Godly Sorrow

August 21st, 2017

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV)

The circumstance was that Paul had written to them in his first letter to the Corinthians a strong word of rebuke based on what he had heard of the church. They had compromised the moral standings of Christianity with their acceptance of immoral people - presumably in the name of grace. Grace means that the guilty sinner can be freely forgiven. But grace can be misused and abused to teach that sin is of no consequence at all.

Let us be clear that the only remedy for sin is the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for our sins on Calvary. And though the grace of God is wide and deep - all sinners are welcomed to repent and come to Christ for forgiveness and new life - the grace of God is possible only because Christ died for our sins. The biblical doctrine of grace takes sin deadly seriously. We are deeply fallen as a race, but we are also deeply loved by God and can be completely forgiven in Christ.

So Paul was addressing the false teaching on grace that suggested that sin did not matter so much after all. That God loved sinners and we love to sin so don’t worry so much about it, or at least that was the general idea. They even boasted that they had accepted some who were notoriously involved in sin - most notably a man who had his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1) - we assume this meant that he was engaged in a live-in sexual relationship with his step mother. Paul was right to rebuke them in love.

The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin to our hearts (John 16:8-11), and with that conviction He also assures us that Christ has paid for our sins by His death on the cross. The true believer is genuinely sorry for his sins, regrets his life of sin, and sees that Christ went to the cross for him. But as he repents, the Spirit also assures him that he is fully forgiven and is now included in the family of God. The Bible says:

1 John 1:9-10: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Romans 3:23-24: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:16:The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Godly sorrow, or “godly grief” (ESV), results in genuine repentance and the receiving of God’s gracious forgiveness and inner cleansing. And it also results in a change in direction of life. The one who is truly repentant, truly sorry for his sins, will experience the great touch of God in his soul assuring him of his new standing, and motivating him for sincere worship and service.

Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, merely produces guilt and more guilt. Worldly sorrow is the human effort to make people feel bad about their sins, and it does not offer full forgiveness and full acceptance - just unending and unresolved guilt. We are to live in the reality of God’s grace and forgiveness, not in the constant reminder of our failures. Though we never forget the reality of God’s grace, that we are accepted only by Christ, our focus is on the payment by Christ for our sins and not on the sins themselves.

Paul said he lived each day in this reality, “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20b). If we let the Spirit convict, then we will see more godly sorrow and less worldly sorrow. If we struggle with worldly sorrow, then we need to return to the cross in our minds and our hearts and simply believe that Christ has paid for our sins there, and then rejoice in our salvation and forgiveness.

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Living in God’s Favor

August 18th, 2017

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love, in truthful speech and in the power of God… (2 Cor. 6:2b-7a NIV)

Would you like to live in the favor of God?

Such a question entices some to think of earthly rewards and we must be clear about this, that such thoughts are very likely to come from Satan. The Bible says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 NIV). The first trait of living in the favor of God is that it is just that - God’s favor and not ours.

So the first requirement is to be committed to His causes and to lay aside our own desires. We have a God that we may call to for our “daily bread,” who has promised to provide for “green pastures” and “quiet waters” but this is so that He may also lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. We have a God who even prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies and anoints our head with oil, and causes our cup to overflow. But it is so that we may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, and not so that we may follow the dreams and schemes and values of the world.

Paul lived in God’s favor because he lived for God. We are prone to think highly of those who entertain us or move us emotionally. We will spread the word about a “Christian comedian” or a “Christian performer” who has a beautiful voice. Paul was none of these things, in fact people criticized his speech saying “in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Cor. 10:10). Yet his commendation to people was simply that he sought none except his sacrificial service.

The first requirement to live in God’s favor is to daily die to self and to live to Christ. “If any man would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow after me” (Luke 9:23). Each day our ego will rise to challenge the authority of Christ. We will be tempted every day to put our reputation ahead of His, our will ahead of His, our agenda ahead of His, our desires and goals and aspirations ahead of His. Every day we must take all of these self-centered thoughts and submit them to Christ, dying to ourselves, and taking His purpose and His life and His goals upon ourselves.

Paul lived in God’s favor because he was committed regardless of the cost. Some are committed for a while, but fall away when it gets difficult. Or they are willing to do something for Christ, but not just anything whatsoever. But Paul was willing to do whatever it took for Christ to be magnified in His life and ministry. He was not some deranged psychotic who enjoyed pain - he clearly did not - yet he was willing to do it if God would be glorified through it.

Are you totally committed? Are there limitations you have set to how far for Christ you are willing to go? Christ went to the cross for you. He had no preconceived limitations, rather He was willing to do whatever it took.

Parents do this at the birth of their child - at least the good ones do. They commit themselves in their heart, as soon as they see that little wrinkled body, to do whatever it takes for that child to live and to have a good life. How far will a good mother or good father go for the sake of their child? They will go as far as it takes, do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.

Paul lived in God’s favor because he did not seek to serve God alone, but had a community of fellow devotees as well. Committed people search out other committed people, and seek to serve God together with them. Notice that he did not say “I commend myself in every way,” rather he said, “we commend ourselves in every way.” Truly devoted people lift others up, strengthen their brothers and sisters, learn from them, and love and support one another. Spiritual people are quick to forgive and restore one another. They are patient with weaknesses and maintain a positive hope for all believers.

Paul went so far as to state twice to the Corinthians that God had only given him and his companions authority for building others up, not for tearing them down (2 Cor. 10:8 and 13:10). So his approach was embracive and encouraging.

These three principles will keep us focused on the things of God: living for Him, committed to Him no matter the cost, and supportive of others.

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