[00:00:00] Our Lord, we cry to you and ask that you would hear our cries, that you would attend to us and all of our needs.
[00:00:08] For you are a loving God. Your love is steadfast. Your grace is steadfast. Your concern and care for us does not go up and down and shift and fade.
[00:00:22] You do not get tired. You do not get weary.
[00:00:27] O Lord, what a wonderful thing it is to turn to you our steadfast rock, our protection, and our fortress.
[00:00:36] Lord, we ask that you would bless us now as we come and to read more of your word and to hear it preached. We ask that you would be at work in our hearts and that you would bring us the faith and repentance that we all need. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
[00:00:57] Let's turn to God's word in two corinthians, chapter seven.
[00:01:01] Please remain standing if you're able.
[00:01:04] We'll hear God's word from two corinthians seven, beginning at verse two through the end of the chapter.
[00:01:14] You, it's let's hear God's word.
[00:01:30] Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one. We have corrupted no one. We have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together.
[00:01:47] I am acting with great boldness toward you. I have great pride in you. I'm filled with comfort in all our affliction. I am overflowing with joy.
[00:02:01] For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn, fighting without and fear within.
[00:02:12] But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you. And he has told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
[00:02:31] For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it, though I did regret it, for I see that the letter grieved you, though only for a while.
[00:02:41] As it is, I rejoice not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting, for you felt a godly grief so that you suffered no loss through us.
[00:02:55] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
[00:03:05] Foresee what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves. What indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal. What punishment? At every point, you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore, we are comforted, and besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. For just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus had been proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice because I have complete confidence in you.
[00:04:12] Amen. You may be seated at the beginning of this section.
[00:04:43] At the beginning of this section, Paul talks about how he's feeling.
[00:04:49] He says he is overflowing with joy.
[00:04:55] That's a powerful way to put it right, if you can think about the various times in your life in which you have been not just happy or joyful, but overflowing with joy, exuberant, full of energy and happiness in such a way that maybe it was hard to contain it.
[00:05:19] Maybe it was a present you received, a really special present from someone.
[00:05:25] Maybe it was hearing the good news that you don't have cancer.
[00:05:31] Maybe it was a job promotion that you had been looking for and longing for for a long time and working for. And now, finally, you got it, and you're calling all your friends, and you're calling your parents, and it's a good day.
[00:05:49] Paul's having a good day. When he talks about what's happening at this moment.
[00:05:56] He is overflowing with joy as he writes this letter to the Corinthians.
[00:06:03] Perhaps a fourth letter. We could say it's called second Corinthians. But as Paul mentions here, there are other things that have happened before.
[00:06:13] The letter that he talks about here in our passage, which describes the context for his joy. That letter in verse eight, when he says, for even if I made you grieve with my letter, he's talking about what scholars sometimes call the harsh letter. It's not a letter that we had, but it's a letter in which Paul sends to them for the purpose of correction. And we can tell from here, from this passage, and from other things going on in Corinth, that it must have been a pretty intense letter, right? How do we know it. Well, Paul says things that indicate it. He indicates that he wasn't entirely sure what would happen when they received the letter, although he was hoping and he had confidence and faith in God, that God would bring out good through it.
[00:07:05] He says that he grieved them with his letter, that on the one hand, he regrets it, but he also, he doesn't regret it, right? He means it in two different senses. On the one hand, he regrets it because he hates saying really hard things. Like most of us, we don't like confrontation. We don't like telling people the ways in which they're falling and sinning against the Lord. It's not something we rejoice in or enjoy.
[00:07:37] At the same time, he doesn't regret it because he knew what it was for. He knew its intended purpose, and it was for godly grief, godly grief that produced repentance, and repentance that produced life, salvation without regret.
[00:07:57] He was hoping for restoration between him and them, restoration through not just this letter, but also through this minister of the Gospel, Titus.
[00:08:09] Titus is coming into a very difficult situation.
[00:08:12] There's all kinds of doubts and murmurings and concerns about Paul. There's all kinds of sin going on in the church. Paul is frequently concerned about the churches that he plants, the works that he does, that they'll fall away, that they'll go astray. He says, oh, foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? He writes to these churches to encourage them, to warn them, but you sense in them his heart. He loves them. He's not just telling them this or that thing, this or that truth, but he's ministering to them the truth and the love of Christ.
[00:08:56] He loves them. He's concerned about them. And so Titus goes into this situation. He's being sent from, sent by Paul, and it turns out so well.
[00:09:10] Now, when Paul gets to Macedonia, he hasn't seen Titus yet. He tells us in verse five that his state of mind, right before the overflowing with joy, what is it? He comes to Macedonia, probably to meet Titus there. And this is his situation. Our bodies had no rest, and we were afflicted at every turn, fighting without and fear within.
[00:09:41] Have you ever been in an emotional state and a state in your circumstances where the overwhelm was so intense, so completely, so strong that you feel like your body can't even rest?
[00:10:05] Like when it's time for sleep, all you do is toss and turn. You sleep for 15 minutes. You wake up, you have a bad dream, you wake up, your stomach's churning, your chest is heavy.
[00:10:20] You can't rest.
[00:10:24] This is how Paul is feeling. It's how many saints of the Lord have felt at various times in their lives, times when they're so overcome with difficulties, both inside and outside, in their souls, in their bodies, in their circumstances, they don't know what they're going to do.
[00:10:46] Depression and anxiety, pushing, pressing, so intense. Paul finds himself in that situation here, feeling in this way.
[00:10:58] But then something happens, not just a thing, but as Paul puts it in verse six, an act of God.
[00:11:08] He says at the beginning of verse six, but God, well, what is it God does?
[00:11:16] He comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.
[00:11:26] Many times, God deals with our struggles by bringing people into our lives to help.
[00:11:38] Many times, God lifts up our souls, lets us have a good night's sleep. By surrounding us with people who bring help. God uses them.
[00:11:50] In Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus commends those who served him, who gave him water, drank, clothed him. And they say, when did we do this to you, Lord? And he said, well, when you did it to the least of these, it was, in a way, it's as though when we minister to the body of Christ, we are worshiping and praising God himself. In those actions, we are serving our Lord. And when we are ministered to by the body of Christ, it is though the Lord's own hand is upon us. It's Titus, of course, and it's also God, isn't it?
[00:12:36] That's how Paul understands it, and it's how we should understand God's work in the body of Christ. He uses us to bring comfort to one another, encouragement, strength, consolation, and sometimes confrontation.
[00:12:50] He uses us in the lives of one another in hard moments to bring about great blessings.
[00:13:01] He uses us, and he also blesses us with these same gifts, all to the glory of his name.
[00:13:11] Paul describes some more in verse seven. Exactly what happens.
[00:13:16] He says, not only by his coming, because Paul was worried. Where's Titus? I was supposed to meet Titus. Where is he? Where is he? Why isn't he coming? Not only does he arrive, which is great, but also Paul is comforted by the comfort with which he was comforted by you.
[00:13:38] It's a lot of comfort, right? And a lot of different parties it may be a little difficult to keep track of. Paul is comforted by the comfort with which Titus was comforted by the Corinthians.
[00:13:54] Or to put it more simply, as Paul goes on to say, titus, he told us, that is Paul and those he was with of the Corinthians'longing, mourning, and zeal for me. In other words, Titus comes back and he says, they love you, Paul.
[00:14:14] They're concerned about repentance.
[00:14:17] They're seeking forgiveness. They're walking in the newness of life. They're in Christ, and they're following him.
[00:14:25] The church is not falling apart, and not only is it not falling apart, but listen to how they acted. Listen to what they did when they repented. They were zealous in their repentance. They were longing for reconciliation and to find ways for healing. They had zeal for Titus instead of being angry at him because of his words, because of the harsh and difficult words he brought from Paul, instead of being mad and defiant. And how dare you tell us this? And who are you to say this or that thing? Instead, they received it and lived.
[00:15:10] They received it and loved, and they received it and were filled with thanks. They received it and turned. And things have resulted in so much goodness.
[00:15:24] They treated Titus so well. He comes to Paul, and he says, it was awesome.
[00:15:31] Paul's holding his breath, right? Wondering how this is all going to turn out. And Titus comes back. First he arrives, and then he has this great report. It went awesome, Paul.
[00:15:42] They heard. They repented. They turned. They loved, they encouraged. They comforted. They're full of zeal. They took care of me, and I want to communicate all of this with you.
[00:15:57] So no wonder Paul doesn't regret sending Titus. No wonder Paul doesn't regret sending his letter. In fact, in verse nine, we read, I rejoice not because you were grieved. Paul's intention isn't just to be mean and hurt and point fingers, but because you were grieved into repenting for you felt a godly grief so that you suffered no loss through us without confrontation.
[00:16:35] You don't get this.
[00:16:39] It's not always the right time to confront right. Jesus says in the sermon on the mount, before you go and take the speck out of your brother's eye, you might want to think about the big old log in your own eye.
[00:16:56] There's a time to overlook things. There's a time to prioritize and say, I think I need to just work on myself right now, and I'll entrust them to the Lord and to other people. There's a time for that. And there's a time to bring in godliness and in love confrontation to come in the name of the Lord. In the love of the Lord. In the service of the Lord, not with pride, ignoring a giant log in your eye, but in love, seeking to help a brother or a sister or even a community, a church of brothers and sisters, to heal.
[00:17:40] When we let sin, let's talk about, just on a personal level, when we fail to, let's say, confront ourselves about the logs and the other problems that we have.
[00:17:54] When we don't confront ourselves and when we don't confront sin in the body, there is danger in that.
[00:18:04] Sin is compared to leaven, which spreads like cancer, spreading and growing.
[00:18:13] Sometimes sin is compared to a hardening thing. When we let sin grow, when we refuse to confront sin in our lives, in our hearts, in those whom we love. Hebrews 312 through 13 talks about the deceitfulness of sin. We can grow hard. We can grow calloused. We can become even more of a danger to ourselves and to those who are around us.
[00:18:42] Hebrews 1211 reminds us that sometimes pain is required in order for healing and for restoration to happen. Sometimes the doctor has to get in there and clean out the wound before healing can happen again. Quoting Hebrews, we are reminded in God's word that discipline that is given by the Lord is given in love.
[00:19:09] Just as fathers discipline their children because they love them and want to keep them safe and protected from themselves and from other things, so too, the Lord disciplines us. It's an act of love.
[00:19:24] It's an act of neglect.
[00:19:26] It's an act of not loving. If we refuse to deal with those things which we ought not to overlook but ought to confront again whether this is in our own hearts or with love in the hearts of others.
[00:19:45] Well, Paul wisely here understands what's going on in Corinth, and he acts and look at what it produces in verses ten through 13.
[00:20:00] He gives us some really helpful categories here for thinking about repentance.
[00:20:07] What's supposed to result when we discover sin, no matter how small it is or how big it is, what's supposed to happen next?
[00:20:19] Well, he talks about what it means to repent, and he distinguishes worldly grief from godly grief, worldly repentance from godly repentance.
[00:20:32] Let's look at this for a minute.
[00:20:35] In verse ten, he says, godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret.
[00:20:43] Worldly repentance, or rather, worldly grief produces death.
[00:20:51] This is a striking contrast, I think. So if you imagine a line going down the middle, on one side, salvation without regret, and on the other side, not salvation with regret, but death.
[00:21:08] It's extreme, and it's true.
[00:21:12] Salvation without regret is piety. It's life, its zeal, its glory.
[00:21:20] It's looking at our sin and hating it and hating it not just for the consequences or the way it makes our lives bad or the way it hurts other people, but hating it for what it is. Rebellion against God.
[00:21:36] Repentance. Worldly repentance just wants to make the situation better. It wants to make the situation more tolerable.
[00:21:46] And if truth be told, in a lot of cases, you probably would prefer worldly repentance over no repentance, right? If your neighbor, let's say, breaks into your house and steals a bunch of your things, you'd rather them return your stuff, even if they're not sorry, even if they get caught to say, well, I got caught. Here's your stuff back. That's nice.
[00:22:13] But it doesn't produce life, it doesn't produce holiness, it doesn't produce godliness, and it doesn't bring about salvation.
[00:22:25] Notice what Paul says in verse twelve. It's a striking way in which he says it. And remember, he says in verse four, he is acting and writing with great boldness.
[00:22:37] He's giving clarity and categories, but he's also speaking very boldly and sometimes without qualification.
[00:22:47] Notice what he says in verse twelve. He says, although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong that would be them, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong that would be him.
[00:23:04] But in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.
[00:23:14] If this feels a little sort of out there, a little distant from your lived experience and how you think about repentance, note that gap.
[00:23:25] Note that gap and pay attention to it, because it means that there's a gap in the way that you typically repent and think about repentance and how the Lord thinks about it. And the goal for us this morning is to try by the Holy Spirit and God's grace to close that gap a little bit more.
[00:23:44] We tend to think about repentance very frequently in terms of making our situation better or getting just justice or something like that.
[00:23:56] But Paul says he didn't do it for his sake, really, and he didn't just do it for the sake of them, but he wanted something to be revealed.
[00:24:10] He wanted the earnestness or their love or their zeal for him, for Christ, ultimately, he wanted that to be revealed to them.
[00:24:27] That's really interesting, isn't it? He wanted them, in a way, to see the godly fruit of repentance in their own lives, in the sight of God.
[00:24:41] All of this is happening within the sphere of the Lord's vision. If we can put it that way before his face.
[00:24:51] He wants the corinthians to see their sin in light of God. He wants to see their repentance and forgiveness. I'm sorry. He wants to see their repentance and turning in light of God and what he's doing through Paul, through Titus. He wants to see the fruit of their repentance, the joy, the rejoicing, the reconciliation, all of these sort of things in light of God.
[00:25:16] And he wants them to see that, to notice it, and to rejoice as he is, to find comfort. And I think we can say by implication, also to worship God.
[00:25:30] All of this confidence and love and mutual benefit, mutual benefits and mutual edification and building up that is going on in the body, just all this back and forth, holy spirit, wonderful stuff. It's all happening through the spirit of God, all happening through the work of God as he works in this body.
[00:25:55] When we disconnect our minds and our hearts from him, it becomes really low level kind of stuff. It becomes really base and ultimately ineffective.
[00:26:11] Repentance is just about, well, how do I get through this situation? How do I smooth things over? How do I feel better? How do I get them to stop attacking I. All this kind of stuff, it doesn't produce the kind of life and love and confidence and trust that Paul is talking about here. That's what godly grief does. That's what godly repentance does.
[00:26:37] The difference between, the key difference between godly grief and worldly grief is faith.
[00:26:45] Faith in this God and faith and confidence that he is working toward us and in us through Christ.
[00:26:56] Think about the difference.
[00:26:58] You can imagine a person who, on the one hand, sees what they've done before God. They know God, they know his justice, they fear his consequences. They're committed to turning on the right path. They're setting goals, they're tracking their habits. They're doing everything they can to turn their life around.
[00:27:18] The world would look at that and say, it's pretty great. What else could you want? Right?
[00:27:26] They are looking outside of themselves. They're depending on others. They're making every effort towards progress.
[00:27:34] But what did the scriptures say?
[00:27:37] Apart from faith, everything is sin.
[00:27:42] As good as that picture sounds, and as many real world benefits as that has in this life, it is in this life, under this sun. And ultimately, those works done apart from God, which is to say, in rebellion against God, will ultimately come under judgment.
[00:28:07] Godly grief is different.
[00:28:09] Godly grief, sure, it works hard, it practices righteousness, it puts our trust in the Lord, or it puts our love of him front and center. It fights against sin. It does all those things. But it does this one other thing that is at the base and the root of all of that.
[00:28:29] It looks at ourselves and our own efforts and says, I am not able to accomplish forgiveness on my own. I am not able to accomplish righteousness on my own. And I don't just need a boost from God, I need him to save me.
[00:28:47] It's looking at sin and taking it so seriously that you connect the dots. Not just sin, bad stuff, messiness, uncomfortable things, but sin, death, sin, judgment.
[00:29:01] It's looking at it and taking it that seriously and then recognizing our inability to do anything about it. Apart from the saving work of God, which often happens through the church, often happens through community, often happens through brothers and sisters teaching us, encouraging us, admonishing us, helping us to see our blind spots, and sometimes giving us a wake up call.
[00:29:36] When God uses those things in your life to awaken you to your sin, see his work at hand, instead of pushing against it, instead of reviling against it, instead of saying, no, I'd really want to keep doing what I want to do.
[00:29:56] Instead of hunkering down in the darkness, see that penetrating light, the light of God for what it is, and embrace it and put your trust in it.
[00:30:07] Put your trust in him. Who can lead you in paths of righteousness, who can lead you to green pastures and still waters. Who can lead you through the valley of the shadow of death.
[00:30:21] He will not disappoint.
[00:30:24] We don't have to hold on to our sins and protect ourselves and make excuses. We can be open and honest in a way that the world finds astounding.
[00:30:37] Publicly confessing our sins every week in front of one another and before God, because of our faith in Christ, because he's accomplished it, because he's done it, because he's forgiven us and his blood atones for us, because he's given us his righteousness. And he said, you are seated with me in the heavenly places. You can dwell with me on Mount Zion, my holy hill. You have a place that I am preparing for you for eternal life in heaven.
[00:31:13] Because of those promises, because of that comfort. It allows us to be the kind of people that we are, the kind of repenters that we are, the kind of forgivers that we are, and encouragers and admonishers and helpers and mutual edifiers and community builders that he has made us to be.
[00:31:41] Learn to see your sin, not just through consequences and penalties, but learn to see them. Learn to see your sin in light of the Lord.
[00:31:53] And when you see his discipline in his discipline in your life, do not turn away from it because it's uncomfortable. But embrace the blessings in it and you will have salvation that is without regret.
[00:32:08] Let's pray.
[00:32:13] Our heavenly Father, we bow our hearts before you with great humbleness and sorrow over our sins.
[00:32:26] We regret the things that we have done and the things that we have left undone.
[00:32:31] We regret the ways in which we have not loved you with our whole heart.
[00:32:35] We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
[00:32:40] Lord, our regret comes not only from the consequences these things produce, not only from the fear of punishment.
[00:32:48] But, Lord, we confess our sins to you now sorrowing over the ways in which we have broken your heart, the ways in which we have strayed like lost sheep.
[00:33:04] For the ways in which we have gone after the devices and desires of our own hearts with such foolishness, with such willfulness and zeal that should be given only to you.
[00:33:22] Lord, we repent of our base desires, our sinful desires and longings, and the way that they lead us astray.
[00:33:32] We repent of the ways in which we plan and plot for these sinful things in which we hope for sinful things.
[00:33:41] Lord, we ask that you would replace these sinful deeds and desires, these sinful things in us, with a longing for you.
[00:33:54] Help us to see more of who you are, how you have revealed yourself to us in Christ, in all of our affliction, in all of our trials. And when we, like Paul, are downcast, fighting without and fear within. Lord, please comfort us.
[00:34:16] For you are the God who comforts the downcast, who lifts up our eyes to see Jesus in the hands and feet and faces of our brothers and sisters, of his saints, of his ministers, of his beloved ones.
[00:34:35] And, Lord, we ask that you would let us also be your hands and your feet.
[00:34:43] Let us be your light, your word, your face, so that when not people see us, when people know us and are friends with us and relate to us and worship with us, they would see and hear you in all this. Lord, we thank you and we praise you for the saving work that you have done in us. Thank you for not leaving us in our sin and misery.
[00:35:10] Thank you for your earnestness and unmovable strength and will to bring about a salvation in a people that did not deserve it.
[00:35:28] Lord, help us to repent with faith in Christ.
[00:35:34] Help us to confront sin with faith in Christ.
[00:35:39] Help help us to overlook things in love with faith in Christ and give us wisdom through him.
[00:35:49] We pray this in Jesus'name. Amen.