I thought I was headed for jail. Stealing baseball cards as a eight-year-old got me into a heap of trouble. As my cousin and I crept out of the grocery store that day, cards falling out of our pant legs, it didn’t take long for my Aunt Rosie to bust us. She marched us back into the store and made us apologize to the manager. Sure, we escaped a prison sentence as kids, but I was shook. Tears were flowing. I’m-so-sorrys were everywhere. I hated that I got caught.
A few months after my crime of passion, I heard about Jesus’ death and resurrection saving people from sin, Satan, hell, and the wrath of God. It all “clicked” for me. I’d stolen baseball cards and lied to my parents—I realized then that I’m a sinner and that I needed Jesus to save me. I believed He could. From that day forward, the way I saw and understood my sin and myself changed forever.
The grief over my sin led to repentance—a 180-degree change. I admitted my sin and wanted to honor God. Twenty-five years later, I’m still following the same paradigm. Godly grief, motivated by love for God, “produces repentance that leads to salvation” and real heart change. Worldly grief, motivated by love for self, “produces death,” and therefore, no change for good (1 Corinthians 7:10). Paul wants us to see difference.
It’s no surprise as Christians that we still sin. What should be surprising is the way we handle it when compared to those who haven’t been crucified and raised with Christ. When your sin gets pointed out to you, how do you react? Do you ask for forgiveness, repent, and change course? Or do you put concrete around your heart, refusing to admit the transgression, and try to avoid the subject?
Only the cross of Christ could deal with our sin, once and for all. The cross tells us all our sins have already been paid for, aired out before the universe; and because Christ is alive, I have the power to change with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I’m now aware of my sin and I hate it, but because of Jesus, I can now walk in newness of life.
Brothers, the kind of grief that simply causes us to hate that we got caught and were embarrassed—that’s the way of the world. But godly grief leads to repentance, transformation, and an eagerness to make things right with those we’ve sinned against. Thanks be to Jesus for making us new. “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end” (Lamentations 3:22).
Written by J.A. Medders