For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Sorry it's been a wee while between posts. The computer had decided to have a hissy fit but all seems to be sorted now. Today I want to share with you the sermon I heard just this morning by a visiting pastor called Jono. I really benefited a lot from his teaching, so I hope that you will too. Jono preached on the above verse, drawing heavily on the work of Thomas Watson, one of Jono's favourite "Christian dead guys."
The message described the difference between godly & worldly grief (or sorrow, depending on your translation), using 6 points to summarise each. I love when pastors divide their sermons into points, as it just makes it so much easier to follow and remember. Better yet if they remember to call out when they have moved to the next point. :)
Okay, so here we go...
Six Characteristics of Worldly Grief
1) Worldly grief fears only the effects and punishment of sin and is not sorry for the sin itself. Jono aptly characterised this as a child which cries when it is caught doing something naughty. It is not crying because of its actions, but more because it got caught and fears imminent discipline.
2) Worldly grief confuses the law & the gospel. For example, when we look at our lives and see a sin that we want to put an end to, we try really, really hard to stop doing that sin. In this way we make the law our saviour. We are trying to clean ourselves up instead of God doing it.
3) Worldly grief does not actually deal with sin, because we are incapable of killing the sin in our life. We must face the fact that our sins come from within us, from our wicked heart. We need something outside ourselves to save us.
4) Worldly grief is purely emotional, not spiritual.
5) Worldly grief is horizontal only and leaves God out of the picture. It is completely self-focused. We may think about the person we have wronged, or mourn because we have not lived up to our own standard of "good", but worldly grief does not think about how we have sinned against God.
6) Worldly grief leads to death, as stated in the verse above.
Six Characteristics of Godly Grief
1) Godly grief enables us to truly see our sin. And how do we do this? By reading God's word, which is the means through which the Holy Spirit reveals our sin to us.
2) Godly grief means we feel sorrow for sin. We mourn over our actual offence against God, unlike worldly grief, which only feels sorrow for the consequences.
3) Godly grief confesses sin. Confessing sin lets sin out.
4) Godly grief produces real shame for sin. It is not completely paralysing, but instead should drive us towards the cross.
5) Godly grief includes a hatred for all sin in our life and a desire to be rid of it.
6) Godly grief includes a turning from sin and turning to Christ (the definition of repentance).
I really like this passage from Thomas Watson on repentance:
“Repentance is a pure gospel grace. The covenant of works admitted no repentance; there it was, sin and die. Repentance came in by the gospel. Christ has purchased in his blood that repenting sinners shall be saved. The law required personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. It cursed all who could not come up to this: 'Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them' (Gal. 3.10). It does not say, he that obeys not all things, let him repent, but, let him be cursed. Thus repentance is a doctrine that has been brought to light only by the gospel.”
(From The Essential Works Of Thomas Watson)
So if you are a Christian who is not in the habit of showing godly grief for your sin, or should I say continually repenting (because it's more than a one time deal) - and I'm actually preaching to myself here more than anything - there are only one of two reasons:
1) Deep down in your heart you believe that you don't need Christ's sacrifice on the cross
2) You don't think Christ is capable of saving you.
Both these conclusions are wrong. So may I encourage you (and myself) to get real with God and get real with your sin. Bring about godly grief which leads to salvation, as it says in 2 Corinthians, and may your heart rejoice in the Gospel once more!