This advent season has shown me a lot. It is amazing how every year the same readings have a different message to tell me. That’s the wonder of God’s Word. It is truly living. God’s word is living today. Here is the reading from today. Let it speak to your heart.
“But there’s also this, it’s not too late – God’s personal Message! – ‘Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!’ Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe He’ll do it now, maybe He’ll turn around and show pity. Maybe, when all’s said and done, there’ll be blessings full and robust for your God!” Joel 2:12-14 MSG
The Gospel is full of joy, promise, and hope.
But people, it is just as much, if not more, filled with sorrow and heartache and bitter weeping.
Christ felt supreme anguish over our sins as He bled on the cross, a sinless God-man.
What anguish do we feel for our own sins? Does it wreck us the way it wrecked Him? When we see where we have fallen short, are we half as broken by our sins as He is?
Yes, there is love. And yes, people, these is grace. But that truth should cause us all the more to hate and forsake our sins.
God desires this – this true repentance.
And that may be an unfamillilar thing for some of us. Let’s look together at three instances of repentance in the Bible and how it “looked” to repent:
Fasting: When Ezra made confession on behalf of the people of Israel because of their disobedience, he “withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber…where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles.” (Ezra 10:6)
Weeping: When Mordecai learned that Haman’s lies could doom the Jewish people, he “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” (Esther 4:1)
Mourning: And, the people of Nineveh. They heard Jonah’s message and repented. In fact, the king of Nineveh was so broken and so desperate for the Lord’s forgiveness, he decreed, “Let neither man nor beast, heard nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.” (Jonah 3:7-8)
In each story, the repenters thought they were too far gone. Unforgivable. They hated their sin and it grieved them deeply.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God.
Lord, make our hearts tender to You. Wreck us over our sin, then lift us up with Your grace. Give us repentant spirits, knowing that You and only You can make untrue the sins that are in us.