September 13, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 7)

Submitted by James K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 7:10-16

“‘Repentance’ includes both the remorse that comes from recognizing that one has wronged God and its consequent resolve to reverse one’s behavior as seen in the first steps in that new direction. Therefore, though its consequences are long-term, repentance is indicated by an initial change in both attitude and action.” [Hafemann, Scott J. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Corinthians. By Scott J. Hafemann, 42-11. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000.]

“A godly sorrow produces a true repentance, and a true repentance is one which demonstrates its sorrow by its deeds.” [William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975). 227.]

·       What does godly grief produce?  What does this tell me about the process of repentance?

Godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret.  This tells me that the process of repentance involves grief, but the right kind of grief.  It’s grief over the fact that I’ve offended God, that I’ve offended others, that I am corrupt at my core.  It’s not simply a disappointment in myself, as that would indicate that I’m something good that happened to do something wrong, and so that’s disappointing.  It’s a grief that though I have rejected and wronged God, the very one who created me.  That grief is a response to the truth of who I am (a sinner), demonstrated by what I’ve done (my sins).

This tells me that just wanting to “make up for my sins” by doing things is insufficient for repentance.  That’s important to me to know, especially as I’m somebody who can so easily do mental gymnastics and avoid the grief in repentance and jump into “doing more,” or “doing better.” It turns repentance into some self-help thing, rather than staying in that remorseful state before the God whom I have offended.  I find within myself the desire to jump into “fixing the problem” rather than staying in that apologetic state in prayer, asking God for forgiveness for who I am.  It’s making the repentance about me rather instead of about God and my relationship with him.  That is no repentance at all.

 ·       What can I learn from the fact that Apostle Paul was convinced of their repentance in their treatment of Titus?  What is my attitude towards people God uses to initiate repentance?

Apostle Paul saw that the Corinthians received Titus with fear and trembling, which gave him confidence.  If the Corinthians had rejected Titus or had treated him with distance, then it would’ve meant that they rejected the harsh message that he delivered, the truth about them that they needed to repent about.  The way that they received the messenger was indicative of their receptivity of the message that he brought.

My attitude toward the people God uses to initiate repentance is often initially defensiveness because the message that they bring about me is ego devastating, and so something that my pride will not want me to hear or accept.  This isn’t as much the case these days, as I know what it takes for people to speak truth to me.  It takes love and concern, and a lot of risk, knowing that the message of truth might not be received well, or that the person would respond with hostility rather than humility.  The people who God has used to speak to me have demonstrated such love, concern and risk.  And if they had not, then I would not be where I am today. Pastor Ed and Kelly, Pastor William and Esther Rick and Sue Yi, Patrick and Jeannie Lee, Tony and Michelle Sun–the list goes on.  These people who would have otherwise nothing to do with me if it were not for the gospel, every one of them who have brought truth to me in my life are the ones I have to thank for this very thing.  It’s because of them that I’ve seen more and more the truth of my own sinfulness, how deep the rabbit hole goes, so to speak.  As a Christian, I know that I’m a sinner. And because of the truth that is spoken to me, there are specifics that are attached to that label, so that I know more and more what I’m forgiven from.  Now, I receive them and the message that they bring trusting that through it, I can grieve.  I can repent and be brought to closer fellowship with God and a deeper understanding of myself.

 ·       What are the results of worldly grief? 

Worldly grief produces death.  Worldly grief says, “I’m so disappointed in myself and I’m hopeless.”  Worldly grief focuses on the self and refuses to come to terms with the one that was wronged. Worldly grief refuses to address God in the picture and responds in anger, in depression or a commitment to “fix myself,” which is ultimately about the self.  In worldly grief, there is no connection with God, there is no restoration, there is no forgiveness (as forgiveness isn’t even desired), and so there is no life.

2 Corinthians 7:4-9, 12-16

“All too often the church is likewise emaciated when it comes to experiencing deep and lasting joy in the midst of adversity because we no longer gain our identity by living within the community of faith. What we love, and therefore what we get excited about, is no longer wrapped up with the progress of God’s people. The basis of our contentment is not the growing Christ-likeness of our church, but the comfort level of our personal circumstances. Conversely, we are famished when it comes to feeling grief over sin because what we hate, and therefore what we feel remorse about, no longer revolves around the reality of who God is in our midst. What makes us sad is no longer the sting of our sin, but the frustration of our failed dreams and the lack of freedom to get whatever we want.”  [Hafemann, Scott J. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Corinthians. By Scott J. Hafemann, 42-11. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000.]

·       Notice all the occurrences of words like “joy,” “rejoice,” “comforted,” and “refreshed.”  How is it that although he was “afflicted at every turn” and facing “fighting without and fear within” (v. 5), Apostle Paul (and Titus) could experience such things? 

Although Apostle Paul experienced affliction and fightings without and fears within, he and Titus experienced overflowing joy, comfort and rejoicing simply because the Corinthian church repented.  In Luke 15, Jesus said that when a sinner repents, there is great rejoicing in heaven.  Apostle Paul and Titus were in line with those same values, such that all the discouragements and difficulties could be overrun by joy, rejoicing, comfort and refreshment when the people at that church repented and got right with God.

·       How does this compare with what brings me joy, comfort and encouragement?

Of all the things that bring me joy, what floors me is when sinners–by definition proud, self-centered, rejecting of God–see their sin, repent and turn back to God.  It brings deep satisfaction and celebration of my soul because that is a miracle every time it happens.  I’m thankful that I can be a part of the efforts, the kingdom cause to bring that to happen.  It’s the signs of life in a person’s relationship with God, that they are aligned with truth, and that they are in the fold of God.

I know that in the times when I’ve needed to bring hard truth to people, confronting people with their sin–it’s a hard thing to do. It’s scary because I know that it could very easily go very wrong.  People can turn away rather than repent. People can blame me, turn from God, from the church, perhaps even slander me, question my motives or flat out accuse me.  It’s what causes me worry and heartache.  It’s those people who are “the last thing I think about going to sleep, and the first thing I think about getting up,” as Pastor Will put it once.  When that leads to godly grief and so to repentance, there is much rejoicing and encouragement.  I don’t know what else in this life can compare to that.

Personal Prayer

Father, thank you for the people that you’ve brought to me in my life, to direct me in your word, to show me truth about myself, having the love, concern, care and courage to speak to me in ways that I could experience godly grief.  I know that my ego and pride want me to react in defensiveness, in rejection of their message, in wanting to reject them as the messenger.  But you’ve demonstrated your love for me through them.  They’ve demonstrated their integrity and love to me that I had little room to do that, and so was led to repentance.  I know that I’m in a place to do the same for others. Please give me the wisdom, care and courage as I do so, that it would lead to godly grief in the people that you’ve entrusted to me.  And I thank you for the joy and encouragement that I’ve experienced in the times when that has led to repentance, reconciliation and restoration in their relationship with you. That joy makes the hardest part of ministry all worth it.

Submitted by Ben P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 7:10-16

  • What does godly grief produce?  What does this tell me about the process of repentance?

Godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret. But by saying “For see,” Apostle Paul seems to be saying that the evidence of the Corinthians’ repentance is in all of these other things being the result of their grief—earnestness, eagerness to clear themselves and to put them back in the right, indignation over their sin, fear of dishonoring God in the midst of a pagan world, longing for righteousness and restoration, zeal to turn around, punishment. All of these indicate that the Corinthians had really turned away not only in action but also in their hearts, reshaping their values. This seems to show us that the process of genuine repentance has these two separate yet very related components: grief and action. I don’t imagine Apostle Paul would have been so confident had the Corinthians not been so grieved, perhaps just doing what he told them to do out of begrudging obedience or just outward obedience. This seems to miss the point that God is grieved over our sin. Nor would he have been satisfied with an overwhelming grief that didn’t lead to any action, because the turnaround, the “U-turn,” the strong desire to change (even if change is small or inconsistent) is expected if we understood the grace of God that allows us to be forgiven of our sins.

  • What can I learn from the fact that Apostle Paul was convinced of their repentance in their treatment of Titus?  What is my attitude towards people God uses to initiate repentance?

The fact that Apostle Paul was convinced of their repentance through their treatment of Titus means that another marker of my repentance is my response to the people that help me see I need to repent. Because if this person is really helping me to become right with God again, it would be odd for me to be angry or hostile to them, or to dismiss them in an attempt to set a distance between us, perhaps because their presence makes me feel uncomfortable. No, it would be more appropriate to respond as the Corinthians did to Titus: with an attitude of obedience, receiving this person, and taking them seriously with fear and trembling. And this person would in turn be refreshed by the proper response.

This seems so obvious but as I look back at my own experience I know that at times I responded to such people not with a genuine desire to change course and repent but rather by being defensive (“No, you’ve got that minor detail wrong”) or dismissive (“I can’t believe you’re making a big deal out of this”) or even some hostility and ad hominem attacks (“But don’t you have this problem too?”). In fact, though over the years I have experienced the joy and peace of humbly receiving truth so that I can repent, these kinds of thoughts still do come up (though rarely spoken out loud) because at the core I’m proud and I don’t want to own up to my sin. But I see how looking at my response to the truth-bearer is such a powerful measure of true repentance, and I need to carefully monitor this, particularly for a sense of coldness and distance. Perhaps in the “nice” culture we live in, we don’t let out a lot of what’s really on our minds. Rather, we just grow cold and distant. But the actual responses of anger and vitriol, the defensiveness and hostility may come out in a venting session with a friend, or in snide remarks couched as jokes, or in a rant on a blog or wall somewhere. So just because in front of the truth-bearer I appear one way doesn’t mean that I’m actually receiving it well, and I need to be very careful to monitor what’s going in my heart—so that in the end, I can experience genuine repentance.

  • What are the results of worldly grief? 

Worldly grief produces death. Worldly grief does nothing to turn me around, experiencing God’s forgiveness and grace, and the power of God to save me from the trajectory of death. Worldly grief seems to be this picture of experiencing the emotions of grief over my sin but not having anything to do with God. It’s more selfish self-loathing than sadness, it’s perhaps frustration and anger that I can’t change than understanding God’s grace came to us before we changed at all. So there’s all this emotion but no lasting movement. And Paul clearly says this ends up in death. So I cannot therefore be satisfied simply because I feel sad over my sin. And as I minister to others, I cannot make it my goal for them to simply feel grief. That grief is necessary, of course, but it has to be directed towards God, towards reconciling the wrong and hurt that I’ve caused because of my stubbornness, my pattern of crossing boundaries, and then hearing God’s offer of forgiveness and power to change. I would be negligent in both my life and others to merely stop after inciting emotion, as this next step of action is such a basic part of repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:4-9, 12-16

  • Notice all the occurrences of words like “joy,” “rejoice,” “comforted,” and “refreshed.”  How is it that although he was “afflicted at every turn” and facing “fighting without and fear within” (v. 5), Apostle Paul (and Titus) could experience such things?

The reason that Apostle Paul and his companions could experience just high emotions of joy, comfort, refreshment was that their joy was entwined in the response of the Corinthians to the harsh letter. For them there was nothing greater than for people to become right with God again. This is so amazing, that they lived such other-centered lives, groaning in their hearts when others sinned and rejoicing when they repented!

  • How does this compare with what brings me joy, comfort and encouragement?

I’m not Apostle Paul, but as I look at my life over the past couple of years I think I’m starting to understand a little of what it means that my life—its ups and downs—are tied to how people around me are doing spiritually. Ask the Ben from 10 years ago and if were honest with you, I would say that my joys and encouragement had to do with how work was going, whether people liked me or not, whether I had just bought a new toy of some sort or another, whether I had enough money in the bank, and, oh yeah—how some guys I’m trying to help spiritually have been doing. Now that picture is somewhat different. I can experience my heart dropping because of one phone call or text that I receive. This can really get me down for a week, or even a month. I don’t think I’m a particularly emotional person and yet because the Gospel has become more central to me over the years, I think I respond with greater emotion when I hear of how someone is hardening his heart towards God, how someone is refusing to listen to reason, how someone is listening rather to other voices that try to justify his sins, how someone is refusing to really dive into the work that God has for him to do, how someone is being caught up in school again to the point that God is squeezed out of the picture. And yet, when people respond properly to the gospel, when someone finally admits to his wrong, or suddenly wants to give Christianity a chance, or someone takes a stand against the other voices in his life, these bring me so much joy and comfort, far greater than the latest temporary pleasure that I could buy. I thank God that somehow I’ve changed in this way. It used to be all about me, all about my own ego, my own stuff and life. But somehow as God has worked the Gospel into the center of my life, it’s allowed me to respond emotionally in this way. And I thank God because I know for sure that this is far richer, far loftier than the small life I would have lived otherwise. Praise God!

Personal Prayer

Dear God,

How is it that you turned a self-focused guy like me into someone whose emotions can possibly respond to the right things—the spiritual state of people around me? And yet I live such a rich life because of this. Thank you, because without your faithfulness in my life, without you changing my heart, I would not be in this place, tied to so many people. Thank you, God.

God, I also pray for your protection against incomplete repentance. I confess it’s easier to just be grieved and to ask for forgiveness for my sins, but not do anything about it, because doing something about it could be a lot of work. But you make it clear today that without this response of wanting to change, it’s not repentance at all. I pray that I would be faithful to follow through repentance to the end, that there would be actual earnestness and a hunger to change, because in the end, you’re not just some law that I need follow, but rather you’re a person with whom relationship needs to be restored. And likewise please give me the courage to not be merely satisfied with emotion in the people I’m trying to help. I want to help them fully repent for the sake of their relationship with you being fully restored, so that there would be the fruit of encouragement, refreshment, and joy.

Submitted by Claire K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 7:10-16

·       What does godly grief produce?  What does this tell me about the process of repentance?

Godly grief produces repentance and repentance consists of a change in attitude and action. By seeing the Corinthians, we can see that it produced in them this. They were remorseful towards God, hated the sin itself and they tried to do whatever they could to make amends and follow God’s ways. The words Apostle Paul used to describe it were indignation, fears, longings, zeal, and punishment.

This tells me that the process of repentance requires some honest thinking and reflection before God. How else would one change from being engaged in sin to seeing it as an abhorrent thing that he wants to avoid and change and feel remorseful about before God? To come that point, one has to take spend some time thinking and reflecting.

 ·       What can I learn from the fact that Apostle Paul was convinced of their repentance in their treatment of Titus?  What is my attitude towards people God uses to initiate repentance?

I can learn that one has truly repented when the person who was confronted with her sin is no longer self-conscious, upset, fearful around the person who confronted her of her sin, but there is humility (v.15 fear and trembling) and even closeness (v7 longing, mourning and zeal) that results with the person who confronted her. This is because the person confronted understands that her sin is before God and she needs to deal with God and the person who confronted her was just a messenger who is taking on this difficult role to speak truth into her life for her good.

My attitude towards people God uses to initiate repentance used to only be one of self-consciousness and fear but over the years that has changed as I saw how horrid and offensive my sins were. And now as a person who has to initiate repentance in others also, I see how emotionally difficulty it is to speak truth and to guide people to repentance.  There is that tension of wanting what is best for those God entrusted to me but also not wanting them to feel uncomfortable as well as fighting my own desire to want to have peace in my relationships. But what won for Apostle Paul, was his desire for what was best for his people—which meant doing the difficult thing of sending the harsh letter, so that the Corinthians could be the kind of people God meant for them to be.

I still feel at times self-conscious and fearful around those people God uses to bring repentance in my life but it has lessened over the years, and I am able to quickly have proper perspective that God and people of God are for me.  Being on the receiving and giving side of initiating repentance gives me privileged perspective of God’s heart for me and for others and I need to steward this well by regularly correcting my emotions with the truth that repentance is a good thing and those who initiate repentance in my life are blessings in my life.

·       What are the results of worldly grief? 

The result of worldly grief is death. It produces death because it doesn’t bring us back to a right relationship with God where we can have peace, deeper understanding of God’s grace and even more of a closeness with God. Rather it causes us to feel resentment and regret that we were caught, self conscious, self pity, self loathing, and other self centered things and it ends there. There is no peace, no relief but just numbness or misery that sets in after awhile.

2 Corinthians 7:4-9, 12-16

·       Notice all the occurrences of words like “joy,” “rejoice,” “comforted,” and “refreshed.”  How is it that although he was “afflicted at every turn” and facing “fighting without and fear within” (v. 5), Apostle Paul (and Titus) could experience such things? 

They can experience such things in the midst of such hardship and difficulties because their hearts were so wrapped up with how the Corinthians were doing such when they heard Corinthians were repenting, it brought them such joy and comfort. On the contrast, when it was unknown how the Corinthians responded to his letter to them, Apostle Paul left an open door for the gospel and went to look for Titus to see how the Corinthians responded. To him, how the church was doing was closer to his heart than an open door for the gospel.  (2 Cor 2:12-13) This is how much Apostle Paul’s heart was concerned about the church. The commentary above says that “we no longer gain our identity by living within the community of faith” but rather by our personal comfort and I think also by our achievements. As staff, it’s easy to feel discouraged or encouraged by how well my ministry is going—how people are responding to my efforts to love and connect with them. But as I take a step back and remember that my identity is part of God’s faith community, there is a lot for me to be encouraged by as God’s is always at work.

·       How does this compare with what brings me joy, comfort and encouragement?

When things go well personally for me, it brings me joy, comfort and encouragement of course, but that doesn’t happen very frequently. What is a more regular source of joy, comfort and encouragement is seeing what God is doing through his churches. Now that we have six church plants and through the various ministries in our church, I get to regularly hear about how God is working in some part of one of our churches and it bring me joy, comfort and encouragement to see God’s work is being carried forth and people are getting saved. My life would be so narrow if it revolved just around me, or even just my own ministry. I am so thankful that being part of God’s church allows me to experience so much more.

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