The Forgotten Factor in Dealing with Sin
An excerpt from the author's book; “Eternal Forgiveness; the Bible Answer for Lingering Guilt”
The Apostle Paul writes about a needed distinction when evaluating sin; there is a stark difference between the “sorrow of the world” and a “godly sorrow unto repentance”. “…ye were made sorry after a godly manner…For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (II Cor 7:9-10). The difference simply stated is that the sorrow of the world is the sorrow the world manifests about its sin. What is that? My unhappiness, my pain, my shame, my regrets, my losses, etc. But a godly sorrow unto repentance has to do with God’s feelings; it is actually a Godward sorrow focusing on God’s feelings instead of a manward one focusing on man’s feelings.
The word “godly” in this scripture is used three times. It is from the Greek word EUSEBEIA which means “characterized by a Godward attitude, doing that which is well-pleasing to God, reverence toward God, according to God”. I believe one is safe to conclude from these meanings from Vine’s Expositiory Dictionary of New Testament Words that Paul has in mind a Godward sorrow, a Godward attitude with God in mind and in view. This Godward reverence manifests itself in actions which reflect His perceptions, His feelings, His pain, and His grief!
I have seen many tears in my counseling room over these decades; self-centered tears over the pain of sin’s consequences. But I don’t recall ever seeing anyone shed tears over how their sins hurt their God. When was the last time you cried genuine tears of sorrow for God? For grieving the Holy Spirit?
It is my opinion that it is here at this very point, that true confession breaks down. It is rare indeed to find that sensitive soul who is broken over his abuse of His God. We are so self-absorbed and self-centered that we can think of little else than easing our own pain, and restoring our own happiness. God’s feelings are not in our thoughts. Nowhere to be seen! Totally off the radar! His view is rarely considered. His pain caused by our sin usually ignored. His perception seldom considered.
God’s Perceptions of our Sins
One of the great principles needed in understanding eternal forgiveness is the perceptual forgiveness of God. It is His perception we must be aware of before we can ever experience a “godly sorrow unto repentance”. We are prone to be fixated on our own perceptions, but rarely His. This one-sided approach is the death knell of genuine confession.
“You Don’t Love Me”
Consider these perceptions of God; when you leave Him for the world, He knows that you don’t love Him; “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (I Jn 2:15). But you say, “Oh, that’s not true. It’s not that I didn’t love God when I sinned; I was just not thinking of Him!” Really? That’s not how God sees it. He sees that you abandoned Him for your sin. But you say again, “But I just didn’t love God at that moment as much as I loved the world!” What marriage partner would defend his adultery to a heart-broken mate with such logic? Do you really think they would be relieved to hear this? …that God is relieved to hear this!?
“You Despise Me”
When God confronted David over his sin with Bathsheba, He gave us a keen insight into His perceptions and feelings about the matter;
“…I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives unto thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel, and of Judah, and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil in His sight…thou hast despised me…” (II Sam 12:7-10).
Paul seems to echo this very thought in the New Testament; “…despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom 2:4).
Despising God is a grievous thing to Him; it means to reject Him, to refuse Him, to spurn Him, to choose your sin over Him, to disdain Him, to think of Him as contemptible, to scorn Him. If you have ever been rejected by a friend or sweetheart or spouse, try multiplying your pain 10,000 times and you will barely scratch the surface of God’s pain by comparison. Your sin doesn’t affect you in part because you have been hardened by your sin, but His dear heart is so tender that a feather falling on you would be a boulder falling on Him.
It is your very act of unrighteousness which screams “I DESPISE YOU” to God;
“He that walketh in uprightness feareth the Lord, but he that is perverse despiseth Him” (Prov. 14:2).
“You make yourself my enemy”
But there is more; God says that by your sin you actually make Him your enemy! Sin is not some innocuous failure to be merely winked at; it is open hostility to God resulting in sinful rebellion against Him.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4).
Paul agrees; “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). The word “enmity” has the meaning of hostility, opposition, and even hatred. I can hear the protests: “But wait! I love God! I don’t despise God! And I sure don’t consider myself the enemy of God! And I really for sure don’t feel hostility or hatred for God!” So you say. That may be your perception, but its not your perception that’s important here; its God’s! This is how God feels. Are you getting the picture? He feels you don’t love Him, you have despised Him, and have made Him your enemy. He feels that you hate Him and have rejected Him for a lesser god. It’s no wonder that He chooses such an awful word as “grieved” to describe His feelings.” “Grieved” means to make sorrowful, to afflict with sorrow, to cause acute pain.
We have become so jaded in our hearts and blinded in our minds, we simply cannot comprehend the feelings of God. For all of our Christian lives forgiveness has been about our feelings instead of God’s; about confessing sin to regain our joy, to restore our fellowship with God, to find relief from guilt, but this is not about you! Its time to lift our eyes to Heaven and feel the heart of our God. To see how we have grieved Him and brought the deepest of sorrow and pain to Him, even in the very face of His incredible goodness to us. (See Appendix XI; “Is ‘Restored Fellowship’ the Best Motivation for Confession?”).
A Mother’s Love
A mother’s love was demonstrated in a moving way when a housefire broke out in the humble home of a single parent and her infant child. The suddenness of it caught the mother off guard but she quickly thought of her son in another part of the house. Realizing the house was already aflame, she did not hesitate; fighting the flames and her fear, she fell to the floor and crawled to his room. By the time she found him the flames were so intense she could only shield him with her body. As she stumbled blindly to the door, the flames targeted her little son, but she effectively protected him. Unfortunately, in the process, she was horribly burned over her arms and hands, her neck, and her face. But the child was safe. He went on to lead a normal and healthy life because of the sacrifice of the mother. She, on the other hand, was grotesquely scarred and disfigured. The boy however, knowing it was her love for him which had created the disfigurement, was secure in her love, and she in his…until another tragic day in their lives.
The boy’s senior class had planned a boat trip down the Hudson River and the mother volunteered to help with the food. While she was working with the sandwiches, her son and a friend were talking nearby, out of sight but not out of hearing. “Who is that ugly woman!?”, she heard the friend ask her son. She had grown accustomed to such questions over the years, but she had not grown accustomed to the reply of her son; her heart dropped when she heard him say; “I don’t know who she is. I’ve never seen her before”.
When I first learned of this story, my heart dropped along with the mother’s. How could any child be so focused on his feelings and his standing with his friend that he would totally disregard the sacrifice of the mother who had done so much for him?
But then I thought of my Jesus who suffered so much for me and my calloused disregard for His sacrifice and broken heart of love. I knew at that moment that I treated Him like the son treated his mother. I looked back at my life and my history of sin and confession, and realized with a shock that I had always been focused on my feelings and my happiness instead of His feelings and His grief. How many times have I broken His tender heart anew with my self-centered pleas for happiness with no thought of how I had hurt Him? May God help us all to prayerfully consider the forgotten factor of His feelings.