1. Text: 2 Cor. 7:9–11.
  2. It makes sense that if we are to come back to God we must turn away from the sins that have separated us from God.
  3. The Bible calls this “repentance” — it is a radical commitment to turn away from our sins.
  4. But what would move a person to do this? Only godly sorrow is a sufficient force. The gospel is for the penitent.
  5. In 2 Cor. 7:9–11, consider the grief that was produced when Paul pointed out the sins of the Corinthian brethren.

I. The First Response to the Gospel Is Grief

  1. The text of 2 Cor. 7:9–11 may make us uncomfortable — in an age when “feeling good” outranks every other value, we may not like the fact that the truth of God produces grief and brokenheartedness. That is not what most people want.
  2. Yet if the gospel is about redemption from our sins, we aren’t ready for what the gospel offers until we see our sins for what they are and grieve them in a godly way — the gospel is not good news until we have fully accepted the bad news.
  3. Granted, some people may have been grieving their sins before they encountered Jesus Christ (and were therefore eager to receive His good news of forgiveness) — but for most people, the first task of the gospel is to break their hearts, get them out of their denial, and convince them of their need for forgiveness. Cf. Felix in Ac. 24:25.
  4. Even after becoming Christians, there will be many occasions for this emotions called godly sorrow — e.g. Jas. 4:8–10.

II. Godly Sorrow

  1. Two pictures of godly sorrow. 
    1. Lk. 18:9–14 — the Pharisee and the tax collector.
    2. Lk. 7:36–50 — the sinful woman in Simon’s house.
  2. In godly sorrow, we . . . 
    1. Face the facts, willing to deal rightly with the reality of our past. We must own our past and grieve it properly.
    2. See the seriousness of our own sins — Ac. 9:8,9.
    3. Grieve our sins in a godly way — rather than with worldly sorrow. Cf. Psa. 51:3,4.
    4. See ourselves as we really are — we accept the full, painful truth about being the kind of person who would do what we’ve done. (And see that what needs to change is us — our innermost heart — not just our external behavior.)
    5. See our lost condition — helpless and hopeless.
    6. Take the blame and accept full responsibility — no rationalizations, no excuses, no self-pity. Accountability.
    7. Are willing to accept the (fair and even unfair) consequences of our sin, including punishment.
    8. Are willing to accept the Lord’s chastening — Hb. 12:7–11.
  3. It is interesting to note who the people were whom Jesus welcomed and those who were turned away. Cf. John the Baptist’s preaching in Mt. 3:7,8.
    1. It was not the poor, the underprivileged, or the oppressed (unless they came with godly sorrow for their sins).
    2. These social statuses meant little to Jesus unless those in these conditions came penitently — seeking His forgiveness with godly sorrow.
    3. If they came with this attitude, they were welcomed — but no more than people from any other status who came with the same penitence.
    4. Jesus was looking for those who saw their need for forgiveness, regardless of their external circumstances.
    5. In the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3–6), the blessed are “the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
    6. To people whose hearts were not broken by sorrow for their own sins, Jesus had little to offer.
  4. Grief for our sins is the yearning that should bring us to Christ — Ac. 2:36–38. Cf. Ac. 9:6–9; 22:16.

III. What Happens Without Godly Sorrow

  1. If we come to Christ without godly sorrow: 
    1. There is no real conversion to Christ — Ac. 2:37,38; 3:19.
    2. There is no real humility.
    3. There is no love or gratitude for grace (and hence no motivation to faithfulness).
    4. There is no repentance.
    5. There is no evangelism.
  2. Consider David’s godly sorrow for his sins — Psa. 32:1–5; 51:1–4,7–13.


  1. Nowadays, the purpose of the gospel is often perverted. 
    1. No longer do people understand it to be about the remission of sins and the restoration of a right relationship with God — no wonder godly sorrow and repentance are left out of modern preaching.
    2. Nevertheless, the gospel is what it is. (In Jesus’ day, as now, the call of the gospel for repentance sounded “negative” to many of His hearers, and they rejected it.)
    3. Godly sorrow grieves the treachery we have committed against God — and it alone produces the repentance that leads to salvation — 2 Cor. 7:10.
    4. The gospel is the most positive good news the world has ever heard, but it produces the joy of forgiveness only when a person is willing to experience the sorrow that leads to repentance.
    5. The gospel gives us a new beginning, nothing short of a “new birth,” but the new life comes only after a conversion that is bathed in bitter tears. “Repentance is not a fatal day when tears are shed, but a natal day when, as a result of tears, a new life begins” (Ilion T. Jones).
  2. What about you? Have you faced the seriousness of your own sins?
  3. Do you understand your need to be saved from your sins? Cf. “What must I do to be saved?” (Ac. 16:30).
  4. Does it not grieve you to know that you have broken the heart of God, your Father?
  5. Are you ready — based on sorrow for your sins — to commit yourself to repentance and a new life in Christ?
  6. Are you ready — seeing the seriousness of your sins — to spend the rest of your life in gratitude for God’s grace?

Gary Henry — +

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