Many years ago I heard Pastor John Guest, then a pastor from Pittsburgh, say that all true change begins with repentance. Though I heard him preach for an entire week, that was the one thing that sticks in my mind these many years later. We could define repentance this way: sorrow for sin leading to a changed mind about sin resulting in changed behavior toward sin. Notice that all three dimensions of our personality are involved in true repentance. The emotions are grieved over the sin we have committed. The mind agrees that a change is needed. Finally, the will acts taking a new direction towards God.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11 is possibly the clearest explanation of how true repentance works: 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
Verse 10 is one of the best explanations of the difference between Judas and Peter. Peter rejected Christ, as did Judas. Peter denied Christ, as did Judas. Judas died lost, while Peter was restored. The difference was that Judas had a worldly grief in which he was sorry over the consequences of sin. He felt bad that he had betrayed innocent blood and was unable to face the shame and humiliation it would bring. Rather than turning to Jesus in real repentance for forgiveness, he took the selfish way out and ended his life.
Peter, on the other hand, had a godly grief not simply over the consequences of sin but over the fact that he had committed sin. It was the sin itself that caused him to go to a solitary place and weep bitterly. When he told Jesus three times that he loved Him, he admitted he was wrong wanting a new direction. That was true repentance that led to his restoration by the Savior.
What are the marks of this kind of repentance either in a nonbeliever for salvation or a believer for restoration? Verse 11 explains what true repentance does as well as any verse I know.
There is earnestness or eagerness to no longer be indifferent or complacent about sin in one’s life when we realize it. Then there is eagerness to clear yourselves. This is the desire to make things right and remove the stigma that the sin has caused. Next there is indignation which is displeasure at what has been offensive to the Lord and harmful to others. There is also fear, the healthy reverence for the Lord that does not want to continue offending Him. There is longing, which is the desire to restore relationships with those affected. There is zeal for that which is right, the opposite of one’s wrong. This leads to punishment, the willingness to accept the consequences that may come and see justice done where required. Finally, this shows one to be innocent, the Greek word for holy or pure. The end result of repentance is a real concern for restored innocence and the pursuit of a blameless or pure life once again.
God loves to see these marks of repentance because He knows they will lead to the good He has planned for us. He does not want us to live in regret, but salvation and restoration. Praise Him.
Your friend, thankful for God’s work, Pastor Brian (:-}).