“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” II Corinthians 7:10 ESV
In just a few short days we’ll be leaving 2009 forever and begin our venture into a brand new 2010. Often many of us use this transition period to mark a time of change or New Year’s resolutions. If you’re one of these who are usually determined to make a resolution, but then after just a few short weeks have forgotten, lost interest, or fallen away from your resolution let me challenge you to make a decision that will last, one that our fickle, fallen nature cannot control nor lose interest in. Start this New Year on solid ground with a clean slate by way of repentance. Surely each of us wants a clean slate, our past transgressions forgiven and forgotten, unless of course you enjoy sinking in guilt and depression becoming more distant from the only One capable of saving you. How then do we proceed with repentance and what do we have to do, more specifically what is repentance?
Dr. John MacArthur defines repentance as not just a change of mind, but a change of heart. In accordance with this he adds repentance is “an inward response, not external activity.” But we must ask an inward response to what? The answer to this question applies to believers and non-believers alike. II Timothy 2:25 ESV Paul states, “…God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth.” In Romans 2:4 the Apostle states, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” These two passages indicate that repentance is a response to God’s leading us towards it, specifically through the internal working of the Holy Spirit. The idea here is that left alone to our own sinfulness we will be perfectly content to wallow in filth, if not for the grace of God leading us to repentance. How then should we respond to this holy influence? The psalmist David sings to the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV We established with the definition of repentance that it is a change of heart, our prayer then should be like David’s that God would search our hearts for any wicked way and when He does, that we may be lead to repentance.
Repentance then is an inward change of heart toward sin in response to God’s graciousness that softens the hardness of our hearts and leads us towards repentance. What should our response be once we are searched and found at fault? In the passage above from II Corinthians, the Apostle Paul states that godly grief or sorrow produces repentance. When God searches our hearts and reveals to us just how unworthy our sins have made us, the response is godly sorrow. This response is affected by the recognition of sin through guilt, sorrow for sin committed against a Holy God, and a change or turning away from sin in seeking to be cleansed or pardoned from sin. (Berkhof via MacArthur, Systematic Theology) True repentance is a heartfelt change in attitude toward sin and God’s working in our lives to make that change complete. As we’ve pointed out before, King Saul’s attitude toward sin was one of indifference, in that he sinned because he felt like it and his remorse was an external response to being found guilty. I Samuel 13:12 On the converse King David’s sins were numerous and egregious, yet his sorrow was an inward response of heartfelt remorse. II Samuel 12:13 Which heart do you have?
Are you unrepentant today, not knowing of the kindness of God that leads to repentance? Maybe you have already felt the guilt of sin in your life, but have not yet repented. Offer up a prayer to God and ask the Lord to search your heart to see if there is any wicked way. Repent of those sins dear friend, with godly sorrow and come broken before the cross of God’s Son Jesus. Believe on Him for His power to forgive you from those sins and know that your sins died with Him on the cross. Just as Jesus rose again, you can now have a new life in Him cleansed from all your sins, trusting in the Savior Jesus Christ for salvation from God’s wrath.
Christians, how will you start your 2010? Will you carry over your unconfessed sins into the New Year? Or will you repent knowing that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 Have you felt distant from God this past year? Do you feel like you’ve stalled in your faith, with no desire for His Word or a lack of prayer and fellowships with other believers? It’s likely sin has become an obstacle in your life. Maybe you’ve found yourself sliding back into the life you once left. Have you forgotten what you were cleansed from? II Peter 1:9 Pray that the Lord too might search your heart and find any unconfessed sin and repent.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 ESV
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” II Peter 3:9 ESV
“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8 ESV
“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:5 ESV