There are two different kinds of repentance – the RELIGIOUS and the GOSPEL kind of repentance.
(an excerpt from T. Keller’s “The Gospel in Life”)
In religion, the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so He will continue to bless us and answer our prayers. This kind of repentance is self-centered. We are mainly sorry for the consequences of sin. Our only hope is to live a life good enough to require God to bless us, so every instance of sin and repentance is therefore traumatic, unnatural, and threatening. Only under great duress do religious people admit they have sinned, because their only hope is their moral goodness.
In the Gospel, however, it tells us that as Christians sin can’t ultimately bring us into condemnation (Rom. 8:1). We are really sorry for the sin itself. Furthermore, we know that Jesus suffered for our sin. We do not have to make ourselves suffer to merit God’s forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness from Christ. The knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit that we are flawed, because we won’t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness. Our hope is in Christ’s righteousness, not our own, so it is not as traumatic to admit our weakness and lapses. The more we see our own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appear s to us. The more aware we are of God’s grace and our acceptance in Christ, the more able we are to drop our denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of our sin.