Guilt. We all have felt it. We all have done something we quickly regretted and felt guilty about it but is there a good guilt and a bad guilt? A godly guilt and a worldly guilt? The Bible tells us that yes there is a difference.
So the bible clearly teaches us that there is a sorrow that is according to the will of God. What does this sorrow look like? Well it first produces repentance which leads to salvation. Repentance is the act by which we realize we have offended a Holy and Righteous God so we turn from our sins, begging God for forgiveness and we turn to Him and His ways. Repentance is always focused on our sin’s offensive attack on God and our desire to make that right. That focus is what separates godly sorrow from worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow is guilt over sin, guilt over offending and hurting God. Worldly sorrow is focused on us, it is feeling guilty because we got caught, because someone is going to think less of us or differently than the image we want to cast of ourselves or because our lust was left unfilled. It is a sorrow that is focused totally on our hurt, on how we have been offended and not treated fairly. Godly sorrow however ignores the offense of self and instead focuses on how God has been offended. Godly sorrow leads us to such a strong desire to make our sin right and to receive forgiveness from God that we commit to salvation with no regrets. How can we choose to follow Christ, forsaking self and our old way of life so quickly without any regrets? Simply because we have realized just how horrible our offense against God was and horrible His justice against that sin will be.
The Bible goes on in verse 11 of 2 Corinthians to show us in detail what godly sorrow looks like in the life of a believer,
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.
The first fruit or evidence that one has experienced and responded to godly sorrow over sin is earnestness in the life of the believer. Earnestness simply means to eagerly and aggressively pursue righteousness. It is a total change of attitude about sin. No longer is it seen as something that is justifiable or acceptable but rather our desire is to stay as far away from it as possible and to make every effort to purse righteousness. Our hearts desire is not to see how close to sin we can get without crossing the line but how close to Christ we can get. A person that has truly experienced the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation has a genuine desire to grow in personal righteousness and to be more and more molded into the image of Christ.
The second evidence is vindication of ourselves, or simply stated the desire to clear yourself. We no longer desire to hide our sin but to get it washed clean. The temptation with sin is always to hide it, to keep it from those around you and in some ways we think that we can keep it from God, this however is of course foolish. Nothing can be kept from God and by hiding the sin we are simply continuing in it and prolonging our attack against God. The person who has experienced godly sorrow instead wants that sin cleansed from his life, he wants it as far gone as the east is from the west and the only way to do that is to bring it before God and repent of it.
The third evidence is indignation, the anger at sin. I already mentioned that salvation changes our attitude towards sin and it is made even clearer here. The person who has experienced salvation doesn’t just think sin is wrong because there told to, no they have a hatred for sin. Even as we continue to struggle in our lives and commit sins we are to find ourselves hating those sins, not keeping them around as pet sins. We are to hate sin because God hates sin, because it is that very sin, the specific one that we just committed that called the King of Heaven to come down and die on a cross. It is our sin that killed the Son of God and therefore any friendship with sin is simply treason against our High King.
The fourth evidence is fear. Fear of what? The wrath of God. I would define the fear of God as a reverence towards God because of His character and a fear of God because of His wrath. To often our modern society has attempted to recreate God as nothing more than a Santa Claus like figure, jolly, judging good and bad but pretty much everyone ends up as good and good old Santa simply winks and ignores our bad acts. God however is much more just than that. Every sin is answered for. His wrath must be satisfied and that is fearful thing because the wrath of God is more horrible than we really care to imagine. The good news is that Christ satisfied that wrath on the Cross if we chose to trust Him by faith our sins are all forgiven.
The fifth evidence is longing. Longing or yearning is simply that inward desire to be in perfect fellowship with God. If we have experienced godly sorrow which lead us to salvation then it should be our greatest desire to be in full fellowship with God, with nothing between us and the Savior. Sin’s are quickly cast off and repented of so that our sweet fellowship with God is not compromised.
The sixth evidence is zeal. Zeal, its whats lacking in the lives of most Christians. If we have truly been forgiven of our sins and redeemed by Christ then we should have a driving passion to love Him, serve Him and live for Him. Apathy is the mark of a person who has experienced religion not Christ.
The last evidence is the avenging of wrong. No longer are we satisfied with even getting away with sinning against someone, no we must make it right. All wrongs must be made right. Even if it requires us apologizing to someone, returning stolen items, paying for something, looking foolish or whatever we simply must make it right.
All of these evidences lead us to “being innocent in the matter”. Not innocent in the sense that we did not commit the offense but innocent in the sense that Christ bled, suffered and died for our offense so that it has not been hidden but cleansed. Gone forever. This is what makes godly sorrow different, it leads to total freedom from guilt, victory in the Cross. It can be easy for even those that have put their faith in Christ to view sin and guilt from the world’s self-centered perspective but our new man should not be focused on self but on God. Let us quickly repent, hate and fight against our sin and strive to live zealously and pure for God.