Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ezra 9: Godly Sorrow is Good

Ezra 9:3-9 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, saying: "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem."

Ezra was overwhelmed with shame and sorrow when he was told that some of the Jews, including the priests and Levites, were taking non-Jewish women as wives for themselves and their sons. He was appalled--and tore his garment and pulled his hair in his grief. He then fell on his knees to confess Israel's sins. In our days and age when it's no longer "cool" to talk about sin and repentance, we are in danger of producing shallow and careless Christians. I've personally known a  church-goer (not sure if I should call him a Christian), who was serving as part of the worship team in a large church, but was sleeping around with other women and some church girls even though he was already married. The fact that he felt no sorrow for his sin even as he "served" in the worship ministry reveals something about the spiritual state of the church. How can God's Spirit be present and yet there is no conviction of "sin, righteousness and judgement" as Jesus promised? When a person comes under the Spirit's conviction, there is godly sorrow in the presence of God. That is what happens in revivals around the world. But the sorrow will turn into joy as they confess and are cleansed by the Blood of Christ. We can't have godly  joy without first godly sorrow.

Furthermore, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 that godly sorrow has increased the Corinthians' sense of holiness: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter."

Godly sorrow produces godly character marked by 7 attributes:

(1) "earnestness": a zeal for righteousness and for God
(2) "eagerness": a passion for excellence
(3) "indignation": a sense of outrage against sin
(4) "alarm": a sensitivity to sinful activities
(5) "longing": a desire for God's presence and glory
(6) "concern": a new compassion for the weak
(7) "readiness to see justice done": a new motivation for social actions

But if we think godly sorrow is not "cool" and consistent with grace, we will become passive and indifferent to what's happening among and around us. May God grant us godly sorrow that leads to repentance so that we will produce the fruits of love, joy and peace and social concern and justice.

Lord, open our eyes to see sin as You see it. That You sent Your Son to the Cross to die for sins because sins are grievous to You. May our sins bring us godly sorrow and not make us careless and callous. Amen.

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