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.