“And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
In one of the most important passages in the New Testament regarding repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11), Paul uses essentially the same phrase three times to express what he means by repentance: He rejoices that the Corinthian believers were made “sorry after a godly manner” (v. 9), calls it a “godly sorrow” (v. 10), claiming that they “sorrowed after a godly sort” (v. 11). This phrase could literally be translated “sorrow according to God,” which leads to repentance. Such sorrow is contrasted to the “sorrow of the world [that] worketh death” (v. 10), which is a mere regret of consequences or remorse of conscience, which does not yield repentance but only despair and possibly suicide. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (v. 10).
Just as godly sorrow leads to repentance, so should the blessings of God. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). God desires repentance on the part of the sinning one and is free to use whatever vehicle He chooses to bring it about.
True repentance involves a recognition of sin as a crime against God and a violation of His holy nature. Our recognition of this fact brings godly sorrow that leads inevitably to a change of mindset toward the sin and a confession of it as sin (1 John 1:9), and this brings forgiveness from God.
Christ taught that this “sorrow according to God” brings great joy elsewhere in the universe: “Likewise, I say unto you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).