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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Godly Sorrow and the Joy of Salvation
Text:2 Corinthians 7:2-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins
 
Preached:03/18/2018
Added:2019-01-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“Godly Sorrow and the Joy of Salvation”
2 Corinthians 7:2-16
 
Have you noticed that the Bible doesn't sugarcoat the troubles that we face in life? In this passage the Apostle Paul writes honestly about trouble and sorrow. For instance, in verse 5 he describes how he and the other apostles were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within.
 
Commentators are not in agreement on what the conflicts from the outside were, nor are they in agreement on what the fears within Paul were. Later in this second letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 11, we will read about the extreme suffering that the Apostle endured which could well be considered conflict without which produced fear within. But here in vs 5 his statement is a general statement. And perhaps the reason why it is a general statement is because it is a statement that summarizes life for every person.
 
Who among us has not faced conflicts on the outside and fears within? Even children begin to realize that life is filled with conflict, and fear raises its troubling specter already at an early age. Even those who are very young begin to realize that the world is a hostile place and that there are many things that instill fear.
 
God Comforts the Downcast
 
But just as the Bible is clear that life holds its share of conflicts and fears, it is also clear that God comforts the downcast. He is our refuge in the troubles of life and our comfort amid life’s sorrows. We see that in verse 6 where the apostle describes how God, who comforts the downcast, comforted (the apostles) by the coming of Titus.
 
Throughout this letter the apostle has stressed that God is the God of all comfort. Already in the first chapter, in verse 3-4 we read: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
 
Whenever you or I are downcast we need to remember that our God is the gracious God who has promised to comfort us. We find that comfort from our heavenly Father who has compassion on us just as an earthly father has compassion on his children. The 103rd Psalm reminds us that our heavenly Father remembers our frailty; He remembers that we are dust. In fatherly compassion He provides for us and, in mercy beyond our ability to grasp, He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
 
In addition to the comfort provided by our heavenly Father's love, we who believe in Jesus are also comforted by our Savior.  As we sang earlier,Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.” Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother. As the hymn writer put it: Jesus! what a Help in sorrow! While the billows over me roll, Even when my heart is breaking, He, my Comfort, helps my soul.  Or, as another familiar hymn reminds us: What a friend we have in Jesus!
  
But not only does God comfort us as our compassionate heavenly Father, and our merciful and faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ, but also the Holy Spirit comforts us. One of the names for the Holy Spirit is – as you may recall from the King James translation of John 14:26 – “The Comforter” (John 14:26, KJV). Other versions translate “Comforter” as “Advocate” and “Helper”, which indeed the Holy Spirit is.
 
When the disciples were concerned that Jesus was talking about leaving them, for Jesus was speaking of the ascension, He went on to assure them that when He left them physically, ascending into heaven, He would send the Holy Spirit who would comfort, guide, convict and encourage them (John 14:16-20; 16:5-16). As such, He is an unfathomable blessing to all who are indwelt by Him, as He gives new life through faith in Christ alone, since God has set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22).
 
No wonder the apostle reminds us that it is God who comforts the downcast! No matter what has you down, and no matter how far down you may be in the pit of despondency, you can go to our triune God and find that He is indeed the God of all comfort.
        
Go to Him in prayer, go to the precious promises of His Word, cling to the portrayal of His love as portrayed in the sacraments. And also, when you are down, don’t separate yourself from other believers. Rather, rejoice that God often uses people to be the means of His encouragement when we are downcast.
 
That was the case with the Apostle Paul. In verse 6 and 7 he tells how he was comforted by the coming of Titus. And Titus, in turn, had been comforted by his visit to Corinth. It is a reminder that comfort is a two-way street. When we are downcast it is a great blessing to have others comfort us and encourage us. But we are, in turn, to comfort and encourage others just as we have been comforted and encouraged by them.
 
We also see that in verse 13 where the apostle writes: In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.
 
And it is worth noting that often it is the little things in life that are the most comforting. A phone call, a hand-written note, a word of encouragement, the promise of prayer – all these so-called “little things” mean so much to others, and they mean even so much more to those who are downcast.
 
God is the source of all comfort. Every person of the Godhead – of the Trinity – comforts those who are downcast and look to Him. But He also uses His people – people like you and people like me to be of great comfort to others.
 
A Message of Sorrow
 
But this passage reminds us that there are other times where, instead of bringing comfort, we must bring sorrow to others in order to lead them to repentance. In verse 8 the apostle writes: even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it though I did regret it – I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while – yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow lead you to repentance.
 
Commentators are divided as to which letter Paul is referring to. Some commentators believe that there was another letter which was not included in the canon of Scripture which is being referred to here. Many other commentators believe that he is referring to his first letter to the Corinthians.  I tend to believe that it was the first letter to the Corinthians that he is referring to, but the point that he is making would apply to any letter that speaks the truth in love and addresses unrepentant sin in someone's life.
 
Many of the people in the church at Corinth had opposed the Apostle Paul in his ministry. False teachers had resisted the apostle and turned many of the church members against him. And in the church at Corinth blatant public sin was not addressed. For instance, in the first letter to the Corinthian church the apostle admonished the church leaders because there was a man in the church who was sleeping with his father’s wife – his stepmother – and the leaders of the church did nothing about it.
 
When there is obvious sin in someone's life, a letter can be an effective way to encourage them to turn from the sinful way that they are in. But if there is no response, then another letter is needed, a letter that clearly spells out the peril that they are in because of their refusal to turn from their sinful ways and repent of their conduct.
 
And that was the case in Corinth.  Because of obvious sin within the church the Apostle Paul was forced to write a letter that he really did not want to write, and yet we can be sure that he spoke the truth in love in that letter. But often the truth hurts. That was the case with the Corinthians. The letter Paul wrote that hurt them as it clearly pointed out their sins to them.
 
It had been a very hard letter to write. In verse 8, Paul describes how initially he regretted having to write the letter. Yet he knew it had to be written in order to warn those in the church who were not living as they ought. They needed to repent and turn from the way of life they were in. And by God's grace and convicting Spirit, that is exactly what the people at Corinth did. In verse 9 the apostle describes how he was happy after writing that letter not because (the Corinthians) were made sorry, but because (their) sorrow lead to repentance.
 
Most of us would much rather write a note of encouragement than to write a letter of warning, admonishing someone about their conduct. Yet both letters are necessary. We need to encourage the downcast and we need to warn those who are not living the life that they should be living as professing Christians.  It is of such importance that Jesus gives us specific steps to confront those who have sinned against us (Matthew 18:15-17).
 
The purpose of warning others is not to put them down, or to embarrass them. The admonishment is motivated by love, a loving concern that unless the person changes their conduct, they face the righteous and eternal judgment of God. Admonishing those who refuse to repent is necessary also for the glory of God and the purity of His bride, the true church.
 
Godly Sorrow Leading to Repentance
 
Although it was very painful for the apostle Paul to write this letter of admonishment, he rejoiced to see that it had the desired effect. It brought true godly sorrow which leads to repentance. Did you notice, by way of application, that verse 10 describes two types of sorrow? Verse 10 tells us, Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
 
Worldly sorrow focuses on oneself; worldly sorrow includes sorrow over the consequences of being caught in sin. For instance, when Cain killed his brother Abel he was concerned about the earthly consequences. He was concerned that others would take revenge upon him. He was concerned that when the sin of murder was known to others his own life would be in jeopardy. But he showed no remorse that his sin would cause the Redeemer – the eternal Christ – to suffer and die to make atonement for sin.
 
By contrast, consider David's repentance after Nathan the prophet revealed to him the enormity of his sin, when he sinned with Bathsheba and arranged for the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite. He recognized that he sinned against God. He was filled with godly sorrow as he realized the grief that his sin was to the Lord. In the 51st Psalm he confessed – even though he knew his sin affected Bathsheba, Uriah and ultimately all of Israel – Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when you speak and blameless when You judge (Psalm 51:4 NASB).
 
Cain and David both committed murder. Cain had a worldly sorrow that led to death, not just physical death, but to God’s eternal and just punishment for unrepentant sin. The death that verse 10 speaks about refers to eternal separation from God, for death denotes separation. By contrast, David, although also guilty of murder, had a godly sorrow that led to true repentance and salvation.
 
And how do we know that? How do we know if our repentance is real? How can we differentiate whether we have a worldly sorrow that leads to death and judgment or godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation?
 
The Fruit of Repentance
 
One of the ways that we know whether our repentance is real is by our conduct. True repentance is evident by its fruit. We see that in verse 11 which says, See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
 
When that verse says that at every point the Corinthians proved themselves innocent in this matter, it doesn't mean that they denied their sin. Rather, they cleared themselves by repenting and trusting in Christ alone, and thus proved their repentance by their actions.
 
Their indignation was not directed at Paul, but at themselves. As they saw themselves portrayed in the letter of admonishment, they were alarmed at their condition. They longed to be conformed more after Christ. They had deep concern over their wayward conduct. Those who had authority in the church were eager to see that justice was done, that godly sorrow and true repentance for sin was evident within the congregation.
 
In those ways their repentance bore fruit. To repent comes from the word “to turn.” True repentance causes us to turn from sinful conduct and to earnestly strive to live according to God’s Word. True repentance, just like true faith, is evident by its fruit. In Luke 3:8 John the Baptist tells people to “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” ­
 
Because we remain sinners until the day that we die, the fruit – the evidence – of our repentance, just like the evidence of our faith, is far from perfect. Yet the way someone conducts their life does reveal whether true godly sorrow for sin is in their heart. That is part of the reason why Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20; 12:33).
 
In the ultimate sense, only God knows His own.  Because of that, there will be surprises in heaven, and certainly there will be surprises as to who is in hell. Yet, to a large degree, we do know by our conduct, and the conduct of others, whether repentance is God centered – a godly sorrow, or self-centered sorrow brought on because of the consequences of sinful actions.
 
When a child hits his brother, and then is admonished by his parents, he will say “I’m sorry.” But if he goes right back to hitting his brother you know that he's only sorry about the consequences of being punished by his parents. His conduct will show that his repentance was only on his lips and not in his heart. And the same principle is at work with people of every age. As we look at our conduct in the mirror of God's word we must see the fruit of repentance. It will not be perfect fruit. It will have its share of soft spots, spoilage, bruises and other imperfections, but the fruit must be there.
 
God’s Gracious Work of Conversion
 
The reason why the fruit of repentance is so crucial is that repentance and saving faith in Christ alone are part of God’s gracious conversion process which leads to joy, even amid sorrow and trouble.
 
Maybe you noticed in the last part of verse 9 how it says, for you became sorrowful as God intended. Instilling an attitude of repentance within us is part of God’s grace. It is part of His will for His people. We see that also in verse 10 which denotes God’s activity in our repentance. The New American Standard Bible translates verse 10 this way: 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.
 
As God wills salvation for His people He uses both repentance and faith to mold and shape us after His will, to mold and shape us after the likeness of Jesus Christ. Those two actions, repentance and faith, are linked together and equal conversion. They are both evidence of God’s grace at work in our lives, and both repentance and faith affect our conduct.
 
We see that in Romans 1:5 where the Apostle writes: …We received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for His name's sake. And in Acts 26:20 he declares: “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”
 
And when we prove our repentance by our deeds – when we live that life of obedience – we find true joy, even amid trouble and sorrow.  - Although this chapter addresses the seriousness of sin and the challenge of confronting sinners with their sin, it also speaks of joy, delight and happiness. Five times in this passage Paul writes about joy, delight and happiness. And the reason why is that when we repent of our sin, and live by faith, then, and only then, do we find real joy.
 
There is great biblical truth in the familiar hymn by John H. Sammis:
 
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His Word,
what a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.  
 
 
* * *
 
Have you and have I repented of our sin? Have we experienced that godly sorrow which leads to repentance? And do you know, and do I know, the blessed assurance of saving faith in Jesus that our sins are covered by His precious blood, removed from us as far as the east is from the west, remembered for judgment no more?
 
If not, today is the day of salvation. The opportunity to repent and believe is put before each one of us. No matter how grievously we have sinned, forgiveness is freely offered when we come to Jesus Christ with a godly sorrow for our sin and sincere faith in His power to forgive us and in His willingness to forgive us.
 
And, if by God’s grace and enabling Spirit you have repented of your sins, and if you trust in Jesus alone for salvation this morning, then continue day by day to “Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Amen!
 
____
 
Bulletin Outline:
 
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10
 
“Godly Sorrow and the Joy of Salvation”
2 Corinthians 7:2-16
 
I.  This passage teaches us:
      1) Life holds many sorrows – conflicts on the outside, fears within (5)
 
 
 
 
      2) God comforts the downcast (6) and often uses His people in the process (7, 13b-16)
 
 
 
 
      3) At times, instead of bringing comfort, we must bring sorrow to others to lead them to repentance (8-10)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Worldly sorrow includes sorrow over the consequences of being caught in sin; it leads to death and judgment. Godly sorrow involves grief that our sin
         led Jesus to the cross and is grievous in His sight. Godly sorrow leads to repentance and salvation (10)
 
 
 
 
     2) True repentance is evident by its fruit (11; Luke 3:8)
 
 
 
 
     3) Repentance and saving faith in Christ are part of God’s gracious conversion and sanctification process (Romans 1:5; Acts 26:20), which leads to
         joy, (4d, 7, 9, 13b, 16) even amid sorrow and trouble



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 03/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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