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Monday, October 22, 2012

Repentance Is Not the Same as Being Sorry

I have visited many jails and prisons during my time in the ministry. I have also listened to numerous confessions of those who have done wrong who never go to jail. These include adulterers, tax cheaters and just plain ole liars. Each and every one of them is sorry. Often, they are just sorry they got caught.

Yes, these people often shed tears. They cry out saying that they were in the wrong. They want their punishment to stop. Their actions are often a reaction to the punishment rather than their sins.

I find there are things they have not confessed. There are things in which they minimize the extent of their sin. They are offended when their own sin is revealed. They blame others for their own actions. They have found a way to live with their sins.

Then, they say that the punishment is too great. They fight back; demanding less punishment. They take actions to protect themselves. They are reluctant to sign any agreements. They don't want to admit anything which will reveal their sins. They are unwilling to go the full distance of repentance.

Repentance is taking whatever punishment is dealt out for the sin. It is turning completely away from the sin toward God. That takes a full confession without hiding, minimizing or blaming others in your sin. Repentance abandons the worldly wisdom of protecting yourself. It accepts the full consequences because it is repentance. It turns away from the world and the world's standards so that the repentant ones may have God's presence again.

King David accepted the death of his child as punishment. He didn't want the child to die. He fasted in hope that God would not let this happen but it made no difference. He accepted it. He wrote that he had sinned against God. He knew that he had also sinned against Uriah, (Bathsheba's husband), Bathsheba, Joab, his military, his own family and his country. Yet, he knew ultimately that he would never have done what he did if he hadn't sinned against God.

Sometimes people believe that God is the one who declares that there will be no consequences if  sinners simply admit what they has done. That is not true. There are always consequences. Some are greater than others.

Yes, we live as a people in grace but that is not because we have confessed. It is because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. There can be no other payment which satisfies the penalty of sin. He did that for us. This is pure grace. True confession is not simply admitting what you have done. It must also contain true repentance.

The lack of true repentance almost guarantees a repeat of the sin. The sin has never really been washed away. The restoration of righteousness cannot be attained without true repentance.

So, when I listen to people who are sorry I also listen for repentance.

Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV) 1 Have mercy on me, O God,
 according to your unfailing love;
 according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
 and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
 and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
 so that you are proved right when you speak
 and justified when you judge.

1 comment:

Deb Willbefree said...

Amen. And, sadly, ouch.