May 11, 2017

Genuine repentance

Today’s devotional is about Peter’s denial of Jesus and how he was restored by grace. Reference is also made to David’s confession of his sin with Bathsheba. Reading both passages is another reminder that I am a sinful creature and God is a forgiving God. Salvation is always by grace yet my confession of sin is an important element in restoration.
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)
Peter denied Jesus three times. This seems awful, yet I remember repeating the same sin(s) many times. I can also remember weeping bitterly. But that is only the beginning of genuine repentance.

The Bible does not say David wept, but it would not surprise me. He did pray this most remarkable confession, one that has helped me understand that confession is far more than a simple ‘I’m sorry’ and going on from there. David began his prayer this way:
“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! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”
David knew that the only reason God forgives is His abundant mercy and enduring love. Mercy is receiving a blessing I don’t deserve. Love withholds the punishment which I do deserve. David also knew that his sin was against God and agreed with God that it was evil. He acknowledged that God was correct in evaluating what he had done.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”
David also acknowledged that he was born a sinful creature. He made no excuses; he sinned because he was a sinner. He also knew that God was more concerned that he was truthful about himself than he was perfect. In our minds, God wants good behavior so we try harder, but David knew God is more interested in truth.

The next part of his confession is his plea that God cleanses his sin and fills him again with His spirit:
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
David knew where his goodness came from. If he did anything right, it was because of God and not his own doing. Only sin stopped him from being joyful and willing to serve God, and that joy and that willing heart came from God also. David was helpless and he knew it.  
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:1-17)
David also knew what happens after repentance. God’s people are eager to share their faith, free from guilt and filled with praise, yet with a contrite attitude that gives pleasure to the Lord.

Jesus, I’m so thankful that You gave these two stories of sinners who repented and were forgiven and restored. I’m also thankful that they expressed what it means to be truly sorrowful for sin, giving me assurance that when I do the same, I know how You want me to feel and what You want me to say and do. Thank you also for Your great mercy on me, a sinner who loves You.

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