For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret… ESV 2 Corinthians 7:10
Reading through the Old Testament, I’m struck at how often people found themselves trapped in sin, and then responded with fasting, mourning, tearing of their clothes, sitting in the dust, etc. Perhaps I’m struck more by the fact that as “New Testament Christians” we would never consider such actions for ourselves. Are we correct in this attitude? Why would I never consider such a drastic response as fasting and mourning when confronted with my sin?
To be sure, one of the beauties of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins and we already stand forgiven. Regardless of my actions, I remain a child of God. However, my own children often sin against me, and I often sin against God. Does the fact I’m already forgiven relieve me of any grief? Paul apparently didn’t think so. In line with Old Testament teaching, he indicated there is a godly grief that produces repentance. Perhaps when we quickly do a half-hearted, 1 John 1:9 prayer of confession, we fail to experience the godly grief that leads us to life-changing salvation. In my personal struggles with sin, I’ve really been considering this lately. The more I claim quick forgiveness without pondering the seriousness of my sin, the weight of the cross that purchased my salvation and the beauty of forgiveness, the more I actually sin. However, when I pause for a bit to learn from my grief, to consider that it took the death of the Son of God to accomplish my forgiveness, to realize God still loves me even as I run from Him, the more victory I find over sin.
May I encourage you to embrace godly sorrow over sin? The Holy Spirit will convict you in various ways as you sin, and instead of brushing it off, allow the sorrow to sit a while. Consider the true seriousness of your sin. Meditate on the power of the cross. Allow the godly sorrow God gives you to lead to a true repentance. This repentance leads to a salvation without regret–a salvation where we truly begin to sin less and live in holiness. Don’t live your Christian life constantly repeating the same sins. Allow godly sorrow to work a true life change in you. In this way, godly sorrow brings true joy.