“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, 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. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:10-11
In concluding this 4 part series on true and false repentance, the distinction between them is the difference between light and darkness. Perhaps the simplest test to ask of yourself is this: Are you ashamed to have any person talk with you about your sins? If you are, all you have accomplished is to experience worldly sorrow, the effects of which are short lived and contrary to what you may think, act only to drive you further from Jesus and forgiveness, then you were before. Why then do so many, who are still unrepentant sinners, get the idea that they have repented? The only logical reason is that within the church in America there is a wholesale lack of instruction and discernment respecting true and false repentance.
How will false repentance be known?
1. It leaves feelings unchanged: the disposition to sin remains unbroken within the heart. The feelings as to the nature of sin are not changed, but rather the individual still feels a desire for sin. He abstains from it, only from the dread of the consequences of it.
2. It leads to hypocritical concealment: The individual who has exercised true repentance is willing to have it known what he has repented. He who has only false repentance, resorts to excuses and lies to cover his sins, he will cover up his sins with a thousand apologies and excuses, trying to smooth them over, and minimize their enormity. He commits one sin to cover up another. Instead of that genuine, open-hearted breaking forth of honesty and frankness, you see a smooth-tongued, half-hearted mincing of words that is intended to answer the purpose of a confession, and yet to confess nothing. He is ashamed to have anyone talk with him about his sins, his sorrow is only a worldly sorrow, and works only death.
3. False repentance produces only a partial reformation of conduct: The change that is produced by worldly sorrow only extends to those things of which he has been strongly convicted of. The nature of his heart remains unchanged. He will only avoid those cardinal sins, about which he has been humiliated by. He has no desire to alter or even recognize the pervasiveness of the sinful life that he lives. Overtime you will witness that he continually relapses into his old sins. The reason is, the disposition to sin is not gone, it is merely restrained by fear, and as soon as he has a hope and is in the church, he gets bolstered up so that his fears are allayed, you see him gradually wearing back, and presently returning to his old sins. They love to call this ‘backsliding’, or something in that vein; but the truth is, they always loved their sin, and when the occasion offered, they returned to it.
4. Lastly false repentance leads to a hardened heart: The individual who has this type of repentance grows harder in proportion to the number of times he is sorrowful. If he has strong feelings of conviction, and his heart does not break in response to his guilt, the fountains of those feeling dry up, and his heart more and more difficult to be reached. Not so a true Christian, take a real Christian, one who has truly repented, and every time the truth bears down upon him, it crushes him before God and he becomes more mellow, more easily affected, excited and broken under God's word. His heart gets into the habit of going along with the convictions of his understanding, and he becomes as teachable and as a child born again.