Don’t be Dutch With Repentance
Some of us are Dutch in more than just name. We like to look for ways to cut corners or buy cheap things to save a dime, but it often doesn’t pay in the long run. We are excited that we found the cheap item, but that excitement quickly turns to discouragement when we have to go back to the store to buy another one because it didn’t last.
This can too easily become our approach with repentance. We are willing to settle for the cheap imitation rather than be patient and prayerfully seek genuine repentance. We simply assume that since we are shedding tears over our sin that it means repentance has taken place. On the surface real repentance and the imitation look the same. However they are vastly different from one another in the long run. Paul provides some distinguishing marks in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11.
Genuine repentance is directed toward God not the circumstances (7:10). It is “godly grief” versus “worldly grief.” And so we might ask ourselves, “Who or what is my sorrow directed toward? Why am I shedding tears or pleading with the one I’ve wronged? Is it because I want to escape the consequences of my sin or because I am genuinely sorrowful about how it has hurt my relationship with God and the other person?” Questions like these will reveal the authenticity of the repentance by showing us where our sorrow is directed.
Genuine repentance leads to life (7:10). It leads to life in the sense of turning toward God and maintaining a relationship with Him. This means we have turned away from our sin and are seeking to cultivate our relationship with God. In our turning to God, we are turning to Him ultimately for our salvation. There will be a marked difference over the long run between one who is consistently cultivating their relationship with God and one who is consistently turning away from God.
Genuine repentance results in change (7:11). Repentance that reaches the heart will produce an abundance of fruit. There will not just be one evidence of repentance but a combination of many evidences. Paul lists out several characteristics of Biblical repentance that can be summarized by the following three questions.
- First, How much am I willing to give up to make things right? So often people will say they want change, but are not willing to make hard decisions or big sacrifices to pursue it.
- Second, Am I willing to accept the consequences of my actions no matter what the outcome will be? Our sin will always result in consequences. If our sorrow is directed toward God and seeking to make the matter right, we will accept the consequences regardless of what they are.
- Third, am I more quick to defend myself or to acknowledge my wrongs? Genuine repentance will care little about the consequences that will come, but will be most concerned about their relationship with God and doing whatever it takes to make the matter right with the person they’ve offended.
When it comes to repentance, let’s not be Dutch. Let’s patiently cry out to God to do something in our hearts that only He can do — bring about genuine repentance.