The sorrow God wants us to experience
We continue on in 2 Corinthians with a look at why repentance is so important
Verse of the Day: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” - 2 Corinthians 7:10
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience”.......this was a faith-altering verse when I came across it for the first time. I have struggled with shame when it comes to my sin, and have had anxiety over it. I fear having anxiety over my sin because I have always felt that the sorrow and remorse I feel from my sin was a bad thing. That is, until I read this. When I read how Paul breaks down Godly sorrow, it completely changed my perspective. It helped me to remember that God is not expecting me to be perfect. He knows I am a sinner. He knows you are a sinner. That’s why He sent Jesus to be the final solution to sin. However, He wants us to live a life that leads us away from our fleshly bondage and into the freedom that can only be accessed through the Holy Spirit. And most often, this comes through the sorrow that God wants us to experience.
“Leads us away from sin”........the process of following Jesus is a process of dying to ourselves every single day. When we die to ourselves, we separate ourselves from the evil that is within our hearts. Jesus says in Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” This is our sinful nature. Only Jesus can lead us away from sin. And when we experience the sorrow that comes with our sin, if it includes repentance, God can cleanse our hearts and minds, but only if we go to Him. We have to go to God in order to be led away from sin. We cannot do it by ourselves. If we could, Jesus would not have had to die for us.
“And results in salvation”........notice the timeline of words here. The notion of being led away from sin is mentioned before salvation. In John 14:6, Jesus says “No one can come to the Father except through me.” Since Jesus is the only solution to sin, we have to go through Him in order to be led away from our sin. We have to go to Jesus for our sin to be dealt with. Once we do that, we are able to experience salvation.
Our modern church has many people thinking if they simply “believe” in Jesus that they will be saved, no matter how they live. And unfortunately with that, many people go on not changing the way they live, not being led away from sin and not experiencing the rebirth that comes with a total Jesus transformation. You can say you “believe” in respecting women, but if you live your life constantly harassing, disrespecting and demeaning women, nobody will believe you. When we say we believe in Jesus but live a life that is anything but Christ, all we are doing is crucifying Him on the cross once more. And this ‘say a prayer and be saved no matter what happens after’ mentality is missing the mark for what Jesus can do in our lives.
We have to turn from our sin and live a holy life, first. Titus 2:11-12 breaks it down simply - “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” You cannot live a self-controlled, upright and godly life that is not marred by ungodliness and worldly passions without first being led away from sin.
“There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow”.......boy, is this a breath of fresh air. Like I said earlier, I have dealt with intense shame over my past sins that have affected not only me, but my family. But by the grace of God, I have been saved and the Lord has transformed my heart. This verse helped me to realize that I need not feel any shame for my past mistakes. I am a human. I am flawed. I fall short. I have an evil sinful nature that I have to turn over to the Lord every single day. And when I do sin, I need to deal with it instantly. I need to go to God in repentance and turn the sorrow I feel in that moment into joy because of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It’s in those moments of shame and guilt, what some would call the valley, that we experience Jesus in the greatest way. It’s a wonderful feeling when we can experience Jesus both in strength and suffering.
“But worldly sorrow”.......As you grow in Christ, you will begin to notice a stark difference between the ways of God and the ways of the world. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says that Satan is the “god of this world.”. When we live our lives the way the world does, we are not in total submission to God. If we try to go about dealing with our sin and shame in a worldly way, the sorrow we feel will not be genuine sorrow over our sin and who we have hurt, but over the fact that we have been caught in the act. That type of sorrow is from the world and does not include the subject of the following text. We have to be people who have complete loyalty to God. We cannot live divided. James 1:8 says that those who have divided loyalty between God and the world are “unstable in everything they do.” Christ is a firm foundation. If we are firmly rooted in Him, we cannot be unstable.
“Which lacks repentance”........repentance is not talked about nearly enough in our modern church culture. The American church often treats God as some magic genie and not a Heavenly Father who loves us through thick and thin. We are woeful sinners in need of a savior. We cannot save ourselves. We need Jesus. And if we lack repentance, then we have no need for Jesus in our lives. If our pride is so big that we don’t feel the need to repent for our sin, then we are not really following Christ at all. I feel pride is what keeps many people in bondage to their own sin, regret, shame and guilt. It’s the great cover up that is no cover up at all actually.
James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Experiencing sorrow is like being down in the dumps. When we are down in the dumps, all we want is to be lifted up. God lifts us up when we humble ourselves before Him and come to Him with repentance. That’s the way to be lifted up and experience salvation. However, when we refuse to humble ourselves, we make ourselves an enemy of God. Isaiah 2:12 gives a stark warning - “The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled)” Let us not lack repentance and humility. These need to be hallmarks of our journey. If we deal with sorrow the way the world does, it leads to the worst kind of result.
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“Results in spiritual death”.........spiritual death is something that no Christ follower wants to experience. However, any of us can slip up if we are not careful. Just go into the Old Testament and see the way Saul died spiritually. Saul was the first king of Israel. He was chosen by God to rule over God’s people. And despite his title within the spiritual realms, even he was liable to die spiritually due to a flesh that went unchecked. 1 Samuel 16:14 says “The Lord’s spirit left Saul.” If it can happen to Saul, it can surely happen to you and I.
A 1990 article from Richard G. Ellsworth says about Saul’s descent away from God - “He slowly became insensitive, even calloused, in his relationships with other people. To achieve his ends, he was willing to manipulate others, even his own loved ones. He feared criticism. He developed a great need for popular approval. This last weakness was the major consequence of his stubborn pride, which was his tragic flaw.”
Does this not sound like the character traits that many in our world possess? Why do we post only our best pictures to Instagram? Why do we delete unpopular tweets? Why is it so hard to say sorry? Why do we get so aggressive in online debates over things that honestly mean nothing? Why do people lie, cheat, make up rumors, and think they can get to the top by dragging others down? It’s a lethal combination of uncontrollable sin and selfish pride.
These things are of the world and not of God. And when we refuse to come to the Lord and allow Him to deal with our sin through repentance, our flesh will go unchecked in an evil world, which can be compared to a wild jungle. It’s easy to get lost in the jungle. There’s only one way to be found. And it’s through Jesus.
We have to do work on our own end to experience the free gift of salvation that He has to give us. Our lives need to be transformed and ongoing fruit needs to be produced within us. It’s impossible to please God if we have hardened hearts. It’s impossible to live like Christ if our loyalty is divided.
There is nothing the world can offer that is a match for a life lived in total obedience to God. Nothing at all. Even in the sorrow, there is joy and God is proud of us when we come to repentance.
Repentance is the gateway to salvation. Let us not be afraid to come to the Lord broken in our sin, laying at the foot of the cross and waiting to be restored. Jesus did it for Mary Magdalene. He can do it for you, too.
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