All Posts Justice Alone


Written by AT Cross


Worldly Sorrow verses Godly Sorrow

Judas was sorry he betrayed Jesus and attempted to give money back to the police.

King Saul of the Old Testament, who was so desperate to seek God sought out a witch to determine God’s will, he too was sorry that he had been unfaithful toward God.

The Apostle Peter was sorry for denying Jesus and wept over the matter.

Paul the Apostle was sorrowful that he began his ministry by attacking true Christians and every chance given him he told of his sinning and blaspheming.

All these individuals were sorry for sinning.

However, one group was filled with worldly sorrow and the other demonstrated godly sorrow.

Judas and King Saul went to hell fire damnation while Peter and the Paul are blessed saints in heaven.

Jesus told us that everyone in Hades currently is full of sorrow, so it is important to know which kind of sorrow we are living right now.

Many In The Church

Naturally today many are not sorry they are sinners and many in the church flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sins at present but one day Jesus said they will weep because of their sins.

“He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:51).

Many in church will tell you they are sorry for their sins but is it worldly sorrow or godly sorrow?

Sitting in church pews are many individuals who refuse to repent for their sins yet naively claim that Jesus has forgiven them. They often say, “If I sinned, I am sorry.” Or, “If I offended you in something I am sorry.”

Worldly sorrow can take on many forms, but the end result is the same. However, there is never a question about godly sorrow.

Let us investigate worldly sorrow and godly sorrow to avoid living a lie regarding the matter of repenting over our sins.

When confronted people believing in God might declare the following:

“God knows that I am a sinner. I asked God for forgiveness, and no one is perfect. Besides God sees my heart. God knows like David I am a man after God’s own heart.”

After decades of preaching, I have seen many sin like King David, but seldom have I seen repentance like David.

This is how people usually respond when challenged about wrongdoing, both inside and outside of the church.

However, God considers this lazy confession of sin the lousiest excuse for the word “sorry” and will condemn them on judgment day.

Like the world who uses God’s name and His Son as a curse word, there is a large church membership that uses the Lord’s name in vain even as they sing their songs of praise.

We sometimes witness criminals expressing their worldly sorrow after being found guilty at the conclusion of their trial. Once their guilt is found out they express sorrow for their crimes, but all know they are just sorry they got caught.

Occasionally, prosecutors and police might express regret that the system is not perfect and that they played a part in that crooked system however reasonable people know that these individuals are only sorry that they got embarrassed and that things did not turn out well for them.

So seldom seen is godly sorrow most thinking nothing when witnessing or employing worldly sorrow in their own lies.

The world and the church are both very comfortable with worldly sorrow.

Sad to say it is the Christian Church that has shown contempt for godly sorrow.

“I have confessed it to God and I know that He has forgiven me,” is the whitewash that is used to paint over sins in the church as everyone puts their tithe in the collection plate. What an abominable group.

The forgiveness of sins is never a private matter because sin is never simply a personal matter. There is no such thing to God as a confessional booth.

When Eve sinned, the whole universe was affected; this ought to be proof enough.

When we sin, whether privately or publicly, it affects everything all the way to heaven.

This is why in the book of John we are told to confess sins in the Light, in His Light.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

For this reason, God has told us what He considers to be true sorrow over sin.

We, in our sinful scheming, desire the false but easiest way to repent. Elihu, a young man who was full of wisdom, was correct when he rebuked Job by declaring the following but first notice the wording, “if I have done wrong” written in the book of Job over 2,000 years ago.

Some things never change with those who are sorry with worldly sorrow.

“Suppose a man says to God, ‘I am guilty but will offend no more. Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.’ Should God then reward you on your terms when you refuse to repent?” (Job 34:31-33).

We often willingly say, “I am guilty and will sin no more” and then just seek to move on from that point. We might even ask God to teach us what we cannot see as sinful and resolve to not sin again.

We want to ignore what we did and promise not to do it again but without making it right before God and man.

As the previous passage demonstrates, we always want to analyze more. When dealing with sin, people constantly repeat, “I don’t know why I sinned.” They want to continue searching why they committed the sin rather than act to overcome sin.

We already know why we sin – we are worthless to the core, as stated in Romans so stop wasting time on the why and work on the now is the time to repent.

“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)

The hard heart of man is always happy to learn more about sin so long as he never has to repent according to the will of God. Therefore, the book of James reminds us that Bible study can easily become a deceptive matter as people are always studying about God without ever really striving for holiness.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

Our sorrow remains too shallow, and our resolve goes according to our own plans and design.

Therefore, we can never overcome sin. Let none be shocked as to why there is so much sin in the church today as there is just so little godly sorrow that arises from deep conviction over sinning.

We brush aside wrongs done to others, which means that the consequences of sin continue to cause harm.

Jesus does not forgive such repentance, and we are in grave danger of being surprised when God sends us to hell.

Regardless of whether you think you asked Jesus into your heart, Christ commands that we repent on His terms when we sin and when He reveals new areas of our lives that need repentance applied.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10).


Catch that?

Godly sorrow produces a repentance all can see, and the person has no regret about repenting.

Worldly sorrow leads to more death with the person regretting they ever attempted to give up their sins.

In a church striving for godly sorrow these are the Christians that leave, then slander with bitterness because they regret at ever having tried to overcome sinning.

Some people leave Jesus regretting that they felt sorrowful over their exposed sins.

They regret giving up things, confessing, and seeking to overcome their sins. Additionally, they often become extremely bitter that they tried to repent.

As a result, they resort to slandering those who tried to help them repent, as declared by Proverbs 19:3: “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.”

Therefore, we read that only godly sorrow “leaves no regret.”

Those who have godly sorrow gain the rich resurrected life after having suffered in their bodies to be done with sin later on. This suffering against our sins was written about by the Apostle Peter who denied Jesus three times.

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, we must arm ourselves with the same attitude because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (1 Peter 4:1).

Godly sorrow over sin can be demonstrated by the actions that spring from a good conscience and a sincere faith, which most who claim the Name of God reject, and therefore, profess God with meaningless talk.

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.” (1 Timothy 1:5-6).

Someone with godly sorrow will never have to announce to others that they are repenting as it will be clear to all what is happening. If a person has to tell you that they are repenting, then they are lying, because godly sorrow is self-evident.

Let us read it ourselves to see what God teaches us about godly sorrow.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. However, worldly sorrow brings death. Godly sorrow produces earnestness, eagerness to clear yourselves, indignation, alarm, longing, concern, and readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”(2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

When someone says they have repented a sin, ask yourself whether they have godly or worldly sorrow.

Do you see the good fruit that Paul wrote about in Corinthians?

Earnestness: a quickness to act with all their heart to deal with the sin.

Eagerness to clear: making sure to correct the wrong with an emotion that all can see and attest to.

Indignation: a demonstration of anger toward the sin.

Alarm: showing a fear of God and a fear of what your sin might do against God’s glory and how it might harm others.

Longing: a desire for righteousness rather than wickedness; to long for holiness to replace wickedness. Longing involves time, hoping for what we do not yet have because, in true repentance, it often takes time for righteousness to replace wickedness.

Concern: to worry about your sin until you have heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say that you may rest and that the sin is covered.

Readiness: to see justice done: to realize that nothing unfair is being asked or demanded of you. That justice only demands what is right and just. To praise God for His demands and disciplines (Hebrews 12:11).

Has the person proven “at every point” in the matter of repentance that they are “innocent” in the sin they regret?

Have they repented-not because they were caught in a sin and had no choice but to confess-but because they felt cut to the heart by their wrongdoing?

Even when those people in the world are caught, they will confess and ask for mercy. Godly sorrow shows alarm that goes beyond the natural reaction to being caught.

Godly sorrow goes back to every single person who was affected by their sin and seeks to make things right.

They do not call their wrong a mistake and just apologize; they confess it as sin using the word “sin” and make restitution to cover over the offense.

If a person comes out of the prayer closet, not only resolving to never do the sin again but setting out with forethought and purpose to pay back the wrong they did with good, then that demonstrates godly sorrow.

In short, they do more than is asked, required, or told of them to do by the Law or man.

Jesus said the following:

“I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Truly sorrowful people humble themselves, confessing to all the harm they did and persevere in seeking God to the point of overcoming. As Luke 8:15 they dig down deep, preserve through their guilt until a harvest of righteousness is produced.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15)

Godly sorrow is not fast-food forgiveness or name it claim it forgiveness.

Indeed, it is never enough to pay back good equal to the amount of sin you committed. Godly sorrow always joyfully surpasses what is required.

Climb A Tree

Zacchaeus is an example of this.

Notice Zacchaeus’ godly sorrow. His “if” means he is looking for ways he sinned and not an “if” that means I see no area where I sinned.

Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

Zacchaeus stood up, walked in the light exactly as 1 John 1:7 teaches and announced to God in front of men that he would give half of what he owned to the poor thus proving his repentance by new righteous deeds.

Zacchaeus planned to remember who he cheated and pay them back four times the amount, which could easily take years and maybe a lifetime to remember and repent of.

Zacchaeus would spend a lot of time thinking of his past sins, people who he might have cheated, and how to quickly repay them. Most people today would struggle to admit that they really had cheated, let alone take action to repent.

To emphasize, this was repaying others four times the amount of the sin committed.

No wonder Jesus exclaimed that salvation had come to Zacchaeus that day.

Those who do not repent like Zacchaeus cannot have-indeed have no right to claim the salvation of Jesus.

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).

As Jesus saw the heart of godly sorrow and active repentance that would come from Zacchaeus, He declared to everyone that He had to eat with Zacchaeus at his house.

“When Jesus reached him, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).

Is there a “I must stay at your house today” repentance that God sees in your Christian walk? You will understand me if I say, “I doubt it” as I preach with Paul that you should “prove” your godly sorrow.

“First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and finally to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20).

If someone confesses that they have sinned, test their godly sorrow by their actions. Do they set out to pay back individuals four times the amount of their sin?

A man who only quietly tells me that he is sorry has not repented and should not be allowed to claim forgiveness in the name of Jesus.

God will neither honor nor forgive such unrepentant compromising sinners.

This is especially true when we have sinned against others in the church, for Jesus instructed us to go to great lengths to reconcile with those we have sinned against.

In the following passage, it took a lot of time and ceremony to stand before the altar of God to offer a gift.

A lot had to be done according to the temple’s regulations.

Never for a moment believe that your service and gifts to God will cause Him to excuse any sin that needs repenting over.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).

True repentance with godly sorrow is never convenient, easy, or cheap.

It requires both effort and the expense of ourselves.

Godly sorrow will search out the Scriptures and dig deep to see sin for all its sinfulness.

Godly sorrow never takes a casual one-look-over concerning sin.

Those who repent with godly sorrow will have dug deep into the Bible and exposed their wicked sin to the cleansing power of the Scriptures and Holy Spirit.

It is this deep conviction that separates the goats from the sheep.

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

Godly sorrow, when first detecting sin, rises early, quickly, and swiftly to repent according to the will of God then digs deeper in that repentance until repentance is replaced with righteousness.

Anything less than this is a lie that seeks to cover up the sin and proves that they love the darkness of sin instead of the holy light of God.

“The verdict is that light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19).


About the author


AT Cross