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A Midweek Devotional - Godly Grief

Is there a place in the Christian life for mourning over sin? What is that place, and is it appropriate for our mourning to linger? Zechariah 12-13 will speak into these questions. We’ll go there on Sunday, but for now, let’s look to the New Testament for guidance.

Wednesday, August 25th

Larger Portion of Scripture - 2 Corinthians 7:2-16

Focused Passage for Reflection - 2 Corinthians 7:10

Reflecting on the Text:

Do you know the sting of sin? I’m talking about that sting that comes when the realization of what you’ve done comes washing over you? Does your face go flush? Is there a pang in your heart? I assume you know this sting I am describing. We all do because at one time or another we’ve all had to come face to face with our failures. But here is the better question: What is behind that sting?

Do you feel the sting of sin because you got caught? Is it because someone found out that you are not who they thought you were? Is it because you found out that you are not who you thought you were? Or, could it possibly be something more…something Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 7:10 as godly grief?

In this chapter, Paul describes godly grief as a sweet grace. He actually rejoices over it! But why? Does that sound callous to you? Well, it depends on why Paul is rejoicing, and the text tells us that he rejoices because of what the godly grief produces in the person who experiences it. Paul tells us that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation.” Elsewhere in Scripture, it is described as repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).

It’s not that Paul wants the Corinthians (or us) to wallow in the muck of their sin. He takes no delight in their sorrow or their experience of the sting of sin. He delights in where their grief takes them. Their grief takes them to the One who died on their behalf. Their grief takes them to the point of calling on the name of the Lord for salvation. And no one calls on the name of the Lord unless they are experiencing a need for salvation. That need comes when we come face to face with our sin.

This is godly grief, and it is good because our God removes it through our union in Christ. It is the opposite of the worldly grief Paul describes. That worldly grief only produces death. It is the sting of failure, with a focus solely on self. Those suffering from worldly grief are not broken-hearted over what their sin cost Jesus. They are only brokenhearted over what it is has cost their reputation. It is a sting for which there is no balm. There is only death.

So which is it? What is behind your sting? Self reputation or a desire for the glory and holiness of God? If your sting is a godly grief then it is a sweet grace, brought about only by the work of the Holy Spirit. And that means it is temporal. Jesus has already dealt with it, making atonement for it on the cross. His desire is not for you to wallow in the muck but to be free to love and enjoy Him as you grow more and more in His image. So let go of the sting. In its place, cling to the One who willingly, lovingly took it in your place.

Questions for personal reflection:

  • Do you have a place in your theology for continual repentance…for a life of repentance?

  • When you hear the word “repentance” do you think of shame, or do you think of freedom? If you think shame, please reach out to your pastor or elders and process this with one of us.

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