“For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death.“ – Vs 10 NLT
It seems Paul had written a third letter to the Corinthian believers that we no longer have. He refers to it in this chapter. Evidently Paul had addressed a difficult topic in his letter that had brought sadness to his readers, because he wrote, “I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while” (Vs 8 NLT). We’re not sure what the content of that letter was, but it was strongly worded enough so that it caused the believers in Corinth to reconsider their ways and make changes to their behavior. “Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way” (Vs 9 NLT). Paul’s words, though hurtful, were in the end helpful. They caused his fellow believers to have to take stock of their lives and repent of their ways. His words caused sorrow in their lives, but that sorrow led then to seek repentance – to turn away from sin and seek salvation.
Sometimes that is how God works in our lives. Through His Word or the words of one of His messengers, He convicts us of sin and creates in us a sorrow for our actions. But at that point we still have a choice to make. We can wallow in our sorrow and sadness, or we can choose to turn away from our sin and seek salvation. We can choose to repent. In the Greek the word repent means “a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done.” It carries the idea of guilt, but with reformation. It is to change direction through changed behavior. Repentance includes reformation and restoration. We must come to God, confess our sin, turn from it, and then He restores us. He brings us salvation by saving us from our own sinfulness.
But if all we do is experience the guilt and the sorrow, it will produce nothing. There is not benefit. Paul says that kind of sorrow only leads to death. “But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death” (Vs 10b NLT). That’s worldly sorrow. It is a sorrow without benefits. It produces nothing of value – only death. But godly sorrow brings about effective change. “Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer. You showed that you have done everything you could to make things right” (Vs 11 NLT). Godly sorrow produced a positive response. They reacted, not with debilitating guilt and regret, but with positive steps of repentance and reformation. They did everything they could to make things right. They went from guilt to innocence. Instead of death, they experienced renewed life.
God is speaking to us daily through His word. He convicts and challenges us. He exposes areas of our lives that need to change. We can ignore His words. We can experience guilt because of them. But He wants our sorrow to lead to salvation. He wants our remorse to lead to repentance.
Father, thank You for the convicting power of Your word. It has so often challenged me and exposed areas of my life that need to change. Thank You that it brings about a sorrow, but a sorrow that leads to repentance, not just guilt and regret. You have given me the power to turn from my sin and to seek change. I can experience a sorrow that leads to repentance and reformation. I don’t have to remain as I am, but can become increasingly more what You want me to be. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men