Cultivating Godly Sorrow
Date Posted: October 1st, 2012
Cultivating Godly Sorrow
#5/17—Momentum: How To Make Progress In Your Christian Life
September 29th / 30th 2012
by Pastor Colin S. Smith
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
We saw last time that there are three kinds of mourning—
1. Natural mourning grieves the loss of someone you love.
2. Sinful mourning is grieving over something God never intended you to have. But Jesus is referring here to:
3. Spiritual mourning is grieving over your sins against God. Christ tells us that this kind of mourning is blessed.
Spiritual mourning is so laden with blessing that we are to go after it and get as much of it in our lives as we possibly can. The more you know of this mourning, the more joy you will experience in your life.
Spiritual mourning is the key to overcoming habitual sins. The book of Judges tells the story of God’s people over several generations. If you read the book, you will discover that there is a repeated pattern…
1. God’s people turn to idols.
2. God gives them into the hands of their enemies.
3. They cry out to God for mercy.
4. God raises up a deliverer.
5. Then God’s people turn to idols again…
The cycle continues throughout the book. If I was giving a popular title to the book of Judges, I would call it “How Not to Live the Christian Life!” You may recognize this pattern in your own life:
1. Toying with sin.
2. Falling into sin.
3. Asking Christ for forgiveness.
4. Experiencing God’s mercy.
5. Starting to toy with sin again…
How do we avoid being the guy who sits in church every week, but remains unchanged for 10, 20 or 30 years? Deliverance from that cycle begins with taking sin more seriously, and that’s the focus of this second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Today, we focus on the “How?” How can I practice spiritual mourning? How can I cultivate this godly sorrow that is laden with blessing? How can I break the cycle of habitual sin and go after true repentance?
How to See
There’s an old saying: “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.” When Johnny cracks his mother’s vase, he turns the cracked side towards the wall: “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over,” he says. Nobody gets upset about something they don’t know.
We can only enter into spiritual mourning over sins that we actually see. Spiritual mourning begins with seeing your sins. There are three ways in which you can come to a clearer knowledge of your own sins.
1. God’s Word
When you open the Bible, you are reading God’s words and His thoughts. As the Scripture gets into your life, you will begin to see things as God sees them.
By nature, we don’t see well. We justify what we do. We don’t see ourselves as others see us, let alone as God sees us. Reading the Bible is like putting on a pair of spectacles. You begin to see what God sees. You get to know what grieves Him and offends Him.
Reading the Bible will open your eyes to the sins that lurk in your life. “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8). They help you to see. This is a wonderful gift of God.
Growing up in Scotland, I learned early on these five questions to keep in mind when you read the Bible. I’ve never outgrown them…
1. What does this tell me about God?
2. What does this tell me about myself?
3. Is there a sin to avoid?
4. Is there a promise to believe?
5. Is there a command to obey?
Today we are focusing in on the question: Is there a sin to avoid? Reading the Bible will open your eyes to see the sins you must avoid. Look, for example, at 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
These verses clearly point out at least 7 sins. What are the things that grieve the Spirit of God?
1. Impatience (love is patient)
2. Envy (love does not envy)
3. Pride (love is not arrogant)
4. Rudeness (love is not rude)
5. Insisting on your own way (Love is not self-seeking)
6. Irritable (Love is not irritable; it is not easily provoked)
7. Resentful (Love does not hang on to past hurts)
All of these are offensive to God. They grieve the Holy Spirit. They ruin character and contradict the way of Christ.
God’s Word will open your eyes to what God calls sin. Read the Word and you will see where sin occupies your life. Leave your Bible closed and your eyes will remain closed to the sins lurking in your life. Open your Bible and God will open your eyes.
2. God’s Spirit
Imagine walking through a dark basement. There are hidden treasures there, and unopened gifts too. But there’s also all kinds of junk, and trash, and vile things that should never be there.
There’s a bad smell because some animals got into the basement and died there, and they’ve been lying there for some time. Hidden in the corners, there are some living ones too! That’s a biblical picture of your soul.
God could show you all the junk in your soul by turning on a floodlight. If He did that you would be completely and utterly devastated. You’d never recover from it.
None of us could bear the full knowledge of the extent of our sin if all of it was all revealed to us on earth at one time. God is gracious and kind. He does not show us our sins with a floodlight but with a flashlight.
The Holy Spirit is the flashlight. He leads us through the murky basement. He illuminates hidden things in dark corners of your soul, so that by God’s grace you can deal with the junk.
Jesus said, “When the [Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin” (John 16:8). But the Spirit does this with a flashlight not a floodlight. That’s why sanctification is a lifelong process. There are more sins in our lives than any of us is able to see right now. Thank God He’s patient with us. That’s why we need to be patient with one another.
When the Bible opens your eyes to particular sins, ask the Lord to show you where they’re lurking in your life. Where have I been insisting on my own way? What is the hurt I’ve been holding onto? Where is impatience hiding in my life? The Holy Spirit shows what the sins are, and the flashlight shows me where they’re lurking in my life.
Use the prayer at the end of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
3. God’s people
Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed. James 5:16
Other Christians who know you well can help you see where you need to grow. That’s why relationships with believers are such a gift from God.
Here’s a direct challenge to every man who’s happily married today. Ask your wife, “What’s one sin I should be fighting against more strongly?” The person God has placed next to you will be a help to you in this.
It’s important to practice what you preach, so I already did this. Here’s what happened: I asked my wife “What’s one sin I should be fighting against more strongly?” She said… “Can I give you two?” And she did. She identified two areas in which I need to grow. What she said was insightful and it has continued to help me grow this week…
Ladies, if your husband asks you this question, don’t waffle with some statement about what a wonderful fellow he is, except that you wish he would fold his socks, etc.
What would help him grow as a Christian? What hinders him from being more useful to God than he is? These are not easy questions to answer. You need spiritual light to be helpful here.
If you are not married or if your marriage is not at a place where there is a high level of trust, ask someone else who knows you well. Find someone who can speak into your life and listen to what they have to say. This is a great area for honest discussion in your Life Group this week.
God did not call you to follow Christ with the intent that your life would remain largely unchanged for 10, 20, or 30 years in your “Christian life,” so, let’s help one another to be on the growing edge of a holy life.
How to Mourn
1. State your sin clearly, without excuse or evasion
Spiritual mourning is always over particular sins. Most of us experience times when we feel a general sense of our own failure. That’s not spiritual mourning.
The hypocrite may admit that he is a sinner, but he never gets down to naming a single personal sin. Mourning over sin in general never moves you forward. It just leaves you feeling miserable.
Spiritual mourning has a clear focus. It is mourning over particular sins, that you have come to see through the ministry of God’s Word, through God’s Spirit and through God’s people.
State your sin clearly—without excuse and without evasion: “I have acted out of envy. I have insisted on my own way. I have deceived and I have covered up, and this is a sin against God.” You have to take it out of the dark place where the Holy Spirit shines a light on it.
David says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). Others were wounded by what David did, but at its heart, sin is an offense against God, and there is no such thing as a small sin against a great God.
2. Weigh what this sin has done to you
My sin is ever before me. Psalm 51:3
David is looking at the effect of sin on his own soul. Think about the life of holiness to which God has called you. Think of where you might have been by now if this sin had not held you back. Consider how this sin has limited your usefulness to Christ. Reflect on how it has dampened your worship, and dulled your testimony, and kept you at a distance from God.
Think about the other sins into which this sin has also led you: Sins of deception and pretense. Look at what this sin is costing you—total up the bill. Think of what your life could be… if you left this sin behind.
3. Recognize what this sin has done to others
Nobody sins to himself or herself alone. The people God has placed around you are all affected by your sin, even if it remains unknown to them. Why? Your sins make you less, and that robs others of what they might have received from you.
Many of our sins are obvious. Often, they are sins against other people. Our sins make us harder to live with, more difficult to work with, and tougher to love.
4. Consider what your sin did to Christ…
…and what Christ has done for you
Jesus Christ did not hang on the cross for sins in general, but for sins in particular—sins with names, dates and faces on them, for which there was real punishment. How do we know that?
On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment for sin, and God does not punish sins, unless they are real. So, the sin you’re mourning was a sin for which Christ died. He suffered on account of this sin that has lurked in your life. There was a punishment for this that would have been upon you, but it was transferred to Him.
We have been asking: How do you break a pattern of habitual sin? How can you hate what you used to love, and despise what you used to choose? We are learning that this comes through spiritual mourning, and spiritual mourning happens at the cross…
Come and see, come and see. Come and see the King of love
See the purple robe and crown of thorns He wears
Soldiers mock, rulers sneer as He lifts the cruel cross
Lone and friendless now He climbs towards the hill
Come and weep, come and mourn for your sin that pierced Him there
So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail
All our pride, all our greed all our fallen-ness and shame
And the Lord has laid the punishment on Him
We worship at your feet where wrath and mercy meet
And a guilty world is washed by love’s pure stream
For us He was made sin. Oh, help me take it in
Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive.’
I worship, I worship the Lamb who was slain 
I am reading the diary of Andrew Bonar, a godly pastor from the 19th century, who kept a journal of his own spiritual life. He struggled over why he did not hate sin more, why he fell back into it, and how he could make more progress in overcoming it…
Thursday May 7th, 1829
“It has been much impressed upon me, that if convinced of sin at all, I must be so by the view of it in Christ’s love.” 
That was his experience, and out of it, the center of his ministry was to help people turn from sin by showing them the love of Christ.
When you look at the cross, there’s more than seeing what your sin did to Jesus. It’s also about seeing Jesus Christ in relation to what He did for you. At the cross you see how much you are loved.
You have been sinning against God and what does Jesus Christ do? He bears your sins in His body on the tree. A glimpse of the love of Christ will do more to strengthen you in your battle against sin than a hundred commitments or a hundred disciplines.
How to Find Comfort
1. Ask God for total forgiveness
Have mercy on me O God, according to your steadfast love… according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions… Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
Psalm 51:1, 9
Notice the emphasis on completeness. Sins are blotted out by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. When your sins are blotted out, they are covered, never to be seen in God’s presence again.
God does not forget our sins—as if He had amnesia. God knows all things. He knows who you are and what you’ve done. That’s what makes His love so remarkable. He knows everything about us, but in love He says, “I will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).
Sins that are under the blood of Christ are never in the mind of God. Does God know your past sins? Yes—every one. Are they on His mind when I come to Him in the name of Jesus? No.
When you come to God in Jesus Christ, know that the mind of God is for you and with you in love, and without reservation, no matter how many times you have come to Him before.
Remember, we’re justified by Christ’s blood, not by our tears. Forgiveness does not flow from the depth of your sorrow. Forgiveness flows from the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:9).
The question is never: “Have I been sorry enough to earn forgiveness?” The question is: “Is the sacrifice of Jesus enough to release forgiveness?” It’s not: “Have I done enough in order to be forgiven?” but “Has Christ done enough to for me to be forgiven?” The answer to that question is YES! Ask God for total forgiveness, but don’t stop there…
2. Ask God for a clean heart
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean… Create in me a new heart… Psalm 51:2, 7, 10
Notice how David keeps coming back to the effect of his sin in his own soul. He is asking God, “Cover my sin in your presence. But more than that—wash its effects from my life.
Sin brings guilt in the presence of God, but it also brings pollution into the human heart. Sin makes the sinner unclean. It spoils the life and ruins the character.
David’s heart led him into sin. Sinful acts come from a sinful heart. So he asked, “What will keep me from doing this again?” He didn’t want to go on repeating the same sin, so he said, “Create in me a clean heart. Give me a heart that hates what I once loved, and despises what I once chose.”
3. Ask God for a renewed spirit
Spiritual mourning is always marked by and infused with hope. But when you get serious about mourning your sins, the enemy has tactics for stalling your spiritual progress. He can dull your conscience so you lose awareness of indwelling sin, and the junk remains in the basement.
But when you get serious about addressing sin in your life, and the Holy Spirit is shining the light, Satan switches tactics. Once you see the weight of sin in your own life, the enemy will use that to try and crush you, “Look at all this junk! There’s no hope for you. Look at this mess.”
When Satan tempts you to sin, he tells you there is no harm in it. But when you have fallen into sin, he tells you there is no hope because of it! When he says, “You can never overcome this,” you need to remember that the devil is a liar, and ask God to renew your spirit…
Create in me a new heart…
…renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Restore to me the joy of your salvation…
…uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12
Cast me not away from your presence…
…take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have broken rejoice! Psalm 51:8
4. Ask God for a useful life
God works in all things for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28
All things has to include your sins and failures. You may find that God’s greatest work in your life begins at the point of your greatest failure.
When Satan tempted you, he meant it for your destruction, but God can use it for your everlasting good. That’s the power of redeeming love. It’s what God does through the cross.
Don’t waste your sins! Don’t waste your failures! What good can God bring out of your greatest failures? Here are a couple of things…
i. Genuine testimony
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and
sinners will return to you. Psalm 51:13
When you see what God’s grace can do in your own life, you will be motivated to share this with others.
ii. Heartfelt worship
O Lord, open my lips, and
my mouth will declare your praise. Psalm 15:15
The one who has been forgiven much loves much.
There’s Great Joy to be Found Here!
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
You will never mourn this mourning. You will never be sad over this sorrow. You will never repent of this repentance. This mourning is blessed. This sadness leads to joy. This repentance leaves no regret (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Christians are people who know their own poverty. They look to Jesus for what they do not have, and know that in Him they have all that they need: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Christians are people who know their own sins. They look to Jesus Christ for mercy and find joy in pursuing a holy life: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Is that you?
 Graham Kendrick, from song “Come and See,” Make Way music, 1989
 Andrew Bonar, “Diary and Life,” p. 5, Banner of Truth, 1984
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