How To Repent
A daily devotion for September 18th
2Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
5For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
8Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9yet 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. 10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13By all this we are encouraged.
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Whenever somebody accuses you of being wrong or tells you the truth about yourself, it hurts. It can produce one of two reactions, what Paul calls either
godly sorrow or
worldly sorrow. We all feel hurt, but the question, of course, is,
Is it godly sorrow, or is it worldly sorrow? Godly sorrow is the pain of suddenly becoming aware of something about yourself that has been hidden to you. An awareness of something wrong about yourself that you have not been able to see always creates a sense of anger, perhaps, of defensiveness, of injury, and often of tears. It is the moment of self-awareness, or what we call a
moment of truth. Have you ever had that happen to you? You were going about your life, thinking you were doing okay, when somebody came along and told you something about yourself. Even as that person said the words, there was a stab in your heart that said,
That's right, isn't it? You may be defensive, you may argue, or you may fight back, but deep inside you know that is true. It hurts, but if it is godly hurt, it leads to repentance. It makes you change. You alter your behavior.
I well remember how when I was a young Christian I had a great struggle in my life with an oversensitivity to people. I had such a poor self-image that I was dependent upon the way people thought about me for my feelings about myself. Consequently, if they did not always say nice things and treat me well, I was very hurt and upset. You could cause me to go into a morass of self-pity for days merely by making an offhand remark about me that cut me down. I had my moment of truth one day when I was talking with a Christian about another matter, but in the conversation she said something that struck like an arrow into my heart. She said,
I've learned that sensitivity is nothing but selfishness. I did not want to admit it, but I knew it was true. I knew that what I really wanted was to be the center of attention and have everybody ministering to me and taking care of me.
The next time somebody hurt me, however, I decided to act on the basis of what I had learned and say,
That's not his fault. He didn't intend to say something offensive. It is I who am feeling it. I'm taking it wrong. I did this, and after several such experiences, I suddenly began to feel a marvelous sense of freedom. The tiger was off my back, and I was free to enjoy things much more than I ever had before. I will never forget the sense of liberation that came when I acknowledged even the painful truth that somebody had unwittingly spoken to me. That is what Paul is talking about. Godly sorrow acknowledges the truth and changes its behavior, and that in turn leads to a sense of freedom and deliverance.
Lord, thank You for the opportunities You give me to repent. Help me to respond not just by feeling bad but also by acting on the basis of the truth I have learned.
Life Application: Godly repentance cleanses and liberates us. Do we keep the door of repentance open to God's saving grace in us and through us?
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