Recently, a young man told the story of his sudden transformation from convicted armed robber to good citizen. He said that he was sitting in his jail cell serving a lifetime sentence when news came of his friend’s death; he had been killed during an armed robbery. The young man was shown the last seconds of his friend’s life that were caught on CCTV footage. His friend was spray-painting a security camera as he was shot dead by the police. He said that it was in that moment that he was a changed man. His friend’s death showed him how he had been wasting his life fighting a system designed to protect the innocent from what he had become. He was paroled within twelve months.
The very meaning of the word “Repentance” is a change of mind.
Scripture speaks of two kinds of repentance: Godly Sorrow and Worldly Sorrow.” The apostle Paul mentions both when writing to the Corinthian church:
“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
The end of the life of Judas helps to explain the meaning of Worldly Sorrow. Yes, his remorse caused him to return the 30 pieces of silver to his co-conspirators and to take his own life, but what we do not see is any sense of contrition. Being overcome by the consequences of sin doesn’t necessarily mean that a man has humbled his heart to God.
Godly Sorrow is all about changing the state of the heart before God. Its about replacing our will with the will of God. Our will, outside of the will of God, enjoys and justifies sin. But our will, within the will of God, despises and condemns sin – leading to salvation.
After calling the people snakes, John the Baptiser told them [and us]:
“Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance…indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9).