Jump Start # 3406
2 Corinthians 7:10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
One of our Jump Start readers wants to know “What is the difference between being actually sorry because of a sin committed, from being sorry because of the consequences of that sin?” That’s a great question and I think our passage shows us the difference.
You’ll notice that there are two sorrows. One is according to the will of God and one that is based upon the world. And those sorrows lead to two different conclusions. One leads to salvation and the other leads to death. How do I know which one I have? Can a person know?
First, Godly sorrow is based upon God. One realizes that he has sinned against God. Now, it may be that no one else knows about this sin. It may be that he has never faced any consequences because of this sin. It may be that he could go on with his life and no one would ever know. But God knows. And, he realizes that God knows. He is sorry because he has let God down. He has broken God’s law. He has disappointed God. God made him for better things. He ignored God and did what he wanted to do.
This sorrow comes from a good and honest heart intersecting with the word of God. The word that Peter preached pricked the hearts of the audience. It cut them to the core. When Stephen preached, those words cut the audience to the quick. That will happen when someone has an honest heart and a good heart.
Jesus began His powerful sermon on the mount with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That has nothing to do with bank accounts, homelessness or physical poverty. It has EVERYTHING to do with spiritual bankruptcy. It’s realizing you are destitute spiritually. You are hopeless. You have sinned and you are in trouble with God.
Immediately, Jesus moves to, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Again, this has nothing to do with funeral homes, cemeteries, and physical death. It is about a person realizing their spiritual condition. Here is where sorrow begins. Godly sorrow, our passage says, produces a repentance. That godly sorrow leads to change. That’s what repentance is. It’s changing based upon God. And, that changed life leads to salvation.
Second, the sorrow of the world is not God based. A person may have gotten caught doing wrong. As I was driving in to the office today, I saw a man along side the road being handcuffed by the police. You can just be sure that he is sorry that he got caught. His day has changed. It will begin in jail, courtrooms and not the way he had planned. One might be expelled from school. A person may lose their job. They may be arrested. They may be facing a divorce. They may be disciplined by the church. The consequences of getting caught doing wrong brings sorrow. It’s not based upon God. Those are the consequences wrong being found out. A person may be sorry but he is sorry that he got caught. He is not sorry that he did wrong. He is only sorry that he has gotten into trouble. It’s the punishment that he is sorry for and that he is now receiving.
Likewise, a person may be told by their doctor that unless he changes his lifestyle, such as drinking, smoking pot, abusing drugs, that he will likely be dead within a year. So, this person stops the wrong. It’s not based upon God, but a fear of dying.
Or, a person could be told that unless he stops his behavior, the marriage is over. So, a person might straighten up. He hasn’t repented because of God. He doesn’t want to be tossed out.
Worldly sorrow can be filled with guilt and shame. But it doesn’t bring a person any closer to God. Judas had worldly sorrow. He realized that Jesus was innocent. He returned the money given to him. He then committed suicide. His sorrow led to his death.
So, back to our initial question, how can one know if I am sorry because of God or because of the consequences? The pricking of the heart, the conscience bothered, the longing to be right with the Lord (hungering and thirsting for righteousness) are going to compel you to do what is right. Your motive, your drive is wanting to stand right with the Lord. You want to please the Lord. You’ll take whatever punishment comes your way. You won’t be pleading not guilty when you know you are guilty. You want to stand pure and right before the Lord.
This person will apologize to the people he has hurt. This person will let others know that his behavior has changed. This person will not hide behind excuses, blame others, or play the victim card. He is wrong and he is honest about that. His prayers are to the Lord for mercy and salvation. His desire is to do what the Lord wants.
When a person is only sorry because of the consequences, once the consequences are gone, so is this person’s sorrow. He has not changed from the inside and he is likely to repeat what he has done wrong, but with a greater desire to avoid the consequences this time.
Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow there is a difference. When a person says, “I am sorry,” it is fair to ask him, “Why?” Just why are you sorry? Is it because you are in trouble? Is it because you hurt someone’s feelings? Or, is it because you sinned against the Lord?
Two sorrows…two outcomes. It helps us to understand the difference.