Godly Sorrow

What to do about sin

We all have sin in our lives. The closer we draw to God, the more we see the subtleties of our sin. God knows we sin. It is no secret to Him. He sent His Son to bear the punishment of our sin, and for that, we are very grateful.

Though we are saved by grace, we still sin! Ugh! What should we do? One thing for certain is that in reading the pages of the Bible which reveal to us our New Covenant with Christ, the writers in no way have a casual outlook of sin. There are no verses expressing the sentiment, “Oh well. I am a sinner. I guess there is nothing I can do about it.” We find the very opposite to be true. God does expect us to do something about our sin. In no way are we to adopt a casual, lackadaisical attitude about the sin in our life.

The writer of Hebrews admonishes the readers by proclaiming, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). Yup. That’s me. Never mind shedding blood in my effort to stop sinning, I wonder sometimes if I am even breaking a sweat! I am not striving against my sin to that point. Not even close. But, strive I must, and so must we all.

All Sin is Against God

In our striving against sin, we need to recognize our sin is against God, first and foremost. We snub the God of the Universe. We offend our Creator. We ignore His commands of obedience.

Psalm 51 is very instructive. King David writes the Psalm after Nathan the prophet came to him to expose David’s sin. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and made sure her husband, Uriah, died in battle. David writes:

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin. 
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
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 51:1-4)

Notice David does not mention the evil he did to Uriah nor the wrongful authority he exerts over Bathsheba. Yes, David sins against them, but primarily, David’s sin is against God. God makes the laws. It is God’s law which says do not murder or commit adultery. David breaks God’s laws.

When we sin, we need to ask ourselves if we are sorry that we got caught, or sorry and now feel badly about ourselves and what we did. Most important, are we sorry that we offend God? Do we regret the fact that we think our ways are better than His? Are we like David, crying out to God for mercy for sinning against Him and doing evil in His sight? Does it grieve our heart that sin affects our relationship with our Father in heaven?

Do we have sorrow for our sin?

Evidence of Godly Sorrow of Sin

We may say yes, I am sorrowful about my sin, but is there evidence of godly sorrow? Godly sorrow is genuine. It is sorrow that is in the heart of a believer. Godly sorrow is different than sorrow that unbelievers experience (worldly sorrow).

The Apostle Paul commends the church in Corinth for exhibiting godly sorrow for their sin. In writing to them, he lists off the evidence he sees in their life that demonstrates that their sorrow is genuine and Spirit-led. Read what Paul writes:

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. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11)

Questions to ask ourselves

Reading 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 suggests questions that we need to ask ourselves. The answers to the questions help let us know if we have godly or worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to life. Worldly sorrow leads to spiritual death. Our pursuit of joy requires us to honestly assess whether we are comfortable in the “easy chair of sin” or whether we desire to find joy in being conformed to the image of Christ.

  • Godly sorrow leads us away from sin (repentance that leads to salvation). Worldly sorrow lacks repentance (leads to spiritual death). Are you repenting? Are you striving to walk away from sin by taking action? How? In what ways? What tangible evidence of repentance do others see in your life?
  • Godly sorrow produces earnestness (serious and sincere desire to change). How much effort are you putting into trying to change your ways? Are you sincere in repenting?
  • Sorrow over sin is concerned with clearing ourselves of sin. What steps are you taking that demonstrate your concern to make yourself free of sinful ways? How are you ridding yourself of the filth of sin?
  • Godly sorrow is indignant (outraged) and finds sin offensive. Do you find your sin makes you angry and outraged enough that it leads to repentance? Are you angry about your sin, or are you only angry about the sin of others?
  • Godly sorrow is fearful over the presence of sin. Does the presence of sin in your life bring alarm and concern that you are not acting Christlike? Does sin awaken holiness in your spirit like an alarm bell at the fire station?
  • Godly sorrow has a zeal to be holy. Do you have a sincere desire to be holy before God?
  • Godly sorrow shows in doing EVERYTHING NECESSARY to make things right. Can you stand before the throne of God and say with confidence that you are doing everything necessary to be like Christ?

Road to Maturity

David knows where to go when he sins. He goes to his knees. He appeals to the glory of God by asking God to be gracious, according to His lovingkindness. David asks God to be compassionate and blot out his transgressions. He says, “Wash me, Lord!”

David doesn’t only desire to be washed clean. He desires to be mature. Toward the end of Psalm 51, David asks,

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit. 
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You. 
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness,
O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. (Psalm 51:12-14)

True Christian maturity results in finding joy in God’s salvation and a willingness to be holy. Christian maturity is not “giving up” sin like giving up chocolate.  Maturity is to happily and willingly toss sin aside like the stinky diaper that it is. We don’t want to carry it around.

Maturity also is helping others see the need for godly sorrow and repentance. David’s vision is to teach transgressors about the greatness of following God’s ways and converting sinners into being holy children of God.

Christ paid for our sin, and He sent His Spirit to lead and guide us to maturity.  He deisres to help us, complete the work in us, and gives us the power to overcome sin.  A major aspect of becoming mature is to seek Him, pray for His help, and find joy in obedience.

Let’s not end our struggle against sin by only eliminating sin in our lives. Let’s struggle for the maturity of the Body of Christ, that collectively we become holy for the glory of God and the joy of our salvation!