Today, I would like to continue pondering Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, in our journey to the celebration of Easter—what Jesus did for us in His suffering, death, and resurrection. Most of what follows is an edited and slightly abridged version of a sermon I developed in 2008. To read the other posts in this series please click here: “Ash Wednesday” and “Rend Your Hearts: The Journey Continues”.
In the reading from Joel, we can see once again where God invites (the initiative is always with God) us to return to Him. In fact, God longs for our return to Him. The gates of repentance are always open; therefore, we have no reason to wait until a special day on the church calendar or even for a church service! We should always confess of our sins quickly to restore our relationship with God. We come to God just as we are—no matter how dirty that may be—He cleans us in a way that truly cleans us—our efforts to clean ourselves up is futile!
As we repentantly turn (or return) to God, rending our hearts, our lives and changed—completely reoriented. We find that we must completely reorient our lives when we turn to God—the choices we make will change too. It is no longer so much about what we want; rather it is about what God wants. His desires become our desires.
When we desire what God desires, we will find peace and joy and rest. Not only that, but we will also be working out of God’s strength and not our own—in so doing we will find (perhaps much to our surprise) gifts, skills, and abilities that we did not know we had obtained. We also discover that we desire to obey God, no matter the cost.
The obedience God desires costs us in some way; it also costs others who our in our life. What are the costs? Our behaviors change—how we spend time, how we spend money, and who we spend time with—therefore, our relationships with others change. If nothing else, people will not understand and in that lack of understanding, they may treat us in less than kind ways. This cost extends to confessing our sins—repenting—establishing a relationship with the Lord each day.
However, we must use care and always remember that an action on our part does not obligate God’s sanction. God, being God is never obligated to His creation, nor does He ever owe us anything. Yet He is always gracious to our cries for help and deliverance. Yes, God blesses His children (much more than we deserve), however, we cannot just assume He will and then go off in a corner and pout like a three year old if He chooses to not give us what we want when we want it!
Yes, God will indeed forgive our sins when we confess to Him with a truly repentant heart. However, it is important to note that while God has forgiven us and remembers our sin no more; we still have to live with the consequences of our sins. For example, take a person who was an alcoholic or a drug addict and has come to the Lord; receiving forgiveness of his/her sins and is truly living a new life as a brother/sister in Christ, who no longer lives life as before—the alcohol and drugs are a thing of the past. Although he/she is regenerated, he/she has to deal with the health or perhaps legal consequences of the old lifestyle.
It is clear there is much to ponder when it comes to rending our hearts and truly turning to the Lord for forgiveness. Change will happen—the results will change not only our life but also the lives of others around us. This is not simply a one time thing but a work that happens over time. Yes, we are saved in an instant—a moment in time. The development of our new life in Christ takes years—coming to completion in heaven.
As we continue our journey through Lent and prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter, I encourage you to continue to keep your heart soft, tender, and open to God’s thorough searching and cleansing process. No matter how it may feel now; God’s work is for your good.
How have you obeyed God; what was the cost?
Please join with me in prayer:
Gracious and Loving God, thank You for keeping open the gates of repentance. Remind us to search our hearts each day for sins we need to confess. Reveal to us our “pet” sins or those “hidden” sins that we try to ignore or tell ourselves are not a real sin or not a big deal and confess those, as well. Help us to see sin from Your perspective, not ours. Thank You for Your forgiveness and the changes that it affects in us. Guide us to desire nothing more than to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
From My Heart to Yours,