The Issue of Genuine Sorrow (Part 2)
January 30, 2020
2 Corinthians 7:9-11, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 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. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In every manner you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”
Yesterday we began to look at what is meant by godly sorrow. When Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” what does Jesus mean by “mourn?” We learned that sorrow is beneficial, especially if it is the sorrow that is within the will and purposes of God. Not all sorrow is beneficial though, especially the sorrow of the world. Those who are genuinely repentant will indeed experience sorrow over their sin, sorrow itself is not repentance. There is a sorrow over our sin that does not produce repentance, and thus it does not lead to salvation.
Paul writes of this in 2 Corinthians 7:10b, “but the sorrow of the world produces death.” “The sorrow of the world” that Paul is referencing here is basically self-centered. Worldly sorrow revolves around the consequences of sin, the pain that sin causes to oneself, instead of the offense and the dishonor that it does to God. In Mike Riccardi’s article he quotes Philip Hughes: “It is not sorrow because of the heinousness of sin as rebellion against God, but sorrow because of the painful and unwelcome consequences of sin. Self is its central point.”
Before I was saved, having been raised in the church, I would fall into sin and I would go through what I thought at the time was genuine repentance after I would get caught in sin. But my repentance was completely self-focused and therefore didn’t last long. I was more concerned with the pain my sin was causing me. How do I know this? Because once the consequences had abated, once the pain had dissipated, I went right back to my sin. I was in pain because of the consequences of my sin, not because I had dishonored God. To be very blunt, I could have cared less about what God thought. Why? Because I was not a child of His.
In Mike Riccardi’s article he says, “People who have worldly sorrow are often defensive about their sin and attempt to justify it or explain it away; whereas godly sorrow causes you to own your sin and make no excuses.” Before God saved me, I was in a near constant cycle of defending my sin. My sin was often, in my own warped logic, someone else’s fault. I grieved for me and no one else and certainly not for God.
One of the most brutal examples of worldly sorrow in Scripture is that of Judas Iscariot. In Matthew 27:3 it says that Judas “felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.” In verse 4 he even says, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” This sure looks and sounds like genuine repentance, doesn’t it? He had confessed his sin, he felt seemingly genuine remorse over that sin, and he changed the course he was on. But we learn that this was not godly sorrow that leads to repentance, but this was worldly sorrow that only leads one place, death. How do we know this? Look at Matthew 27:4, “But they (the chief priests and elders) said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’” They wouldn’t take his blood money back, his guilt wasn’t their problem. What is Judas’ reaction? Look at verse 5, “And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.”
You see, if Judas’ sorrow, is his mourning, had been over his sin that he had committed against Jesus Christ, the Son of God – was God-centered – then his response would have been much different. He had to know, after being with Jesus every single day for three years, that all he had to do was ask for His forgiveness and he would be restored. Judas had to know that Jesus had come to die on the cross for liars, manipulators, and traitors just like him, and that forgiveness was available to anyone who would jettison their sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ for their righteousness.
But his was not what was foremost on the mind of Judas. His sorrow, his mourning was self-centered not God-centered. He felt shame, he felt humiliation, but it was because of him; he was shamed, he was humiliated, not because of the harm it did to Christ, but because of the embarrassment it caused him. So, rather than bring that shame and that humiliation to the Savior who could pay for it, he does just the opposite and kills himself in the false hope that somehow that would atone for what he had done.
You see, “the sorrow of the world produces death.” Do you feel sorrow when you sin? Is that sorrow self-centered? Of is your sorrow God-centered? Are you sorrowful because you got caught and now must suffer the consequences? Or are you sorrowful because you have caused the holy, pure, and righteous God offense because of your sin?