WHAT ABOUT REPENTANCE?
by David Sisler
Mrs. Douglas was knocked down by a car and had to be hospitalized. The following day, the driver came by with a beautiful bouquet of roses. A nurse went to Mrs. Douglas and said, "The man who knocked you down is outside. He seems very repentant. He has come to tell you how sorry he is. May he come in?"
"Yes," Mrs. Douglas replied, "but only if he is on foot."
What does it mean to repent? Does it deal with the past or with the future? If you really repent, can you ever unrepent?
The man was only minutes away from surgery. The doctors had told him there was less than a five percent chance he would survive. The hospital chaplain caught up with the man as he was being wheeled into the elevator on his way to the operating room.
"I'll tell you something, Preacher," the man said, "I've never gone to church much, but if I survive this operation, I will be in church every Sunday. I'll read my Bible and pray, although I've never done either before. I have never made a pretense of following Jesus, but if I live, I will follow Him."
"Do you mean that?" the chaplain asked.
"Preacher," the man replied, "Do you think I'd lie at a time like this?"
The man survived the operation, and for one week kept all of the promises he had made in the hospital elevator. Later, reviewing the situation with a colleague, the chaplain was asked, "Do you think the man was sincere?"
"As sincere as any man I've ever known," he replied.
"Well, do you think he lied?"
"No," the chaplain said, "I think he was completely honest at the time. But his repentance never got inside of his life."
What about the alcoholic who says, "I'll never touch another drop," and then within a few days is drunk again? What about the gambler who swears off the horses, the cards, the whatever, and later looses his entire paycheck betting on a "sure thing?"
Did they repent? Yes, they did. Well, what happened? They repented only for their past. Their repentance never involved their future.
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians, "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
Worldly sorrow is primarily occupied with the consequences of what you have done, with punishment, with embarrassment. It produces a temporary repentance. It causes you to promise God almost anything, but it never gets inside of you.
Godly sorrow looks beyond the details, forgets the embarrassment, goes past the possible consequences, and is concerned with the sin itself and the God who has been offended.
What does it mean to repent? It means to change your mind about the way you were living, turn completely around and live in an entirely new direction.
Does repentance deal with the past or with the future? Forgiveness deals with your past. Once God forgives your past, it is past. Repentance deals with your future, with the way you will live from now on. Repentance does not mean a partial change. Godly sorrow that works repentance means a complete, 180 degree turn in your life.
If you really repent, can you ever unrepent? Paul said, "[The] godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret. But worldly grief, the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world, is deadly--breeding and ending in death."
The repentance from which you choose to go back, was not produced by godly sorrow. Understanding how much God loves you, what it cost God to save you, why would you want to unrepent? That kind of repentance leads to death, and it is an eternal death. Godly sorrow leads to life, and it is an eternal life.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 2/12/94
Copyright 1994 by David Sisler
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