The Devil and God both talk about sin, but in different ways with dramatic impact. While the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, never is the Holy Spirit identified as a accuser. God’s way of confronting His people in their sin Paul calls “godly grief” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
First, godly grief produces not just tears or new resolutions. It actually produces repentance–which means a real turning point. The change is new and incomplete, but real.
Second, the grief from God leads the person back to a fresh acquaintance with the provision of salvation–the merit and mercy of Jesus.
Third, grief from God purposes to send regret away: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (7:10).
In contrast, there is a kind of sorrow for sin that has nothing to do with God. Over the years I have found that those caught in the sin of lying, for example, require the most active energy and time–particularly if lying has been a way of life.
Why is this so? On the one hand, a long life of this sin gives a person a strong skill set with manipulation. Such a person is adept at tears, quoting the right verses, giving meaningful looks of the eyes, and saying what the person in front of them wants to hear. It is easy to conclude that someone has godly grief when actually he is feeling sorrow because he got caught and is simply trying to do what he needs to in order to get everyone off his case and to get back to normal.
A grief that is self-generated and made mischief with the Devil “produces death,” Paul says (vs. 10). That is, it sheds tears but does not turn; it makes resolutions and quotes verses. But it neither rests upon Jesus alone nor surrenders to God.
Regret still tells the story in the first person present, as if we are still in the moment. It happened years agao, but we who listen get the idea from you that it happened recently.
Regret can also keep secrets. We put the lid on it and tell no one to preserve our image. It gradually eats away at us. But godly grief will eventually turn our sinful secrets into testimonies of grace.