I grew up in our family where there were certain words children could not say. The first one was “shut up,” and the other one was “snot.” If you were caught saying these words, you had to sit on the mourner’s chair. My mother had painted a face of a blond, blue-eyed 5-year-old on the seat that strongly resembled me, perhaps because I was the one who sat on it more than the children. She also had a supernatural hearing that allowed her to listen to me rooms away, resulting additional 10-minute time-outs on the chair. I think her goal was that I would feel bad for saying such words and, as a result, would strike them from my vocabulary. Sorry to say that did not happen. What did happen was that I learned never to utter them if my mom was anywhere in the vicinity. Sadly, with me, there was no remorse and no repentance. I was just upset that I got caught.
I thought back on this childhood situation when a student asked if remorse and repent were the same. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, remorse means a “deep and painful regret for wrongdoing.” Being sorry you got caught does not fall under the definition of remorse. Knowing that you caused pain and suffering to another person, lying, stealing, or any number of sins often makes people remorseful. Remorse is a feeling of sadness with no plan of action to stop doing it.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
“Judas felt great remorse over what he had done to Jesus, but he did not repent. Instead, he committed suicide” (Matthew 27:3–5).
Repentance is quite another situation. The Webster Dictionary defines “repent” as: “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to change one’s mind”. A repentant person would not be one to be sent to the mourner’s seat repeatedly; they would have stopped saying such words. Repentance is where the gospel comes into play. Biblical repentance is the understanding that we are helpless to save ourselves. It is the turning from sin to the one who died to pay the penalty of sin.
When we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell, not with us, but in us to help guide us and give us the power to overcome sin patterns in our lives and the temptations that we face every day. True repentance is impossible without the working of God within us on a moment-by-moment basis. The strongholds in our lives that have controlled us in the past no longer have power over us that leads to sin. We now have a choice to sin or not to sin.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I love the story of the Samaritan woman. Jesus was willing to change the course of his journey and traveled through Samaria for one reason: there was a woman who was a sinner whose heart and soul needed a Savior. She was a lonely outcast, a person who carried with her guilt and shame from having five husbands and was living with another man. Jesus met her mid-day at a well and began to speak to her, which was against Jewish law. He told her things that only God could know. Jesus offered her living water, the kind that “will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:4). He confided in her that He was the Messiah. Instantly, she believed, and ran off into the city to proclaim the Messiah has come and invited all to come and see for themselves.”
The woman was forever changed. She repented. She literally turned and became an evangelist to those in the town that once despised her. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39).
Might we all be inspired by the Samaritan women who saw Her Savor, repented with a heart change that could only come from God. For those of us who struggle, God calls us to Himself, to repent from our sins, and follow Him.
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:9,10).