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Godly Sorrow  

The Necessity of a Sin Exposed Church

From the time God raised up what we would recognize as the church structure to now, there has been sin in the camp which is eventually exposed. When Moses went up Mt. Sinai (Exodus 32) Aaron was appointed as the Lord’s representation to watch over the people of God. The people God rescued out of Egypt forced Aaron to build them a Golden Calf of which he made and then lied about. (Exodus 32:3-4; 32:34) The Bible says Aaron led them into great sin. (Exodus 32:21)  There is also the account of Eli’s wicked sons. The Bible says “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:1) “This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.” (1 Samuel 2: 17) The Bible says, “…They slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” (1 Samuel 2:22) The priest Eli’s oversight was so poor, the Bible says, “…a man of God” (1 Samuel 2:27) went to pronounce judgement. The Hebrew for “A man of God” here is likely an appellation or rather an indicator of a prophet of God. (Judges; Samuel; Kings; Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 1 Samuel (p. 55). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

Their sin was so great in the sight of the Lord, Israel “lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The Ark of God was captured and the [two wicked sons of Eli] died.” (1 Samuel 4:10-11) God’s chastisement was so heavy, Eli dies from hearing the news of the capture of the Ark of God, and that his two sons were dead. (1 Samuel 4:18) So horrific was the consequences of sin in the church the daughter-in-law of Eli – went into labor, she was overcome and died, her new born son lived and was named “Ichabod” meaning glory. (Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 416). San Francisco: Harper & Row.)

The last words from Eli’s daughter-in-law lips were “…the Glory has departed from Israel.”  (1 Samuel 4:22)  The Hebrew word “Glory” (כָּבוֹד kāḇôḏ) means the majesty or glorious presence of God. (Exodus 29:34;  Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 493). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.;  Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)

Bibles which translate the word Glory as capitalized have the correct revelation, “the presence of God Himself in Israel was no longer there.” (Merrill, E. H. (1985). 1 Samuel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 436). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.; Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.)

The Old Testament holds the account of King David, his sin with Bathsheba. Just as God sent a man of God to address the sin of Eli’s poor overseeing the church. God sends the Prophet Nathan to deal with King David. Nathan’s rebuke sets the truth before us, “by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt…” (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV) 

In the New Testament we see sin in the camp of the Corinthian church. In his first letter the Apostle Paul dealt with serious doctrinal errors, moral sins and irregularities of Christian living including disorderly conduct in worship. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church he lays out the antidote for the church which was overcome with self-indulgence, a world view and the deception of the devil. In 2 Corinthians we read, “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. 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.” (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)

The truth is, as we look at the Old and New Testaments, there comes a time when rebuke is necessary. When the church allows sin in the camp to go unchallenged so they can find favor with the crowd, trouble escalates, God continues to be hurt and His work is publicly mocked. Sin in the church breeds a desire to be seen in leadership position with no hunger for a relationship with the Lord. Thus the pulpit is cheapened and God’s genuine presence is gone, “Ichabod” might as well be the sign over the door of that church. Sin is like a disease, if it is dealt with at the right time it can be eradicated, if not it can become an incurable growth with effects which scare the lives of many for years and years.

Paul says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance…”  True repentance is demonstrated by a life that now lives for the Lord. A person actually sees their sin as God sees their sins. A person who has true Godly sorrow can be molded, equipped and empowered for the work of the Lord.  (Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1975). The letters to the Corinthians (p. 227). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.; Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (2 Co 7:10). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.; Garland, D. E. (1999). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 29, p. 357). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Paul writes, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” The Psalmist, David gives us this understanding from the truth he reveals in Psalms 51. “Against you [God] I have sinned.” (Psalm 51:4) “Create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. …grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

This truth is an ongoing active heart which desires to walk in step with the Holy Spirit of Christ which glorifies God and Christ. This intrigues others to trust in God. Godly sorrow puts us in a right heart by:

  • Realizing our sins in the past and present hurts the Lord and then causes people to question God’s ability to save sinners from the sins which holds them in bondage.
  • Realizing our sins past and present had and continues to have negative consequences which hurt all of God’s creation in some way.
  • Realizing only God knows what is deep within mankind’s spiritual heart. (Jeremiah 17:9-10) Thus we should pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

An unknown author wrote, “There is a radical distinction between natural regret and God-given repentance. The flesh can feel remorse, acknowledge its evil deeds, and be ashamed of itself. However, this sort of disgust with past actions can be quickly shrugged off, and the individual can soon go back to his old wicked ways. Out of a list of ten men in the Bible who said ‘I have sinned.’ Scripture teaches only five produced the fruit of repentance. They were David (2 Sam. 12:13), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:6), Job (Job 42:5, 6), Micah (Micah 7:9), and the prodigal son (Luke 15:18).” – H.G.B. (Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.;)

King Saul was sorry for the consequences of sin he found himself in, King David was sorry he broke the heart of God, knew his sin was keeping him from God’s presence and the consequences of his sins brought contempt on the Lord’s work. (Psalm 51)

Just like in the Bible sin in the camp opens the doors to the judgement of God – there has been and there are times in the modern day church, God has exposed and judge sin. Today, as you read the so called “I have sinned” confessions, it is clear, regret from consequence is the motivator of such pronouncements. What is missing is Godly sorrow. There needs to be the fruit of repentance which is careful not break the heart of God, protects His good name, and invites the Lord to continue to do a good work in us.

Godly sorrow is reflected in the prayer of Nehemiah, “…When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. [You] keep [your] covenant of love with those who love [you] and obey your commands. …I confess the sins we Israelite’s, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We acted wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws [of the Lord]. …O Lord, let your ears be attentive of this, your servant [is praying], your servants who delight in revering your name.” (Nehemiah 1:1-11)    

The truth to catch in this passage of Scripture is “servants who delight in revering your name.” “Revering (יָרֵא yārēʾ) is to respect, to have a reverent fear of the Lord. People who fear the Lord become faithful, are trustworthy because healthy Biblical fear of God constrains Christians to live morally. (Exodus 18:21; Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 470). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)

The fear of the Lord is tied closely with revering God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) The Bible says, “Love the Lord your God with your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)  

In the time of Samuel, when sin in the church was not Biblically repented of, there was a change in the leadership and the Lord dealt with the unrepentant. Just as Samuel’s mother, Hannah, “asked of the Lord for him.” (1 Samuel 1:20)  The church needs to ask God to raise up prophets like Samuel. Unlike the Priest Eli and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phineas, who had no regard for the Lord. Samuel, “served as judge, priest and prophet, keeping the good name of the Lord before the people he served. Samuel was God’s chosen instrument” (Who’s Who in the Bible, “Samuel, page 580-581) to replace the poor leadership which had no Godly sorrow. Samuel did not cheapen the pulpit, even though he was often exposed to the “lewd behavior of Eli’s sons. Samuel remained steadfast in his love for the Lord.” (Who’s Who in the Bible, “Samuel, page 581)  The Bible says Samuel was known as “the man of God; …highly respected…” (1 Samuel 9:6)

In the time of sin in the camp, God raised up the prophet Samuel, to replace a ministry which had no desire to have Godly sorrow. In the time of King Saul, who had no reverence for Lord, God raised up King David to reign over Israel. In the time of the Corinth Church, God raised up the Apostle Paul to write a letter to a sin cursed church, pointing them to Godly sorrow. When sin is exposed in the church, a modern day true teacher of God’s Word must teach on Godly sorrow.

Does your relationship, life and ministry, reflect a Biblical understanding of Godly sorrow? Is God’s heart first on your mind? Is it on your heart to protect His good name? Are we inviting Him to continue to do a work in us? (Philippians 1:6)