Today's guest blogger is Emily Duffey. Emily is a staff member at Reigning Grace Counseling Center and is completing her exams to become a Certified Biblical Counselor.
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10
I have had a few long standing sin issues in my life that I have fought to overcome for years. While all sin is equally heinous before the throne of God, there are some sins that we individually struggle with on a much deeper level. While I can say, by the grace of God, I have had steps of success in overcoming many of these long standing sins, I have always had one habitual sin that threatened to undo me. The guilt that weighs on the person caught up in habitual sin can be crushing. Knowing the solution--confess, repent, forsake--seemed to be of no use In this for the longest time, yet it doesn't negate the responsibility to do so in the life of the believer. There were many nights of tearful prayer, begging and pleading with the Lord to take my sin away, to create in me a pure heart, to change my desires to glorify God and desire Him above all else. And yet, time and time again, I would fail and slip back into the same sin patterns.
I have had this note written on a sticky note inside my Bible for quite some time now... I read it every time I flip by 2 Corinthians 7. I often would stop and examine what I wrote to see if it was still true... And begrudgingly, I had to admit that the note still applied, and I was baffled by it. The note, in regards to the passage above, simply reads:
This is something I scratch & claw at, yet wonder if I attain to it.... Obtain genuine, godly repentance vs. worldly sorrow... Almost like my fingertips touch it, but I can't grasp it fully... Cliff hanging... If I have genuine, godly repentance... How can I go back? Can you have moments of this, yet not possess it? Is it greater love for the sin, or fear of reckless intentional abandonment to God? What is it?
I wanted to repent—and I had repeatedly said the correct words, but I knew in my heart there wasn’t enough hatred for the sin. In fact, I loved my sin too much. I loved my sin more than I loved my Lord. Scripture tells me godly grief produces repentance. I had to come to a point where I realized my grief was more of a sorrow for ending my sinful activities than it was a sorrow over offending a holy God, and I knew I wasn’t there. I knew that repentance is a gift of God (Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy2:25), and if God did not grant me repentance, I wouldn’t change.
There are times change happens slowly for a reason. While there are circumstances when deliverance from life dominating sins are instantaneous, they are rare—the more likely scenario is a battle, and you must fight. Romans 7:23 talks about the flesh waging war against the mind and taking you as a prisoner—we are told twice in 1 Timothy to “fight the good fight” (1:18; 6:12). Growing up I was told that if there was something I wanted bad enough, it was worth fighting for. When in war and confronted with the enemy, you give 100% (or more)—anything less could cost not only your life, but of those around you. You eliminate the threat before it eliminates you. Battles are long; they are costly; you come back changed.
When in the midst of these battles, it is easy to become discouraged. Professor Don Whitney of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary once reminded a congregation, “God’s time isn’t our time, but it’s always on time.” I thought of this in relation to this battle—while change doesn’t happen according to our time, the change happens right when the Lord wants it to. It isn’t our time—but it is always on time. Plead with the Lord for genuine, godly repentance; resolve to do whatever it is in within your ability to do to change. Trust the process, and trust the Heart Changer—the Holy Spirit who within to bring about the Lord’s perfect will for His glory and your good (Romans 8:28).
How do you know you are experiencing a genuine, godly repentance? The answer is so easy, yet so hard: the change will last. Your desires will change. You will seek and want the things of God over your own wants and desires. Your focus will become less and less “me” focused and more and more “God” focused. Your heart will be affected. You won’t be the same, and the change will be noticed not only by you, but those closest to you.
Contend for the faith; trust in “ . . .Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy . . .” (Judges1:24). No regret.