The Work of Godly Grief Within Us

How we measure up in relation to the barometer of Scripture and what we do with it.


“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) (ESV)

When I read this, I immediately ask myself, “How do I measure up to this standard?” Have I exhibited a godly grief that produces repentance that leads to salvation? I think that’s the natural inclination.

I search myself, my past and present experiences, my behavior and my orientation toward God, and I measure myself on the scale that is presented, not just in this passage, but in any passage. Scripture is not just a prescription; it’s a barometer.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) (ESV)

I felt that active and sharp character of the Bible when I first read it in college, and it is not any less active or sharp in its affect on me today. If I am conscious of the “interaction” of the Scripture in relation to the thoughts and intents of my heart, it provides a third person view, in effect, into my self in relation to God.

Still, I am tempted to think, “How can I measure up?” Regarding the verse above, I am tempted to consider how I can generate a godly grief that produces repentance that leads to salvation. My mindset is, “How can I do that?” or “What does it take to accomplish that?”

As I dive deeper into the verse, though, I begin to see something else. That something else gets to the heart of my relationship with God. It is the heart of the Gospel.

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When You Realize God Sees You, Exposed in Your sin

God sees it all. Every thought. Every urge in the heart. Every word. Every deed…. And still He calls us.


Peter was one of the first followers of Jesus. He was one the twelve who became known as “the apostles”, one of the closest followers of Jesus. But Peter wasn’t just a follower, and he wasn’t just one of the apostles. Andrew, Peter’s brother, is known as the first follower of Jesus, but Peter became closer to Jesus then Andrew. Peter was one of the inner circle of the closest confidants to Jesus.

There were only three people in that inner circle: James and John, the brothers from Zebedee, and Peter, and Peter was the main spokesman of the three. Only Peter, James and John went up to the mount to witness the Transfiguration, and only Peter spoke with Jesus about it. Peter wasn’t just a spokesman; he was a leader among the followers of Jesus.

Peter was with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry to the end. He argued, legitimately, about who was best of the followers of Jesus. He boldly declared his willingness to go to prison and to die for Jesus. Of all the disciples of Jesus, Peter stood out above the rest.

So when Jesus told Peter that the rooster would not crow that day before Peter would deny him three times, Peter must have thought, “How much more can I say or do to show you that I am committed?!”

And then, Peter’s world turned upside down. The apostles didn’t understand, really, what Jesus talking about until the drama Jesus tried to explain to them unfolded right in front of them. Without warning, a crowd came walking up to them lead by Judas. The disciples reacted, ready to fight for Jesus, but Jesus stopped them from resisting, Jesus was escorted away… without a fight,. Jesus let them take him like a lamb led to its slaughter.

Imagine Peter, following at a distance, his bold bravado swept away by pained confusion and fear. “This isn’t the way this is supposed to go”, he had to be thinking. “Is this the way it all ends?” In the cloud of his confusion, pain and disillusionment, as he was standing in a crowd around a fire, a servant girl identified Peter as one of the people with Jesus, and Peter denied it.

Two more times at different intervals, Peter denied being associated with Jesus. Immediately after the third time, the rooster crowed, “[a]nd the Lord turned and looked at Peter”. At that instance, the words Jesus spoke just a short while earlier played through Peter’s head, and he “wept bitterly”.[i]

Imagine Peter as the rooster crowed and the Lord’s eyes met his…. All of his words, three years of commitment to Jesus and all the boasting about who is the greatest unraveled completely in a moment in time. Peter was undone… exposed as a fraud.

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The Innate Sin within Us

We are all innately sinful. That is what the story of the fall teaches us.


I find something incredibly refreshing in the stories of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. Dr. Rosario Butterfield, David Bennett, Sam Alberry and others have had truly inspirational journeys in their Christian faith. I find unique comfort and encouragement in their stories.

With that said, I’m going to be unusually candid in this piece: I’m a heterosexual male. But that is not the candid part. I have struggled all my Christian life with heterosexual lust. That’s the candid part.

By the time I became a believer and committed myself to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in my very late teens and early twenties, I was very much a product of a society that objectifies sex, obsesses about sex and worships sex.

But, to be honest, I am not just a product of my environment. Attraction to women is innate in me. All of my life, as far back as I can remember, I have been attracted to girls. My first crushes are some of my earliest memories going back to even to preschool and kindergarten.

When I became a Christian, I began to recognize that the extent of the attraction, and the extent to which I fed the attraction, was unhealthy. In fact, it was sinful at the core. Jesus says if we even look at a woman lustfully, we have sinned.

The sin of sexual lust was ingrained deep within me. I can’t wholly blame the environment in which I grew up for the sinful lust that grew within me, though it was provoked and fed by that environment. The root of that sin grew deeply and innately from the core of my being.

I can only imagine a similar experience with same sex attraction. I understand Lady Gaga’s song, Born This Way, though I didn’t always understand it. While my heterosexual attraction is accepted and even celebrated in the world in which I grew up, my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have had to labor under a general societal distaste and disdain for their same sex attraction.

When I first heard the assertion that people are born with same sex attraction, I didn’t believe it. It defied biology. It didn’t make common sense to me. I figured it is a deviation from the way things are supposed to be. It’s nuts and bolts.

I have come to realize that maybe people really are “born that way” – like me having an innate attraction to girls as far back as I can remember. I didn’t choose it. It is the way it is.

The thing is that any unhealthy attraction that is over-indulged and idolized is sin. Any inner urging that invites me to think and act contrary to conscience and what I know and understand to be God’s desire for me, if I indulge it or act on it, is sinful. I fight the struggle every day.

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Nothing is Covered

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your life played back on a large screen for the world to see?


“[N]othing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Matthew 10:26 ES

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your life played back on a large screen for the world to see? All of the things you did when you thought no one was looking splashed up on a giant screen? Nowhere to hide…. I think most people would shudder to think of it.

… and if you don’t shudder, you might not be thinking hard or long enough about what that giant screen might show – every unkind word, hateful thought, deviant desire, selfish indulgence, prideful arrogance, lustful dream and every act you have ever done.

The truth is that God sees it all. He sees everything you have ever done, everything you have ever thought, and everything you have ever desired to do.

Therefore, when Jesus said that “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known,” He wasn’t saying that in reference to God. God already knows. He has already seen all you have done, all you have thought and all you have desired to do.

If God has already seen all you have done, all you have thought and all you have desired to do, what was Jesus talking about?

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Honest Liar or Dishonest Priest?


Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’  But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’  So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.  You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:   “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” Matthew 15:1-9 ESV


And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”…. Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:10-11, 17-20 ESV

Jesus leveled his criticism at people who seemed to honor God in the way they spoke and acted, but they didn’t honor God in their hearts. He quoted the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel who carried a similar theme in their writings. The prophets were as harsh on the religious and political leaders of their day as Jesus was in his day.

The statement, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, seems to miss the mark in light of the importance Jesus places on the heart, does it not? Not that what we do isn’t important. It’s just that what we do starts with who we are, and who are is in our hearts.

Continue reading “Honest Liar or Dishonest Priest?”