A convicted felon walked into a crowded, hostile courtroom. The charge against him was murder in the first degree. It wasn't a complicated case. The allegations had been proven with little contest and beyond all doubt.
It was time to hear the sentence. The court was called to order, and the judge took his place. A hush fell over the audience.
Lawyers anxiously awaited the decision while the accused man stoically stared into space. And then, just before the gavel dropped to condemn him, the judge peered over his glasses and said, "Is there anything you'd like to say before your sentence is given?"
"Yes, your honor," the convicted man answered. "I just want to say, I'm sorry. But if I could turn back the clock, I'd do it again the same exact way."
The audience gasped. And then, to the amazement of the courtroom, the judge said, "But you are sorry, are you?"
"Yes. Very, very sorry," the man responded.
"Well, then," the judge said, "that's all I need to hear. You are forgiven! You are free to go."
This is an absurd story and totally contrary to the Word of God, yet that is often the way men and women treat our Heavenly Father as they seek His forgiveness. Standing before Him, guilty as charged, they toss shallow apologies at His feet and expect Him to release them as free men.
But, true repentance -- the kind that relieves us of our guilt and penalty -- cannot be treated so casually.
Paul wrote about the kind of repentance that leads to salvation: "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 regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:9-10, NIV).
The word repentance itself means a "change of mind," or a turning in another direction. One cannot truly repent unless he has changed his mind on his behavior and turned from it. That does not mean God will not forgive him if he does it again, because God's mercies are new every morning. But it does mean that flimsy, flippant repentance is not what God desires, nor will He honor it.
God takes sin seriously, so much so that it cost the life of His Son. So should we.
Yours for fulfilling the Great Commission each year until our Lord returns,
The late Dr. Bill Bright was Founder and President/Chairman Emeritus of Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization which began as a campus ministry in 1951 and now has more than 27,000 full-time staff and up to 500,000 trained volunteer staff in 196 countries in areas representing 99.6 percent of the world's population. In the past 50 years, Campus Crusade for Christ has seen approximately 6 billion exposures to the gospel worldwide. The film, "JESUS," which Bright conceived and funded through Campus Crusade for Christ, is the most widely translated and viewed film of any type ever produced. Since its use began in 1980, the film has been translated into 839 languages and viewed or listened to by over 5.7 billion people in 228 countries. Dr. Bright was also the author of more than fifty books. Visit campuscrusade.com for more details
Copyright (c) 2003, Bill Bright. All rights reserved. However, readers may copy and distribute this message as desired, without restrictions in number, as long as the content is not altered. Forwarding this e-mail to friends is encouraged. For many evangelistic and spiritual growth materials, visit the Campus Crusade for Christ Web site at ccci.org. See campuscrusade.com for Bill Bright's own materials.