Today's Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 7
Selected Biblical Text
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it -- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while -- 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you. (2 Cor. 7:8-16 NIV)
Reflecting and Thinking
One of the great challenges in the Christian life and in Christian ministry is to understand how to help others change their lives. In today's reading we learn that Paul had written a pointed and difficult letter to the Corinthians. He hoped the letter would have its desired effect, but he anxiously awaited the news of how it had been received. The letter was so pointed that he actually for a time regretted writing it. Now he has learned that the possibly hurtful letter had accomplished its goal. The sorrow it caused led to genuine repentance and changed lives.
It would be wonderful if we could have a guarantee that our intentions would always be understood by others. Or if a crystal ball could indicate when we should be strict and harsh and when we should be giving and forgiving. The goal of biblical ministry is changed lives! The long term impact and value of ministry can only be measured by whether lives are changed. While there is value in changing the physical circumstances of people's lives, the ultimate goal must be that lives are changed spiritually and eternally. Ministry that does not result in eternally changed lives is meaningless. So also, Christianity that does not change our spiritual lives is valueless.
How does God want you to change your life today? For whom are you restless as you await the outcome of your efforts to be an influence for Christ? (Pray specifically for that person today.) What is the different between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow according to today's reading (verse 10)? What do you think of this contrast: sorry for what you did vs. sorry that you got caught? Is repentance mental, behavioral, or both? Is repentance that does not change one's life genuine? Why or why not?
Dear God, we seek changed lives, first for ourselves and then for others. Teach us godly sorrow so that we can find renewed thinking and renewed living. Give us wisdom as we seek to encourage others to follow Jesus. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.