“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV)
Why does Paul make a distinction about grief/sorrow comparing to effective repentance? Is there such a thing as ineffective repentance?
Effective v. ineffective: Most times I pretty much know when I am spinning my wheels. When I spin my wheels I know I am not getting anywhere, not getting the results I want. But when it comes to aspects of sorrow and repentance nowhere is it murkier than dealing with my heart. I do things and can be “sorry” for them (more often than not when I get caught at something) but I am sorry I got caught, not that I did it in the first place. Not exactly a picture of “godly grief.” What I do not bring to mind or to meditate on is the nature of the thing that I did: Is it sin? If so, am I aware of who I sinned against? Every time I sin, I first and foremost sin against God. Period. I can toss that off quickly because He isn’t backing me up against the wall, my wife is (or child, brother, employer, etc.). I can even toss that off too quickly by claiming forgiveness. James writes about confessing sin to one another that we could be effectively healed. How does the healing take place? I acknowledge that confession is cathartic: Makes me feel good about laying my burden down. But what else?
I must come to grips with the fact that my sin, wherever and to whomever it occurred, was first and foremost an offense to His Holiness. If I don’t do that then effective repentance (if possible at all) is difficult to obtain. I want my repentance to produce as lasting fruit as I can obtain even if the same confession comes out of my mouth day after day. What I need to do: 1) be sensitive to sin—do not become hard hearted or calloused “Soften my heart, O God…”; 2) Take opportunity to confess, not only to God, but to others as well. Want accountability? I must develop both a willing tongue to confess and a merciful ear to hear; 3) Make this habitual and part and parcel of walking worthy of the Gospel.
Father, please make it so. I want my heart to be continually softened so that I am more sensitive to You every day. I depend upon Your work in my life and I engage in cooperation with You Holy Spirit to bring it about.