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
As we continue to study the subject of forgiveness based on the story of Joseph, we see that true repentance also involves sorrow for our sins. I used to hear people teach that to confess your sins doesn’t require any emotion. It means to mentally agree with what God says about your sin. Have you heard that before? You don’t need to feel emotional; all you need to do is just agree with God about your sin. But true repentance in the Bible always involves sorrow. That brokenness may or may not express itself in tears, but there is an inner groaning, a brokenness over what has been done. And that’s what we see in Genesis 44:13.
When the brothers realized their guilt, they tore their clothes. That was a sign of deep regret. Now, regret doesn’t always lead to repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul says, “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.” If you are guilty before God of something you have done wrong, Satan loves to produce ungodly sorrow in your heart to paralyze you with regret, to make you think you can’t possibly find forgiveness, that you will have to live with this the rest of your life. The only place that sorrow leads is to death, the Bible says. But a healthy, godly kind of sorrow is a brokenness that leads to repentance and to life. It leads to a change of mind that leads to a change of direction.
And that reveals another ingredient of true repentance. Biblical repentance always involves a turning from our sin. We see that in verse 13–the brothers were going one direction, toward Canaan. Then Benjamin was accused, and they turned around and started walking in a new direction, back to Egypt. If you have truly repented, you will have a change of mind about your sin that leads to a change of direction, a moving away from that sin. Without that moving away there is no true repentance. Before we can receive forgiveness, we have to repent. As long as our hands are filled with excuses and denials and rationalizations for our sin, we can never receive the gift of God’s forgiveness. As long as we try to excuse and rationalize our sin against other people, we can’t receive their forgiveness either. The key to receiving forgiveness is repentance.
There is a difference between receiving forgiveness and granting forgiveness. I can choose to grant forgiveness to somebody whether they repent or don’t repent of their sin. Granting forgiveness is unconditional. If you wait until somebody repents before you forgive, you make yourself that person’s prisoner. What happens if that person dies before asking your forgiveness? Are you going to be a prisoner of bitterness forever? We grant forgiveness not on the basis of repentance; we grant forgiveness on the basis of faith.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Life’s Most Important Choice” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.