”Repentance vs. Remorse: As Different as Light is from Darkness”—Part 1

Discipleship: A 30,000’ Principle of “Running the Good Race”
As an athlete who did pretty well in a wide variety of sports, I had the amazing benefit of being befriended and “discipled” by some of the best mentors in each of my athletic disciplines.

Whether it was ice hockey, speed skating, rowing, soccer, road, track and mountain bike cycling, rock and ice climbing, alpine and backcountry snow skiing, or road marathon and ultra-marathon trail running, within the first few weeks of getting started in these disciplines… I was discipled… mentally, physically, technically, and “sport-specifically”—as all sports have overlaps and distinctions.

I didn’t realize how incredibly blessed I was until I was in my late 40’s—and my body was so worn out I couldn’t abuse myself in this way any longer. It wasn’t until then that I had the time and the presence of mind to reflect on the amazing journey God and my mentor-friends had brought me through—and I had paid forward by helping bring others along as well.

However, as far as my FAITH JOURNEY is concerned, I was not discipled or mentored in any way until the forth or fifth year after my conversion in October of 1983.

Oddly enough, even after all the aforementioned and numerous examples of “getting started on the right foot” earlier in life, I didn’t know any better than to ask someone to spiritually mentor me in any way. I was clueless. The folks in the immediate vicinity of my new faith never gave me the head’s-up either. I fumbled forward… or mostly backward… under the special grace of God… and lots of hydrogen peroxide, gauze, band-aids, and Advil for the frequent baby Christian mishaps!

Now, even though I believe such “mishaps” were redeemed by God’s manifold mercies AND used by God to flesh out my story, I dearly wish I had been discipled earlier in my faith journey.

And this is why twenty-eight some years later I have a passion for any/all institutions taking on the responsibility of discipling, mentoring, or properly training those under their stewardship—especially the local church.

Discipleship and “running the good race of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-3) go hand-in-hand.

Down to 10,000’: Relishing Repentance and Reviling Remorse
Of the short list of the disciplines necessary for Christians to “run the good race” as well as possible, BIBLE-BASED REPENTANCE is as vital (RE: life-giving) as it could be!

Even though a born-again, bona fide, new creation in Christ (John 3:1-8; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17) has been saved from the wrath of God by the blood atonement of Jesus Christ, he or she will not be perfected until Jesus returns to make all things new.

We will still sin (James 4:17; 1 John 1:8). Our sins will not take us out of God’s hand in and for eternity (Romans 8). However, a Christian’s sin devoid of bible-based repentance is akin to my “running the good race”—say the 20+ miles from Aspen to Crested Butte Colorado and back before work—with concrete running shoes on:

A miserable, isolating, and embittered slog of faith the likes of which will suck the life out of one’s heart while being a disastrously poor reflection of the Christians’ namesake, Jesus Christ, the victorious, resurrected, freed, fleeted-footed and ready-to-serve, Redeemer King!

“For the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4)!

“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (Romans 10:15)!

Bible-based repentance is an absolutely necessary (no ifs, ands, or buts…) component of our being the most fit we can be for running the good race—being mightily used of God, fully impassioned and purposeful, tearful yet triumphant, drained yet joyful “instruments in the Redeemer’s hands” (Paul Tripp).

Repentance is what’s necessary (third to God’s election and the Holy Spirit’s heart regeneration) for salvation AND for sanctification—or gaining maturity, becoming holy, more like Christ, and more effective as a force of God’s redemptive plan.

BUT… Big BUT… When Bible-Based REPENTANCE is Absent, Only Man-Based REMORSE is Available.

Part 2, the second course of this Training Table meal, will compare in detail the extremely important differences between repentance and remorse.

However, as an appetizer, begin by remembering at the highest level that repentance is an INSIDE-OUT job, and remorse an OUTSIDE-IN job:

Repentance (inside-out) is in awe of God, in Christ, by His covering, achieved on the cross.

Remorse (outside-in) is in fear of man, in shame, by guilt and man’s careful maintenance of the fig leaf, achieved by works and hiding.

This 10,000’ start to a conversation about a vital aspect of a disciple running the good race should cause us pause at the Training Table—one place we’re fed to reinvigorate and replenish our faith.

Purely at first glance at the above comparison we can see how at polar opposites of the spectrum are Bible-based repentance and man-based remorse: One leads to life and light, the other to death and darkness.

In closing Part 1 and in prep for Part 2, I’m reminded of the sub-title of my book that takes into account bible-based redemptive suffering, “Will suffering make you bitter or better?”

The very same distinction can be applied to repentance vs. remorse: At the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

Repentance refines for the better—and the betterment of a fallen world.

Remorse flourishes shame to embitter—and the embitterment of the world.

Excuse us from the Training Table for now with a plea for your remembrance:

Virtually every publically-displayed (as far as we can see) indiscretion by public persons that we have been subjected to in the recent years (Clinton, Edwards, Spitzer, Weiner, Woods, Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger, Berlusconi, etc) have been perfect examples of man-based REMORSE.

The half-truths, blaming, excusing, dodging, projecting, avoiding, rancoring, hiding, deflecting, harming others… and much more… offer little to our sense and sensibilities about the astounding gift and employment of Bible–based repentance.

[Of course, I don’t know the hearts of the “remorseful examples” above. I would always pray that Bible-based repentance would prevail.]

Please note that the inset picture of Kind David, “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), reminds us of Psalm 51—the marvelous penetential Psalm that we’ll employ next week.

“Repentance means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into… It means killing part of yourself; under-going a kind of death.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Romans 6:10-11; Galatians 2:20)

Praise God ten-thousand fold for the kind of death that offers us new temporal and everlasting life!

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