Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Cor 7:1
What promises is Paul talking about? (The “therefore” provides our clue, as it is a continuation word, linking what has gone before with this conclusion.) The promises from chapters 5 and 6. The promises from chapters 5 and 6 are things like, the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee that we belong to God at His coming. We are a new creation in Christ. God has reconciled us to Himself. We are His ambassadors, bringing the message of reconciliation to the rest of the world. He will dwell in us and walk among us, and we are His people and He is our God.
In other words, don’t make the mistake of thinking that because God has so highly favored us, that it is okay if we ignore what is filthy and holy, what is clean and unclean (2 Cor 6:17-18, do not touch what is unclean), but cleanse ourselves from everything that is unclean, of both the flesh – pork, seafood, immorality, etc.; and the spirit – lust, coveting, hatred, etc.
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Cor 7:9-10
Paul’s explanation of the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow is in the context of being caught doing something wrong. He is referring to his earlier letter, 1 Corinthians, in which he had to be stern and rebuke the Corinthian church for the things they were doing wrong. This rebuke produced in them godly sorrow, because they repented of what they had been doing and corrected their ways.
This is such an important passage for parents to understand, that there are two types of “I’m sorry” when people (i.e., children) get caught. The first, most common type, is worldly sorrow. Paul says this kind of sorrow leads to death. Worldly sorrow is when people are genuinely sorry that they got caught doing something wrong, because the consequences of their actions are making their lives miserable now. They are sorry they are having to pay a price. But if they could be assured they would not get caught, they would go out and sin again, because they are not sorry that they sinned, just that they have to pay the price. That is why worldly sorrow leads to death.
Godly sorrow leads to repentance. It is when people are genuinely sorry for the actual sin that they have committed, and they realize how wrong it is and how greatly it offends God. They experience sorrow over the intrinsic nature of the sin, whatever it is. This kind of sorrow leads to repentance, it motivates the heart of someone to turn away from that sin and never do it again.
So how do we get our kids from worldly sorrow over their sins to godly sorrow? First of all, I believe sorrow over sins is a key to children repenting of their sins and receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior, and then keeping Him as their Savior throughout their teenage years. Just because a child is sorry for his sins at 7 does not mean he will be at 17.
So sorrow needs to be the first goal, and it has to be constant and consistent, and this is where a lot of parents fail. When a child does something bad, half the time the parents laugh at how cute it is. What kind of a message does that send children? Parents need to be genuinely mortified over the sins their children commit. They need God’s heart and mind over what is sin and what is not; and how wicked sin is and what a destructive poison it is in the earth. Sin is sin because it hurts people. Either it hurts someone else, or it hurts the person sinning. But someone gets hurt, and that is why it is wrong, and that is why we need to be mortified over it.
God is One who defines sin and righteousness in the Law. There are a lot of people who read those laws, and think That doesn’t make sense, how could that be wrong. In fact, this is a big argument the liberals use in trying to get the gay agenda mainstreamed in America – what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home doesn’t hurt anyone else. We have to realize that the Scripture teaches that all sin hurts someone. And if God says something is a sin, then in His great wisdom, He understands how it hurts someone, even if we don’t. So we have to have the attitude that what God says is sin, is sin; and we have to accept it as such, and be mortified by it. We have to have our own minds renewed first, in other words. And we must go to the Law to renew it on this topic.
Another one that people go really light on today is dishonoring parents and other authority. This one is hard for parents because they know they are not perfect, and perhaps they feel they ought to be dishonored by their children. But it is the children who are hurt when they learn not to honor their parents, because that ultimately causes them to not honor God as adults. And fearing God, honoring God is the beginning of wisdom. We have all seen how destructive a lack of wisdom is in a teen or an adult’s life. It can lead to literal death. So God has a good reason for naming all that He has named as sin, and naming all that He has named as righteous. We need to trust His word and trust His wisdom, and agree with Him.
Both parents and children can get God’s heart and mind over sin by keeping the Torah in the forefront of their minds and hearts night and day, just like God said parents ought to do in Deu 6 (and Psa 119 and in many other places): when He emphasized listen, take heed, observe, and teach My Law to your children over and over again. He knows that listening and paying heed to His Law, His Torah, will get the right heart and mind in people over sin.
So parents need to have consequences for disobedience, and those consequences have got to cost the child. Sorrow has to be produced. Some children are so challenging in this area, because nothing the parent does seems to produce sorrow. The parents must persevere in this until they find what works for their individual children; but whatever the parents decide to do, the goal is to produce sorrow in the children over their sin.
Different children come to sorrow differently. One strong- willed child might need a major thrashing from Dad, while for another soft- hearted child, a stern or disappointed look is enough to produce all kinds of godly sorrow in their hearts. What works for one child might be way too harsh for another child and completely devastate their heart. So we can’t treat all our children the same. Some kids have greater or lesser needs in different areas. The goal is, as parents, to meet their needs, whatever it is, including the need for discipline and godly sorrow leading to true repentance.