************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 7:10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 2, 2010
2 Corinthians 7:5-13
2 Corinthians 7:10
Preparatory for the Lord's Supper
We are being called upon to prepare ourselves for the Lord's Supper next week. To do that, each one of us is asked to examine him or herself. Not just confessing members who eat and drink. Even children and others who smell and see and hear that the Lord is good. We are all asked to examine ourselves.
What do we see when we examine ourselves honestly? What do we see when we prepare ourselves for the Lord's Supper? We see promises broken, bad habits unleashed, anger unconquered, Scripture unread, opportunities not taken, sins committed.
I Godly Sorrow
A In our Bible reading for this morning, we read about a letter Paul had written to the church at Corinth. The letter caused some soul-searching among the brothers and sisters of the church as they examined both themselves and what Paul wrote to them. This, in turn, led to hurt and sorrow and anger. Some of it good – Paul calls this "godly sorrow." Some of it bad – Paul calls this "worldly sorrow."
What can we say about "godly sorrow"? In the Greek, the words are found three times, in verses 9, 10, and 11. We are told two things about "godly sorrow." First, it is sorrow as God intended (2 Cor 7:9). Sorrow that God delights in. Sorrow that is good for the soul.
As a pastor, I've participated in people's sorrow more times than I can count. This past week, for instance, I attended the funeral of a cyclist who died of a heart-attack while on a bike ride. After the funeral, I visited with his best friend who was so heart-broken that he was unable to attend. Remember how even Jesus wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus? This is not the sorrow our text talks about. This is not the sorrow that God delights in (Ezek 18:23).
B Second, we notice the opposite of "godly sorrow" is not the absence of sorrow but, rather, what Paul calls "worldly sorrow." It is important to realize this. The powers of darkness in this world are sly and careful and cunning so they try to imitate the real thing.
Go to Tijuana sometime. The vendors there try to sell you knock-offs of every kind of brand-name merchandise – from jeans to perfume to drugs to watches to computer software. When you look at the prices and carefully examine the articles in question, you know it is not the real thing.It is the same thing with "worldly sorrow." Satan and the powers of darkness try to imitate "godly sorrow" but when it is closely examined, you realize it is not the real thing.
C So, what is the difference between "godly sorrow" and "worldly sorrow"? "Worldly sorrow" is when you feel sorry for something you did because it backfires on you and leads to humiliation or punishment. It is the reflex of a proud heart, the reaction of a fearful ego. Pride always regrets making a fool of itself. And, fear always regrets acts that jeopardize comfort and safety. Notice, the focus of "worldly sorrow" is man – oneself! So, feeling sorry for something we have done is not in itself a sign of virtue. "Godly sorrow," on the other hand, is the reflex of a conscience that has wounded God's ego. "Godly sorrow" grieves that God's name has come into disrepute. The focus of "godly sorrow" is God.
A second difference between "godly sorrow" and "worldly sorrow" is the standard used. "Worldly sorrow" is always due to the attitudes of men whose praise we don't want to lose. We can feel extremely sorry for something we have done if we realize the people around us think it is dumb or silly or reprehensible. In other words, the words and attitudes of man becomes the standard or criterion that we use. "Godly sorrow," on the other hand, is the result when God's Word puts its finger on our lives. When God's Word condemns us for our actions and attitudes.
One example of "worldly sorrow" is Judas. Judas regretted what he did. Judas regretted that he took "blood money" to betray the Lord. Judas was seized with remorse. Judas felt bad about what he did – so bad that he threw the thirty silver coins into the temple and went away and hung himself (Mt 27:1-10).
Two examples of "godly sorrow" are Peter and David. What did Peter do after he denied the Lord three times? "He went outside and wept bitterly" (Mt 26:75). It becomes obvious from the rest of the New Testament that Peter's concern was not Peter but Jesus. Peter realized he had hurt the heart of God. The same thing was true of David. David committed adultery and got Bathsheba pregnant; he tried to cover this up with murder. Notice what David said when confronted with his sin:
(Ps 51:1-5) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.David realized, didn't he, that he had hurt the heart of God?
To sum up, "godly sorrow" is the guilt you feel when the Word of God shows you that you are a sinner and have wounded the name of God. "Godly sorrow" is the sorrow of a God-directed heart, not a world-directed heart.
My brothers and sisters, the goal of preparing and examining yourself this coming week is "godly sorrow." "Godly sorrow" because God's Word shows you that you have sinned against God. "Godly sorrow" because you have hurt the name of God. "Godly sorrow" because you have grieved God. Think of your sins: they have hurt God. Think of your sins in the light of the Ten Commandments: the idols you have erected, how you have not used the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, the missing of worship, disrespect to parents and those in authority, lust, pornography, lies, gossip, addictions, abuse of alcohol, coveting, hatred and anger ... As you see these sins in your life, each one of them should result in "godly sorrow."
II The Good of Godly Sorrow
A Paul's letter caused sorrow and hurt in the Corinthian church (2 Cor 7:8). It caused "godly sorrow." At the start of verse 9 Paul says "I am happy" and at the end of verse 7 he talks about the "joy" this brought him. The people of the Corinthian church are filled with guilt and Paul is happy? How can their hurt cause him joy? You won't understand this unless you realize that "godly sorrow" is a good thing.
"Godly sorrow" is like pain. Pain is a good thing. Because if you don't experience pain, you don't know when you have hurt yourself and you don't take steps to deal with the cause of the pain. In a world where you can bleed to death, it is good to feel pain when you are cut. It is good to feel pain when you have a tumor. It is good to feel pain before infection leads to gangrene and amputation.
Likewise, in a sin-filled world with a sin-filled body and a sin-filled mind, it is good to experience "godly sorrow." Because, "godly sorrow" is to sin what pain is to disease. A sensitive conscience is a gift of God; it is like nerve-endings that react to boiling water; it is there for our good. It tells us something is wrong – drastically wrong.
I am always amazed at the number of people today who teach and counsel that guilt feelings are unhealthy and even harmful. Deep down, do you know what is the real problem these people have with guilt? They are opposed to guilt because they reject the concept of sin. And, they reject the concept of sin because they reject the idea of a God Who holds us accountable and sets the standards for our life.
There is nothing wrong with real guilt, congregation. It is what God wants us to have when we sin and fall short of His glory. Feel guilt, lots and lots of guilt, as you examine yourself this coming week in preparation for the Lord's Supper!
B I mentioned earlier that Paul was happy and filled with joy that the Corinthians were filled with "godly sorrow." Paul was happy for their guilt and their pain. According to verse 10, here is the reason why: "godly sorrow brings repentance." Or, as verse 9 puts it:
(2 Cor 7:9) yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance." Repentance. Not grief. Not regret. Not remorse. Isn't that what politicians and movie stars always say when they are caught? They "regret" what they did. They "grieve" over the hurt they have caused. Christians reject that sort of talk. Because repentance – not regret, not grief, not remorse – is the language of the Christian. The language of repentance is the Christian's speech.
Let me go so far as to say that repentance is the test or proof of "godly sorrow." If you truly have "godly sorrow" for the sin in your life, then you will repent. And, if you don't truly have "godly sorrow" for the sin in your life, then your response will merely be regret or grief or remorse.
What is repentance? Repentance produces change. A change of life. A change of behavior. A change of heart. Repentance means you turn away your sin, renounce your sin, and go in another direction. Repentance is a U-Turn.
What does this mean for the alcoholic who goes back to his alcohol? Or, for the drug addict who goes back to his drugs? Or, the sex addict or molester or abuser who goes back to their previous behavior? Or, the sinner who keeps doing the same old sins, day after day, week after week, month after month? It means their sorrow is NOT "godly sorrow." Because "godly sorrow" always brings repentance. And repentance always means a change of heart. It means you don't keep going back to the same old sins over and over again.
"Godly sorrow" is a good thing, it is a very fruitful thing, if it leads you to repentance. Notice what it doesn't do. It does not immobilize you in the depths of depression. It is meant to be temporary and it is meant to be effective. As Paul put it in verse 8,
(2 Cor 7:8) I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while ..."For a little while ..." If guilt and sorrow holds you in its grip week in and week out, long after the sin is past, long after you have turned from it, then it is no longer "godly sorrow"; rather, it is Satan's attack. If Satan cannot keep you from repenting of your sin, then he will do his best to keep you from enjoying its forgiveness. If Satan cannot keep you from repenting of your sin, then he will do his best to turn "godly sorrow" into a prison-house.
C Which brings me to my last point. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Cor 7:10). What does "godly sorrow" do? It throws us at the foot of the cross. It throws us on the mercies of Christ. For, only in Christ do we find the forgiveness and grace that we need when we repent.
Do you realize what this says about the path of salvation? The path of salvation is not a path of sinless perfection. Because we all are sinners. Because we all need "godly sorrow." Because we all need to repent. None of us excepted.
There are two things I want you to do as you prepare for the Lord's Supper. First, be willing to be filled with "godly sorrow." I have said some hard things, some harsh things, in this sermon. But didn't Paul do that with the Corinthians? Yes, they were upset. Yes, they were angry. Yes, they were hurt. However, they quickly moved beyond this to "godly sorrow" and repentance. Be willing to have the same thing happen with you. Be willing to be filled with "godly sorrow" by letting the Word of God point out your sin.
Secondly, I want you – like Paul – to cause "godly sorrow." I do not mean that I want you to cause someone to sin or to fall into sin. I do not want you to dangle temptation in front of someone. Rather, help your brother and sister recognize the sin in their life. This is never easy. We can take heart that Paul did not find it easy. When he wrote his letter, it caused him tremendous discomfort – until he heard they responded with "godly sorrow" and repentance. We risk being rejected and criticized when we care enough about someone to put our finger on their sin. But we should follow Paul's example and do it anyway. It could be their salvation is at stake and you are God's instrument to bring them to the path of repentance that leads to life.
As we prepare for the Lord's Supper, let's be like Paul and the Corinthians. Let's be willing to accept "godly sorrow" like the Corinthians did. Let's be willing to cause "godly sorrow" like Paul did. Because, the truth stands sure:
(2 Cor 7:10) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
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