When you read Psalm 51 you begin to understand the shape of confession (vs. 1-9) but you also begin to understand the shape of repentance (vs. 10-19) - the turning from sin and turning toward healing. Confession is really important when we've blown it in the most shameful of ways, but repentance is just as important. I’ve seen people do the hard work of confessing how lost they are, maybe even getting to the bottom of it, but then stall right there at the bottom. Just because people make it through confessing their whole story with brutal honesty, doesn’t mean they will walk away restored and healed.Why does this happen? As a pastor I’ve observed two big reasons why people stall out in the repentance phase of their restoration:
- Reason 1 – “I just can’t accept that God has forgiven me!” It is not uncommon for compulsive sinners to remain compulsively sinning not because they are unaware of the possibility of complete forgiveness, but because they cannot accept complete forgiveness. In other words, some people stall in destructive sin because they feel far more comfortable with the guilt & shame that is familiar to them - then they feel comfortable with the mystery of God’s forgiveness and grace that is unfamiliar to them. A huge part of repentance is accepting that what God says is a dead issue is in fact a dead issue that no longer affects our relationship with Him.
- Reason 2 – “I don’t know what to do next!” Believing I’m forgiven empowers me to get practical about the reality of my struggle against entangling sin. However, I’ve seen people stall out in the healing process because they didn’t seek available help, and never took any practical steps towards healing and away from their weakness.
Repentance is about the steps back towards a forgiving God and the journey with that God towards transformation as He helps us walk out the practical ramifications of what it looks like to be free from our most shameful sins. Repentance quite often is not a one time act, but is very much a process played out over and over through time until we grow up and grow out of sin.