Repentance on Repeat?
Don’t judge me, but in college, I owned the trademark, copyright, and patent on this prayer of repentance:
“Lord, if you get me out of this one, I PROMISE I won’t do it again.”
Have you ever been part owner of that lie prayer? You were caught, exposed, bad things were happening due to your poor judgment and choices, and the only remedy that not only made sense – but the only one that could bail you out of the mess you made – was to crawl humbly back to God for mercy.
Funny – not funny – how we have all said that prayer at some point and time in our lives. But, as sure as the day is long – we did “it” again.
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing worse than sincerely asking God for forgiveness – with the promise to change – and finding yourself back in the exact same situation again and again.
You feel horrible, right? – or, maybe there are no words to describe how foolish, disappointed, or disgusted you are with yourself. You believed deep in your heart with all the best intentions that “This is it, I’ll never do that again.” And then…
When ‘Our’ Best Didn’t Work
So, what happened, Team? Can we blame the devil and the fact that we would’ve kept our promise, but “evil is always present” (Romans 7:21)? Can we ‘pull an Adam’ and blame a friend or loved one – “who God gave us” (Genesis 3:12) – for bringing us into a negative situation?
Wasn’t our spirits broken, our hearts contrite (Psalm 51:17)? Weren’t our tears and fears real?
Yes, we were extremely sorrowful. But, we simply used the wrong set of tears.
Sorrow That Leads to Real Change
Our Playbook says,
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
How can we tell if we’re using the “sorrow of the world” vs. “godly sorrow“? Let’s start with the world’s tears.
Have you ever witnessed someone crying or hysterical because they got caught? Or, if you’re a parent, have you ever seen your child cry extra hard to appeal to your sympathies in order to forgo punishment?
Worldly sorrow, my sisters and brothers, is noisy, but hollow. It carries a big bark but lacks an effective bite or grip on the true pursuit of repentance. Worldly sorrow is this great build-up of emotion that fizzes away when external pressures subside. And, why wouldn’t it? The farther it gets from humiliation, loss, or other consequences, worldly grief lacks the staying power that could produce life and instead produces death (in our purpose, relationships, even eternal damnation if left unchecked).
Godly sorrow, on the other hand, is the catalyst for acts that lead to repentance. It understands that true repentance is not an overnight success – there is much work to do to harvest the salvation that only godly grief and repentance can bring.
Let’s take a look at what godly sorrow is made of…
Key Ingredients to Godly Sorrow
2 Corinthians 7:11 explains how godly sorrow will “work out”, “make” (wrought) or “effect by toil” the following active responses in us:
- Earnestness. Worldly sorrow lacks sincerity. With godly sorrow, our pursuit to please God becomes genuine, as does our decision to avoid future offense.
- A concern to clear yourself. We will no longer attempt to justify or rationalize our wrongs, but will work to create distance between ourselves and “the cursed thing”.
- Indignation. We’re no longer comfortable and lenient with sin, but we become angry and “sick of” the sin and everything that leads to it.
- Fear. We develop a reverent respect for God – what breaks His heart and what makes Him happy. We develop a cautious fear of the eternal consequences of sin.
- A deep desire for God. We recognize how sin can separate us from God, and we deeply long for a right, intimate relationship with Him.
- Zeal. We passionately and with great diligence pursue righteousness and the subsequent obliteration of disobedience to God’s will from our lives.
- Vindication. We no longer “partner” with sin, but we “punish” our sinful acts, how? – by working diligently to right wrongs, and restore and heal any damages caused by our offense.
With these ingredients, we show ourselves as overcomers – innocent of the past charges of offense and the punishment attached to it – and the proud recipients of God’s grace and mercy.
So, What’s the Play Call?
Pursue godly sorrow in order to find freedom and a changed life through true repentance.
If you find yourself in repeated offense or sin, ask God for godly sorrow. Tell Him you’re tired of worldly, surface grief and open your heart to the conviction (note, not condemnation) of the Holy Spirit. Remember that repentance is a personal choice; we have the sole responsibility to surrender our will and where we are to God.
God will never forsake us on the road to salvation. We have access to new mercies every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). We may get sick of ourselves, but never feel ashamed to go to God for mercy – again and again – because He loves you with a compassion our earthly minds can’t comprehend.
God’s grace and mercy are available to all of us – let’s treat His gracious invitations to heal, change, and be delivered with the honor they deserve.