Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. —2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV
I’m not exactly fond of sorrow. I personally prefer happiness. Still … sorrow is inevitable in this world. Therefore, although I’m not fond of it, I’m definitely familiar with it. I suspect you are too. Sorrow comes in all sorts of ways. We grieve the passing of a loved one. We mourn the death of a pet. We see pictures of famine and war and disease … and sorrow fills our hearts as we feel compassion for others. This world is not always a happy place. Hard, sad things happen, and sorrow is the appropriate and natural response.
Sometimes sorrow comes because we have sinned. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I’m sure not fond of sin. I prefer making good choices all the time and living in a happy glow of goodness. This, however, is not reality. Although I am fully saved and fully forgiven because I accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation, I still sin. As long as I live on earth, my sin nature is at war with my new nature. Sometimes, I give way to the sin nature. I envy. I covet. I judge with a critical spirit. I act selfishly. I dance around the truth because the truth will make me look bad. I lie by omission in order not to feel shame. I suspect you, like me, often find yourself grieving over bad choices and foolish decisions and outright sins that come tied up with their inevitable and horrid consequences. God doesn’t want me to live in a state of shame and condemnation. And yet, sometimes, despite my salvation, I do.
Okay then. So why on earth are we talking about sorrow of this kind when it’s patently unpleasant? Because there are two ways to deal with sin—one leads to life while the other leads to death. We need to choose the life-giving way, and today’s Scripture verse tells us what that is. So, cheer up! This verse will bring life and joy as we look at it together.
First, the best response when we realize we have sinned is sorrow. Sometimes that comes easily to us, but other times we bury it under feelings of defiance or justification or denial. We try to shove that old sin under the carpet and smooth out that carpet and pretend all is well. But if we have something under our carpet, all is not well. The consequences of unconfessed sin are manifold, and they are not life-giving. Where there is sin, there is sorrow.
When we do not confess our sins, we lose our close fellowship with God and coming to Him is awkward. We can’t really relax into Him for He whispers into our minds the need for repentance. When tainted with sin, our relationship with God is shallow. We might “say the words” to Him, but we have withdrawn our hearts. Removing ourselves from the life-giving fellowship He offers us is a kind of death! And the hidden sins fester; they grow in dark places and become larger. We feel shame and despair and regret. The accuser and enemy of our souls enjoys poking at us and that buried sin, shaming us into depression and withdrawal from using our spiritual gifts for God’s service. Let’s not do that. There is a better way.
The better way is this: Repentance. If we come to God, no sin exists that is so big He cannot forgive it. And let’s face it. He already knows about that sin. We might as well speak out loud what we have done and repent.
Here’s an example from my own life of a recent time of confession and repentance with the Lord. It doesn’t matter if the sin is a “small” one. Any sin keeps me from sweet fellowship with Jesus, and the faster I confess it, the faster I’m back to nestling in. I share it in the hope that it will help you to confess and repent as well. Because let me tell you. It feels so good as soon as you’ve said those words and know you are washed clean and new as can be!
“Lord, You know that I made it seem like I didn’t break Ray’s favorite mug, and that was a lie of omission. I am so sorry I didn’t just speak the truth. Help me to confess it to him as well and to do a better job of speaking total truth in the future. Please forgive me and cleanse me and help me start fresh. I can’t bear to be separated from You!”
I’m happy to report that my Ray forgave me too. I broke his mug by accident, and he would have understood. But by hiding it and fudging what happened, I sinned. And then I had to go through that confession process. Oy!
The best part about repenting is that it leaves no regret. God knows we will sin. It’s not a shock to Him. That’s the reason God came to earth in human form to die and take the penalty of sin for us. Jesus endured insult and suffering and death on the cross in our place. How foolish we are when we do not receive the gift of forgiveness he secured! The end result of godly sorrow for our sin is life-giving. No time wasted in hiding! We come into the light and are cleansed and back to being happy again. I like being happy. I bet you do too. Let’s confess sin quickly and enjoy close and unbroken fellowship with our God who loves us to be close to Him! This is the life-giving rhythm that a godly person chooses. We live to please Him. As soon as we realize we have sinned and walked away, we turn and run back to ask forgiveness. Forgiven, we go back to living with a desire to please Him and live in harmony once again with the One who loves us best. I highly recommend it. And so does Paul, who wrote about it in our verse.
Heavenly Father, how foolish Your children often are! Forgive us when we waste time we could be using to love and serve and give by hiding our sins that You are fully aware of anyway. Instead, Lord, give us a godly sorrow that brings repentance and leaves no regrets. How hard that is for us to comprehend. You fully forgive. We really can be cleaned up and made righteous in You. Thank You for that indescribable gift. We love You. Keep us close. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
You are loved,
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