Summary: According to the New Testament, there’s a difference between repentance and remorse.Part of the problem may be our mistake in thinking that sorrow and confession are enough to produce change. Another part is the misunderstanding of the process of change-
Many changes come naturally as we mature. Sometimes, though, negative habits form deep ruts, and it seems we can’t change, no matter how much we want to. Friends urge us to alter our course and warn us of dangers ahead if we don’t. We read in Scripture about God’s path of wisdom, and His Spirit awakens our spirit to a new vision of a better life in Christ. With tears of determination, we tell ourselves, our loved ones, and our Lord that things will be different."I’ll change, I promise," we say. And we really mean it. We feel a deep sense of sorrow for our sin, even disgust. However, as time passes, the pull of the rut overpowers our most sincere promises, and we fall back into old patterns. Part of the problem may be our mistake in thinking that sorrow and confession are enough to produce change. Another part is the misunderstanding of the process of change- a process the Bible calls repentance.
According to the New Testament, there’s a difference between repentance and remorse.
(Matthew 27: 1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2 They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That’s your responsibility." 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. Judas "felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders" (Matthew 27:3). He even confessed his crime: "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood" (v. 4).
Judas had come face to face with the hideous beast of evil in his soul, and he shrank back in terror and shame. Tragically, instead of leading him to God and life, his guilt hounded him to the gates of death. Eventually, his shame turned to self-hatred, and it drove him to suicide. The apostle Paul calls this "the sorrow of the world" because the world offers no hope for people racked with guilt .
But there is another sorrow that produces life, as Paul describes: 2 Corinthians 7: 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. Sorrow in and of itself is not repentance. There are many in the church today that have been sorry for sins they committed against God, but they did not allow the sorrow to lead them to repentance.
Notice the word godly in the verses listed above. Godly sorrow produces repentance. Worldly sorrow does not produce repentance. Worldly sorrow is based upon selfishness and a refusal to face up to the truth. Godly sorrow produces repentance which in turn produces a hatred for sin. When a person has truly repented of sin, they will not make the mistake of going back and repeating that same sin again. They will hate that sin. Repentance brings a change of heart and therefore a change in behavior.
The sorrow of an alcoholic, for example, can either drown him in crashing waves of self-pity . . . or carry him to the shores of a new life. The determining factor is not the sorrow itself but whether the sorrow brings the sinner to repentance.
What is repentance?
Illus. ( From Sermon Central) - Several years ago the Peanuts comic strip had Lucy and Charlie Brown practicing football. Lucy would hold the ball for Charlie’s placekicking and then Charlie would kick the ball. But every time Lucy had ever held the ball for Charlie, he would approach the ball and kick with all his might. At the precise moment of the point of no return, Lucy would pick up the ball and Charlie would kick and his momentum unchecked by the ball, which was not there to kick, would cause him to fall flat on his back. This strip opened with Lucy holding the ball, but Charlie Brown would not kick the ball. Lucy begged him to kick the ball. But Charlie Brown said, "Every time I try to kick the ball you remove it and I fall on my back." They went back and forth for the longest time and finally Lucybroke down in tears and admitted, "Charlie Brown I have been so terrible to you over the years, picking up the football like I have. I have played so many cruel tricks on you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways! I’ve seen the hurt look in your eyes when I’ve deceived you. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Won’t you give a poor penitent girl another chance?" Charlie Brown was moved by her display of grief and responded to her, "Of course, I’ll give you another chance." He stepped back as she held the ball, and he ran. At the last moment, Lucy picked up the ball and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back. Lucy’s last words were, "Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!"