Sorrowful unto Repentance

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 12:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Very Best Friend.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 7:2-13a (NASB).

Make Room for Us (vv. 2-4)

Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.

When we serve God as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we share with others the truths of God’s Word, there will always be people who will not like us, and who will slander us and gossip about us, and even turn away from us, because they don’t like something we said, hopefully only for the reason that we told them the truth, and they didn’t want to hear it.

“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

The sad reality of it all, though, is that those who reject the gospel message, and who slander its messengers, are not confined to just those outside the church, but they are often, more than not, those who claim to know Jesus as Lord of their lives, and who are active within the gatherings of the church, some of whom are even the church’s leaders. More and more – as so much of the church today has embraced the world and its philosophies, values, and morals – many of those who profess Christ have now developed a low tolerance for the truth, and would prefer, rather, to gather around them those who would preach feel-good messages to tickle their itching ears.

I Don’t Regret It (vv. 5-9)

For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.

When we speak the truth of God’s words to people, even if we do so with great gentleness, and sensitivity, yet in the power of the Spirit of God, there will always be those who will hate us, reject us, falsely accuse us, persecute us and say all manner of evil against us. And, if we are loving and caring people at all, this will hurt us, especially if those who turn against us were once our close friends and companions. Thus, it can be very lonely, at times, sharing with people what most of them do not want to hear. Yet, that is what Jesus did, which is why they killed him. Still, our Lord will never leave us or forsake us, and he will give us all we need to keep on sharing the truth. He will encourage our hearts, and he will fill us with his peace.

So many times, if you are one who speaks the truth in love, in the power and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, you will be accused of being hateful, bigoted, a divider of people, a disunifier, legalistic, and mean. People will even think you get enjoyment out of hurting others or that you are callous and that you don’t care how others react to your words. There are people like this, I know, so partly this is understandable that people may react this way. Yet, if we truly love God and others, and thus we speak only what God leads us to speak, and for the ultimate benefit of those who would listen, our purpose in speaking the truth in love is not to harm others, but to help them to victory in Christ over sin, which has gotten a hold on their lives once more, or to free them from believing and/or practicing what is false.

So, it isn’t that we are insensitive, or that we are callous and we don’t care about what we say or how that may impact others, but it is that we love so deeply that we are willing to have others think and speak evil against us in order to see people repent of their sins and turn (or return) to genuine faith in Jesus Christ and to walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh.

Godly Sorrow (vv. 10-13a)

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 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. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. For this reason we have been comforted.

Not all sorrow over sin leads to genuine repentance, though. Confession of sin is not the same as repentance. A person can confess with great sorrow of heart his or her sins, and even with tears, and yet never change, because there has not been a change of heart. They just felt badly that they sinned, or that they got caught, but not badly enough to turn away from it and to follow Jesus in obedience, instead. So, that is considered worldly sorrow, and it leads to death (in our sins and bound for eternity in hell).

On the other hand, godly sorrow leads to genuine repentance, i.e. to a change of heart and mind about sin that results in a change of behavior, and this leads to salvation and eternal life with God. True repentance involves turning away from sin and turning to God to follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. And, it reveals itself to be genuine by the actions that follow the confession of sin, i.e. we are to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8). What this means is that, as we walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh, we will be putting to death, by the Spirit, the misdeeds of our sinful flesh (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Daily we will die to sin and self and follow Jesus in obedience (Lu. 9:23-25), not in sinless perfection, but in consistency, persistence and in lifestyle.

So, for those of us who regularly share the gospel of salvation and the truths of God’s Word with others, for their benefit, and for their deliverance, and for their spiritual growth and maturity in Christ, we find great joy and comfort when we learn that those to whom we speak (or write) are being benefited, in that the Word of Truth and the Holy Spirit’s power is producing change in their hearts and lives. And, in that we rejoice!

And, yet, even if we do not gain such knowledge in this life, and even if we must suffer false accusations, hostility, rejection, persecution, and the like, because we share the truth of the Word of God so that others will be saved, or so that they will walk in victory over sin, we will continue, because we know that we are obeying our Lord, and because we love God and we love people, and we want to see them come to Christ and to walk in his holiness.

Thus, we will find our comfort in the Lord in knowing that his Word will not return void, but will accomplish his purposes for which it is sent. And, we will find in him all we need in the way of friendship, companionship, love and fellowship, and we will trust him to provide for us all that we need, and all that he has for us to keep on being his servants and witnesses in spreading the gospel of our salvation so that many will be saved and will walk with Him.

My Very Best Friend
Ron Hamilton – Patch the Pirate

Jesus is closer than a brother.
Every moment he is near.
I know he never will forsake me.
He has conquered all my fear.
Jesus is closer than a brother.
On his love I can depend.
King of kings, Lord of lords,
Conquering Son, oh, all of these,
He’s my very best friend.

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