Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Feeling sad about committing some sin isn’t the same as genuine repentance. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How do you know if your sorrow is godly? Does it lead you to repentance? Does it result in a change of life?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 5.

It’s appropriate to grieve over sin, but repentance isn’t just an emotion. It requires your whole life and your action. Nancy’s teaching on repentance is from a series called Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: We love hearing from our Revive Our Hearts listeners, and I really enjoy reading those emails and letters sharing how God is using this ministry to change people’s thinking, to change their hearts, and to change their lives.

I received an email like that not too long ago that said,

Up until last summer, I believed modesty was only in the way that I dressed. Thanks to your teaching, I realized it was also my attitude that was immodest—the way I carried myself, right down to glances I threw at the men I am friends with.

Last summer, after hearing your teaching about modesty, I not only completely overhauled my summer wardrobe (so much so that I had to buy new clothes next spring), even throwing out my two-piece bathing suits, but I also began to ask God to keep my attitude modest as well.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I didn’t think we were doing a series on modesty.” We’re not! We’re in the middle of a series on repentance, but doesn’t that email illustrate what we’ve been saying about repentance?

It’s a change of mind that results in a change of heart that results in a change of life. That woman never said in her email, “I repented,” but that’s what she did.

God’s Spirit showed her something about her wardrobe and about her attitude that was not godly. It wasn’t pleasing to the Lord, and she said, “Yes, Lord, I agree with You. I repent.” She turned from going her own direction, and it got very practical. She ended up throwing out a considerable portion of her summer wardrobe.

I’m not telling you what you need to do with your wardrobe, but chances are God is speaking to your heart about a variety of issues. God may be dealing with you in an issue totally unrelated to modesty or wardrobe.

It’s something to do with your attitude or behavior. Do you have a repentant heart when God points out things in your life that are not pleasing to Him?

Repentance is a way of life for believers. We’re looking at 2 Corinthians chapter seven. I want to ask you again to turn in your Bible to that passage where the apostle Paul is commending the Corinthian believers because they had responded to his earlier correction with godly sorrow that led to repentance.

We’re going to see as we pick up this passage that we started yesterday that there were evidences of genuine repentance in the Corinthian church that will also be evidences when we truly repent.

We read in verse eight yesterday in 2 Corinthians chapter seven that Paul’s letter made these Corinthian believers grieve. It made them sorry over their sin.

But Paul goes on to say in verse nine, “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.” Your grief, your sorrow, that pain that I caused you by my sharp correction caused you to move into repentance.

“For you felt a godly grief” (verse 10). Some of your translations say a godly sorrow. Now, the fact that there’s godly grief or godly sorrow suggests that there’s a kind of sorrow that is not godly—a kind of grieving that is not godly, and we’ll see that in just a moment.

He said, “You felt a godly sorrow, so that you suffered no loss through us.” They were made sorrowful to the point of repentance. That’s what the Bible calls godly grief, godly sorrow—the kind of sorrow that leads you to do something about the sin, that leads you to change your mind, that leads you to repent, turning from sin to God, turning from sin to holiness, not justifying behavior, but changing your behavior.

That was godly sorrow. How do you know if your sorrow is godly? Does it lead you to repentance? Does it result in a change of life?

And Paul says in verse 10, “Godly grief,” godly sorrow, “produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief,” worldly sorrow, that’s the other kind, “produces death.”

That kind of sorrow, that worldly grief or worldly sorrow is what we refer to as remorse. A remorseful person may shed tears over their sin, but they’re not repentant in their heart.

What are they crying about? Well, the fact that they got caught, that they committed adultery that broke up their marriage. Now, they’re divorced; they’re having to pay alimony, whatever.

There are consequences. They are mourning over the consequences, or that somebody found out, or they don’t like being the way that they are, but they don’t want to change the way that they are.

When you cry over your sin, when you grieve over your sin, you need to say, “Is this remorse, or is this repentance? Is this worldly sorrow, or is this godly sorrow?”

The sorrow of the world produces self-pity and wounded pride; but it cannot save, it cannot change your life. It brings shame, guilt, despair, hopelessness, and sometimes even death.

And isn’t Judas an example of that in the New Testament? He wept bitterly over what he had done by sending Christ to the cross, but was he repentant? No, he was remorseful, and it ultimately led to his death.

Now, as we look at verse 11, we see seven characteristics of true repentance. I want to run through these and have you catch what they are.

Verse 11: “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you.” An earnest desire to please God, an earnest desire to be holy—they couldn’t go on with business as usual.

“But also what eagerness to clear yourself.” That’s the second one. A strong desire to make things right, to have a clear conscience—that was an evidence of repentance.

“What indignation,” righteous anger; they were outraged over their sin. This was not a casual response. They realized that their sin was no little thing. There’s nothing trivial about sin. It was a serious matter to them, and they came to detest the sin that they had once cherished and enjoyed.

“What fear” it produced in you, this godly repentance, this godly sorrow. Fear? Fear of what? Fear of God. A holy dread and reverence and dread of a holy God, who is offended by sin.

Then he said, “It produced in you longing.” The King James says there “vehement desire.” An intense yearning to see things made right, to have the relationship with Paul restored, longing.

And then it produced zeal, a zeal for holiness and a hatred for anything that would harm God’s glory.

And then he says that it produced punishment. What kind of punishment? Well, the New American Standard says, “avenging of wrong,” or the New International “a readiness to see justice done.”

I think that refers to the follow through. They accepted the consequences of their sin, and they wanted to see sin avenged. They were willing to make restitution. They were willing to do whatever they had to do to make it right.

So Paul says, “See what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment.” Vindicating the truth.

“At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” That doesn’t mean they were innocent initially. It means they had repented. They had changed their lifestyle. They had changed their mind.

They had changed their heart attitude. They didn’t just claim to have repented. They gave evidence of true repentance.

Revelation chapter three verse 19, “Be zealous, therefore,” Jesus said to the church, “and repent.” That’s the kind of repentance you see in the Corinthians. Zealous in repenting.

That word zealous means “to seek earnestly or eagerly to desire.” They longed to repent. They were zealous in their repenting, not, “I’m sorry,” but, “O God, how could we have done this to You? We are so sorry. We grieve. We mourn. We apologize to You. We have sinned against You. Please forgive us.”

You don’t see that kind of zeal much today, do you? You know, in the old-time revivals, you see some of these old newspaper clippings, and they have what was called a mourner’s bench.

I wonder if we don’t need to put some mourner’s benches back in our churches today, places where “penitents,” they were called, would go and kneel, and they would cry out to God, and sometimes they would cry very loudly, repenting, crying out to God.

Now, how loudly you cry or how many tears you shed doesn’t indicate how repentant your heart is. No use kneeling and weeping and sobbing and screaming at the mourner’s bench if your heart is not repentant.

That’s remorse. That’s worldly sorrow. That leads to death. But godly sorrow, true mourning, true repentance leads to life.

As we read that description in 2 Corinthians chapter seven, would you say that you are a repenter? Can I say to you that if you are not truly repenting based on this description, you’ve not truly repented of any sin that you still are habitually committing.

Now, that doesn’t mean that once you’ve repented, you won’t still have to battle temptation or battle that sin, but your attitude about that sin will be different once you’ve repented.

Your inclination will be to detest and resist that sin, whether to be complacent about it or content with it, or to cling to it. Are you a repenter? Are you repenting? Is your heart attitude toward God this day, this moment, a repentant one toward anything that God has shown you in your life is displeasing toward Him?

Music:

I regret the hours I have wasted,
And the pleasures I have tasted,
That You were never in.
And I confess that
Though Your love is in me,
It doesn’t always win me,
When competing with my sin.

And I repent, making no excuses.
I repent, no one else to blame.
And I return to fall in love with Jesus.
I bow down on my knees, and I repent.

I lament the idols I’ve accepted,
The commandments I’ve rejected,
To pursue my selfish end.
And I confess I need You to revive me,
Put selfishness behind me,
And take up my cross again.  

And I repent, making no excuses.
I repent, no one else to blame.
And I return to fall in love with Jesus.
I bow down on my knees, and I repent.1

Leslie: You can’t experience all God has for you, you can’t experience revival, without repentance.

Bill Elliff: I really do believe that this whole issue of repentance is the missing word of the church.

Leslie: This is Pastor Bill Elliff, with a final word on repentance.

Bill: You know, we love to talk about church growth and new methods and great ideas, but there is a word that is just rarely heard and even more rarely experienced in America.

The interesting thing, and the amazing, saddening thing it that it was Jesus’ first word of His ministry. Christ said, “Repent.” That’s the first thing He said for His public ministry. “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

And obviously Christ knew the preeminence of this thought, that we would never see and experience the kingdom of God without repentance. It’s not only the way in which we enter in initially into a relationship with Christ, but it’s also one of the great keys to experiencing God daily.

Historically, it’s one of the non-negotiable things of every period of genuine revival. It means, literally, just a change of mind, a change of thinking. But in the context of God and His Word, it’s a Spirit-wrought change of mind that is so genuine and so profound that it would lead to a change of direction, a change of behavior, a change of lifestyle.

We need a change of mind, a real repentance in the way we view our sin. Perhaps the greatest passage to me on this is the Beatitudes, Matthew five, where in this progressive passage, I believe, Jesus says, “Blessed is the man who recognizes his spiritual poverty” (Matthew 5:3, paraphrased).

He sees that he cannot live his life alone. He cannot live his life without God. And then the next verse says, “Blessed are those who mourn” (verse 4), and we often hear this used about mourning over a loss or something like that, but that’s not the context of this.

Blessed is the man who sees his poverty and his sin and his need so much that it grieves his heart. His heart is so broken over that sin that it would lead him to that next step that’s there in Matthew, that is meekness.

Meekness is, as G. Campbell Morgan said, a “willingness to be governed by another.” It’s a submissive spirit that looks at himself, sees the mess he’s made of his own life, so much that he mourns over his sin and grieves so much that he cries out to the Lord, “Lord, rule me. I am tired of leading my own life.”

It’s surprising to many that we’re commanded to mourn. James four, in that great passage that says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” It goes on to say, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:8–9).

God calls us to begin to see our sin like He sees it, and when we do, like Isaiah did, suddenly, our flippancy turns to seriousness.

All of our excuses are seen as sin itself, and the callousness we have about sin is replaced by deep sensitivity to sin. We have what Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians seven, when he says that we have a sorrow according to the will of God that produces something.

It produces a repentance without regret. We have so often in our churches, repentance with regrets. We turn momentarily, but because there’s no genuine sorrow, no genuine change of mind, very quickly we turn back to our sin.

So there must be a revival of repentance about our sin. You say, “Well, how to I know if I’ve repented fully?” Well, it’s when you turn away from your sin.

Thomas Watson, the Puritan, said, “When would you know when you’ve been humbled enough for your sin? The answer is: When you’re willing to let go of your sin.”

And then, a final thing he mentioned is we need a repentance, a change of mind regarding the Savior. Jesus said, “If a man could ever see the pearl of great price, the treasure that’s hidden in the field, he’d sell everything to go possess it” (see Matthew 13:45-46).

We’re so confused about that. There are so many counterfeit pearls that we’re looking at, and we need a change of mind about what’s really valuable, what’s really real, what’s really good and right and honorable.

In times of revival, it’s not simply a morose introspective viewing of my sin, but very quickly, people are drawn to see the Savior. So revival periods are filled with great songs about the love of God and the cross of Christ and the beauty of the sufficiency of Christ which brings a wonderful, glad surrender to that which is infinitely better.

It makes a longing for Christ and a willingness to lay down all that would keep us from Him. So I wonder if revival for us is just a nice idea or a compelling thought—or is it something that we see so deeply that we’re willing to turn from everything that will thwart revival and abort the glory of God and real, genuine, true repentance.

Father, we think of how many times in Revelation when You came to the seven churches You said to them, “You think that you’re clothed, and you think you’re in great shape, but you just don’t see. You need to remember and repent” (see Revelation 2 & 3).

Father, I pray that all across America in the churches that there would be an unusual revelation of how far we’ve fallen from You. God, we believe that You can do this.

We believe in a profound moving caused by nothing but Your Spirit. Lord, You could interrupt services all across the nation, and people would fall weeping before You.

God, we cry for that and plead for that, and we pray that You would bring a spirit of repentance, that suddenly Your Word would become almighty, Lord, and that it would carry everything in front of it and that we would see a profound moving of Your Spirit.

Lord, I pray that You would save us from pseudo-repentance that confesses sin and then goes right back into the same sin. Lord, may we realize there’s no genuine repentance until there is a turning away of our behavior.

I pray that You would reveal that to us, that You would expose that in us, Lord, how we play games and semantics with You. We put off our changes, and it’s a real sign that we never intend to repent at all.

God, we ask for Your Spirit to do a supernatural revival of repentance in our churches.

Leslie: That’s Pastor Bill Elliff. His wife, Holly, is a frequent guest on Revive Our Hearts. Bill has been encouraging the church to embrace repentance.

He delivered that message to begin a prayer meeting for revival a couple of years ago. When the radio series, “Seeking Him,” first aired. We encouraged listeners to pray for revival along with Christian leaders each Saturday, connected by phone.

We’ve been doing that again, and I hope you’ll join with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and others. Now, here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Now, as we say goodbye for the weekend, let me just remind you that an important part of this twelve week Seeking Him series is the National Prayer Meeting for Revival that is taking place each Saturday morning.

Each week, we’re being joined by Christian leaders leading us in a time of praying and seeking the Lord, crying out to Him to send revival to our hearts and to the church of Jesus Christ in our day.

Lord willing, I’ll be a part of that National Prayer Meeting tomorrow morning, and I want to encourage you, especially if you’ve not been a part of the previous weeks, to join us tomorrow morning for the National Prayer Meeting for Revival.

If you’ll go to ReviveOurHearts.com, you’ll find information about how you can participate in this vital, national prayer meeting by means of radio or Internet.

And then join us next week on Revive Our Hearts as we talk about the awesome, amazing, incredible grace of God that He pours into humble hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture it taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1"I Repent." Steve Green. Birdwing Music ASCAP.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.