1. Application

Repentance must be seen in action

Ezra 10:1–44 (ESV)

1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.

In response to who God is (just and gracious), we can look at the actions of the Israelites for an example of what repentance looks like. In Ezra 9:1–15 we learned that true repentance involves confession of sin. In Ezra 10 we are taught that true repentance also shows itself in practical obedience. Confession is good and necessary, but confession must also be seen in action.

Ezra 10 is not calling on any of us to divorce and forsake our spouses if we are in second marriages. The heart of the problem in Jerusalem was not marriages but idolatry. In response to God’s grace and justice, God’s people are being called to forsake all creatures rather than doing the least thing against God’s will.

The message for us today is that there is no room in the Christian life for confession without repentance. If we belong to Jesus Christ, we cannot simply confess our sins and then live as we please. A sign of true godly repentance is when we come to a point where we don’t care what it costs, we just want to come clean to God and make things right.

For old covenant believers, repentance meant sending away their wives and children. This was costly, this was difficult. Can you imagine waving goodbye to your wife and children? For you and me, repentance means making changes to our lives where God requires it. A glorious confession is of no avail if it is not followed by practical obedience. It’s not enough for us to feel bad about our sin, we must also take steps to make things right.

Examples:

  • If we confess that we are selfish and materialistic, can we not also make plans to be more generous?

  • If you are lacklustre and sporadic in your commitment to worship on the Lord’s Day, can you not change your Saturday or Sunday routines?

  • If you know you struggle with lust, why do you keep watching the same kind of films and spending late nights on your computer?

  • We struggle with discipline, we don’t read our Bibles, and we don’t pray. But we don’t change our schedule, we don’t make sure we get enough sleep. We simply confess our sins and carry on with our habits.

It’s hard to make changes to our lifestyle and to give up sins which we have long cherished. But that is the response that God expects from his people. That is the life in which God’s Spirit empowers us to live.