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GRIEF, HEAVINESS, AND DEEP SORROW

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at Calvary Road Baptist Church, Monrovia, California
Saturday Evening, January 1, 2011

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10).


Two kinds of sorrow appear in this text, godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. The Greek word translated here as “sorrow” is “lupē.” It means “grief, heaviness, deep sorrow.” Here are the two kinds of sorrow.

I. First, the sorrow of the world.

“The sorrow of the world worketh death.” Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) said that the sorrow of this world is sorrow that is “common to men of the world, as Cain, Pharaoh, Judas, and others; it springs from worldly principles…it is often nothing more than a concern for the loss of worldly things, for a disappointment in the gratification of worldly… pleasures” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume II, p. 804; note on II Corinthians 7:10). It is not sorrow for sin against a holy God. It is selfish sorrow. It comes out of being sorry for yourself, not from sorrow for sin. It is the sorrow of Cain, who said,

“My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13).

Cain had disobeyed God by deliberately giving the wrong offering. When it was rejected, did Cain have godly sorrow? He did not! He became angry at God. When he killed his brother Abel, did he have godly sorrow? One would think he would have felt grief, heaviness and deep sorrow for committing that dreadful sin. But he did not! He was only sorry for himself, not for his sin. He said to God,

My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13).

Notice the selfishness in that man! “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Notice the two personal pronouns, “My” and “I.” He was sorry for himself – but he was not sorry for his sin. Horrible! Disgusting!

Yet some of you are no better than him. Some of you have tears in each of these meetings. But they are not tears of sorrow for the sins you have committed. “Poor me,” your self-centered heart says,

My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13).

You have no thought of the sorrow you have caused others by your sins. You have no thought of the sorrow, suffering and grief you have caused your parents and your friends, no sorrow whatever for the grief and suffering that Christ went through to save you from your sins. None! None at all! You are only sorry for yourself, and you have no sorrow at all for the sins you have committed against a holy God, and His suffering Son.

My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13)

is your self-centered lament. A person who remains selfish to the core, like Cain, can never ever be converted, for “the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10). You will remain “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) now, and at last your soul will fall into Hell, where you will continue throughout eternity feeling sorry for yourself, and not for your sin. Mark! The Rich Man in Hell remained sorry, not for his sins, but for himself. He did not cry over his sins. No! No!

“He cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me…for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24).

“Me.” “I.” Self-centered to the end! Like Cain, he was a man who never ever felt sorrow for his sins. Even in Hell he only felt self-pity. He only sorrowed for himself. He never felt sorrow for his sins. “The sorrow of the world worketh death” – the second death, in the flames of Hell. No salvation can ever come to a man in Hell. It is then eternally too late to be saved. Forever and ever you will cry out self-centeredly with Cain,

My punishment is greater than I can bear.”

Forever and ever you will cry out with that Rich Man,

“Have mercy on me…for I am tormented in this flame.”

But no mercy will be extended because you lived your life, and died your death, without ever being convicted in your heart of the sins you have committed against a holy God. “The sorrow of the world worketh death.”

I have seen that night after night in these meetings. One Chinese student weeps night after night. But he does not weep for his many sins. He weeps because he cannot figure out how to come to Christ. “Poor me! Poor me! “I can’t figure it out,” he weeps in his heart. What self-pity! It is “the sorrow of the world [that] worketh death.” If the man were convicted of the sins he has committed against a holy God, he would be drawn to Christ by God Himself.

A young girl comes weeping every night. But she does not weep over her sins. She cries because she feels pressure from her parents. She wants them to leave her alone so she can go on like she is, in an unconverted state. She does not have sorrow for her sins. She only feels sorry for herself, sorry that her parents make her come to church!

A woman cries every night. But they are only tears of emotion. She is, by nature, very emotional. So she cries. But they are not tears of conviction. They are no more tears of conviction than are the tears of a little baby. My mother called them “crocodile tears,” tears that come from childish emotion, which are nothing more than “the sorrow of the world [that] worketh death.”

We have seen others that weep because they fear going to Hell. Strange as it may seem, these too come from “the sorrow of the world [that] worketh death.” Fear of Hell is different from sorrow for sin. It too is self-centered, “I don’t want to go to Hell.” It is a selfish sorrow. It is not the conviction that you have sinned against a holy God! It is not that sorrow which says to God,

“My sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:3-4).

It is the sorrow of fear, not the sorrow of grief over sinning against a holy God.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death”
       (II Corinthians 7:10).

II. Second, godly sorrow that produces repentance to salvation.

Matthew Henry said, “The antecedent [forerunner] of true repentance is godly sorrow. It is not repentance itself, but it is a good preparative to repentance, and in some sense the cause that produces repentance…It [is] a godly sorrow, because [it is] a sorrow for sin, as an offence against God…Godly sorrow…will end in salvation; but worldly sorrow worketh death…Humiliation and godly sorrow are previously necessary [to salvation]” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1991 edition, volume 6, p. 505; note on II Corinthians 7:10). Iain H. Murray said, “No one was converted without knowing that he needed to be. Regeneration normally occurs when individuals are under conviction” (Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005 edition, page 22).

Can you be truly converted without feeling sorrow for your sin? Can you become a real Christian without feeling “grief, heaviness and deep sorrow” for sinning in the sight of a holy God? See that “woman in the city, which was a sinner” (Luke 7:37). Watch her as she comes near Jesus, “behind him weeping” (Luke 7:38). Does Jesus rebuke her for weeping over her sin? He does not! He said to that weeping sinner, “Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Can a man see himself as a damned sinner without emotion? Can a man listen to the thunderings of the law and feel nothing? Or conversely, can a man really contemplate the love of God in Christ Jesus and feel no emotion? The whole position [that you should feel no emotion] is utterly ridiculous” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981 edition, p. 95).

When sorrow for sin comes to a person he will be intensely disturbed. His heart will cry out to God, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). His heart will cry, “Woe is me! for I am undone [I am lost]” (Isaiah 6:5). His heart will cry, “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (Psalm 90:8). He will feel what Jeremiah prayed, “That our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters” (Jeremiah 9:18). He will cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

I have been an eye-witness to two God-sent revivals. I can say that what I saw was perfectly described by William Gibson concerning the Ulster Revival in Northern Ireland in 1859. Gibson said, “Men felt as if the Lord had breathed on them. They were first affected with awe and fear – then they were bathed in tears – then filled with love unspeakable” (quoted by Iain H. Murray in Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, p. 22).

That is exactly what I saw. I saw people who were so convicted of their sin that “they were bathed in tears.” That is exactly what is happening in the great revival going on right now in the People’s Republic of China. I have seen videos of the revival in China. There they are, great crowds of Chinese people so deeply convicted of their sin that they are “bathed in tears.” This is not Pentecostalism. It is not so-called “worship.” This is the work of God in giving sinners deep conviction of sin. The tears of China’s revival are tears of grief, heaviness, and deep sorrow for sin!

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…”
      (II Corinthians 7:10).

I say that you need to feel “godly sorrow.” I say that your heart needs to be melted by God-sent conviction of your sin. I say that there are some here tonight whose hearts need to be “pricked” as were those at Pentecost, when grown men were “pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Dry, dead “ministers” may call it “fanaticism” if you shed tears for sinning against a holy God. But the Bible calls it “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance to salvation” (II Corinthians 7:10).

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

Oh, may you be broken by the Spirit of God! Oh, may He give you a broken and contrite heart! Oh, may tears of contrition flow from your eyes when you feel “godly sorrow” for breaking the law of God, and sinning in His sight.

You sit there unmoved, thinking that you can learn to be a Christian with your mind. But the Bible says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10). Your “heart” must be broken. Your “heart” must weep. Your eyes may not actually weep, but your heart needs to feel sorrow for your sins.

All these long years thou hast sinned against a holy God. All these long years thou hast refused to shed a tear for rejecting Jesus, who was “wounded for [thy] transgressions, [who was] bruised for [thy] iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). He died on the Cross to atone for thy sin. He shed His Holy Blood to cleanse thee from sin. He went through torture and agony to save thy eternal soul from endless punishment. Can you not feel sorrow for the love He showed to thee?

When God moved in a powerful way in Korea, a missionary recorded one of the meetings: “As the prayer continued, a spirit of heaviness and sorrow for sin came down upon the audience. Over on one side, someone began to weep, and in a moment the whole audience was weeping. Man after man would…break down and weep, and then throw himself to the floor and beat the floor with his fists in perfect agony of conviction [of sin]. My own cook…broke down in the midst of it, and cried to me across the room: ‘Pastor, tell me, is there any hope for me, can I be forgiven?’ and then he threw himself to the floor and wept and wept, and almost screamed in agony” (Brian H. Edwards, Revival: A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 2004 edition, p. 115).

At the First Chinese Baptist Church I saw young Chinese people who had never been to church in their lives weeping and wailing under conviction of sin, confessing their sins, and crying before God for hours and hours, night after night. When conviction came in another meeting at a Baptist church I saw young people who tried to sing, break down with tears flowing from their eyes – under conviction of sin. I saw an old man, who had been a church member for years, crawl down the aisle on his hands and knees, screaming, “I’m lost! I’m lost! I’m lost!” That often happens in God-sent times of revival.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…”
       (II Corinthians 7:10).

You will not come to Christ until your heart is broken. You will not trust the Saviour until you are grieved, and feel heavy sorrow for your sins. Only when you feel your need for Jesus will you come to Him and be saved. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Psalm 51:1-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Search Me, O God” (Psalm 139:23-24).


THE OUTLINE OF

GRIEF, HEAVINESS, AND DEEP SORROW

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10).

I.   First, the sorrow of the world, Genesis 4:13; Ephesians 2:1;
Luke 16:24; Psalm 51:3-4.

II.  Second, godly sorrow that produces repentance to
salvation, Luke 7:37, 38, 48; Psalm 51:4; Isaiah 6:5;
Psalm 90:8; Jeremiah 9:18; Romans 7:24; Acts 2:37;
Psalm 51:17; Romans 10:10; Isaiah 53:5.