The other example I would like to bring up is in the New Testament. Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeus. If you recall that story, Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Tax collectors during that time were crooked...I know...hard to imagine, things sure have changed since Jesus’ day. They charged people more taxes than they needed to collect...and then kept the excess. In effect they, defrauded the very people they were supposed to help. Anyway, after Jesus singled him out, Zacchaeus had a heart to heart meeting with the living God and ended up becoming a believer. This was evidenced by his repentance. The conversation can be found in Luke 19:8-10, “8 Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.””
Once again, repentance is taking a form that we can SEE and recognize. We KNOW that Zacchaeus has repented of his sin. He was willing to sell what he had and do the RIGHT thing. To apologize to the people he harmed and to make amends. Jesus immediately recognized this as a true heart-change and declared that Zacchaeus was saved that day...because of what he did.
There are MANY stories in Scripture where repentance is involved...in EVERY CASE no one is saying, “I wonder if he has repented…” (possible exception is Paul’s conversion...but even then people had to admit that he was no longer the Christian-killer he was before) That’s because true repentance is not only a change of attitude...it is a change of LIFE; it is a change of DOING. People see that and recognize it for what it is. We should not be saying...and especially someone who is trained in exhorting repentance…, “I wonder what THAT is.” Seriously.
There is a difference between REPENTANCE and REMORSE.
Repentance is an act of will whereby you are sorry for what you have done and come to grips with your own sinful actions. This is brought about mainly by the Holy Spirit. This act of will results, like it did with Zacchaeus, in a desire to make amends for what you have done. It is a turning...a change of what you were and changing to following after God with a renewed vigor and mission. It is characterized by a change of thinking and a change of behavior.
Remorse is simply feeling sorry for yourself and in the end, you make excuses for your actions. It does NOT result in a Godly sorrow...it simply results in sadness. People in this condition can be likened to one caught in a sin where they shed tears and are certainly remorseful, but no real change occurs. They simply wail and cry and elicit pity….but not real change in behavior is achieved. “Oh please! Just give me one more chance! I promise not to do that again!” or perhaps, “I swear I will never drink again honey!” We have all seen that kind of behavior. We know they are reacting because they feel the heat, not because they are repentant. They try to manipulate the circumstances so that there is more a change in the way YOU perceive them….not in changing themselves. Do not be fooled. God is not.
Give thought to what true repentance is and what it points to.