These are relational things that affect people and God (who is personal). Trying to figure out what is acceptable to people is far more difficult than figuring out what God wants. For people all have different demands, just and unjust, but God has clear instructions on what an acceptable apology is to Him.
In Second Corinthians chapter 7, Paul writes about something called "godly grief" or grief that comes down from God (κατα θεον). In contrast to worldly grief that is chiefly concerned with man, godly grief is concerned with God. He is the most important person in regards to an apology acceptable to Him.
In one verse, 2 Cor. 7:11 the Bible gives us seven clear characteristics of godly grief, which seem to be progressive in some sense (that is, building on each other).
- Eagerness to Clear Yourselves
Eagerness to clear yourselves is one word in the Greek text (απολογιαν), from which we get our word apologetics. It means to give a defense. However, far from defending your sin, this term means to defend God's name in your life. Heath Lambert writes on this it means to take drastic measures to deal with your sin and to pursue accountability with a spiritual leader.
Indignation means you get mad at sin because it makes God angry too. You agree with God concerning His sentiment of it. The sin becomes sinful and sickening to you.
Fear means that you are alarmed at the fact that God, the one who chiefly matters, always knew what you were doing (Lambert). The idea of that horrifies you. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Longing speaks of the desire for any relationship that was affected by your sin to be restored. The word is used in 2 Cor. 7:7 along with here in 2 Cor. 7:11. In the former it spoke of the church's desire to be with Paul, to hear him and his instruction again. Sin puts a block between people and God's Word. The most important relationship that needs to be restored is the one between you and God. Furthermore, others are affected as well by your sin. Therefore "longing" here means getting this right with others with God at the forefront.
Zeal can be translated jealousy. It is a jealously like God has that is willing to discipline us for our good. God is zealous for a pure relationship with His church and will do what is necessary to protect it. When we get zealous for God in our repentance, we get the right attitude about sin and we seek to not only restore our relationship with God, but we seek to protect it. We practice spiritual disciplines.
Punishment can be translated revenge. Thomas Watson writes:
"After Julius Caesar was murdered, Antonius brought forth his coat, all bloody and cut, and laid it before the people, saying 'Look, here you have the emperor's coat thus bloody and torn': where upon the people were presently in an uproar, and cried out to slay those murderers; and they took their tables and stools that were in the place, and set them on fire, and ran to the houses of them that had slain Caesar, and burnt them. So that when we consider that sin hath slain our Lord Jesus, ah, how should it provoke our hearts to be revenged on sin, that hath murdered the Lord of glory, and hath done that mischief that all the devils in hell could never have done?" (Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies... p.37-38 Banner of Truth Paperback Edition)Truly repentant people are willing to accept the consequences of their sin rather than try to wiggle out of those consequences (Lambert). Why? Because they understand what an awful thing their sin did to our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, these are the seven aspects of real repentance. This is a grief over our sins that comes down from God as a gift, and is acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. The gospel of our salvation is clearly that Jesus Christ in His person and work has accomplished our salvation. However, God does not save people without repentance. Repentance is a gift to us to show our gratitude to God for every sin, and to return more and more to Him in a loving relationship. May God clean up our lives, one sin at a time. But may we always be fighting all sin, and anything that would put our relationship with God through Jesus Christ in jeopardy.
I hope by reading this post, you as a reader will understand clearly and plainly in the organized manner I have sought to write it what real repentance is and be assured if you have it, it is God's doing and that He is pleased with such repentance. Let us learn to say we are sorry to God for sin as He has so clearly instructed us.