This week we begin with Question 37 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 37: How does the Holy Spirit help us?
Answer: The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, comforts us, guides us, gives us spiritual gifts and the desire to obey God; and he enables us to pray and to understand God’s Word.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). These words of Jesus teach that God’s favor rests upon those who know how spiritually bankrupt they really are. Poverty of spirit includes a sober recognition of your own sin, with a corresponding trust in God’s grace alone to deliver you from it. But how do we come to be people who are poor in spirit? How can we, who are blinded by our own sin and pride, ever come to see how wicked and needy we truly are?
Only God’s powerful working in us can produce the conviction of sin that leads us to recognize our need for grace, and this powerful working comes by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we can feel sorrow over our sin only at the level of sorrow for its consequences with respect to us, but deep down we have no real regard for how our sin has offended God. This kind of sorrow is a “worldly” sorrow that is ultimately self-focused and leads to death. By contrast, true godly sorrow is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work. It is sorrow, or poverty of spirit, that sees our own sin in relation to God and, valuing his glory above all, produces hatred for sin. And that is why godly sorrow leads to repentance, because it involves a reconfiguring of our hearts toward sin (2 Cor. 7:10). This is something we can never hope to produce by the power of the flesh, which is incapable of pleasing God (Rom. 8:7-8). Only the Holy Spirit can produce this work in us.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: 2 Corinthians 7:10. This verse would be an excellent one to memorize. What does it teach about the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow? How can you know if the sorrow you have is one or the other?