The Vocabulary of Repentance

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Ps. 51:1-2

Regularly I find myself coming back to this Psalm as I contemplate my need for on-going repentance. What I find is that this Scripture is at the same time convicting and encouraging. Few things are as attractive to God as genuine humility in His people. To come to God this way is to recognize as David does that the only status we have with God is through His justification… His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus.

When I come offering a contrite heart, when I take responsibility, and acknowledge the hurt I have caused, it’s a feast of grace not just for me but in a spiritual and real way, at the same time, it is a feast of grace for all God’s people…hence the need for me…for us… to continually and humbly be before the face of God with a prostrated heart.

Yet that kind of humility is hard sometimes, especially when it has been awhile since we have “felt” the need to repent. When it comes to humbling ourselves, we all too often sabotage our repentance with qualifiers to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. We say things like; “I’m sorry, but you took what I said the wrong way.” “I’m sorry, but if you weren’t so sensitive, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.” “I’m sorry, but if you experienced my last couple of weeks, you would cut me some slack.”

And from all my searching I am hard pressed to find one instance in God’s Word where the phrase “I’m sorry, but is celebrated as the vocabulary of genuine humility and repentance. Instead of “I’m sorry, but,” we read, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”  This is a true recognition of our sins and a desire for it to be made right; first with God and then with others.

So I often ask God to free me/us from our “I’m sorry, buts.” I want to be quicker with: “I see I really hurt you.” “Tell me more about how my words and actions caused you pain.” “I’m genuinely sorry, and I offer no qualifiers, just a sincere apology.” “Will you forgive me?” “What do you need from me?” Contrition…a truly humble heart… comes with nothing but the acknowledgement of the sin and a sincere desire for reconciliation.

So as I bring this to a close with this simple prayer: Father, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” You show great and constant mercy to me/us—according to your steadfast, immeasurable, inexhaustible love. Thank you. By the power of the gospel, may it become increasingly easier for us to humble ourselves, and increasingly difficult to remain proud, excuse-making, and unbroken. In Jesus name, Amen

God Bless y’all today.

In His Grip,
Pastor Mike

Mike Singenstreu

Mike Singenstreu

Mike Singenstreu is Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Victoria, TX.

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