A Penitent Spirit
Penitence is a sad and humble realization and
regret of sin. It is the gut-wrenching
feeling you that you get inside when you want to do right, but you know you’ve
done wrong. It was a penitent spirit
that caused David, after his sin with Bathsheba, to say, “Wash me thoroughly
from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before
me.” (Psalm 51:2-3.) And it was Paul’s penitent spirit, which
motivated him to say, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted
Anyone who has a fervent desire to do what’s right surely morns his or her sin. It is this remorse, which brings about repentance. Now, it is possible to realize and regret sin without true repentance. Paul said in II Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” So true, godly penitence brings about true repentance. And true repentance bears fruit worthy of repentance. (Matthew 3:8.) True repentance doesn’t stop at mere sorrow and regret, it moves in the opposite direction of sin.
When we maintain our penitent spirits in conjunction with repentance, the Lord will remain ready and willing to forgive us. However, if we allow sin to remain in our lives it can harden our consciences and snuff out any trace of godly sorrow. Sin that is tolerated in one’s life can scar the conscience as if it had been seared with a hot iron, taking away from the heart its ability to mourn. (I Timothy 4:2.) It then leaves a fleshly body that “cannot cease from sin,” and that is bound for an eternity in hell. (II Peter 2:14.)
Anywhere there is a desire to get to heaven, there must also be a penitent spirit. One, which drives us to do what we should, refrain from doing what we shouldn’t, and return to the sheepfold when we go astray.