Summary: A sermon on 2 Corinthians 7:11 (Much material adapted from Richard Owen Robert's book, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, chapter 6. Also, this sermon has two introductions [HoHum and WBTU] because I preached this over 2 Sunday nights)
Think of a husband and wife in a car, the wife tells her husband to turn right at the next junction and by mistake, he turns left. When he realizes what he has done, he says to his wife “I’m sorry love, I went the wrong way.” But if that is all he does, it isn’t enough. His saying sorry isn’t getting them any closer to where they want to be; it isn’t even stopping them getting further away. To get where they want to be, he needs to stop the car, turn it around and go back on to the correct road that his wife told him to take in the first place. That is repentance.
Jim Herron: Too many Christians have reduced “repentance” to something they know must occur to receive salvation. It has become to them just a step in process, something that has been completed when they walk down aisle and to the baptistry. This is unfortunate, because according to the Scriptures, repentance is an ongoing process, involved in each struggle along the way to Christian maturity. Unless we learn how to repent, we will not grow. Unless we learn the distinction between “godly sorrow” and “worldly sorrow” we will die.
Some say that Paul wrote another letter between 1 and 2 Corinthians to them, but probably not the case. All those who know 1 Corinthians are aware how stern and confrontational that first letter was. Paul really took the Corinthians to task for many things. After Paul had sent that first letter, he apparently had some second thoughts. He wondered what their reaction would be? Would they just get angry and cut him off? Would the wrongs be righted?
Paul was concerned about his relationship with them, but more than that he was concerned about their relationship with the Lord. That is why he wrote 1 Corinthians. Even if they hated him but it lead to their repentance over these matters, so much the better.
Vs. 9- When Paul wrote that first letter, he know it would provoke sorrow, but he also knew that its real purpose was not the sorrow but the repentance that needed to follow. Paul was well aware of the 2 kinds of sorrow and painfully concerned that the Corinthians not experience the sorrow of being caught and exposed in sin. He longed that they would know the sorrow that was according to the will of God. God in His grace enabled the Corinthians to have godly sorrow.
Vs. 10- Are we certain that we have the repentance that leads to salvation? Paul tells us how we can test our repentance and determine whether it is true of false. Consider it with the greatest possible care, for our eternal welfare hangs on true repentance and faith.
Vs. 11 in NASB: “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:11, NAS95.
Thesis: We see here 7 marks of repentance
Earnestness speaks of great care. Is our repentance marked by care or by carelessness? Many Christians are content to repenting of gross sins but leave many unrepented.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23, 24, NIV.
Bertha Smith is a name that we are not familiar with. Bertha Smith was a missionary many years ago in China. There was an uprising throughout China at that time and the Christian missionaries were forced to leave their congregations and flee to coastal cities for safety. Many of them, while removed from their fields, we determined to seek the face of God both personally and corporately. Many days were spent in the most intensive, personal heart searching they had ever know. This was followed by protracted seasons of corporately humbling themselves and praying together. Repentance came to them at levels they had never known before. This was followed by a season of harvest that permanently transformed not only their lives but the lives of many Chinese. When the Communist takeover forced the missionaries to leave China, Bertha Smith finished her missionary work in a neighboring country. Eventually the time came when, because of age, she went home to retire. She spent the remaining years of her life going among the churches, sharing her experiences in China and calling both preachers and their congregations to new levels of repentance and prayer. Her is a description of her usually practice from a preacher: “Following the evening meeting, Bertha got me in a corner, in fact got right in my face, and said, ‘The time has come when you must get earnest about repentance. Get yourself a large pad and several pencils and slip away to a private place and do business with God. Get down on your knees and ask the Lord to show you all your sins. Write everything down that He shows you and don’t you dare leave until God is finished with you. Tomorrow, bring me what you have written.” Men have told me that they did not dare to disobey her, for they were sure that what she said was a word from the Lord. Yet inwardly they thought, “I will do it, but I certainly won’t need a pad or a handful of pencils. This will only take a few minutes.” So to their private place they retreated, and down on their knees they went, saying, “O God, show me my sins.” Men have told me that pencil after pencil was blunted and sheet after sheet of paper filled with the sins that God showed them. The next day they would sheepishly bring the results to Miss Bertha who, upon gaining satisfaction that they had earnestly sought the Lord’s face and written down all that God showed them, would say, “Repent earnestly of all these sins, burn this record, and be done with these sins forever.”