Why do we need to change our mind, repent, to get right with God?
The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 7
1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. – 2 Corinthians 7:1
What is our responsibility before God? Well we are cleansed from all sin by the blood of Jesus:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7
This is God’s work in our lives to sanctify is. However we have a responsibility to keep ourselves in a place where we can be intimate with God. This involves the choices we make on a moment to moment basis where we choose to put Christ first in our lives. We learned earlier that we are to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, but if we do fail then we immediately repent and turn to our loving Father to maintain that intimate relationship. We have the promises:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name,
49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause
50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them – 1 Kings 8:48-50
If we choose to follow Him and we turn to Him when we stray then the work of sanctification is a reality in our lives not just a positional truth. We cleanse ourselves by our response to the work of God and we are cleansed by the work of God.
2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.
3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.
4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. – 2 Corinthians 7:2-4
Paul, still having to be partly defensive, now again shares his love for the Corinthians:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
True friendship is when you become identified with someone in mind, soul and spirit, there is a unity of understanding. Jesus calls us friends:
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:15
You share intimacy with friends. That is what Jesus wants with us. An intimate relationship where we can pour out our heart and soul to Him. Paul was showing his love as he was filled with pride, comfort and joy with his friends in Corinth. Jesus shows us His love continually as He protects and guides us:
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
38 See, your house is left to you desolate.
39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” – Matthew 23:37-39
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn-fighting without and fear within.
6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,
7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. – 2 Corinthians 7:5-7
What a blessing is is to know that others care for you and are praying for you. What a comfort to have people in your life who bring the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. God comforts the downcast. God comforted Paul through Titus. Titus brought Paul news that cheered him. News that the Corinthian church were thinking of Paul with a strong, ernest desire, with sadness and with a fierce indignation on Paul’s behalf, despite the issues of the past. What a blessing it is to have a situation turn around. To be in circumstances that look like they threaten the very plan you believe God has for your life. Then you see God move, possibly slowly, subtlety, through no effort on our part, to resolve the situation. Waiting on the Lord, looking for Him to move the mountain, which He does according to His will.
Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'” – Zechariah 4:7
8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it-though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.
9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. – 2 Corinthians 7:8-9
So, putting this in context. It is believed that there were four letters to the Corinthians. We only have two of them in the Bible. The second and the fourth. The third letter has been called the “severe letter” which was written after the “painful visit” (2 Cor 2:1). These verses refer to this “severe letter” which here Paul says he did regret sending (probably because it upset him to write it) but he also rejoices because it led to repentance and restoration. We have to be faithful to give the message God gives us to give. If we do not have a message from God then we should keep our mouths shut (possibly a saying of Spurgeon). We lead people to godly grief. The place of true repentance. The place of truly knowing Jesus. We will suffer no loss at the feet of Jesus. He wants to bless us with all good things. All we loose is our sinful, rebellious, selfish nature in exchange for the righteousness of God in Christ given to us freely. Repentance is more that sorrow, though they often come together. Sorrow is the feeling, repentance the action – changing your mind and turning away from the sin to the Saviour.
32 You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
33 You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. – Deuteronomy 5:32-33
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. – 2 Corinthians 7:10-12
Paul is explaining why he wrote to the Corinthians the “severe letter”. His first statement reminds me of Peter and Judas. Both felt great sorrow at failing the Lord Jesus. Peter’s sorrow led him to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. But Judas’ sorrow led him to take his own life – it led to death in this life and eternally. What makes the difference in a person’s response. Repentance. The turning from self to the Lord. Seeking His mind and thoughts on a matter not our own. The Corinthian’s cast out the sinner from a their congregation. They acted on the revealed word of God. And for that Paul commends their action, that they have proved their innocence by not condoning the incest in their midst but casting out the transgressors. Paul says he wrote not for the sake of the people who were sinning but that the church might grow in grace and faith through the way they dealt with the problem. The Lord works in all our hearts at the same time. He knows He purposes for us:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:8-11
13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true.
15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.
16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you. – 2 Corinthians 7:13-16
Paul rejoices because Titus had such a good visit with the Corinthians. Paul did not feel ashamed or let down by the way they treated Titus. He was refreshed and built up by seeing their faith. He has developed a love for them and Paul is blessed to be assured that they are doing well. It is such a blessing to see people you have been investing I doing well. Just as a father takes pride in his children’s development so we take pride in seeing disciples grow in faith. Jesus told us to make disciples and that involves time and effort. Our ministry is all about people not programmes or plans. People are the centre of the plan of God. He made this wonderful world for us to enjoy. He is going to make a new heaven and a new earth for His glory and for us to enjoy.
12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, – 2 Peter 3:12-15
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers