As a school administrator, I have heard hundreds of kids mutter the word “sorry” as if that two-syllable utterance automatically covered a multitude of sins. Parents hear it all the time, too. One brother punches another, gets caught, then flippantly declares, “Sorry bro” and assumes that all is well. But is it?
Let’s take a moment and explore what the Bible says about repentance.
Some have said that repentance is the first word of the gospel. John the Baptist blurted it out as he began his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near...” (Matthew 3:2). As Jesus began to preach, He also stated, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is near...” (Matthew 4:17). When Peter preached at Pentecost, he declared, “Repent and be baptized.”
Repentance is a big deal in the scriptures.
It might be good to start our thoughts with the realization that you can be sorry and not be repentant. Sorrowfulness can lead to repentance, but they are not one and the same. Repentance is the act of coming back to God. It is measured, not by our emotions or tears, but by what that act of repentance actually produces in our lives.
Check out 2 Corinthians 7:11 where Paul gives us seven indicators of just how sorry we really are for our sin. His list will help us understand what is involved when we repent. He says that godly repentance produces:
1. An earnestness or diligence to pursue righteousness
2. A genuine appeal to clear ourselves or to stand as an open book before the Lord
3. A vibrant indignation against sin--an expression of hatred for what we have done
4. A fear that raises an alarm or a fear that helps us set appropriate boundaries for ourselves
5. A longing or vehement desire to be in a right relationship with God
6. A kind of zeal or “heat” that has a passion to live for Him, not ourselves
7. And lastly, a readiness to see justice done--a desire to see God’s plan win the day
This week, let’s all stop and take a long look at the “sin that does so easily entangle us...” (Hebrews 12:1) and consider using these seven signs of true repentance as a kind of checklist. It will help us determine just how serious we are about abandoning that sin.
Instead of just “mouthing” the trite words of “Sorry, Lord,” let’s make a careful examination of our hearts and make sure we are truly repenting.