Should a believer mourn their sin? If so, who decides the appropriate amount of regret for each sin? Is a couple hours of regret good for a small lie? Would a year cover adultery?
What I have found is that many believers I speak with feel there is an appropriate amount of mourning and or regret that needs to be experienced before a person truly repents.
The process then works like this. Let’s say you commit a transgression. After the transgression, the Holy Spirit convicts you. Once convicted you begin to feel a sense of regret. Thoughts like, “Why do I keep doing that.” Or, “When will I ever change.” might permeate your minds. The next step is going to the throne of God to ask forgiveness. Once you have done that, you are free to no longer feel bad about what you have done. Believers who continue to feel guilt, shame and regret after this are considered to be in error. They have not experienced the true freedom of Christ work on the cross. This is at least what I have understood others to mean when they explained how true repentance works.
To illustrate the point further, let’s put this in context of human relationships. When someone wrongs you, most of us want that person to feel bad about what they have done. If they don’t feel bad about it, then most of us refuse to believe they have truly repented. Many believers feel this sense of regret and condemnation is a necessary component of the restoration process.
When searching the scriptures on this topic, I came across 2 Cor. 7:10. It reads:
2Cor. 7:10 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.
Here, Paul makes a distinction in the type of sorrow believers are meant to experience when repenting. Paul points to the fact that believers can make a course correction without ever having to feel any sense of worldly condemnation or regret. By this he means regret that is expected under the law.
Let’s go back to the human relational component. Would you feel satisfied if the person who wronged you turned from their error, made proper amends, but never felt any guilt, shame, condemnation or regret for having wronged you? Most of us would not, but why?
Returning to the theological aspect, Edward Fisher, in The Marrow of Modern Divinity says the following, “Nothing can be allowed in the believer for the mourning of sin, unless they (choose to) mourn for it as unbelievers, as persons under the covenant of works, who doubtless are under the curse and condemnation for their sin (Gal 3:10).”
When we mourn our sins or the wrongs we commit we are denying that Jesus death on the cross has removed all of our condemnation and shame. (Romans 8:1, 36-39). When we feel any sense of regret that moves us towards shame or “feeling bad”, we have then decided to repent in the method of those yet unredeemed. You are free to do this, but I believe that the scripture makes it clear that we can move forward without this component.
The reason we want to accept regret, as a part of repentance is that we are addicted to the law. Our flesh has a lust for the old covenant. Regret on the part of the believer allows them to feel that they have done some of the work of forgiveness. Regret is a work of the flesh that let’s many believers feel that God’s forgiveness is now available to them. Instead, grace is a free gift.
Rom. 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.
Rom. 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
When the bible speaks of true freedom in Christ, this is part of what it means. We have been set free from all malice of our souls. Take a moment and think about what your life would look like if you lived in this way. If you walked in the light as He is in the light and left all sorrow, regret and condemnation behind. Let me affirm that this is available to you should you choose to receive it.
Continued next week: Repentance with Godly Sorrow