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.
C. S. Lewis said, “Repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years.”
We read of people in the Bible who were sorry, but they weren’t repentant. For example, a hardened Pharaoh admitted his sin. In Exodus we read, “Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he confessed. ‘The Lord is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong.'” (9:27). Yet Pharaoh went on to deliberately sin against God and His people.
An insincere king Saul admitted his sin, saying to Samuel, “I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the LORD’S command” (1 Samuel 15:24). But that didn’t stop Saul from going on a collision course with judgment.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked how to have eternal life. When Jesus told him, he went away sorrowful but not repentant. He wasn’t willing to change.
These people were experiencing what the apostle Paul called “worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, [and] results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
There is a difference between remorse and repentance. This is important to understand. People are sorry when their sin catches up with them. They are sorry when they begin to reap what they sow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are repentant.
If you are truly sorry in a godly way, then you not only will have remorse for what you have done, but you also will change your behavior.
This should be a warning to us not to take spiritual truth for granted. Let us not sit by passively and listen without any real intent to apply it to our lives.
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