A clear understanding of godly repentance cannot be established without first recognizing that it is a gift from God. There is nothing in the fallen nature of the unsaved that can effect repentance on any level. To say and teach that a man can "repent" on his own is part of the fantasy theological system that today's "church" loves to entertain and promote. The Scriptures teach the precise opposite, as we shall see. The most glaring example of a man seeking his version of 'repentance' apart from God is Esau. Heb. 12:12-17 tells us that Esau "sold his birthright" to feed his belly and later sought "repentance" (the cheap, man-made variety) so that he would not have to suffer the consequences of his actions. He wanted his father's blessing but could not find it as he sought repentance "diligently with tears." Sound familiar? This reminds me of a person that prays the "sinner's prayer" and manufactures a few tears of remorse---not real repentance---all in an attempt to escape the eternal judgment of hell that awaits him with zero regard of the fact that he has greatly offended, mocked, and cursed the God whose favor he seeks. This man seeks the 'blessing' just like Esau, without the confession of his sins and the accompanying humility. This only yields a false sense of eternal security placed in an experience with the fake god he has conjured up to avoid the demands of the real God placed upon him: Repent and believe. Faith is a gift; grace is a gift (Eph. 2:8-10), yet somehow repentance can be produced out of a fear of eternal damnation? This is not taught in Scripture.
It is the Goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and not the fear of judgment, though the fear of God's judgment is instrumental in bringing us to our knees, fear does not produce repentance. Being afraid of His judgment is not the same as repentance. Rev. 16:9 gives a chilling account of the rebellion of lost men who, in the face of God's most severe earthly judgment continued to rebel against Him. Although man has always ascribed to himself the ability to seek and approach God on his own terms (beginning with Adam and then Cain) the Word tells us otherwise. Rom. 3:10-18; "None righteous," "None who understands," "NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD." The only innate ability man possesses is to rebel against his Creator.
Acts 11:18 and 2 Tim.2:25 tell us of the 'granting of repentance' by God to the intended recipient. It is His goodness that leads His children, His chosen, His predestined, His elect to repentance. Never is condemnation part of the working of the Holy Spirit for He is dealing with a child of God for whom the Son of God died and rose again. To Him, all of His elect children are just that, His children, His elect and as such are treated with the utmost in kindness, gentleness, and compassion. It is an affront to the Character of God to think that condemnation and the threat of judgment are necessary to bring His predestined (to the adoption as a son) to Himself. The judgment of God is always reserved for the lost, never, in any case or time for His chosen ones.
2 Cor. 7:10 & 11 gives a no nonsense, clear, and straightforward picture of what real, godly repentance looks like. It begins with "godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation..." The moment you saw yourself as God sees you (a sinner desperately in need of forgiveness and salvation) was your reaction that of fear or of the fact that you had "hurt God" by your sins? You and all your sins were an offense to Him, one that you could not overcome or erased by yourself. This is the 'godly sorrow' that leads to repentance and salvation. What were the lasting effects of this godly sorrow that lead to your salvation? First is "diligence." At the time you were saved was there any thing that you wanted to hold back, or not confess to your Savior as He was being so gracious to you? Of course not! You wanted the slate to be clean, ALL your sins forgiven. This is the "clearing of yourself." How unthinkable was it to you then to hold back anything? [How about today?] Was there indignation toward your sins and yourself for having been in such open rebellion against God for however long you were? Is that same indignation present toward sin today? "What fear." Fear of what? Eternal damnation? NO. Fear that you may sin against your Savior yet again (and who of us has not?). "Vehement desire" for what? A return to your former ways or a desire to never again have sin in your life? The latter, obviously. "What zeal?" Zeal to serve Him, obey Him, please Him in every way without a lapse into sin, even for a moment. "What vindication?" For yourself? No, for the Character of God, His Justice for us via the cross of Christ and the mercy granted by the same.
These are the things that godly repentance has always produced in a man, today is no different. You and I are no different. David, a "man after God's own heart" was no different. The repentance God gifted me was the most gut-wrenching thing I had ever known, but I would not trade one second of it for anything. It was during that time that I learned of the Goodness, the Gentleness, the Kindness, the Longsuffering, and Love of my Savior, His Forgiveness and salvation, a hunger for His Word and a desire to please Him in all things. Repentance is my 'friend.' It has been and will continue to be such until the day that I see His Face. I do not care to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ with a long list (or a single one) of sins that require repentance, hope you are of the same mind.