It is clear that the Bible teaches man should be disturbed over his sin and even hate false ways (Psa. 119:104, 128). In repenting before God, Job said, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Paul rejoiced that the Corinthians were made sorry by his previous letter because “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…” (2 Cor. 7:9-10). However, the Bible teaches that too much of the wrong kind of sorrow is not God’s will for man. The man in Second Corinthians 2:7 who had repented after a punishment was inflicted upon him by many in the church, was to be comforted and shown love, “lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” It is possible to be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow; that is, sin can leave us so low that we give up trying, thinking there is no use because we are useless to God. This is one of the devices of the devil by which he gets advantage over us (2 Cor. 2:11). This one who had been brought to his senses and broken up over his sin, perhaps by the church putting him away (1 Cor. 5), was, now that he repented, to be assured of his worth before God. It is this crucial evaluation of ourselves that God loves us and has a purpose for us even though we have sinned that is the healthy self-concept the Bible teaches.
Jesus asked the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6). This question highlights the possibility of having a mindset that is too low to inspire change. One who has been crippled by sin may have such a low evaluation of self that the work of being made whole is too daunting, and the effort toward that end lacking. The contrast between the aftermath of Judas’ betrayal of Christ and Peter’s denial of Christ highlights this difference. Both men regretted their sins, but evidently Peter amended his ways because he had a hopeful evaluation of himself while Judas committed suicide because he had a hopeless evaluation of himself (Mt. 26:75-27:5).
Consider David, whose sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah was ever before him (Psalm 51:3). Even in despair over his sins, David had hope that he would be cleansed, hear joy and gladness again, and after his restoration, teach God’s ways to transgressors, with whom he could identify (Psalm 51:7-13). Certainly David’s recognition of his potential by the hope of restoration and future usefulness was not a sinful mindset. It is a key motivator in every instance of genuine repentance from sin.
As a new year is upon us, let’s resolve to repent of our sins and move past the guilt that we may have been dragging along with us for way too long. If those in Christ penitently ask for forgiveness God will give life (1 John 5:16). We can learn from our mistakes without having to live the rest of our days with the guilt of them. We can begin a new year covered by the blood of Christ and forgiven of our past sins, enjoying the abundant life that he has for those “who live through Him” (John 10:10; 1 John 4:9).
-by Mark Day