Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Limp

Michael Card wrote a short book called The Walk, detailing his walk of discipleship with his mentor in college. It's one of my favorite little books, and I drew a lot of personal application from it. But I know if I ever wrote a similar book, it would be called The Limp. This was reinforced to me after I fell in my backyard this week and wiped off several layers of skin on my knee. My knee is starting to heal, but it is very sore, and I know I will likely have a permanent scar there.

I have other bigger permanent scars. I'm permanently affected by type 1 diabetes. I wear an insulin pump all day every day, a permanent reminder of a problem with my body that affects every moment of every day of my life. I have still bigger scars, marks on my heart and soul rather than my outward body from long term suffering over things I can't control. Many of us bear such scars. These scars and limps could be the consequence of your own sin. They could be the results of someone else's sins against you. It could be the death of a loved one or the betrayal by a loved one. It could be an illness that will not go away, a physical ailment that will affect you the rest of your days on earth. Whatever it is, it's not going away, and while you may be able to ignore it for periods of time, your awareness of it never fully fades. It's always there at some level.

Like Jacob, we walk forward in life with a permanent limp that reminds us over and over of a painful event. Our scars contribute to who we are. My scars and limps don't define me (either physically or spiritually), but they have become part of my identifying features. Brown hair, green eyes, scar on left knee. Compassionate, witty, constantly bracing herself against the next wave of pain. You and I are more than our scars, but we are not less than them. Jacob was still a father, a son, and a husband after his hip was put out of joint. But he was a father, a son, and a husband with a limp. He could kick and scream all he wanted that he didn't want to limp (which I have tried), but his limp was still there. Jacob had to figure out instead how to walk forward with that limp. That is the issue for any of us with emotional, spiritual, or physical scars and limps that reflect long term suffering.

As I was walking today, I noted that, given the pain and rawness of the wound on my knee, I was much more cautious with my steps. My physical limp slowed me down and made me pay attention to the cracks in the sidewalk. It made me more aware of the potential ways I could fall. Similarly, my emotional and spiritual scars make me pay attention to my own heart and to zealously guard it. I watch closely for the ways that Satan tempts me to react to my pain that will actually harm me more. I pray diligently that the Lord would keep me from the evil one and help me obey.

We probably easily recognize the drawbacks to walking with a limp. But for once I am thinking of the wisdom that can come from such caution. I may walk forward slowly and more tentatively, but that caution, submitted to God and seeking His face with each step, can be a very good thing, evidence that my suffering is being used to grow me into maturity.
2 Corinthians 12 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

*If you are walking with a limp in light of long-term suffering, I recommend Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian and Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Perspicuity of Scripture and Why Qualifications of an Elder Matter

Why do the qualifications given by the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 matter? Well, it depends. It depends on whether you believe the rest of Scripture matters. The Bible says some hard things. The Bible gives ALL of us a cross to carry. They that lose their lives will gain it. Do not love the world or the things that are in it. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Do not return evil for evil. And the list could go on and on. This is where the concept of the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture comes in. Does the Bible mean what it says? Can you take it at face value? If you believe that, yes, the Bible does mean what it says even when it says hard things to me or you personally (and it still means those hard things for you and I today), then the qualifications of an elder/pastor should profoundly matter to you. When hard things in Scripture are ministered without grace by a hard man who doesn't meet the qualifications of an elder, their value for human flourishing as God intended is trampled. 

The qualification of an elder should matter to you first because, well, you believe in the perspicuity of Scripture (if you don't, this article is written particularly to those who do hold this belief, but you are welcome to listen in). If you believe the Bible means what it says and can be taken at face value, then you by default believe it means what it says about the qualifications of an elder. But, second, if you hold to the perspicuity of Scripture, you also believe in elder authority (Hebrews 13:17). If you don't believe in elder authority, then the qualifications of the one who holds the office are irrelevant. If you do believe in elder authority (and I do), the qualifications resonate in I Timothy with utmost importance for the rest of how God planned the Church to function. The Apostle Paul presents the role of elder in the Church as one of sacred importance and influence. Pastors are influential. They hold a holy (set apart) role in the Body of Christ, and therefore, the qualifications of the person holding that office matter greatly.

For those who hold to the perspicuity of Scripture and believe that Scripture is the final authority for faith and practice for believers, when we do not obey Scripture on the issue of the qualifications of a pastor/elder, we create very large stumbling blocks for those who do not hold to those foundational beliefs.

Consider these qualifications with me. I'm not going to go through all of them for the sake of time, but I'm going to explore the ones that seem less straightforward and argue that they are actually pretty clear.
[3:1] The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. [2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, [3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, [5] for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? [6] He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. [7] Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
The first qualification is that an elder be above reproach. The Greek word here means that he is not open to censure, which is severe disapproval often presented in writing. (Note: all definitions here are from Strongs Concordance and Google dictionary.) Above reproach doesn't mean that an elder never receives criticism. It doesn't mean that he never makes a mistake. It does mean that his sins, mistakes, and errors do not accumulate to the point of wide, severe disapproval. When formal, written, charges are brought against a man, charges by more than one witness that reflect severe disapproval, this man is no longer fit to be in the office of elder. If you believe in the perspicuity of Scripture.

Another qualification similar to being above reproach is that an elder must be respectable. This word is used one other time in the New Testament, oddly enough when Paul is teaching about women wearing proper or respectable clothing in I Timothy 2. The implication of this word is that the elder does or says what fits the moment. Proper clothing is the clothing that fits the situation, not drawing undo attention to itself because it is inappropriate. The same goes for an elder's words and actions. He must be someone who does not draw undo attention to himself by saying/doing improper or inappropriate things that do not fit the needs of the moment.

A pastor/elder must also be hospitable. Peter uses this same word when he tells us in I Peter 4:9 to “be hospitable to one another without complaint.” This is one who welcomes people to himself. He isn't standoffish or unavailable, and he does so without complaining of the intrusion into his family life. This is a hard value to make yourself have if you aren't naturally gifted this way. But if you believe in the perspicuity of Scripture, this should characterize your life if you are an elder. Why? Because for the office of elder to work as Scripture intends it, for a pastor to shepherd his sheep, he has to be in personal contact with them. The Spirit moved Paul to set up a value system for what God intends His pastors to be, and we are ill advised to minimize something like hospitality because our itching ears prefers someone who can attract thousands with his words.

If a preacher can attract thousands with his words but is not hospitable, there is a different role in the Church for him, evangelist. But he does not meet the qualifications of a pastor/elder. If you believe Scripture.

A pastor/elder should not be violent and quarrelsome, but gentle. This includes verbal violence as well as physical violence. Jokes about beating someone up, expressing a desire to hurt someone, and threats against someone all fall in this category. I've written a lot about that here, so I won't unpack it more in this article.

I want to end with Paul's closing warning in I Timothy 3 about who should and should not hold the office of elder.
[7] Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Here, more than any of the other qualifications, I want to call on my brothers and sisters in Christ to value this qualification as a belief in the perspicuity of Scripture demands. I note conservative evangelicals falling into a bad trap of widely labeling outside criticism of evangelical leaders as persecution. That is a dangerous view. If outside criticism of a pastor/elder is mostly persecution to be ignored, then Paul has written an irrelevant phrase here in holy Scripture. But if you hold to the view of Scripture I have, you know what I have just suggested is basically blasphemy. No, this qualification matters, and woe to us who disparage it and write off outside criticism as persecution.

If a man is not esteemed outside of his congregation at some level, outside of the Body of Christ at some level, HE SHOULD NOT HOLD THE OFFICE OF ELDER. If the other pastors in his city are rising up to cry out against him. If his local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations are interviewing multiple people outside of his church who think very poorly of him, he should be removed from the office of elder. Outside public outcry against an elder/pastor is much more likely to be God's discipline than Satanic persecution, if this passage of Scripture is to be believed. 

Note that almost none of these qualifications in I Timothy 3 are about how much Scripture this elder knows and how well he can teach it. Being able to teach the Word accurately is only 1 out of 14 or 7% of the qualifications Paul gives. Do not read me saying that teaching the Word accurately doesn't matter! Instead, I contend strongly that teaching the Word accurately isn't ENOUGH for this sacred role. The ability to teach the Word clearly needs to be accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit in order for a man to qualify for this precious office of sacred influence. This is why Paul give us 13 other qualifications other than being able to teach the Word – because this role is one of enduring influence over people. This is a role that is set apart by God for the long term good of His people, for their flourishing in His image. Paul gives us these sobering qualifications twice, and if you value that precious, old doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, you should value all of these qualifications, and in fact insist on them, in your pastor. When a man who can teach the Word but is lacking in the other qualifications is allowed to continue in this role, it harms people. It diminishes the very Word he is teaching. Those who allow him to stay in office do the same.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Made for More: the Conversation Before the Conversation on Complementarianism

*This review first appeared on The Gospel Coalition's website. I am reposting it here with minor changes and with a drawing for a free book to a randomly chosen commenter. If you comment, please be sure to check back to see if you won. I'll announce the winner on Saturday.

I remember opening John Piper's Desiring God for the first time around 18 years ago. In just the first three chapters of the book, Piper rocked my world. He presented thoughts on finding my satisfaction in God Himself that reoriented me to Scripture, and those thoughts have affected me every day since. Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Image by Hannah Anderson is this kind of book and has had this kind of effect on me. That may sound like an over-the-top statement, but I believe Made for More is going to change the conversation on women as image bearers of God for the long term good of the Church—that God is going to use this book the way He used Piper's thoughts in Desiring God to redirect His people to Himself. Remember an important truth from Desiring God – those thoughts were not new to John Piper. He points back again and again to their historical longevity and Biblical origins. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Hannah Anderson does the same in Made for More. 

Hannah doesn't present a new, faddish way of looking at Biblical womanhood. Instead, she weaves a story of timeless truths with historical longevity and Biblical clarity. These are God's truths, not Hannah's. Yet, God has clearly gifted Hannah to reword these truths in a way that 21st century postmodern women can hear and relate. What truth is Hannah presenting? Hannah is presenting the conversation before the conversation about complementarianism and gender roles. Before the foundational phrase of complementarianism in Gen 1:27, “Male and female, He created them,” the Bible first says, “God created mankind in His image.” Our problem in the complementarian discussion (even when we do it in really thoughtful ways) stems from the fact that we assume a robust understanding and acceptance of mankind made in the image of God that few of us actually have.
“We must find a North Star. And not simply because our circumstances change, but because we ourselves are more than the roles we play in this present world. We are large, deep, eternal beings, and only something larger and deeper and more eternal will satisfy the questions in our souls.” Hannah Anderson
Some in complementarian circles might be concerned that this conversation before the male/female conversation might downplay the complementary nature of gender. But to NOT have this conversation before the other causes confusion and a weak foundation for the complementarian discussion. After all, as a woman, I have more in common genetically with a male human than I do a female cat. The value of the differences in our genders become caricatures if they are not first based on the solidarity male and female have as image bearers of God who are called to steward His creation together. Hannah fleshes out this foundational truth and then builds upon it with the specifics of womanhood. 

Hannah has written the book I wish I had written. She's taken a nugget of truth, woman as image bearer of God, for which I had been burdened and fleshed it out in a way that deepened my understanding of the topic and its value in my life. She hasn't just written on a topic I wished I had written, but she has also written in a style I wish I could write. I appreciate Hannah's ability to both think deeply and write accessibly all in one tidy package. I wanted to plow through the book quickly, but instead I had to stop to consider again and again – not because her words were too lofty but because she managed to bring down lofty ideas in a way I could appreciate and apply. But even as I envied her writing, her section on gifting and work freed me from comparisons and helped me rejoice in both my abilities and hers. Over and over, she tethered lofty ideas to concrete summary statements. She is an author with a vision for her audience, and she writes in a way to make sure we, the audience, can understand her objectives. 

Hannah's chapter on the creation mandate, Queens in Narnia: Embracing your Destiny to Reign, is a beautiful exploration from Scripture of the noble calling of work that lifts it above our usual earthly compartments. Hannah inspired me to talk to my children in a radically different way about “work.” More importantly, her words transformed my thoughts on everything from cleaning my kitchen to weeding my yard to teaching math to blue collar workers through my community college job. I imagine that I will be contemplating work as an image bearer of God for a lifetime now. I felt similarly about her chapter on knowledge and education in the image of God.

I read recently that the best reviews of a book include some measure of criticism, which keeps the reviewer from looking like a fan boy (or girl). Hannah has presented a nuanced look at what is basically the doctrine of sanctification or how God conforms us back to His image after belief in Him. Justification is God declaring us righteous in heaven. Through the process of sanctification, God slowly transforms us in reality to what He has already declared us to be in heaven. Hannah has woven echoes of God's justification of us through Christ throughout the book. The book follows an outline based on Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” There is a strong sense in which the entire book is Christ and gospel centered. But other than a brief section in her chapter on the results of the fall of man, there lacks an explicit exploration of how God declares us righteous. I don't really see this as a criticism, because I can't imagine a book with enough room to adequately explore both justification and all that Hannah has presented without being overwhelmingly long for its target audience. Instead, I would recommend reading Hannah's book in conjunction with something similar to Elyse Fitzpatrick's Because He Loves Me that explores our position of righteousness in Christ as the fuel for our conformation to His image.

This is a book for women and men, pastors and lay leaders, complementarians and egalitarians. Basically, this book will bless anyone in the Church. If you care about what God has created you to be as a woman, or, if you are a man who longs to support the women in your life in ways that lead to their flourishing in their God-given identity and giftedness, I recommend that you read this book.
“When God rewards those who seek Him, it is not with wealth or power or privilege but with the very thing that they were searching for in the first place—Himself. 
And the beauty, the unmistakable genius of it all, is that in discovering Him, the source of all existence, you will also discover yourself. In finding Him, you will find the answer to the question “Who am I and why am I here?” Hannah Anderson, Made for More

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Harmful Teaching of Wives as their Husbands' Porn Stars

A few weeks ago, I wrote about pornography and the gospel after an elder at my church shared of his lifelong struggle with pornography. This elder's testimony helped me understand the destructive teaching on sex that I and many others sat under at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mars Hill's teaching on sex has been well exported nationally and even internationally, particularly since 2012 by way of Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage book. I believe addressing this might be widely helpful to the many readers of this blog who were previously exposed to this teaching at Mars Hill.

I have personally experienced a spectrum of teaching on sex in Christian circles. I grew up in churches and Christian ministries that, based on how they talked about sex, believed that sex was dirty and embarrassing. NOBODY ever talked about it in positive ways. As I approached marriage, I appreciated Ed Wheat's Intended for Pleasure which was the first time I heard from a believer a Biblical defense for pleasure in sex (or really any frank talk about sex at all). When I got to Mars Hill in Seattle, I valued the pleasure aspect of sex as a good gift from God to married couples. But Mark Driscoll's teaching was like Ed Wheat's on double batches of steroids. Of course Ed was writing to a different audience, more to those who had not previously experienced sexual freedom. Mark was speaking to men and women with much sexual experience. As my husband said in Our Review of Real Marriage, Mark is his target audience.

It's clear from Real Marriage that, in Mark's view, sex is the key, central element to a good marriage. And this would be consistent with everything I heard while attending Mars Hill as well. In Real Marriage, while there is mention of the gospel in a few paragraphs in Grace Driscoll's chapter on sexual abuse, probably 3/4 of the book deals specifically with sex in marriage. I noted in our review that if something happened physically to Grace, then, from Mark's own testimony of his sexual frustration in marriage, he would personally be sunk. Frequent sex with his wife without restraint saved their marriage, at least as he presents it in Real Marriage.

I felt dissonance in my heart with this teaching. I loved sex and valued pleasure in marriage, but the expectations Mark set up felt crushing – a standard I couldn't live up to. Then my pastor who taught on this subject this summer used a phrase that finally set me free – that pornography sets up a society “with crushing expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance.” Things clicked in my head at that moment. The weight of crushing expectations that I felt as a result of Mars Hill's teaching on sex wasn't a result of what the Bible said but of the pornographic background from which they stemmed. But was this just me?! Was this just my own personal, prudish reaction? 

Recently, many others have shared (unsolicited, by the way) with me the same insight. Here are testimonies from a few people particularly affected negatively by the crushing expectations presented by Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill's teaching on sex. One wife, who came from a background of horrific sexual abuse by her stepfather, shared how this teaching affected her when she came to Seattle as a newly married 21 year old.
“I'd never been treated with respect, and my body had been violated and abused constantly for years. I felt dirty and worthless as a person, because I was a female. 
I felt beaten down and further humiliated by Driscoll's view of women. The more I unpack the horrific things he said, the more I become convinced that (his teaching) is just the Christian-ese version of the evil perversion that I experienced being prostituted. Some of the things he said that have harmed me: it's the wife's fault if the husband looks at porn if she "lets herself go" or isn't skilled enough at sex, his obsession with talking about wives giving blow jobs and strip teases, the crass jokes, the frequent references to women being gossips and the dripping faucet/nagging wife thing, his descriptions of his marriage (Grace didn't read her own emails or have male friends or get to make decisions with him as a team) as the model for a great marriage, and his insistence that women existed exclusively as helpers to their husbands without the value to have passions/careers/opinions/etc. 
I'm an outspoken, feisty person. My husband is gentle and kind and easygoing. After I heard about the "shut your wife up or I'll shut her up for you," I spent years stifling my voice, afraid I'd get my loving husband "in trouble" with church leadership. All of this destroyed me because ... it was coming from a pastor in the pulpit. I trusted him because he kept preaching about needing to blindly trust your pastors, and I didn't want to disobey God. I feel like his teaching targets women from abusive backgrounds and screws them up further by insisting on trust and then spewing a skewed view of women. 
There was good healing that happened for me during my seven years at Mars Hill, primarily from my two beloved pastors (who are both no longer there). But all the love and care and good they poured into me didn't negate the damage done from the pulpit. I have a loving husband who treats me as an equal partner in our marriage. But somehow Driscoll's voice was louder. My husband has the ability to listen to any teaching, take the good, and brush off anything he thinks is wrong. I wish I had this ability, but I don't. When Driscoll says these things, they stab me in the heart, and I think I'm wrong, dirty, and a second class citizen in church and the world. 
My husband put it well - he said that the biggest pain point for him ... is that Driscoll claims to have a heart for hurting people, particularly women who have been sexually abused and raped. On the surface, Mars Hill is initially welcoming to people from my background. My husband thought we were going to be in a church that could help me heal from my childhood. But then Mark takes his access to a vulnerable population and exploits them by his crass view of sex, marriage, and gender roles. In my case, coming from a background of abuse, I didn't have the ability to realize that he was wrong and lying to me about how my God created me and sees me.
I found another comment, from a man, particularly helpful. His insight into himself helped me to understand how this teaching negatively affected men as well.
I was addicted to pornography for many years which was defiling to me, distorted my view of women, and ultimately defiled my wife. This is (part of) my sin. Mark’s teaching in many ways supported this view as women as sexual objects by using the same ‘construct’ of what a porn star, prostitute, or stripper does but applying it to the marriage bed. There is obviously a mix of my family history, spiritual oppression, some deep emotional wounds, and my own self-enslavement to sin. However, Mark’s distortion and perversion of the gospel, sex, and gender roles were almost a perfect support for enabling and justifying aspects of my selfishness while doing great damage to my marriage: 
- I was still embroiled in my sin during the first years of our marriage which deeply injured my wife and almost ended our marriage. 
- The expectation that my wife believed and I readily agreed to was that she was available to me for whatever, no matter what I did, whenever, and if she wasn’t I would probably end up doing worse
- Sex was often empty and emotionally painful. So Mark’s recommendation and my sinful silent agreement with the concept of your wife being your personal porn star was apt. Dead, meaningless sex 
- I did not take into account my wife’s opinions. I did not ask and she did not speak because she thought she should be silent and only encouraging like Mark taught.
Notice how in both of their testimonies, teaching on gender roles gets tainted by association with the wifely porn star view of sex. This is why I want to strongly call on my complementarian brothers and sisters in Christ to rouse themselves up to correct some of this stuff. Good teaching gets slammed when we ignore the taint of the bad.

Let me end this post with hope, with the beautiful, better way to approach this subject that I noted in my pastor's recent lesson on pornography and gospel community. While my church had previously learned in a different lesson about free, loving, pleasurable sex between a husband and wife, that was not brought up in the lesson about pornography at all. My pastor didn't present the solution to his lust as his wife becoming his own personal porn star. The answer for him was gospel community, and he focused on the care he had received from other elders at our church when he was struggling.

My pastor did not project onto his wife the responsibility to lessen his lust. A wife who pursued him sexually was not the answer to his struggle with porn. The gospel was the answer. And his wife's great contribution was ministering gospel grace to him as he struggled. His responsibility was finding other men who could encourage him and hold him accountable in loving ways when he was experiencing temptation.

This is a much healthier dynamic for both husbands and wives. The crushing expectations that accompany an addiction to pornography need to be dealt with separately from the marriage bed lest it taint the intimate, covenantal, pleasurable thing the marriage bed is supposed to be.

Tim Keller has some good teaching on the difference in lust and love. Check out this sermon.
Description: Lust exists, it is powerful, and we must respect its power. The Bible rejoices in sex and sexual desire, but lust is an impersonal, inordinate desire and an idolatrous search for meaning. Lust can be overcome if you esteem Jesus as your bridegroom and the lover of your soul.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Godly Sorrow Leads to Repentance

Bonhoeffer writes in his Cost of Discipleship:
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."
This week, Pastor Mark Driscoll published on Mars Hill Church's website a public 30 minute video on what he calls a season of learning in his life during which he is sorrowful and lamenting. Since he made this video public beyond his own church membership and many people are discussing it, even affirming it, I feel a strong need to address it. Because what Pastor Mark does in this video is one of the clearest examples I've ever seen of what the Apostle Paul calls “worldly sorrow.”
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly sorrow produces death.
When it comes to our personal responses to our own sin, these are the only two options. When faced with confrontation or other natural consequences of your sin, you can mourn your sin in a way that leads you to confess to God, change your direction, and repair with those you have hurt. And that response allows you to get up and go forward without regret. I've never once in my life met someone who REGRETTED bringing their sin into the light, confessing it honestly, and repairing with those they had wronged. Godly sorrow producing repentance is beautiful.

The second option when faced with painful consequences of your sin is worldly sorrow, grief and lament in response to the consequences of one's sin that does not understand and appropriate Christ's payment for it. Pastor Mark is not the first person who can (over)use Jesus' name in proper context who does not appropriate how the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection speaks into the consequences of sin he is now facing at Mars Hill. Such people often want forgiveness. They want grace extended to them. And, in Christ, there is no condemnation according to Romans 8:1! Yet, the same Paul who wrote Romans 8:1 instructs us in Ephesians 5 to bring our sin into the light, because the light of Christ is a disinfectant. Expose the sin. Own the sin. Not to bring shame and condemnation but to bring restoration and healing! Any hope of “forgiveness” without clear, specific repentance is exactly what Bonhoeffer labels cheap grace. It's continuing in sin that grace may abound, to which Paul says, "God forbid!"

The indication for any one of us of godly verses worldly sorrow is summed up in one word – repentance. True repentance always starts with a specific naming of your sin, and it always includes a change in your ways. I love the definition of the Greek word for repent according to Strong – “to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins.” Godly sorrow that produces repentance will include statements along these lines – “I sinned against God and (name redacted). I have asked their forgiveness and am seeking to repair with them in the ways that I can. I am taking these steps to guard myself from doing the same in the future.” It always comes with a hearty desire to amend your ways with an abhorrence for how you sinned against God and others in the past.

I am writing this post because it is of utmost importance that people (believing and unbelieving) hearing Jesus' name understand the difference in worldly and godly sorrow. I am very grieved that Mars Hill Church uses the name of Jesus over and over in their materials (even linking to this latest video with the url, yet the lead pastor models a worldly sorrow without repentance that Paul says leads to death. It is irresponsible (for those of us who know these things from first hand experience and are in a position to address them) to turn away as Jesus' name is used in empty, cheap ways. Thankfully, in this area, many of God's children are rising up to confront these things privately as well as publicly. This is good for the Church.

Long before Pastor Mark released this week's video, I wrote about godly verses worldly sorrow in The Gospel-Centered Woman. I felt that many women, myself included, often linger in this sorrowful place over our sin without understanding how repentance in the shadow of the cross heals and repairs. I'll close with these thoughts from the book.
Worldly sorrow is characterized by feelings of shame, pain, or embarrassment that you got caught in sin. Along with that shame, you may feel hopelessness over ever being cleansed from your sin or your ability to repair the relationship with the person you sinned against. Such worldly sorrow may be relieved by someone else doing something for you or you doing something for yourself. Maybe you seek out someone to affirm you or distract you. You may try to manipulate how others think of you and look to them to make you feel better about yourself. If one relationship is broken, you may manipulate other relationships to replace the one you harmed. 
In contrast, godly sorrow is sorrow that directs you to Christ. You do not need someone else to do something for you. You do not need to do something for yourself. Instead, you fall flat on your face before God alone, for godly sorrow points you directly to Him. Godly sorrow is relieved by repentance and faith in what Christ has already done for you. Then, resting in what God has done for you, you can lay down your attempts to justify yourself to others. You can simply ask their forgiveness and repair with those you have hurt. 
Many of us spend years of our lives mistaking worldly sorrow on a wide range of sin issues for authentic repentance and then wonder why we never change or why our relationships never heal. Feeling bad about what you have done is not the same as a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. God calls us to recognize our wrongdoing and need for forgiveness and then turn to God to forgive and correct it. We do not have to live in a perpetual state of regret and shame. Christ bore our shame and condemnation on the cross. His sacrifice for us equips us to face our sin head-on without fear that it will forever define us.