Paul states emphatically that there is absolutely no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1-5) and, John reports in his gospel that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it... rather to save it (John 3:17-19). Yet, Paul teaches that godly sorrow leads to repentance (2Cor 7:10). So, we see that there is a proper and, an improper response to our sin. The proper response is godly sorrow or grief and the improper response is condemnation. We must ask ourselves this question; Does our teaching and preaching produce condemnation or godly sorrow? All too often the answer is that it produces either condemnation or nothing. It seems to me that much of current evangelical doctrine (teaching) is geared toward producing condemnation. Why is this so? Let’s examine it for a short time in this blog post.
What is the difference between godly sorrow and condemnation? One produces repentance and closeness to God and, the other produces despair and distance from God. Godly sorrow produces the closeness. Condemnation produces despair. How do these affect obedience? Well, condemnation leads to obedience from fear and, godly sorrow produces obedience from love. Condemnation demands obedience and, godly sorrow coaxes obedience. Condemnation demands perfection. Godly sorrow recognizes process and striving toward a goal. Condemnation makes no allowances for failure. Godly sorrow encourages the failing to reach forward with a hope for a better tomorrow.
Condemnation emphasizes God’s justice and, godly sorrow is achieved by emphasizing God’s mercy and grace. The difference between condemnation and godly sorrow is highlighted by where the emphasis is placed on the various message of scripture. This appears to be the great divide between the apparent apostle’s doctrine found in the pages of the New Testament and, the early church father’s doctrine that comprises much of our evangelical teaching.
This is precisely the reason that Jesus taught his followers a new hermeneutic... a solely redemptive hermeneutic that pointed always to him... the author and finisher of our faith and salvation. This is also the reason for his shift in definition of the phrase word of God. He and his apostles redefined it to mean him or the gospel. This nuance makes all the difference in the world when it comes to producing condemnation or godly sorrow. It is the reason that we must only look to the scarlet thread of redemption that runs through the pages of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
If the redemptive focus is always preeminent then, the scripture will always produce godly sorrow in the one who finds him or herself coming up short and wanting. If not, it will always produce condemnation and despair. The concept of need, rest and, reasonable service is critical to proper spiritual growth... a growth that is absent of fear and despair. My prayer is that the saints of God, especially those who believe that they have been called to minister and lead, will embrace the redemptive focus and, will begin to help produce saints that can grow in the grace and the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which, will in turn allow a growth toward true holiness.