Godly Sorrow Vs Worldly Sorrow | What’s The Difference?
In many Christian circles, there is a teaching that warns Christians that they better be careful not to be guilty of worldly sorrow. The ideas that if you’re truly sorry, that’s a godly sorrow, and you won’t commit the sin again. But if you do commit the sin again, you’re guilty of a worldly sorrow, and that type of sorrow will lead to death.
So, today I want to address what’s the difference between Godly Sorrow and worldly sorry.
This teaching comes from 2 Corinthians 7:7-13
Let me read those verses for a little context.
[2 Corinthians 7:7-13] also by the comfort with which he was comforted among you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. 8 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— 9 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. 10 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. 11 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 punishment of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 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 in our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 Because of this, we have been comforted.
I would start by pointing out verse 10, which teaches us that this repentance is related to salvation. We know from reading scripture, we are not saved by how awesome we are at avoiding sin. We are not saved by feeling so guilty that we don’t commit another sin. We are not saved by how well we keep the mosaic law. Yes, we should repent from outward sin. But the type of sin that leads to death is internal. It’s the sin of unbelief.
As Paul continues in his letter he talks about the sorrow of the world which produces death. These are not people who are losing their salvation. These are people who are rejecting Jesus. Unbelievers.
So, we see two groups of people, one being saved by a certain kind of sorrow, and another group, who will die because of their type of sorrow.
As human beings, we all have a type of worldly sorrow, where we just feel bad for stupid things we did. And it’s usually because we got caught or are embarrassed from our actions.
But the context here is referring to a sorrow of our prior identity rejecting Jesus. It’s a godly sorrow, and it leads us to believing in Jesus, through faith. And that godly sorrow produces a repentance, referring to repenting from unbelief, which leads to salvation. And this godly sorrow will never change because it’s talking about an inward sorrow. Faith. You will never stop believing in Jesus. But everyone of us, have a worldly sorrow in terms of our outward behavior. And again, I want to repeat, you are not saved by your outward performance. You are saved by your inward performance. Believing and trusting in Jesus. Apart from works. Apart from law. Less anyone boast. Salvation is a gift from God. It is not of ourselves.
Unfortunately, we find there’s a teaching out there that basically says if you’re a repeat offender, you’ve got worldly sorrow, and that’s going to cause you to lose your salvation. So, for example, if you’re someone who is struggling with alcohol or pornography, you are guilty of worldly sorrow, and thereby you don’t really care, so you will lose your salvation. And while indeed we should repent, and turn away from those sins, in the flesh we all stumble in many ways, and some addictions are very difficult to break. But I’d say every Christian on the planet has some type of worldly sorrow, and by that standard, we would all be guilty of it.
So again, I want to point out that this type of sorrow is about the rejection of Jesus. There was a moment in time where we became sorry for our unbelief as we received the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and we believed in our heart that He is the son of God and asked him to rescue us from sin. That is a godly sorrow as we repent and turn from unbelief, which leads us to salvation.
I’ll leave you with this verse:
[Galatians 2:21] I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.