Rend your Hearts

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I look forward to hearing tomorrow’s reading from Joel again. It has always seemed to me to be the perfect reading for the beginning of the penitential season.

Joel 2:12-13 (ESV)

"Yet even now," declares the Lord,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.

Rend your hearts, not your garments.

From the beginning of my initial conversion experience the one concern I had was that of being honest with God, sincere. I thought that the most important part of my relationship with Him and I wanted to avoid becoming a Christian for what I could get out of it, in other words, simply to save my own skin. I knew my skin badly needed saving, (still does, I have done little to improve that situation) but it seemed there should be much more to it. I have always thought it easy to appear to be a Christian and much harder to be a Christian.

There is more to it, as it turns out. According to verse 14, the Lord is “slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, he is gracious and merciful“, but He does ask something of us. He asks is that we return to Him with “fasting, weeping, and mourning.” It might seem that this verse is an argument for the Protestant idea of salvation by grace alone, rather than “works.” But, as many of you may already know, I think that what we do is as important as what we believe. We can know something in our heads, but if we do nothing about it, that knowledge will have little impact on our lives. At the same time, it would be a mistake to think we can earn salvation, or achieve union with God by our own efforts. The “works” that are pleasing to God are those we are about to renew in our lives over the next 40 days -- “fasting, weeping, and mourning” making a sincere effort at returning to God. We are about to enter a season for the best work of all, repentance. I hope you all have a rich and rewarding experience in the desert that lies ahead.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on February 24, 2004 7:33 PM.

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