though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret
it—for I see
that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now
rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful
repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the
will of God, so
that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the
sorrow that is according to the
will of God
produces a repentance without regret, leading to
salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NASB)
Last time we started looking at some issues of and with repentance. I know many Christians who say they have repented of a particular sin yet still struggle to overcome it. They say they hate their sin, they are sorry for their sin, they don't want to sin, and they repent of the sin but still commit that very same sin! Is repentance an emotional response or a theological one?
Our culture encourages people to only feel good. We are consistently given the message that feeling bad is unacceptable, and we are also presented with many options to "feel good." Some of those options lead to more sin and a hardening of the heart. Other options are designed to help a person to not feel much of anything at all. Various treatment methods are available in the secular world that teach that a person has no need to repent from sin because there is no such thing as sin. There is no soul and no conscience to violate.
There is no doubt that committing sin causes negative reactions in a person's life. People have feelings about their sin and those feelings are generally not positive. Many have sorrow about their sin and how it affects them and other people they love. The secular remedy is to either stop their (sinful) behavior to feel better, or shut off their conscience and feel nothing.
Christians believe there are such things as sin, a soul, and a conscience. These are theological realities for us, and we accept them as fact. We also understand that committing sin is an affront to a holy God and should not be accepted as being okay or tolerated as a lifestyle choice. We believe that sorrow resulting from sin has a purpose and part of that purpose is to lead the person to repentance.
When a counselee is not demonstrating the fruit of repentance it is because they are engaged in behaviorism, or change that may not be heart level. Their sorrow may be more self oriented, or they may have remorse over how their sin causes pain for other people. Remorse and feeling sorry are not enough to bring true change
The theological answer to both the sin and the sorrow is to address the root of the problem at the heart level; understanding that simply stopping the behavior is not enough. The heart must be affected by the indwelling Spirit of God and enabling them to change.
A.W. Pink says a person must have,
"A real hatred of sin as sin, nor merely its consequences. A hatred not only of this or that sin, but also of all sin, and particularly of the root itself: self-will. “Thus saith the Lord God, Repent, and turn from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezek. 14:6). He, who hates not sin, loves it. God's demand is, “Ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed” (Ezek. 20:43). One who has really repented can truthfully say, “I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104). He who once thought a course of holy living was a gloomy thing, has another judgment now. He who once regarded a course of self-pleasing as attractive, now detests it and has purposed to forsake all sin forever. This is the change of mind which God requires."
This is evidence that repentance is more than an emotional decision, it is a theological one!