Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” – Psalm 51: 7-12.
I Can Only Imagine is a film with a powerful message of hope, redemption, and forgiveness. “My dad was a monster. And I saw God transform him.” There, in the words of Bart Millard to Amy Grant is the theme of the movie. It is the story of God’s amazing grace, of the redemption of a lost and broken soul, and of the power of forgiveness to change both a father and a son. It is a story of true repentance.
The importance of repentance is hard to overstate. After all, Jesus’s first public exhortation was “Repent!” (Mark 1:15)—and if repentance was high on Jesus’s list, we probably should pay attention too. In fact, all throughout the Bible, we see people being called to repentance. Repentance is not just believing in God, but turning from our old ways. We begin to live as new creations and let the old life pass away: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Repentance is often confused with remorse, but there is a significant difference between the two. Repentance produces change, whereas remorse merely produces sorrow. Repentance is where a sinner is inwardly humbled and outwardly reformed. Essential to the idea of repentance is that it is both internal and external. When Jesus calls us to repent, he is not calling us to beat up on ourselves or merely to work on cleaning up our lives. Instead, He is calling us to a radical change of heart.
In David’s psalm of repentance (Psalm 51), he reminds us that God does not delight so much in the outward signs of repentance which included making a sacrifice, He wants a change of heart. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:17). David knew he could not fix the problem of his heart. He did not draw a line in the sand and make bold promises about what he could do for God. He threw himself on God’s mercy and grace. He prayed in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” because he realized he could not make his own heart pure. In verse 12, he prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Not the “joy of my salvation. Repenting brings us to the end of ourselves and back to God’s grace.
True repentance—a heart change and the determination to no longer follow after the flesh but rather turn toward Jesus. Christ.
- How do you know if repentance is real? What is the result of genuine repentance?
- Is there one person in your life that you think truly understands what it means to repent? What kinds of things characterize their life?