Regret Vs. Repentance

By Shawn Tomlin

At some point, we have heard someone say they regret doing something. Regret is natural to all, but is it helpful to us spiritually? To the Christian, regret is toxic. Sure, we’re sorry for doing something we know was wrong, but the presence of regret does not mean that one is repentant. There is a big difference between regret and repentance and we can see that difference start to unfold in John 13:21-38. The results of each are drastically different from one another.

Let’s first define regret and repentance. Regret is a feeling of sadness or sorrow over something that was done. Repentance goes beyond regret. Repentance is a 180 degree turn from your sin and toward God. Repentance involves faith in the One who can save you from the sin you’re in bondage to, Jesus Christ.

Our sorrow, in repentant faith, will cause us to hate our sin and rely fully on Christ for our salvation.

Now in the text of John 13:21-38 we see two men, specifically Judas and Peter. Of course the other apostles were there at the Last Supper but Judas and Peter were the only two named. One of them was to betray Jesus by handing him over to the Jews and the other was going to deny Him three times. If you don’t know, Judas handed Him over to the authorities and Peter denied Jesus three times.

Both of these men sinned greatly before God. Honestly though, what was the difference? If you look at 2 Corinthians 7:10 it reads, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” So let’s contrast Judas’ regret with Peter’s repentant grief after he denied Jesus three times. What’s the difference between the two men? Judas’ regret lacked faith in God’s mercy.

Peter and Judas differed in that Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It was upon that rock, that faith in Christ that the Church would be built. Peter confessed his faith in Christ. Judas? He never did. Never in Scripture did Judas confess his faith in Christ. We have evidence of this in John 13:27, where Satan entered into Judas. A believer, one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, someone unconditionally elected unto faith, will not have this problem. If the Holy Spirit dwells within us, such forces cannot be present. Peter did an evil thing, in denying Christ, but the Spirit brought him back to Christ in repentant faith. Juda never had such an option.

Regret is the sorrow of this world, and while we live in the world, we will inevitably feel it. Once we are called to faith, repentant faith, in Christ, our sorrow is used by the will of God. We don’t simply stop sinning once we become a believer in Christ. We will always stumble and fall as we grow in our sanctification, but our sorrow isn’t directed at self-pity anymore, it’s directed at the fact of how damaging our sin is to the relationship we have to God. The relationship only the blood of Christ could have accomplished. Our sorrow, in repentant faith, will cause us to hate our sin and rely fully on Christ for our salvation.

“The LORD bless you, and keep you;

The LORD make His face shine on you,

And be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance on you,

And give you peace.”

Lee Jones