ODJ: what kind of sorrow?

October 18, 2013 

READ: 2 Corinthians 7:5-13 

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 . . . results in spiritual death (v.10).

In the wake of numerous public confessions by fallen politicians, sports figures and business executives, Paul Wilkes references Susan Wise Bauer’s helpful distinction: “An apology is an expression of regret: I am sorry. A confession is an admission of fault: I am sorry because I did wrong. I sinned.” Wilkes goes on: “Apology addresses an audience. Confession implies an inner change . . . that will be manifested in outward action.”

The apostle Paul made a similar and profound distinction. He contrasted godly sorrow, which conforms to God’s standards, and worldly sorrow, which does not (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly regret and emotional pain, Paul said, brought repentance—a change of mind and behaviour.

As the believing Corinthians received Paul’s rebuke and became aware of their sins (vv.8-9), he wanted them to respond with bitter sorrow and to turn to God for forgiveness and transformation. This godly sorrow produced, among other things, sincerity, readiness to make amends and a desire to live godly lives. Thus, godly sorrow would lead to salvation. Worldly sorrow, however, doesn’t produce God-centred repentance. Peter was an example of godly sorrow (Matthew 26:75; John 21:15-19) and Judas was an example of worldly sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5).

It’s not enough for a believer to regret or simply be sorry for the effects of sin. When our sorrow does not lead to God-centred transformation, it becomes self-pity and unproductive grief, and it leads to death. When a believer exhibits godly sorrow, he accepts the rebuke of God’s Word, realises that he has transgressed His standard, humbly admits his failure and turns back to God’s standards and service. —Marvin Williams

Read Psalms 32:1-5 and 51:1-10 to see examples of godly sorrow. 
When you sin and are confronted and convicted by God’s Word, what kind of sorrow do you most exhibit? For what sin is the Holy Spirit leading you to express godly sorrow today?