What do you do when you do something bad? How do you feel? Most people experience a deep sense of grief, a loss of failed expectation, self-disappointment, and with it a certain lowering of self-worth. It only follows then that those who do bad things have less value than people who don’t.
This is one form of grief. However in the Bible, Paul mentions two. “Godly Grief produces repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but Worldly Grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10. So, here we have two different forms of grief a person can experience when they make mistakes, one leading to life and one leading to death. As Christians it’s essential that we know the difference between the two, as life and death hang in the balance.
Worldly Grief Over Sin
In a nutshell, Worldly Grief comes from Satan and has three characteristics:
- It always acknowledges your sin (or invents sin and uses that)
- It always uses your sin to attack your worth and value
- It always drives you away from God and from his people
Messages of Worldly Grief run along these lines:
“You are a worthless piece of trash. After all that God’s done for you how could you possibly go and do such a horrible thing!? He must be so disappointed in you. He’ll never take you back now. Are you sure you want to go to church this week? If only the people there knew, they’d never accept you!”
Godly Grief however, is quite different.
In a nutshell, Godly Grief comes from God and has three characteristics:
- It always acknowledges your sin
- It always upholds your worth and value
- It always drives you towards God and his people
That last one is the key. It’s how you know it comes from God.
Messages of Godly Grief run along these lines:
“You have done the wrong thing, and you need to change because I love you and have already forgiven you. Confess to my people because you need their support. You don’t need to earn my love by obeying me or judging yourself. You are already acceptable to me through Christ, and I will stand with you through all that may come.”
Our Worth and Value
In both kinds of grief you would have noticed that the first point is the same for both worldly grief and Godly Grief. God being just, still acknowledges our sin. However, in the second point we see a very big difference. One attacks a person’s worth and value. The other upholds it. One is heartwarming and brings life. The other is colder than ice and brings death. But where do we get our value from in the first place?
If you want to find out the value of something, the most reliable way is to work out how much people are willing to pay for it. A good example of this is eBay. Now, what happens if I dig up some bizarre object from however long ago in my grandma’s attic? How will I know its value? The only real way to find out is to put it on eBay and see what people are willing to pay for it. If people are willing to pay a fortune for it, then it must be worth a fortune. The same principal works for art. How do people determine the value of a painting? They ask the collectors how much they are willing to pay for it.
Now, how do you determine the value of you? This is a hard question to ask because the world has its own way of determining value, and in the eyes of the world paedophiles have negative value. God sees things very differently. Like an obscure artwork, the only way we can determine our value is to find out how much God paid for us. We find in scripture that God paid for us, not with any form of earthly currency, but with the death-blood of his only son. This is what it means to be under Grace.
When we find ourselves under Grace, our sin should still cause us to grieve, but not because we’ve lost any of our value. We grieve because we haven’t acted in accordance with our new identity as Christians saved by Grace. When we realize this, we can come back to the cross in repentance, humility and confession. When we do this we have life and peace because we realize that the price for our sin has already been paid. Godly Grief is all about seeing ourselves safe in God’s Grace.
So, if Godly Grief is all about Grace, you may have already figured out that Worldly Grief is all about works. This is the word the Bible uses. Works teaches us that our value can be determined by what we do. So, if I do bad things, I’m a bad person with little or no worth.
But all this kind of thinking is a lie from the deepest pits of hell! Don’t believe it! Our worth is not determined by what we do, our worth is determined by what God was willing to pay. And that has nothing to do with what we do at all!
But that’s not the end of the story. The flip side of works is Pride. “If I do good things, then I’m a good person, full of worth and value.” Or, to put it a slightly different way, “If I don’t do bad things, then I’m not a bad person, so I’m not worthless.” It’s still the same idea where my actions determine my worth.
In a nutshell, pride also comes from Satan, and has three characteristics:
- It always dismisses or minimizes your sin
- It always inflates your worth and value artificially (yet never actually satisfies)
- It always drives you away from God and from his people
You might have noticed that both Pride and Worldly Grief drive you away from God and his people. People living in Pride (like the Pharisees) don’t think they need a saviour. People living in Worldly Grief (like Judas) don’t believe they are good enough to be forgiven. Unfortunately we find Christians in both camps.
People who don’t really understand grace only understands Works, so they only have two choices: Worldly Grief or Pride. Worldly Grief is a genuinely unbearable place to live, so the world pushes Pride as the only alternative. But Pride is only an attempt at hiding Worldly Grief, and it nearly always induces Worldly Grief in others. So, the two are quite tightly intermingled, easily switching from one to the other but it’s all the same to Satan. He only cares that people are being driven away from God.
People living in the Grace category are the only people who truly know freedom. They say things like “I’m a depraved, evil, messed up excuse for a human being, who is deeply loved and cherished by a perfect and holy God.” They aren’t afraid to tell people the horrors of their sinful deeds, because their worth and value isn’t tied up with what they’ve done (or what they may continue to do), it’s tied up in Jesus and how much he willingly sacrificed for them.
If you’re living in the Worldly Grief category, there is still hope. If you can honestly say “Jesus is my Lord, and I want to live for him” then you are a Christian, and nothing can take that away. God understands that we are sinful, and he knows that it will take time for us to grow in trust, and he knows we’ll take backwards steps sometimes. Always remember that Jesus has made us acceptable to God, and our actions aren’t able to make us unacceptable again. Jesus’ death has proved that our value and worth to God is immeasurably massive, and nothing we can do can change that. I’m reminded by the words of Horatio Spafford who penned…
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Original text by C.D.
Edited by Trent Matthew