“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT)
Without any desire to judge the intent of a person’s heart when they come to Jesus, but based on the words of Paul above, I believe to a large degree the reason a lot of people “wash-out” of their “commitment” to Christ, is their lack of repentance. What is repentance?
Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in the direction of a person’s life. It’s a military term that paints the picture of a soldier making an about-face. They’re walking in one direction, then make a 180 degree turn and begin walking in the opposite direction. The implication for those of us who are Jesus followers, we’re walking in an ungodly, disobedient direction in our life, but we repent – by God’s grace and with His help – we allow the Lord to change the direction of our life.
It’s an act of God that is reflected in our attitudes – in the way we think, coupled by a change in the direction of our life. In short, we’re walking away from God, but upon repenting, we are now walking with and toward God, which reflects our desire to submit to His authority in our lives.
The plot thickens when our “sorrow” isn’t for our sin, but because we got caught. Our regret doesn’t lie in our violation of God’s law and the breaking of His heart, but rather in the fact our sin became public. Obviously, it’s a two-pronged process. Yes, of course, we’re embarrassed when news of our addiction becomes known or when our spouse files for divorce or we’re fired from our job for inappropriate behavior.
And often that’s the catalyst for finally getting the help we need, and, as part of that process, seeking forgiveness. That’s legitimate and is not uncommon in a person’s life who genuinely desires to find salvation in Christ. But the truth is, repentance and salvation aren’t simply the way we begin a relationship with Jesus.
Repentance, turning away from our sin and seeking forgiveness and cleansing, is an ongoing process for a child of God. We’re not saved and immediately set free from all sin. We’re forgiven, but sin continues to haunt us. The reality is, the closer we walk with Jesus the more we hate our sin and disobedience, thus the more quickly we repent and seek the Lord’s guidance in getting back on track.
Salvation from sin is an instantaneous event in the sense that every sin past and present is forgiven, and we’re cleansed and freed from the guilt and shame that they’ve caused. And the grace and forgiveness are appropriated for even every future sin. That’s why we need to keep short accounts with God.
John wrote in 1 John 2:1: “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father.” And in 1 John 1:9 he writes: “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
So, the process, as I understand it becomes: when we disobey a clear directive of God; we confess, we agree with God’s estimate of our dwelling on wrong thoughts, harboring wrong attitudes, or committing wrong actions; we seek forgiveness through Christ our advocate; then we repent, we turn from our sin, receive forgiveness and continue our walk in newness of life.
Salvation, as is Sanctification, is an ongoing, life-long journey. Ideally, every time we fall, we rise with greater determination to rely more fully on the Holy Spirit, by going immediately to Him when we sin, learning from our failure, and seeking greater closeness and more continued fellowship with our Savior in and through the ministry of His Holy Spirit.
Blessings, Ed 😊