The persistent practice of sin is a problem in that all have sinned, that is, sin is universal (Rom. 3:10, 23) and it is persistent. Even after one has become a Christian, temptation to sin still dogs his every step (1 Jno. 1:8-10, Rom. 7:18-19). This being the case, the Gospel of Christ addresses this problem through the command to repent of our sins. One of the best passages in the NT regarding repentance in II Cor. 7:9-11. In it we learn what repentance is, what leads one to repentance and the things that serve as indications that true repentance has taken place.
One might accurately say the Bible is a book about repentance, for were sin not a problem, repentance would be unnecessary. What is repentance? The word in our Bibles comes from the Greek word metanoeo which basically means a change of mind that results in change of life or direction. Basically the message of the Bible is a message of repentance, that is, a message that says: Stop sinning and turn to God.
Some mistakenly believe that feeling badly about one’s sins is repentance. This is an error. Paul tells us that Godly sorrow leads to repentance. It is good and even necessary to feel Godly sorrow. Repentance is impossible without it. But it is not, in and of itself repentance. It leads to repentance. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10, KJV)
When one experiences Godly sorrow, he is experiencing sorrow because of what his sins have cost God. There is a sorrow of the world, that is, a sorrow because of what sin has cost us, ie., sorry that we got caught. This sorrow does not lead to repentance and salvation because it is unconcerned with one’s condition before God. When one sorrows after a worldly sort, his concern is how his sin being found out has effected his status before the world.
Is this not what see before our eyes daily on the popular news media. It seems lately there has been a plethora of Hollywierd moguls and celebrities, news media personalities and politicians who have been exposed as serial offenders in sexual misconduct, sexual abuse and assault. Most of them give a very trite and insincere apology for their conduct and go right on living and behaving as before. Certainly they are sorry… sorry they got caught, sorry their careers are being ended and their reputations of being lily-white examples to the common folk is forever ruined. Few, if any will experience true Godly sorrow that will lead them to true repentance, conversion and salvation.
It is easy to point the finger of accusations to those above and think ourselves better. Are we? Have we felt genuine Godly sorrow and been led to true repentance or do we, like they, simply feel badly because we got caught and have been exposed? How can I know if I have truly repented?
Paul lists several evidences of true repentance in our text. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:11) Take the time to look these terms up in a Bible dictionary to learn what they mean. Are these traits evidenced in our lives. If not, perhaps we have not truly felt Godly sorrow and repented.
In order to defeat the persistent practice of sin, I need to feel genuine Godly sorrow and genuinely repent of my sins!