Summary: Taking a look at the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow.
2nd Cor. 7:8-11
INTRODUCTION: Two weeks ago preached on our need for godly confidence so we can overcome sin and get through the hardships in life as well as exercising our gifts by the power of the Holy Spirit. Last week I preached on how we need to leave the past in the past if we are to move forward. As a lack of confidence and looking back keep us stuck, today I want to talk about something we need to have so we can move forward and that’s godly sorrow.
BACKGROUND: 2nd Cor. is actually the fourth letter Paul wrote to this church. Paul had much to contend with in helping to shape them into a thriving church. There were false teachers who were trying to discredit Paul and throw the people into confusion. There were other temples and gods that were worshipped. One of which was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, that housed up to 1,000 “religious” prostitutes so sexual immorality was rampant in the city. So much so that the phrase, “to Corinthianize” meant “to practice sexual immorality”. With so much ungodliness around them it would be easy for the church to get caught up in the various temptations and the paganistic mindset of the day. So there was obviously the need and a sense of urgency for Paul to highlight the necessity of having godly sorrow. It’s no different for us.
1) We need to be sorrowful (8-9). Paul wrote a previous letter to them addressing some serious issues. One of the issues Paul had to address was their sexual immorality and their approval of such behaviors-1st Cor. 5:1-2, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?” Paul rebuked them and I’m sure it came across pretty harsh. Paul regretted having to write the letter but he didn’t regret the letter itself. Why? Because it produced godly results. It hurt them but it didn’t last. They got over the pain of the rebuke and moved onto repentance and because of that, Paul was happy. He wasn’t happy they had to be rebuked, he was happy that his rebuke caused them to consider their sin and repent from it. When we’re confronted about our sin the best thing we can be is sorrowful. Without sorrow there’s no conviction and therefore no repentance.
2) Worldly sorrow vs. Godly sorrow (10).
• Worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is focused on self, not God. Worldly sorrow is being sorry only because I got caught. Worldly sorrow is having regret only because I’ve suffered consequences. James/Fausset/Brown commentary, “The sorrow of the world is not at the sin itself, but at its penal consequences: so that the tears of pain are no sooner dried up, than the pleasures of ungodliness are renewed.” When my sorrow is only due to pain or consequence, once that wears off I’m off to the races again. However, we can believe we have true godly sorrow because of the fact we’ve sinned and are sorrowful over that sin even though we didn’t get caught. And although that can represent godly sorrow in some sense, if we keep going back to that sin there’s something missing. I believe our focus might still be in the wrong place. Our sorrow could simply be due to my fear of God’s punishment. Therefore the focus is still on me, not God. I’m more concerned with what’s going to happen to me rather than being focused on how this has hurt God and my relationship with him. Not that it’s wrong to be focused on how this will affect me. A motivator toward godly sorrow can be thinking about how this will effect God’s blessings on my life and how it will hinder doors of opportunity from opening, but if this is our only or even our primary motivator then my focus is too heavy on me and therefore I’m being selfish. Worldly sorrow minimizes sin. We can also think we’ve exhibited godly sorrow because we’ve recognized our sin against God and then we keep it moving. We’re not supposed to dwell on it, we acknowledge it, forget it and move on; fagedabowdit, right? That’s true, provided we’re not flippant about it. Although we are supposed to move forward, we have to make sure we’re not abusing God’s grace in the process. In worldly sorrow we acknowledge our sin but we don’t take it as seriously as we should. Yes, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it but we shouldn’t go to the other extreme either and act like it’s no big deal. I’m only focused on God’s grace that covers me instead of being focused on the seriousness of wronging God. I’m thanking God for not doing me great harm; I’m thanking him for his mercy and grace, but I’m avoiding taking a look at the damage done to my relationship with him. I’m thinking everything is restored with a “sorry ‘bout that”. But my attitude isn’t right. When I use terms like “I just slipped up” or “got a little sidetracked” we are downplaying the seriousness of sin. When I do that I’m not exhibiting true godly sorrow. I sin, experience some regret and shame, say I repent but after a short while it wears off and I find myself back in the entanglement of sin. Why? Because I’m not taking it seriously. I don’t hate the sin; I just hate how the sin makes me feel. Worldly sorrow brings death. Worldly sorrow pushes me away from God in fear and guilt. And since I’m distancing myself from God because I believe the lie that I can’t come back to him, he won’t forgive me, what happens is I seek to find solace through worldly means. My worldly sorrow leads me to worldly coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, or some other means to try and escape and easy my pain. Worldly sorrow produces death because in my worldly sorrow I experience depression, anxiety, fear, worry. I beat myself up and I become despondent and despairing of life itself. The result is doing something foolish like destroying things and/or harming myself or others. And when I can’t take the guilt anymore, when I’ve had enough of living inside my head, the end result will be suicide. Worldly sorrow brings death. A good example of this is found in Matt. 27:1-5. Judas had remorse, he was sorry, he regretted what he had done but it wasn’t godly sorrow because it didn’t lead to repentance, it didn’t produce change; it led to his death. Regret does not necessarily equal godly sorrow. James/Fausset/Brown commentary: Repentance implies a coming to a right mind; regret implies merely uneasiness of feeling at the past or present. Although always accompanying repentance, it is not always accompanied by repentance.” Worldly sorrow brings death.