A Heart for Repentance

I was reading a post on Facebook from one of my friends from high school. She took one of those quizzes and this one was about “What Gospel song are you?” I saw what her results were (Total Praise by Richard Smallwood, which is great worship song if you’ve never heard it) and I thought about what Gospel song would describe me. I figured the quiz would be a good fit for me so I ran through it a couple of times and got predictable results, mostly newer stuff, but not the artists I typically listen to except on the Gospel station here in Columbia. I never pulled up a Fred Hammond song or one from Da’ T.R.U.T.H. or Cross Movement or even a Smokie Norful number. And I realize that to the majority of folks reading this devotional, those names don’t register. I doubt that my choice of songs will, either, but if I had to pick one, it would be Clean Up from The Canton Spirituals. It’s older, the CD I have for it was from a concert back in 1997, so I’m pretty sure it’s not in the quiz. But if you had heard the song and you knew my story, you’d see how it fits right away. Let me give you a bit of the lyrics:

I’ve Gotta Clean Up What I Messed Up / I’m Starting My Life Over Again
I’ve Gotta Clean Up What I Messed Up / I’m Starting My Life Over Again
I Made Up My Mind I Ain’t Lying No More
Cause A Liar And A Cheater Can’t Make It Through The Door

I Gotta Clean Up What I Messed Up / I’m Starting My Life Over Again
I Gotta Clean Up What I Messed Up / I’m Starting My Life Over Again
I Made Up My Mind I Ain’t Runnin No More
I’m Goin Back To Church I’m Gonna Walk Right Through This Door

The lyrics themselves are simple and easy to understand. But they convey an attitude of turning away from sin, and turning back towards God. Not only is there a turning away from sin, but a heartfelt desire to try and make right that which is wrong. So if we’ve gotten somewhere by lying or cheating, we fix it as best we can. It means facing up to what we’ve done, going before God, walking right back into His house, and seeking His forgiveness. This is a heart for repentance. It’s a heart that’s broken by sin, one where the person who has said, “No more,” with a desire to be right with God. It is this kind of turn around that we seen in a guy named Saul, who will later take the name of Paul:

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. – Acts 9:1-2, NASB

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. – Acts 9:19b-22, NASB

I know there are a lot of mistakes I’ve made in my life. There’s a lot of sin in my past. And I know that I am not without sin now or in the future as I continue to work out my salvation. There is still going to be sin in my life. The difference between now and back when I wasn’t a Christian is like the Canton Spirituals sang, I understand that “I’ve gotta clean up what I messed up.” I have to come before God, first and foremost, and ask for forgiveness with a heart that has truly turned away from my sin. And where I can repay or compensate for what I’ve done, I must seek to make it right. I’ve got to start over. I’ve got to get back up. And on that note I’ll conclude on a line from another Gospel song, We Fall Down from Donnie McClurkin:

For a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got back up.

God doesn’t expect us to stay down, wallowing in our sin. He expects us to get back up, face up to what’s right, and seek Him. He expects us to turn from that which caused us to trip and fall and instead turn back to Him. He expects repentance, contrition, and a heart-led devotion to put it behind us. That’s the heart of repentance He is looking for in His people.


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