A key element of saving faith is that of repentance. It has been said that true faith is preceded by repentance. I would agree with that, as the Bible teaches that we have no confidence to approach God as long as we harbor sin within our hearts. (Psalm 66:18)
John writes this,
Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. (1 John 3:21 KJV)
So an unrepentant individual cannot excersize real faith as long as he retains sin in his life. A guilty conscience will always stand in the way.
Brokenness is vital to repentance. Without being crushed by the guilt of sin, and grieved at offending God, an individual will never truly turn from their sin and submit to God through Christ, by faith. Many feel the guilt of sin but their remorse has more to do with the fear of punishment. Paul writes of this in his epistle to the Church in Corinth,
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Cor 7:10 KJV)
It is important to understand what godly sorrow is. Jesus calls those who mourn, blessed. They are blessed because this is the pathway to the nearness of God. We read in the Psalms,
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be if a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
Broken and contrite hearts are hearts that are crushed. The idea is that of being ground up to powder. Such and individual is humbled. They approach God with no self justification, with no self seeking, but with sorrow filled hearts they cast themselves upon His mercy. A heart filled with sorrow in this way will turn from sin because it is against God.
We see many accept Jesus so they can avoid hell and go to heaven, but they have dry eyes and hard hearts. They do not sorrow over their actual sin; over the fact that they are rebels fighting God, and as a result have grieved the Father’s heart. They make a confession, but it amounts to little more than self seeking. They have made God a means to their own happiness. This is the sorrow of the world that leads to death.
The Bible tells us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:6-10 KJV)
This passage of scripture plainly shows us the importance of real repentance. It is vital that we let godly sorrow work in us a true repentance whereby we approach God in true humility, and find reconciliation through Christ.