Who doesn’t want peace and joy in their life?
Well…there are some, I suppose, who seem like the only peace and joy they get or want is being miserable or seeing others miserable! But that’s another subject for another time! Most people want peace and want joy in their lives. But many of us settle for superficial joy and peace. And there is one reason for this: We don’t want to experience fully godly sorrow and angst over our sin.
When was the last time you heard someone preach on James 4:8-10? It says this: “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
“Wait, wait” you say, “don’t tell us that! That sounds “negative” and “gloomy.” Tell us things that make us feel good, not bad!” Well consider this: that “spirit” or attitude and approach sounds pretty similar to the attitude of the people in Isaiah’s day recorded in Isaiah 30:10-11 that a pastor friend of mine recently reminded me of: Isaiah 30:10-11 “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!’” If that doesn’t characterize the spirit of this age, I don’t know what does! “Just tell us things that make us feel good or better about ourselves.” “Just tell us about the love of God and how much He loves us.” That’s the spirit of the day.
But this is the very spirit preventing revival and the full blessing of God. This is the very attitude that hinders the full release of peace and joy in our lives. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Paul wrote some tough things to the Corinthian church in confronting them and calling them out on various sins and issues within the church. But listen to what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
If we want to experience true revival (and the fullness of peace, joy, God’s grace and His blessing) in our lives and churches, we must learn to grieve and lament with a godly sorrow over our sin. This sounds like a contradiction, but it is one of those “kingdom of God” paradoxes. God’s ways are not our ways. But His ways are the best ways! And we need to allow the Spirit of God to work conviction in our lives if we truly want to experience the comfort He provides. We need confronted with the Holy One of Israel, not coddled and told everything is okay. We need confronted with Jesus Christ crucified for our sin. (And then resurrected!) Only then will we truly know the peace, joy, grace and full blessing of God.
I shared with our congregation the other Sunday in a message titled “Abomination of Desolation” (www.theallenwoodchurch.org/messages) about Ezekiel chapters 8, 9 & 10. In Ezekiel chapter 8 Ezekiel is shown by the Spirit of God all these detestable things that were going on in the temple, (some in secret) among the people of God. In chapter 9 something shocking happens in light of these realities. Read it for yourself but note especially verse 4:
Ezekiel 9: “Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, “Bring the guards of the city here, each with a weapon in his hand.” 2 And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.
3 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
5 As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6 Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.
7 Then he said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!” So they went out and began killing throughout the city. 8 While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”
9 He answered me, “The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”
11 Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, “I have done as you commanded.”
Does that upset you?
More than upsetting us, it ought to bring us to our knees in repentance and provoke a godly sorrow in us over our sins! But after that we ought to arise in such wonderful peace and joy in what Jesus has done for us on the cross so that instead of being slain, we are saved by His death and resurrection, through faith in Him, sheerly because of His grace!
We need to take sin seriously and grieve over our sin with a godly sorrow. (After all Jesus was crucified because of our sin; so God certainly takes it seriously). We need to humble ourselves and walk in a true fear of the Lord. These are the keys of revival. These are the attitudes that characterize true revival. These are the things that precede revival or mark the beginning of revival.
Psalm 126:5-6 promises this: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
Let’s get on our faces before the Lord, seek Him with all our heart, grieve with a godly sorrow over our sin and cry out to God for mercy! And let’s stay there in that place until He lifts us up in His grace and fills us with His peace and His joy.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.