Of what does true repentance consist? We tend to focus on actions—sacrifice this, pray that, promise to read the bible every day for a month—and so we jump through our self-prescribed hoops trying to act out repentance.
In some ways, action-oriented repentance is easier. We have something tangible to do. We can see our progress; we can check off a box and pat ourselves on the back. Action-oriented repentance leaves the reigns firmly in our hands. Yet, for this reason, it is ultimately more difficult because it is ultimately ineffective when left in our hands.
Our actions cannot absolve us, only God can do that. Only he can wash us clean and declare us righteous. True repentance, therefore, must somehow involve us casting ourselves on his good pleasure. It is no surprise then when we find out what God desires…the sacrifice he likes…is a broken and contrite heart. Because at that point, we recognize our total inadequacy and our complete need of him, and that makes God look good.