I was doing some reading this morning and ran across this:
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”–2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
This passage brought to mind a conversation with a young woman that I met some time ago. She and I were discussing church attendance. She explained to me that she hadn’t been to church in awhile and would love to go again. I invited her to join us one morning. She told me that if she went in there with us, she would more than likely start crying a lot. I understood very well. After not attending a church service for five years, the first time I went back, I spent the entire service in tears. We both were speaking of sorrow for our sins once we were confronted with them in such a setting.
When we try to explain sorrow, we usually speak of sadness. In the case of being confronted with our own sins, we understand the depth of our guilt and it emotionally breaks us down. We are saddened by our own actions. So, why the distinction between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow? It all boils down to what we are motivated to do next.
Godly sorrow is brought about by Grace and is centered on God and what we must do to make things right with Him. It leads to repentance of sin, which in turn leads to salvation once we also believe that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for us and was resurrected three days later. Repentance means we take concrete steps to live a more righteous life.
Wordly sorrow is self centered. While we may feel genuine sorrow and guilt over our sin, we are more saddened by the consequences of our sin and how those consequences affect us and those around us. We acutely feel the guilt of our sin, but we do little to rectify it. For some, it may be hard to hear that this situation could indicate a lack of saving Grace in our lives. His Grace makes it easier for us to change our lives. Without it, we just continue living our lives like nothing has changed, even though we know it’s wrong.
Many professing Christians live their lives in perpetual sinfulness. I know, because for a long time, I was one of them. I felt the pull of God’s Grace, but was stubborn and made excuses. I eventually wound up back in church and have started a new way of living. But some of us try to live our lives in the worldly way while we profess the name of Jesus. Habitual sinfulness while calling ourselves Christians could mean that our profession of faith is merely superficial; we may not have actually received salvation. Forgiveness of sins comes with repentance of sin and repentance means actions, not words and a guilty conscience.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self control, perserverance; and to perserverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”–2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV)
Later, in the same chapter:
“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”–2 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV)
Godly sorrow tears us down to our foundation so that we can rebuild our lives along the path of righteousness. Wordly sorrow just tears us down and leaves us in darkness.