2 Cor 7:10 "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."
It's no secret that I came to my present church home about 2 years ago... my previous fellowship had endured several grievous injuries to its unity and its leadership had determinedly pursued a seeker-friendly, worldly-minded methodology that, in my view, compromised the gospel. So it's in that context that I relate a brief narrative from that period to perfectly illustrate the difference between godly grief and worldly grief...
|"I repent... now let me out!"|
I was giving a friendly fellow church member a ride home when he confided in me that he was growing marijuana at home for "medicinal purposes". Mind you, my state has since decriminalized possession of said herb, but at this time, I was pretty sure that one could only possess and use it with a doctor's prescription and a state-issued license. I wanted to be sure of my facts, so I didn't pounce on him on the spot (to be honest, I was kinda shocked!); after dropping him off, I verified the laws and next Sunday, I privately drew him aside and inquired if he had the requisite legal permission. He said no; he believed his medical conditions were all the justification he needed to pursue whatever remedy he felt necessary. I took a deep breath, and in a low, discreet voice, asked him if he thought doing this, something clearly illegal, was sinful. He said he didn't know, but he had no intentions of stopping and again stressed the horrible pain he was in. As gently as possible, I affirmed that this was sinful, and asked him to repent.
Other factors caused me to question the severity of his condition, but the greatest concern I had was that this man was the paid janitor for the church, and as a member of the staff, could cause much greater disgrace if made public. So I thought it would be wise to inform the head pastor of this development in addition to continuing down the Matt. 18 path. I shouldn't have been shocked, but I was dismayed when the head pastor thanked me for the info, and then insisted on handling things himself, removing the "facing your accuser" factor from the process. Months later, I was meeting with the elder board with some other members to plead with them to withdraw the invitation of a famous No-Lordship speaker. After stating our case, the board asked me to remain to discuss a private matter, and I discovered the issue was the Medicinal Marijuana Man (the best catchy title I could think of!). Another elder had met with him and the pastor was pleased to report that MMM had repented and the problem was solved. I wasn't so easily mollified: I knew that there are many worldly, self-centered reasons that people regret their actions, and wish to change course. Convicts in prison, addicts of all kinds, heck, even overweight people are caused to see the destructive results of their choices and reverse their path to a lifestyle our world would call "recovery".
|Worldly "repentance" at its best...|
But this is not "repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 2:25). Biblical repentance is defined first as a sorrow and grief that mourns the damage and offense done to God (not ourselves) by our sin; a culpability that affirms our guilt and God's justice in damning us to hell forever. But as the weight of our situation sinks in, the repentant saint doesn't run from God, as might be expected, but to God as the only Source of absolution and restoration. This is why the Greek word (metanoia) simply means "to change one's mind"... repentance is a 180 degree turn in belief, attitude and lifestyle: to go from hating God and acting against Him to loving God and clinging to Him as our Rescue. This repentance is given by God (Acts 5:31, 11:18) and as such, can be trusted, if genuine, to act according to His word.
So in our meeting, I knew that there would be one obvious reason for MMM to "repent"... to keep his job! I briefly outlined the basics of godly repentance to the elders (yes, that's how bad the church was... the elders didn't know what biblical repentance is!) and asked the elder who confronted MMM if he exhibited any signs of godly grief, rather than just the standard "kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar" response. He said he couldn't remember (which is why biblical restoration/discipline is done in the presence of 2 or 3 witnesses "that every word may be established").
It was then made clear to me that the discussion was over: no pursuit of MMM, no interview or confession of sin, no thankfulness from MMM for loving him enough to call a spade a spade. The next time I saw him, MMM was passively hostile, and ended the interchange as quickly as possible. This is, of course, the opposite of what Paul experienced in Corinth after confronting the Corinthians in sin: they were "earnest" in changing course, "eager" to own up to their guilt, "indignant" over their error and "zealous" to make things right (vs.11). This is the pattern of the recipients of God's sorrow and grief... everything else is crocodile tears.
Photos courtesy of beachblogger42, vectorportal