2007-09-21 - Summer Question #14
Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."
Today's Question: "does God help us to repent or do we have to do it on our own? i have many desires of the flesh that i can't get rid of. how do i trully repent?"
We really are at the end of summer, and it is always good, upon finishing something, to reflect. This is a reflective question. We can all, if we are honest, admit that there are things in our lives that need to be repented of. The Puritans used to say that we were so negligent in our repenting, that we needed to repent of our repenting. As summer closes down, I encourage us all to set aside some time alone in our prayer closets, and do the hard business of heart business in our souls. What things do we need to bring before the Lord, that His favor may once again be upon us, and His pleasure may not only be known to our souls, but flowing from our lives?
With such a theme, it is natural to turn to Psalm 51. In it, we learn that the Lord will not despise (forsake) a heart that is broken and contrite (sorrowful). The Lord will not turn away from the heart that seeks Him. However, let us take a warning here also. Seeking the Lord is not always done in outward show. The Lord looks at the heart. False repentance is no repentance, for the Lord sees the heart. Consider the Pharisee (interpreter of the Law of Moses) and the Publican (tax-gatherer) praying (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee was all outward show, but his heart was far from seeking the Lord. The Publican would not even look up, but simply cried out, beating his breast, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner," (18:13). God saw the heart, and the words of Christ are that the man who prayed from his heart, the Publican, was justified - rather than the Pharisee (18:14). The Lord knows the cries of our hearts, and He knows when the cries of our mouths are not from the heart, but only for outward appearance.
As to your question, I think the answer is that yes, God does help us in our repenting. I would turn again to Psalm 51, where we see God helping David in his repenting - but also see that David actually does the repenting, and seeks God's help in his repenting. I would point you to verse ten, "Create in my a clean heart." David is asking that God do this. David is seeking a new heart, but he is asking the Lord for its delivery to him. We can look at verse twelve also, "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation." Again, David is seeking something from the Lord, as he repents (51:4). He seeks forgiveness from his moral malfunction with Bathsheba, but he knows that it is only the Lord who can bring him back to his proper self and restore him. So again, he seeks the Lord's help in his repenting. We see this repeated clearly in verses seven, eight and fourteen. David seeks help from the Lord in his repenting, and it can surely be inferred, from his seeking the Lord's assistance, that he expected that he could be given help.
Lying low in the arms of the Lord, and seeking Him for both our joys and in our failures, can be one of the greatest experiences Christians face. Restoration to God's favor brings the greatest joys, and when we have cried before the Lord, we can all the more dance in our hearts. The humblest place with the Lord is higher than the highest position we can obtain in the world. The long-ago preacher Rolland Hill was fond of saying that the only thing he feared he would miss in Heaven was his tears of repentance. He knew the sweet tears of repentance brought him closer to God than anything else, and since there will be no sin in Heaven, there will be no repentance. It is a mindset that many of us need to cultivate today. There is joy in repentance, because it brings us close to God. And as your question seems to hope, there is blessed assistance from the Lord in our repenting. It is fitting and proper for us to make Christ's precious gift of forgiveness large, in coming to Him, acknowledging our needs, failings, and desires to conquer those sins in our lives that qualify as besetting sins.
Soli Deo Gloria,