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by Jordan Demeter

The visual definition of repentance is to turn away from sin and toward God. To paraphrase the writer of Hebrews, we are to set aside every weight and encumbrance of sin and run toward God, the Author, and Perfecter of our Faith. The evidence of true repentance in the life of a person will be a newfound desire for the Lord and an equal disdain for the passions of the world and the dross of life. At the very moment a person is granted repentance by the Lord, the glint and gleam of sin will begin to fall away from their eyes as they gaze upon the glory and majesty of a perfect and Holy God. True repentance always leads to a radical and complete redirection of a person’s life and actions. The change is eternal and not temporary. This is because it is the work of God Himself, not man. Therefore, in keeping with the character of God, it can only be perfect, complete, and everlasting. As biblical followers of Christ, we believe the act of repentance can only be initiated by God, granted by God, and will lead to a work of salvation that is completed only through the death and resurrection of the Son of God for the ultimate glory of God. It is extremely important to understand that all of this is only available to us by way of a gift from God. Man cannot earn repentance or salvation or manufacture the likeness of either on his own. The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the church in Corinth, writes of the difference between worldly grief and godly grief, in chapter seven, verse 10. We see a significant difference between the two types of grief in this passage with one leading to repentance and salvation and the other leading to false repentance and death. Many within church gatherings and the world don’t know if they are truly saved. Paul helps us better understand godly grief and sorrow in a way that we can be sure of our salvation! My goal is to present a brief study on the subject in hopes that it will lead you to consider your own heart and the type of grief and repentance you may have experienced.

As I mentioned before, Paul gives us the biblical roadmap to repentance and salvation in 2 Corinthians 7:10 which says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Paul is saying, God, in His sovereign grace, gives to His chosen people the gift of Godly sorrow, which leads to true repentance and salvation. You can not get there on your own.

There are a few vital truths in this verse that I want to focus on as we set out to better understand the need mankind has to turn from sin to God. Are all men called to repent?

The first question I want to address is do all men need to repent. That might sound like a rhetorical question but it is worth firmly establishing the answer before we continue. The answer is given to us again by the apostle Paul in Acts 17:30. It reads, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” and Jesus himself declared, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke13:3) Paul also called for repentance in Acts 3:19 saying, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” Many other verses in scripture call all men to repentance and reconciliation with God. The truth of the situation is that sin has created an infinite chasm between every man and God and the only way to bridge the gap is to repent. All men are called to repent!

Godly Grief vs Worldly Grief
Looking again at 2 Corinthians 7:10, we see that salvation is a product of repentance and repentance of godly grief. Paul also warns that worldly grief is possible but will not lead to repentance and salvation but instead leads to death. So how can we know the difference between “godly grief” and “worldly grief”? If we don’t understand the difference between the two types of grief Paul is referring to, how can we know if we are truly repentant and therefore truly saved?
Worldly grief is when we feel sorrow and regret for our sin because of the consequences that it brings to us personally, such as shame, guilt, loss of reputation, or fear of punishment. We might feel sorry for what we have done, but our sorrow is primarily focused on ourselves and our situation, rather than on God and his holiness. The effect of this sorrow is only temporary and won’t extend to other broken areas of the person’s life. This person is only sorrowful about the thing they got caught doing and is now exposed to others.

On the other hand, godly grief is when we feel sorrow and regret for our sins because we recognize that we have offended God and his holy nature. We are grieved by our sin because we understand that it is an offense to God's perfect character, and we now desire to be reconciled to him. Humility is born in this person and vengeance towards all sin in their life. Not just the surface-level sins that might be visible to others. This kind of grief leads to genuine repentance and salvation. They are all three tied up in the overall gift of grace-based redemption and reconciliation given to them by God.

The Fruit of True Repentance
Now, let us consider the difference between true repentance and false repentance. True repentance involves turning away from our sins and turning toward God. It is a complete change of heart and mind that leads to a total change in behavior. This kind of repentance involves confessing all our sins to God, asking forgiveness for the transgressions that are against Him, and striving to live a life of obedience that is pleasing to him. The person's desires are now aligned with God’s desires! They no longer live for themselves or the fleeting things of the world. They desire that every dark part of their life has the light of Christ shining brightly in it. No more hiding addictions, anger, fear, hatred, pride, and anything else that is not in line with God’s law. They are running toward God with all of their beings.

The Displays of False Repentance
False repentance is when a person only feels sorry for the sin because of the consequences that it brings, but they are not truly sorry for offending God. They might make promises to change their behavior, stop sinning, and break a certain addiction, but they do not follow through with those promises. This kind of repentance is shallow, temporary, and does not lead to a true change of heart. The motivations for change are generated from a place of selfish desire or pride. They might want to be seen as a good person so they are willing to put on a façade. They hide vices to not lose the respect of others. False repentance is a form of man-made religion draped in works and good intentions.

Repentance Leads to Salvation
So, how can we know if our grief and repentance are godly and true? One way is to look at the fruit that it produces. As mentioned, are we turning away from our sins and toward God? Do we see evidence of a changed heart and life that extends beyond the exterior? Are we living in obedience to God's commands? Do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? A person who has only experienced worldly grief and false repentance will not have lasting evidence of these things.

In contrast, they will be serving two masters by living for themselves while attempting to also live for the Lord. They still love their sin and therefore do not see the need to extinguish it all. They don’t have a love for the Lord, His word, or his people. These are just a few of the signs that a person may not be made into a new creation. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” This means everything after repentance and salvation will look different and brand new! Brothers and sisters, we are encouraged to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). Let us never allow our pride to prevent us from being able to experience the joy and freedom that comes with genuine repentance and salvation.

In conclusion, let us strive for godly grief and true repentance, turning away from our sin and turning towards God in faith and obedience. May we be convicted of our sin and may that conviction lead us to genuine repentance that produces lasting fruit in our lives.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, now and always.
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