No Longer A Slave: Real Repentance
Introduction - Review
Introduction - Review
If you would like to follow along in your Bibles, please turn to 2 Corinthians 7. Today we are continuing our series titled “No Longer A Slave.”
In our last lesson, we talked about how a sin can slowly take over our lives and become our master.
At first, when the temptations come… a temptation to become impatient and to respond to someone with anger, or to have a drink, or to look at pictures on the internet that you should not be looking at, or ____name the sin you are most tempted with___, it may be easy to look at that one sin as “not that big of a deal” and to find ways to justify it. So we commit that sin, and we cover it up. And since no one either knows about it or confronts us about it, the sin is not ever dealt with. Over time, that sin becomes easier to justify — easier to commit — to the point where we either begin to ignore what God says about it, or maybe when we do see what God says about it, it no longer convicts us. We become calloused because of the sin, and we no longer care about God’s opinion about it.
It can be scary when you, maybe even years later, don’t even recognize the person in the mirror any more. You could never have imagined that you could fall so far — become so lost… and feel so powerless to overcome the sin that has enslaved you..
And the truth is, when we may find ourselves in this condition, we are powerless to get out of the hole we dug ourselves into on our own. We are in a desperate situation that we can only get out of with the Lord’s help, and with the help of God’s people. This is not to say that there is nothing we will need to do ourselves. There are many things that we must do as we get help — many things that will be uncomfortable and difficult to do — things we will talk about in this series.
The way out of slavery is not an easy one… and it can only begin if we are willing and able to realize two things: We are lost and helpless, and we are desperate for God’s grace.
What is Repentance?
What is Repentance?
For today’s lesson, I would like to discuss one of these difficult and hard to do things that we must do in order to have freedom — repentance. Repentance is something that should take us out of our comfort zone, but often it doesn’t because we may not have a complete view of what the Bible teaches about it. Consider for a moment some of the common definitions given for repentance:
To ask for forgiveness?
To have a change of mind?
To feel sorry for your actions?
To come back to church after “forsaking the assembly” (because of sin)?
To come forward at the invitation?
To confess sin?
All of these “definitions” that people give to repentance, I believe, fall short of defining repentance biblically. Some of these things may happen when someone has repented, but in and of themselves, they are not repentance. We will talk about these things during our lesson today and talk about how they fit into the discussion about repentance, but we need to understand that if we think we have repented solely because we have done one of these things or a few of these things, we are deceiving ourselves into thinking that we have truly shown repentance in our lives before others and God.
1. REPENTANCE IS MOTIVATED BY GODLY SORROW
In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about two types of sorrow: worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Let’s read verses 9-10:
“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9–10, NASB95).
This godly sorrow that Paul talks about here is what brings real repentance which leads to freedom - not worldly sorrow. Just because we feel sorrow does not necessarily mean that we are repentant. This is sobering to consider because there have been many times I have been sorrowful or guilty because of my sin for all the wrong reasons… Just because I got caught... because I just didn’t want to experience the consequences… or because I was more sad about how others responded to my sin than I was about my sin… Have you ever felt sorrow over these types of things?
You have probably heard or seen a young child who knew they did something that was going to get them some kind of punishment, so what do they do? They cry and cry. They say they are never going to do the action again… They are not sad because they realized they have disobeyed their parents and are truly sorry for it, but because they want to avoid any consequences for their actions or avoid feeling guilty for what they did.
We often respond the same way as a child… We don’t want to feel guilt or pain because of our sin… We don’t want the consequences… so we do the bare minimum in order not to experience these things… We push away any negative emotion over our sin so we can feel better about ourselves, and then since we feel better, we tend to think we have truly repented when we haven’t…
On a side note real quick… We need to consider this point in regards to how we try to help others when they have sinned… I think at times we are too quick to say to the one who is feeling guilt over their sin and in sorrow, “It’s ok. It’s not a big deal” to try to get them to feel better, but It’s not ok. It is a big deal. Feeling pain can be a good thing! They need to feel the pain of their sin. There is no such thing as painless or guilt free repentance!
When we sin or are confronted with our sin, it must break us. If we have truly experienced a relationship with the Lord, to be confronted with our sin is to be confronted with something that has gotten in the way of us having the kind of relationship we want to have with God and our brethren. When we see that, it will hurt us deep inside…
God said through the prophet Joel to “weep“ and to “rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-13). Outward signs of sorrow are not enough, God wants us to be broken inside over our sin. We know how that feels. Many of us have had a “broken heart” when a relationship that we have valued has either been disrupted or even ended by that person. Have we ever felt that way about our sin against God? David gives us a great example of this:
3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. 16 …You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:3-4; 16-17)
David realized his sin. He knew God would be just in condemning him. He understood what this did to his relationship with God, and it surely affected him deeply.
2. REPENTANT HEARTS FEEL INDIGNATION AND FEAR OVER SIN
But sorrow is not the only emotion we should have regarding our sin. Look at 2 Corinthians 7 once again… The godly grief was really just the beginning… Look at what this godly sorrow/grief cause in the Corinthians:
“For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear... (2 Corinthians 7:11, NASB95).
Indignation and fear are emotions that we should have also. They are motivating emotions…
Godly sorrow produces indignation. It produces hatred. Worldly sorrow produces anger, but it is directed at other things. Worldly sorrow hates the consequences of sin. Worldly sorrow directs anger towards those who have made them feel bad. The tears of worldly sorrow spring from shame over a lost job or ministry, disgust over a spouse or friend who is disappointed in you, embarrassment over being disciplined by your school or parents, or some other painful result of sin. The hatred/anger of worldly sorrow is the hatred of being caught.
Godly sorrow hates the sin itself. Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness. Godly anger is a righteous anger towards the sin that has broken your life and your relationship with God. You hate the sin and what to rid your life of it.
Godly sorrow also produces a healthy form of fear. Worldly sorrow also produces alarm, but it is misdirected. The fear of worldly sorrow is the fear that people will find out. In worldly sorrow you didn’t get earnest and you haven’t been eager to clear yourself from the sin. You may have made a show of change, but the substance never came. It didn’t take too long for you to go right back to looking at all the same stuff you looked at before. Now you’re living in fear that people will find out—or find out again—that you aren’t for real. All your effort is spent on not being caught. You’re trying to hide in the dark instead of exposing the darkness to light. This will never lead to lasting change.
Godly sorrow doesn’t fear that people will find out about your sin. Rather, you fear that God—the only person who ultimately matters—always knew, and your actions have angered Him and separated you from Him.
3. REPENTANT HEARTS DESIRE TO BE CLEARED
The emotions we feel towards our sin - the sorrow, the guilt, the indignation and fear… they need to lead to change… Just feeling the emotions is not good enough… This is something we need to constantly remind ourselves of. Just feeling emotions of sorrow, guilt, and anger because of our sin is not the endgame. These emotions are just the beginning.
“For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves...” (2 Corinthians 7:11). Godly sorrow produces action. It produces change. The Corinthians desired vindication… They wanted it to be clearly seen that true repentance was present.
If you or I have worldly sorrow, there will be change… There will be an eagerness to do so… There will be a fire within — an urgency to be freed from the sin that was committed against God and man. The person who has true godly sorrow and repentance will not need to be told to go apologize or to go confess their sin. They do not need to be told to go to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness. This will be a natural outflow from a repentant heart.
If we have to ask the question, “I wonder if they have truly repented,” it may be the case that they have not truly repented. If we are close to the situation and the person involved and it is not clear that they have returned to faithfulness towards the Lord, then they may not have… Those who want to be freed from their sin will go at lengths to make sure they are cleared. They will drop everything to make things right. They won’t wait until worship to “come forward.” It is going to happen immediately.
A great passage that shows this idea is in Joel 2. God, in calling His people to repentance, said, “Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room” (Joel 2:16). It seems like God is saying that repentance is so necessary that all weddings for the day need to be called off! Would you have any question that someone has repented if they called off their wedding to go to someone they have wronged and to fix their broken relationship with God? Of course not.
One of the reasons why the repentance of people is questioned is because there commonly is so little done by the person who has sinned. There seems at times to be no urgency in the person to make things right, and when they do come to confess their sin, there seems to be no brokenness on their part. I believe that we need to learn to ask questions of the person when they do come to us to confess sin.
You may or may not agree, but I believe that true repentance cannot be brought into question by anyone except for those who do not want to forgive (those who themselves do not want to repent from their sin of being unwilling to forgive)... We do need to make sure that we are careful that we are not questioning someone’s repentance because we are not having a forgiving heart ourselves. Make sure our concern is for the person in sin and not about the bitterness we feel about what they did to us. If they have come to us in repentance, we must be willing to forgive, no questions asked.
4. REAL REPENTANCE DESIRES RESTORATION
Restoring our relationship between us and our God and our relationships with the people we sin against is the goal of repentance. When it comes to restoring our relationships with one another, Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). We shouldn’t bring God worship unless we have first taken care of the wrong we have done. This is how important true repentance is. We cannot properly worship God unless we first are reconciled with one another.
Worldly sorrow wants to let bygones be bygones. It preaches about leaving the past in the past and just letting time heal the wounds - not repentance and forgiveness. Worldly sorrow says lets just not talk about what was done and move on. But this is not how God teaches us to bring healing to relationships that are broken. If we desire to have freedom from the sin we are enslaved in, then we must show humility and openly and honestly share with others what we have done. This is always a very hard thing. We have to swallow our pride and overcome our fear of what others will think of us if they find out how we really are if we are going to be able to confess our sins. This is never a comfortable thing to do… But it is necessary if we are truly repentant and if we desire to find freedom.
This is why confession of sin is so important. Now we will talk about confession in detail, Lord willing, in our next lesson, but I would like to make a quick point about it as we close this lesson also. If we have a repentant heart, we will desire to go to those we have sinned against in order to make things right, and we will open up to the LORD and honestly and fully confess our sin. There cannot be restoration without confession of sin and guilt. Godly sorrow demonstrates itself in a deep concern to restore the relationships that were broken, even if that means they need to humble themselves, go to the person they sinned against, and confess their guilt to them.
When this is what our repentance looks like, there will be blessing from the Lord.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
A lack of true, fruitful repentance will be our downfall.
Our lives as Christians must be lives of repentance. Repentance is something that we should be doing often in our lives as we get into God’s word and see our sin. Biblical repentance must be our response when we are confronted with our sin. Only when we repent Biblically and confess our sins can we know that we have forgiveness and freedom before the Lord. When was the last time you have repented of sin?
If there is anything we can do for you today to help you seek freedom — to be delivered from sin — please make today that you take the steps needed to find God’s mercy.