Friday, June 25, 2010

Remorse without Repentance

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There are times when we are filled with regret.  However that regret does not lead to any sort of life change. 

For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10 (HCSB)

This is worldly remorse.  I have posted on this before here.  However I thought it would be good to draw a contrast between feeling sorry about something and true repentance. 

Unmerited Self-Reproach

There is a type of regret that comes when you have not done anything wrong.  Perhaps it is dealing with a consequence of someone else's sin.  Perhaps it is dealing with negative consequences of making the right choice.  That's right we can regret making the right choice if we let regret come in to our hearts.  At other times we are quick to assume that we have done something worthy of apology.  Perpetually saying "I am sorry."  This type of regret is pointless. 

The only thing it does is make us feel badly and there is nothing to repent of other than turning from the inward self-focus to a outward God-focus.  It seems that we become so self absorbed that we begin to take credit for everything good or bad, but especially bad.  That is somewhat arrogant if you think about it.  How could all things be my fault? 

Some other things that might be going on:  God could be showing you something (like how to trust Him), there might be a person that needs to experience God's love and God has place you in their path to show them that love, you may be experiencing persecution for doing the right thing, maybe your opinion needs to be heard and is wisdom that God has given you.  What ever the case may be unmerited self-reproach is not repentance it is worldly sorrow and it kills the spirit. 

Guilt of Being Caught

We have a great capacity to sear our conscience to dull the conviction that something is wrong until we get caught.  For the Christian in addition we grieve the Holy Spirit until He leaves us to experience full consequence of sin.   What ever the case may be we continue in this sin until we are caught.  At that moment we have a choice.  Do we put our effort into damage control and minimizing the effects of getting caught or do we seek genuine repentance. 

The guilt of being caught is not repentance.  Repentance requires a true change of heart, a change of direction, a change is purpose.  What is difficult is that guilt of being caught and true repentance can look very much the same.  In both there is cessation of the offending behavior.  In the case of guilt of being caught the cessation is more like a pause than a change.  This pause can continue for a long time, sometimes indefinitely.  Both can be accompanied by expressions of remorse.  Both can be accompanied by renewed religious devotion. 

The difference?   Well there are a few.  The guilt of being caught is self-centered.  Repentance is God/Spirit centered.  The guild of being caught is more interested in removing consequences of sin, where as repentance is more interested in removing the guilt of sin (through a right relationship with God).  Guilt of being caught is motivated by the desire to escape pain.  Repentance is motivated by the desire to experience God's peace.  It seems that arrogance is the root of the lack of repentance in this matter as well.  It is a attitude of "I can fix this." This I can fix this attitude leads a person to arrogantly undo and restore what cannot possibly be repaid. 

In the end it is an empty pursuit not leading to lasting change.  Often the end of guilt from getting caught leads to blame of others, resentment and bitterness, or avoidance that festers in the soul like a infection under the skin.  What is needed is humble repentance from the arrogant attitude that "I can fix this!" and from the original offence to trust in God and His forgiveness. 

Melancholic Guilt

There are times that people experience genuine remorse, but never get around to repentance.  Their guilt is overwhelming and they cannot remove it.   They become intensely aware of their own shortcomings becoming anxious, distressed, and depressed.  They discover that no amount of undoing will ever make things right.  Don't get me wrong; you can make amends to restore a relationship or pay restitution for damages, but you can never come up with a payment big enough to undo the guilt of sin. 

Melancholic guilt is a deep intimacy with the hopelessness of the guilt of un repentant sin.  Sometimes people live lives of desperation in this place because they are not aware that there is another option.  Other times they know about the peace of God, but believe the deception that either they have to undo the guilt then come to God, or that the guilt they bear is to great for God to forgive.  Still other times Melancholic Guilt occurs when a person realizes that repentance does not remove the consequences of sin.  The biggest problem with melancholic guilt is that it never leads to a changed life and it robs you of the peace that God offers through His Son Jesus Christ. 

To repent of Melancholic Guilt one much without reservation confess the sin that has brought the guilt into your life.   Then trust in God to work through your circumstances for better or for worse, but always for your good (Romans 8:28).  To fall back into melancholic guilt after you have turned to God for forgiveness is really a sign that you do not trust God to work through your circumstances.  If there are ongoing consequences to your sin embrace them and then turn them over to God.  This ongoing turning to (repentance) God will allow His peace to flow into your life. 

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 (HCSB)
If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (HCSB)

Have a Blessed Day

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