7 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Paul’s Joy Over the Church’s Repentance
2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
In this chapter, the focus seems to have changed and Paul is encouraging the Corinthians in how they have repented. Let me share a story I read today.
There is an unverifiable story about President Aaron Burr’s granddaughter, who gave her heart to Jesus Christ at an evangelistic meeting. After the meeting, she reportedly went home and said to her grandfather, “I wish you were a Christian, too.” He replied, “When I was a young man, I went to an evangelistic meeting. I felt my need of God’s mercy and forgiveness and knew that I should give my heart to Christ, but I walked out without doing it. I stood under the stars and looked toward heaven and said, ‘God, if you don’t bother me any more. I’ll never bother you.’ Honey, God kept His part of that bargain. He has never bothered me. Now it is too late for me to bother Him.” How tragic that this man misunderstood the heart of God and refused to surrender to Him.
God has created each of us, hardwired us, to be able to experience God-given sorrow, which is designed to lead us into real heart-felt repentance that results in lasting changes in our hearts and minds. Paul’s point is that being depressed or sorrowful alone doesn’t accomplish any lasting changes in a person. Peter and Judas contrast this perfectly. Peter wept and was sorry that he had denied Jesus, and as a result, he truly repented; on the other side, Judas was sorry and depressed that he betrayed Jesus, but instead of repenting, he tried to turn off the pain by suicide. Real repentance yields a desire to turn away from the sin and restore a personal relationship with God.
The Greek word translated “repent” means “to change the mind or purpose.” The Greek word translated here as “regretted” means “to carry a burden of sorrow over the past.” One word promises a change in the future while the other just promises despair. Peter repented but Judas regretted. The Apostle Paul warns that there is a “sorrow of the world [that] produces death.” This is not godly sorrow, only remorse or regret, which was the sorrow Judas experienced. And it did lead to his death. Missionary Oswald Chambers profoundly describes the difference with this warning: “Never mistake remorse for repentance; remorse simply puts a man in hell while he is on earth.”
Today, this is a good reminder and challenge for all of us. We have all done things that we have wished we wouldn’t have. Are we sitting here remorseful with this gut-wrenching guilty feeling like we have totally blown it with God? This is not from God. He just wants you to repent and focus your eyes on Him. He has already forgiven whatever you did on the cross. We need to understand that we are flawed and we will make mistakes and we simply need to believe and accept this forgiveness.
God I know I make mistakes and go against Your will. But thank you that your love is unending and unconditional. Thank you for forgiving me way back when Jesus died for me and everyone reading here right now. Help me to fully accept this forgiveness and not live in remorse, but rather help me learn from my mistakes and help me turn away from sin. In the name of Jesus, amen.