There is a difference between feeling sorry for our sins and true repentance.
It is written: God beautifies the meek with salvation:
Psalm 149:4 King James Version (KJV)
4 For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.
What is true repentance?
Please understand that feeling very sorry for our sins is not saving repentance:
The test is this: if we are sorry because we are fearful of hell then we are merely sorry for our sins, we are not repentant of our sins. We are only truly repentant when we agree with God that our sins are detestable, even if there were no punishments for sins.
Stated another way: we love God because God is good and therefore we hate sin. We abhor sin and find sin absolutely disgusting. If we still do our sin (smoking, drug taking, porn, drunkenness, anger, pride, jealousy etc…) and feel sorry after we have committed those sins then we are only sorry for our sins.
Stated yet another way: If we cry on our knees, say sorry, beg for mercy for years but still enjoy the things of the flesh, we are not truly repentant. True repentance isn’t about feeling bad or punishing ourselves: It is the natural hating of the things of the flesh and the loving of the Spirit of God.
This is why it is written:
Romans 8:6-8 King James Version (KJV)
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
True repentance is a gift from God
The requirements of true repentance are so high that I don’t believe any person is able to achieve true repentance under their own will power. True repentance I believe is a gift from God. It is the born again experience:
Ezekiel 36:24-27 King James Version (KJV)
24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
God does this. It is not our choice nor can we demand this gift from God.
The only thing we are really able to do is to try to be honest with ourselves and meekly ask God to help us obey and love the word of God.
I have seen three situations where God provided the gift of true repentance
The first way: The truly meek are granted the gift of true repentance. Who is truly meek? One who constantly asks God to forgive them and thinks nothing of themselves compared to God.
The second way: We have been broken by God. We’ve lived a life of sin and now we are reaping the consequences of our actions, which could be: loss of wealth, loss of health, loss of a job, a broken marriage or other disaster. This is God’s wake up call for us to turn to him in our brokenness that God may remake us into the person he wants us to be:
Matthew 21:44 King James Version (KJV)
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
We have been crushed to powder by God because of the sins in our lives because of the things we did. The pride of life is crushed and we are downtrodden. In that moment, God sends his Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins so we truly repent to God.
The third way: God decides it’s time for us to know him. This could happen at anytime: Whilst we are washing dishes, having a shower or walking in the garden. God sends us his Holy Spirit and gives us a new heart and immediately our hearts are changed. Why does God do this? Most likely it is because God wants us to do something for him. God may want us to share our testimony with those around us or send a message to the world through us. Ken Peters was someone like that.
Treasure your precious gift: If you have received your special gift of true repentance from God, treasure it by walking after the Spirit of God. There are people who have searched an entire lifetime and still haven’t received their gift from God. John Wesley waited 23 years. Charles Spurgeon waited 4 years.