"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. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, bur worldly sorrow brings death." 2 Corinthians 7:9-10
"I'm sorry." I have used these words many times in my life. Sometimes I truly thought about these words and meant what I said. Sometimes I did't think about these words at all and just said them to appease someone or even myself. As Christ followers, we must not confuse "regret" and "repentance." Many times we regret poor decisions we have made, and we follow those regretful decisions with words the words, "I'm sorry." Was it because we were caught? Was it because we wanted to appease someone? Was it because we truly meant it? "Regret" means "to feel sorrow or remorse" or "to think of with a sense of loss." As Christ followers, the Holy Spirit of God leads us into godly sorrow that leads us toward repentance. Repentance is more than saying, "I'm sorry." Repentance says, "I'm guilty." Repentance is a conscious decision to turn from sin and turn toward God. Worldly sorrow (shallow sorrow) does not lead to change in direction. Godly sorrow (deep sorrow) does lead to change in direction. That is repentance. I love what Pastor John MacArthur says: "Repentance is at the very heart of and proves one's salvation. Unbelievers repent of their sin initially when they are saved, and then as believers, they repent of their sins continuously to keep the joy and blessing of their relationship with God." As Christ followers, we understand that God knows us; God sees us; God hears us. Hebrews 4:13 says, "Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Worldly sorrow won't cut it with Almighty God. Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is what must pour from our hearts to experience joy and blessing with God. I can't help but think of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Luke 15:17-20 says, "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father." The Prodigal Son displayed godly sorrow that led to repentance. He proclaimed, "I'm guilty," when he said, "I have sinned." In this moment, he actually experienced a change in direction. Instead of moving closer to the pigs and the slop (which would ultimately be his death), he chose to move closer to the father (which would ultimately be his life). Luke 15:20 goes on to say, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." We must remember, the Prodigal Son's plan was simply to get back to the father and be satisfied with the role of a "hired servant." But the father's plan was even better! Luke 15:22-23 continues, "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." Today and every other day in the future, you will make decisions. Some of those decisions will be good, and some of those decisions will be poor. In those moments when you have made poor decisions, you will choose to embrace one kind of sorrow; it will either be worldly (shallow) sorrow, or it will be godly (deep) sorrow. The difference in the two? Worldly sorrow will lead to regret - a feeling - and eventually death. Godly sorrow will lead to repentance - an action - and eventually life. Choose godly sorrow. Choose repentance. Celebrate with joy and blessing in your relationship with the Father. You are more than a hired servant! You are a son/a daughter of Almighty God, thanks be to Jesus!