Sin, Sorrow, and Repentance

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:1-5 (ESV)

Have you ever had the thought that the suffering in your life is a result of your sin?  Or have you ever thought that about someone else – that God is punishing them for their sin?  You wouldn’t be the first person to think that way (see John 9:1-2).  In the Luke 13 passage above, Jesus has a discussion with the people around Him about this topic.  The Pharisees were against using force to deal with Rome, and because of that, they would have said that the Galileans that Pilate killed deserved to die because of their rebellion.  The Zealots were an anti-Roman group that would have said that the accident at the tower of Siloam was a just punishment for the workers who were cooperating with Rome by building an aqueduct.  Either way, both groups blamed the peoples’ deaths on their sin.  But Jesus calls them out on that way of thinking.

He makes it very clear that whether a person is killed purposefully or accidentally, it’s not a measure of that person’s righteousness.  Not once, but twice in this passage Jesus says “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  We’re told in Romans 3 that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and we’re told in Romans 5 that the wages of sin is death.  The truth is that death IS the punishment for our sin.  But how or when we die has nothing to do with how sinful or how righteous we are.  If we don’t repent of our sin and humble ourselves before God, we will perish.  Plain and simple.

The problem is that when we view our sin in comparison to other people instead of in comparison to God, we are not broken by our own sin.  And when we’re not broken by our own sin, we are not led towards repentance.  Instead we look at our lives and compare them to others and think, “Well I’m not suffering like that guy, so I must not be sinning as bad as him.”  In God’s eyes, sin is sin, and sin will destroy you if you don’t deal with it.  But until your sin breaks your heart, you won’t deal with it the way God wants you to deal with it – by repenting of it.  2 Corinthians 7:10-11 says, “10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!”

“Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.”  A worldly grief, or worldly sorrow, is one that regrets getting caught, or regrets  the consequences of sin.  A godly grief, or godly sorrow, understands the consequences of the sin, yet the heart is broken not simply by those consequences, but ultimately by the sin itself.  And a broken heart leads to repentance, and repentance leads to life.  Anything short of a godly view of our sin is a worldly view of our sin, and worldly sorrow leads to death.  It leads to death because there’s no true repentance, no change of heart and action.

Repentance is about seeking and receiving God’s forgiveness for our sin, and it’s also about an aggressive pursuit of holiness in our lives.  If your sin doesn’t break your heart, you won’t ask God for forgiveness for what you did wrong.  You’ll simply regret the fact that you got caught and you won’t change your actions.  You won’t aggressively pursue holiness.  A broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) will lead to true repentance, and true repentance leads to salvation without regret.  That means that we can come to God, broken by our sin, and walk away unashamed in forgiveness.  What a wonderful promise!

Praise God for His unending grace and for His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4)!

Father, when I sin, help my heart to break in godly sorrow, so that it leads me to You.  May it bring me to a place of true repentance, so that I can stand unashamed before you, covered in Your grace, without regret.  Amen.