Godly Sorrow

Are you overweight? As in my case, the answer may depend on when you ask. I know just what to do to get my weight where it ought to be, and sometimes I succeed. You know the secret as well as me. Don’t eat “junk” food. Eat the right food moderately. Good eating habits combined with even minimal exercise will, for most people, maintain a reasonable degree of fitness. Two things are in my favor. I enjoy exercise and I like good food. A meal of peas, greens and carrots, with a little cornbread to “sop it up,” appeals to me. Most any kind of fruit is delicious and refreshing. Yet, alas, a major fault besets me. I also like the bad stuff hamburgers, French fries, candy bars and cake!

Now I can truthfully say that I enjoy eating those good healthy things more than the junk. If only I could somehow learn to detest hamburgers, develop a revulsion for ice cream and completely lose my appetite for cookies, chips and chocolate, the battle of the bulge could he won easily. The same applies to the much more serious matter of sin. Genuine repentance from sin involves more than just wanting to do what is right. We must also learn to hate the wrong!

One of the dangers of the current popularity of emphasizing the “positive” and toning down the “negative” in our preaching is that we may be persuaded to try embracing the good without learning to let go of the worldly. Most can appreciate the attributes of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. This is good fruit, the fruit of the Spirit There is, after all, no law against these (Gal 5:22-23). Oh, yes, I like good things. The hard part is learning to hate, detest and disdain evil. The devil will be very content with our love of the good as long as we retain an appetite for evil. In fact, we might even prefer that which is good, and Satan will be happy as long as we keep a little sin in, just for dessert.

Such a spiritual diet will not please God. For repentance to take effect, there must be a remorse, a grief over sin. When he agonized over sin, the Psalmist offered the “sacrifices” of “a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul wrote, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” He went on to note the effect that their godly grief for sin had had among the Corinthians: “For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what avenging!” (7:11). Godly sorrow over sin arises from the hatred of sin – hatred of its source, hatred of its end results. When we develop a true revolution for sin, there will be wrought within us sorrow for our transgressions which will compel us to repent. HOW DO WE LEARN TO HATE SIN?

We need information. Just as proper nutrition is not determined by our personal tastes, neither is right and wrong determined by our feelings and opinions. We must learn the will of God. David said: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Those who diligently study the word of God will “have their senses exercised to discern both and evil” (Heb 5:12-14).

The Bible not only defines sin, but is replete with information about its serious consequences. From the sin of Adam and Eve to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches us that every injustice, every slight, all suffering and all death can be traced directly or indirectly to sin. Sin breaks up families, ends friendships, extinguishes the bright promise of youth, reduces the old to hopeless cynicism. Sin damns souls for eternity. The only escape from sin was the price which had to be paid by the sinless Son of God. Surely, any serious contemplation of the cost of sin must make us hate every sinful act with desperation.

We need transformation. Romans 12:1-2 concisely states the whole process we are discussing. Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Repentance is a turn-around, a change of heart. There must be, not mere reformation of action, but transformation of mind. When, out of that transformed mind, we learn to hate sin for what it is and what it does, we will come to recoil in penitent grief at its slightest touch. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Rom 12:9). — By Tom Moody

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