Let me start with this question: Have you ever been told off? I hope so. Some of us may have been told off quite recently. It may have been last month. It may have been this week. It may have even been as recent as this morning. If we're told off some of us are mortified and some of us don't take much notice - it's like water off a duck's back. But he significant question is; "How sorry should we feel when we're told off?" How should we respond? How does God (the God who designed us and created us) say we should respond?
Well, that is the subject of our passage today. Please turn with me to p816. The Corinthian Christians had been told off. They'd been rebuked and how they respond shows that they are true Christians. How they respond to the rebuke shows they are saved, they're forgiven, they're going to heaven rather than perishing in hell. There's a lot at stake. Paul was an apostle, which means he was sent by Jesus, and he had started the Church in Corinth in Southern Greece. He writes this letter, the letter of 2 Corinthians, to pave the way for his final and farewell visit. However before this letter Paul had had to write a disciplinary letter to them, telling them off, which Titus had delivered to them. Paul had then waited for Titus to come back and he was eager to get news of how they responded, and in v6-7 we read of the news that Titus brought back to Paul
"But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever."
Paul was over the moon with how they had responded. We see from v6 that they cared for Paul but also were sorry. We'll pick up on their concern for Paul in a moment but we'l begin with the feeling sorry v7
"your deep sorrow."
What is the purpose of a telling off or a rebuke? Two brief things to note before we answer that: Firstly please note that a Godly rebuke should be done with gentleness (have a read of Galations 6, and 2 Timothy 2 later).
Secondly a Godly rebuke should not be that enjoyable at the time for either party; Paul didn't like it at the time, as we'll see in a moment, and it isn't nice for the receiver as it says in Hebrews ch12. Well what is the purpose , what is the goal of a telling-off or a rebuke? Is it to make someone sorry? Is it to make them sad? Let's have a look at v8 he said
"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, …"
What is the purpose of rebuke? Is it to cause sorrow? Yes. Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow. Is it just to cause sorrow? No. God wants you to be sorry for your sin, but God doesn't want you stay sorry; 8b
"I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while"
God wants us to be sad - God intends us to be sad - He intends to cause us grief for our sin. Why? Verse 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."
Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow and doesn't cause harm but produces repentance - it produces change. Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow which produces Godly change.
Do you feel sad that you've let God down? Do you see how sin hurts God? Do you see how it offends him? And do you want to do something about it? That is Godly sorrow. That is Godly grief. That is good grief. Worldly sorrow is just self-centred regret that we've let ourselves down which has no power to bring about a real change in our hearts and so we perish. Godly sorrow has the power to bring life; eternal life: verses 10-11
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 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."
Godly Sorrow leaves no regret; we'll be glad that we were made sorry because this Godly sorrow will help us repent.
Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow which produces Godly change. So What is the goal of rebuke? It is to cause sorrow which produces in us repentance.
Repenting is a change in direction. Repentance is doing a U turn; a complete 180. It's when you find out you've been going in the wrong direction and you turn round and start going in the right direction. That's what repentance is. Repentance is not a work that we do which makes God forgive us. Repentance is a response to God's grace; a response to his kindness that he's shown us at the cross. We see how much God has loved us and how much we've grieved him and we say sorry and turn back to him. We turn from going our way to going God's way - we turn back to God
Now this is important; repentance is directional. It's a bit like the difference between velocity and speed. Velocity has direction. Speed doesn't. And repentance is directional. Which Direction? Away from ourselves and towards God. But, in a world with billions of voices, how do we know which way is the right way; which way is God's way? How do we we know which direction to go in? How do we know whether to be sorry or not? What tells us that we should or shouldn't be doing something and whether we need to change or not? It's usually those around us. our friendships, those that influence us, people saying it's alright to do this or that, to get drunk, to sleep around, to get revenge, to skive at work or cheat the taxman; everyone else does it. These days society tells us that guilt is bad; that you shouldn't feel bad about yourself. Is it the culture we live in that directs us?
Who or what will you allow to rebuke you? There are people who will say "It's alright, don't feel bad about that" and there are people who will enjoy putting you down or mistakingly rebuke you. How do we know when a rebuke is a Godly rebuke from which we should have Godly sorrow and so produce a Godly change in us? Answer; when it is from God. And how do we know when it is from God? Answer; when it is from God's word. Some of us have consciences which are too soft and we feel sorry for all sorts of things and some of us have consciences which are too hard and we don't feel sorry for enough things. We need God's word to shape our consciences.
Now let's see where this is from the passage - Repentance is directional. It is turning from ourselves; doing what we want, and turning to God; doing what he wants. Which way did the Corinthians turn? Back to the verses we began with and then continuing in v12
"He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever."
"So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are."
Which way did the Corinthians turn? They turned to Paul. They turned to Paul. The Corinthians had deep sorrow that they had sinned and they longed for Paul. They cared for Paul, and they showed their devotion to Paul and Timothy. Why is this important? Because Paul had been wrongfully accused and as we see in other parts of this letter (which we haven't got time to go into now but please do re-read it at home) he is having to defend himself and reassert that he is a true apostle sent by Christ, and the fact they care for him and show they are on his side; shows they agree that he is a genuine apostle and they show that they have listened to him and done what he says. And that's important because Paul as an apostle was giving them apostolic teaching. As one sent from God he was giving them teaching from God. He was writing the very words of God, for example here in 2 Corinthians. And they accepted the apostolic teaching. They listened to, were rebuked by, made sorry by and then followed the apostolic teaching of Paul. Do you and I follow the apostolic teaching? Do you and i follow what it says in the Bible? - what God says?
Repentance is directional. Which way did the Corinthians turn? They turned back to the teaching of Paul. Which way should we turn? Turn back to the teaching of the Bible. It is vital that we take the teaching of the bible seriously because repentance shows us to be true christians. Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow which produces Godly change showing us to be true Christians. The rebuke and sorrow and repentance showed they were on Paul's side; on God's side. And Paul sees just how important this is; so important that it gives Paul such great joy. It really encourages him. Why? Paul sees that they are repentant. Paul sees that they have had a change of heart; that they have changed direction and are going God's way and that encourages him and gives him confidence that they are saved. Can you see that as we read on in verses 13-16?
"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. 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. And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you."
He's confident. Why is he confident? Because of their response. Because they have responded to the rebuke. because they have repented. They have repented which shows they are true Christians and are going to be saved and that gives Paul confidence and such overflowing, boundless, limitless Joy that they are true Christians who will be saved. Read with me v4
"I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds."
What Joy Paul had when he saw them repenting. What confidence he had when he saw the fruit of the Spirit at work in them. Do we feel that way about others? Is that our motivation for rebuking others? And do we think that way when we receive Godly rebuke?
Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow which produces Godly change showing us to be true Christians bringing great joy.
Have you repented? Are you a Christian?
Those of you who have become Christians recently; are you repenting? Are you sad that you've not been living God's way? Are you making changes?
Those who have been Christians for a while, you don't get off lightly; Are you repenting daily? Repentance is continual. Notice that Paul addresses these Corinthians as Christians (v4&14-16) and he doesn't say that repentance is finished. He goes on with the rest of the letter telling them how they can continue to repent. Real Christians continually respond to rebuke in repentance. Are you reading God's word? Are you reading God's word daily? If not then you're not giving him much chance to change you, because that's how God changes you, that's how God does his work through his word by his spirit. And when you read his word do you read it and then forget about it? Or do you spend enough time asking God to reveal his grace to you and do you read it thinking, "Right, how does God want me to change? How does God want me to become more like his perfect Son our Lord Jesus." Do we read it asking God to show how we should turn around and turn back to him? Do we read it in sorrow asking God to help us repent?
You see; Godly rebuke produces Godly sorrow which produces Godly change showing us to be true Christians bringing great joy.