2 Corinthians 7:10a Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation and leaves no regret…
I have always been a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan. The last time they won a championship (Stanley Cup) was in 1967, months before I came onto this earth. In baseball, fans of the Cubs (who finally saw victory in 2016), and Cleveland Indians can feel my pain. In football, fans of the Cardinals and Detroit Lions can relate. And in basketball, Hawks and Suns fans can have empathy for the pain. In 1992-93 the Leafs came close, but that was the extent of my excitement. As I grew older I had no desire for a winning season or making the playoffs; in fact, I got upset when they tweaked the line-up to make it better. I looked at the championship teams, the prolific winners, and they had one thing in common, they had completely re-tooled, not tweaked, before they got better. Some teams sold all their assets and re-built with a clean slate.
Many Christians do this with sin. If there is an area of their life where they are “not where they want to be”, they “make adjustments”. How does the slogan go? “Become a better you”. This is a popular mantra in the world today. Tune into most self-help television shows or even books and they’ll guide you to become the “best YOU that YOU can possibly be”. You can do this by employing practical guidelines, many of which you can find in the Bible. Proverbs is a great place to start with that process. The problem with this approach is that it is from the pit of hell! I may be shocking people by saying that, but it is, because it leap-frogs over the only thing of any importance in the Christian life – the cross of Christ. You see Christ did not die on the cross to make us better people; he died on the cross to reconcile us to God because of the SIN that separates us from God. Therefore, what is critical in our lives is not adjustment, but repentance.
The Apostle Paul fully understood this concept when he wrote to the Corinthian church. If you read this in context (2 Corinthians 7: 1-12) you will find that Paul refers to a very tough letter that he had to write to the church (often referred to, by scholars, as the “Severe Letter”). Paul’s joy came because of their repentance. He wrote: “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (v. 10). Even though it caused them sorrow, Paul says that he has no regret because it led them to repentance (vv. 8-9).
One of the most impactful devotionals I’ve read is Oswald Chambers’ Repentance. He concisely addresses the difference between repentance and adjustment. “Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, ‘I have sinned.’ The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.”
While we are forgiven of all our sins when we accept Jesus into our hearts (Acts 10:43), there is a continual call for us to repent of our sins because they create a relational barrier between us and God, and us and others. When we sin, as Christians, we offend and grieve God (Ephesians 4:30) and that is why he calls us to confess our sins (1 John 1:9). When we deeply hurt a close friend, we don’t simply move on because we know they love us and will forgive us. There is a chasm that has been created that can only be filled through admission of fault and apology. Everyone knows that. So why is it that some Christians feel that going to God and confessing our sins against him (Psalm 51:4) is somehow wrong? Embrace repentance!