who are so self-confident that they have the audacity to blame God for their sins. The most obvious victims of the transfer-of-blame syndrome for our sins are people who happen to be near us when something sinful has taken place.
My wife told me of a time when her mother hid a bottle of syrup, kept it in a place between the wall and the roof where only a person stepping on a stool would reach. During the day, she and her siblings conspired, took the bottle and drank from it and put it back.
When the mother came in the evening, the eldest brother quickly explained that a skinny emaciated cat, that could hardly hurt a lame rat, let alone kill it, had taken the bottle, unscrewed it and drank the syrup!
This is a tip of the iceberg on just how we can manoeuvre around and justify obvious sin. David did not blame God for his sins. He prayed: “That you may be found just when you speak, and blameless when you judge,” (Psalm 51:4).
We must renounce all claims of righteousness of our own
We have a tendency to conduct a positive spiritual self-appraisal. Hardly is anyone quick to point out their weakness and failure. No wonder employers always ask for two or more referees because you will only give the best side of yourself.
I am quickly reminded of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to pray side-by-side in the temple. It is strange just how the Pharisee prayed – in fact it is not a prayer!
He was giving a spiritual self-appraisal. The presence of the tax collector only served to provide him with someone to compare himself with. Luke 18:11-12: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I possess.”
This man operated on a religion based upon merit which leads to religions pride. Religious pride is an enormous obstacle to true repentance! Remember Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
It is noteworthy to read how the tax collector prayed: “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
This man had nothing to take pride in as far as righteousness was concerned. He entirely looked upon God to justify him. My friend, God is looking for this kind of repentance!
We must humble ourselves and ask for mercy
Genuine spirit-born repentance attracts God’s attention. David in his brokenness prayed: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving kindness, according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions!” (Psalm 51:1). When God sees brokenness, he is attracted.
I admit that one of the reasons we are finding so little of God in our midst is because there is correspondingly little brokenness. We are too whole and intact for God.
The pulpits are very dry and so are the pews. Lack of tears of repentance is a sign of apparent lack of brokenness. Believers will weep for a deal gone sour. They will mourn for a broken relationship, they will wail for a collapsed business but hardly will anyone weep because of sinfulness!
Lord, forgive and heal our backsliding!
Pentecostal pioneer, Frank Bartleman, (Azuza Street Revival, 1906) said: “The depth of your repentance will determine the height of your revival.” Once again, genuine spirit-born repentance attracts God’s attention. David knew too well: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these O God, you will not despise,” (Psalm 51:17).
We cannot pray for a breakthrough for our city and our nation unless we ourselves are broken. Breakthrough only comes to broken people – people who are not pursuing their own ambitions but who are after the fulfilment of the purposes of God. We must accept to become firewood when we pray for God to send his fire.
God’s fire does not fall on empty altars. Do not resist the holy spirit when God’s hand is moulding your heart. He wants you to be tender, that the gentlest breeze of his presence will set your heart dancing.
We need to ask God for forgiveness for attempting to please people instead of God. Sins of materialism, pride, and meanness need exposure. We have ignored the poor, widows and widowers, and orphans.
Many Christians are slaves of sinful lifestyles characterised by the filthiness of mind, wickedness of the heart and obscene and graceless speech. Unfaithfulness abounds at work and at home. Many husbands are domineering, ruthless and suffocating their wives in addition to abdicating their headship responsibility.
On the other side many Christian wives are insubmissive, difficult and critical of their husbands. Many children dishonour their parents and there is rampant despising of divine authority.
As you open your heart to the holy spirit, he will clearly show you what you need to deal with. Make it a habit to go through a daily spiritual check-up.
We must commit ourselves to abandon sin and pursue the Lord
It is not enough to methodically mention your sins one by one. There must be a resolve to change. David committed himself to change.
Psalm 51:13: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you.”
May the Lord release a blanket cover of nationwide repentance that will turn His people back to Him.
By bishop Colin Nyathi, an extract taken from his book Desperate For God’s Presence, 2nd edition.