The End Result of Repentance
Psalm 51:10-13 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me….Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.
Ephesians 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
David’s famous expression of repentance in Psalm 51 is perhaps the best-known picture of repentance in the Scriptures. David pours out his heart in honest pain, acknowledges the depth of his sin, and cries out for spiritual renewal and for God’s presence to be restored to him.
Most of us have mined this psalm for its intense yet tender manifestations of the various aspects of repentance. David first cries out for mercy, leaning on God’s lovingkindness for the boldness to pray. He realizes the depth of his sin, and the cleansing he needs. Though he has clearly sinned against both Bathsheba and Uriah, David also sees the depth of his rebellion against God Almighty.
He goes back to his own “original sin,” and agrees with God on how He desires “truth in the inward parts.” Most of us, though, center on verses 10-12: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”
These are beautifully expressed, deeply felt expressions, and many of us think that the prayer essentially ends there, as if the full fruit of repentance were connecting with God’s presence and being restored in the joy of our salvation.
But the psalm goes on, and the next verse gives us a much fuller picture of what the fruit—the end result—of real repentance looks like: “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”
It’s tempting to believe that we have come full circle from sin to a right relationship with God when we feel reconnected and forgiven. But David’s fruit of repentance was in reaching out to others in ministry. We can see glimpses of this same principle in Ephesians 4 (above), when the thief shows his repentance not just by stopping the sin, but by working ethically and then using his hands to give instead of to take.
The final expression of our repentance is outward. We may feel that God has completed a work in us when we are no longer sinning, or perhaps when we feel close to Him again. But He is done when we are flowing in a new and deeper ministry to others. May we not stop short in the work of His Spirit in our lives.
Prayer: Father, help me to continue to follow You through the end of Your work in me as You lead me in repentance. I see that Your final goal is not just rightness with You, but ministry to others. May I see it, be open to it, and allow Your work to be completed in me.