Ezra 10:9-12 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel.11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said.
In the first two installments of this series we looked at change depends on our brokenness and the commitment necessary to bring it about. Today we are going to look at what needs to be removed from our lives for lasting change to have a firm hold
The main problem with the Israelites was that they were becoming faithless. This was happening through the marrying of foreign wives who were enticing them to worship their gods. The Jews had been warned way back in Deuteronomy that marrying people outside of the twelve tribes would lead to this. Now that they had made a covenant with God to put away this sin it was time to separate themselves from it.
When we are caught up in a sin it is important to takes measures to remove it from our lives. This is easier said than done. To remove sin often necessitates us changing major parts of our lives, whether it be the people we hang out with, the routines that are so ingrained, or attachments that we aren’t ready to give up (i.e. computer, iPhone, etc…). If we are going to see lasting change then we need to do two things:
- Regain a Healthy Fear: Change often doesn’t happen because there is no fear of repercussions. We just aren’t afraid of getting caught or we have gone to great lengths to cover our tracks. As long as we think no one is seeing us then we have a false sense of security. The problem though is that God sees us and it is a mistake to assume that in His patience we are getting away with it. We need to regain a healthy sense of the Fear of the Lord. When we sin it breaks God’s heart and cheapens the cross. When we sin there needs to be the conviction of the Holy Spirit to repent and at the same time a grief that we are separated from God. The Fear of the Lord needs to be instilled in us so that before we sin we turn away from it. This Fear comes through prayer and repentance. If you aren’t feeling a tinge of guilt when you indulge in a sin then you need to ask God to put it there.
- Distance Yourself: The next step in bringing change is to remove all the temptations. We need to distance ourselves from whatever it is that causes us to stumble. If we are susceptible to gluttony then we need to remove all the junk food from our house. Nothing produces a cold turkey feeling more than just seeing healthy food in the fridge. Whatever your vice is it is time to take steps and remove it. Use a support system. You might even need an intervention. Do whatever is necessary to remove it and then ride out the loss, you will get through it.
The Jews separated from their foreign wives. It was difficult because the marriage bond is so strong but the issue here is what are we worshipping? God is not satisfied with dual worship. We need to put away our other gods (sins, addictions, vices….) and return to Him. In the process He will create in us a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit. (Psalm 51)