Godly Sorrow – Part 2

bf7“I am going to preach tonight about sorrow for sin. I hope it has not yet quite gone out of the world; I trust that sorrowful penitence does still exist, though I have not heard much about it lately. People seem to jump into faith very quickly nowadays. I do not disapprove of that happy leap; but, still, I hope my old friend repentance is not dead. I am desperately in love with repentance; it seems to me to be the twin-sister to faith. I do not myself understand much about dry-eyed faith; I know that I came to Christ by the way of Weeping-cross. I did not come to shelter beneath his blood immediately I heard of it, as I now wish that I had done; but when I did come to Calvary, by faith, it was with great weeping and supplication, confessing my transgressions, and desiring to find salvation in Jesus, and in Jesus only.”

(Source: Godly Sorrow and Sorrow, a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon delivered on 9/9/1900)

How to tell the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow?

Godly sorrow is sorrow on account of sin because it is sin against God.

Spurgeon makes an intriguing point about godly sorrow by comparing two labels: sinner and criminal. We might readily say “I am a sinner”. But do we realize our criminal offense against God? Perhaps we have made attempts to reconcile with other people or to reach a certain level of perceived peace with those who have offended us. But is our conscience clear before God who sees all?

“If I were to personally address any man or woman in this place, and say, “You are a sinner,” each one would reply, “Yes, that is true;” but if I were to say to a man, “You are a criminal,” he would be ready to knock me down. So, you see, a criminal is one who offends against men, and that is, in our view, a very horrible thing; but a sinner being only one who offends against God, that is not, according to most people’s notion, anything in particular, so they do not care much about it. Oh, but when a man is really awakened, he sees that the gravamen of the offense is that it is an offense against God; that is the worst part of the offense, as he rightly judges, and he therefore sorrows over it. This is a sorrow which is to be cultivated by us, the mourning over sin because it is committed against God.”

Godly sorrow is mixed with faith that yields to Christ.

To be sorry for sin and realize we stand as criminals before God is one thing, and a necessary step. But have we accepted the mercy of God? Do we realize the grace and forgiveness at the cross of Christ? Godly sorrow is both bitter and sweet. Godly sorrow is not merely rejection of sin but also acceptance of Christ. Godly sorrow is not just a “take your lashings and move on” type of sorrow. Godly sorrow includes faith in the completed work on the cross of Calvary. Godly sorrow is a surrender to grace that costs us nothing and cost God everything.

“Then, notice, that it is also a sorrow which is associated with a believing faith, for a godly sorrow must be one that makes the heart that feels it yield itself to Christ. Yielding itself to Christ, it must believe in Christ; for, if I do not believe in Christ, it is certain that I have not yielded myself to him. Therefore, the only sorrow for sin that is worth having is that which brings me to yield myself up to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to accept God’s mercy in God’s own way. If you have any sort of sorrow for sin, which does not lead you to believe in Christ, away with it! Away with it! A repentance, that does not repent at the cross, is a repentance which will have to be repented of; but true sorrow for sin must be blended with a childlike submission to God, and consequent confidence in Christ; otherwise, it is not “godly sorrow.”

Godly sorrow leads to repentance.

When we come to the great realization of our criminal status before God and are washed in His floodgates of mercy, we enter into a paradigm-shift. Verse 11 of the text for this sermon reads: “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.” (2 Corinthians 7:11) That is the result of godly sorrow that leads to repentance! The change of mind that occurs is so radical it cannot be mistaken. And it can and will happen regularly when our spirit is growing and healthy. Worldly sorrow leaves much regret and seeks to put people and events into the past as quickly as possible, forgetting that things ever happened. But Godly sorrow seeks justice. Godly sorrow leads to a fervent desire to make things right.

“Godly sorrow” is, next, known by its leading to repentance. It “worketh repentance” – “a change of mind” about everything, and especially about sin. A man is so sorry for having done wrong that he thinks differently now of all wrong-doing. He thinks differently of his entire life; and his mind is made up, God helping him, to live just the opposite way to that in which he has formerly lived. When sorrow for sin leads to that result, we may be quite sure that it is the work of the Spirit of God, and that it is acceptable in his sight.”

“It leads on also to deliverance from sin, for the text says, “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation.” Now, what is salvation? Some people think that it means being saved from going down to hell. That is the result of salvation; but salvation means being saved from the power of sin, and being saved from the tendency to sin, as well as being saved from the punishment of sin. That is a blessed sorrow which leads us to such a change of mind that the bonds of sin are snapped, and we become free men in Christ Jesus, saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation from the bondage and the power of sin and Satan.”


  1. Godly sorrow is repentance of sin from conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. It is realization that one’s sin is a sin against God (Ps 51:4).

    Worldly sorrow is “repentance” of wrongdoing from man-induced artificial guilt usually over matters of church tradition and/or practice: you must write testimony, attend weekly meetings without fail, absolutely obey your director without question, etc,

    There were recent comments by liveforchrist who was “caught” for dating in a UBF chapter that does not allow dating—unless known and approved by the chapter director beforehand. Such “sin of dating without the chapter director’s knowledge and approval” is clearly man induced guilt, and not Holy Spirit conviction of sin.

    • Yes indeed, Ben. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict, John 16:8-11. A pastor or religious leader who heaps guilt upon the heads of others is a wolf in shepherd’s clothing.