Summary: This message addressed a question asked by my Sermon Planning Group about how to understand and respond to memories of past sin once we come to live in the grip of grace
"BIG IDEA":Paul’s heartfelt words in 2 Corinthians 7 help us avoid the destruction of haunting regret (in ourselves and others) by suggesting three differences between worldly sorrow and Godly Sorrow.
NOTE: Also used in preparing this sermon is a chapel message delivered by Dr. Zach Eswine at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
Do you know what this is? [Display picture of a "neutralizer" from "Men in Black"]. I’ll give you a clue. At least in the movie where this is used if you don’t wear a special pair of sunglasses you will become forgetful?
If you said this was a neutralizer, or "that thing they use in the Men in Black movies to erase people’s memories—you’d be right. Sort of like having one of these [press Easy Button] to get rid of memories you don’t want hanging around any more.
Would you like to have an easy button to erase a memory or two (or more)?
Can you recall your most embarrassing moment? If you could would you erase that memory [EASY BUTTON].
Have ever bought something that you would just as soon forget you bought [PRESS EASY BUTTON]?
What if you had a limited number of times you could erase memories from the past. How would you use them? Based on my own inclination I would guess that most of use I would start with the most "haunting" memories. Memories don’t seem to lose their capacity to intrude regardless of how many years have passed.
You know them, don’t you? Maybe you said something or did something that hurt someone else. Maybe you betrayed a friend or loved one.
Perhaps there is a sin no one else (not even your husband or wife) knows about. You know that sin you hope never comes to light because you are afraid that it would forever alter how people see you.
We encounter this type of regret in the context of sin. And it is that context that is behind Paul’s words in today’s text [READ 2 Corinthians 7:5-16].
You will remember that last week I told mentioned this series on grace came about as a result of thoughts and questions share by a group people here at Southside. Specifically the question was raised, "How do we deal with guilt for past sins while at the same time believing that we are forgiven by God’s grace?" How do we forgive ourselves?
Like so many questions we take to Scripture when we do so Scripture answers them in a way differently than how we ask them. That is true in this case.
We don’t know what the circumstances are that prompted Paul to write words of correction. It’s probably best we don’t because its not the circumstance but the goal and response that is really important.
The part that is helpful for us is Paul’s comparison of Godly sorrow and earthly sorrow. His lesson not only to helps us with our memories but to help us make sure we don’t contribute to the same kind of haunting memories in others. You see, Paul’s heartfelt words in 2 Corinthians 7 help us avoid the destruction of haunting regret (in ourselves and others) by suggesting three differences between worldly sorrow and Godly Sorrow.
TRANSITION: Verse 10 is the lynchpin to this passage. We begin there because Paul directly compares Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Specifically he compares what each leads to. In that verse Paul tells us . . .