Godly Repentance

by Jan Silvious

The story is told of a man who stole an ox. In punishment, he was placed in a large wooden collar. A friend came along and asked him what crime he had committed to merit such treatment. The thief replied, "I was just walking across the street when I saw on the ground a grass rope. Thinking it was of no use, I made the mistake of picking it up and taking it home, and so I got into this trouble."

"But what could be wrong with picking up a grass rope?" the friend wanted to know.

"Well, something was tied to the other end of the rope."

"And what was that?"

Jan SilviousTo which the thief replied, "A very small ox."

What "small oxen" have you picked up lately? Have you ever justified an angry outburst, for example, on the basis of the other person's rude behavior? In other words, if they had not left their string dangling, you would not have walked off with their ox!

An interesting Scripture passage deals with this kind of situation in a very practical way. Paul, in writing to come Corinthian believers who had blown it and were aware of their sin, says:

"I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regre t, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done" (2 Cor. 7:9-11).

When we are truly repentant, there is an attitude of brokenness, an earnestness, a hatred for what has been done; there is a zeal and a longing to avoid any further taint of the sin. And it only comes when we see our sin the way God sees it. Eventually, we realize that our anger, our bitterness, or backbiting, our lack of forgiveness-all these and more grieve God. He is grieved because He knows that sin leads to a death in us-death to our ability to be useful, death to our fellowship with Him, death to the peace and freedom that is every believer's heritage.

Ask God to show you what is at the end of your rope. If you ask Him to be specific, you'll be surprised as just how specific He will be. Then ask Him to give you a heart of godly repentance-not only changing your mind but your direction. Viewing your sin as God views it is the first step toward true repentance.

From The 5-Minute Devotional, © Zondervan, 1991