Summary: How many of us examine our lives that closely on a daily basis? (This sermon can be used for Ash Wednesday or in general).
THE NEED TO REND OUR HEARTS
Text: Joel 2:1-2, 2 12-18
In his biography, Benjamin Franklin, reveals a lot about the kind of person he was. He would often look at his individual progress of each day. Someone (Raymond McHenry?) has observed Ben Franklin’s method specifically. "Benjamin Franklin kept his life in constant evaluation by asking himself two questions every day of his adult life. In the morning he would ask, "What good shall I do today?" This was followed up by his evening question, "What good have I done today?" Mr. Franklin understood Socrates’ warning, "The unexamined life is not worth living," yet he carried it a step further to add, neither is the unplanned life worth living. (Raymond McHenry. ed. McHenry’s Quips, Quotes And Other Notes. Third Printing. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004, p. 204). How many of us examine our lives that closely on a daily basis? Joel 2:1 ¡V 2, 12 ¡V 18 hints at how people had been neglecting to examine their lives.
Joel 2:1-2, 12-18 is a passage of scripture that reflects how the people to whom Joel was prophesying needed to examine their lives. Nevertheless, this passage of scripture gives us a reminder of how we need to always examine our lives. It is possible for people to procrastinate when it comes to examining their lives. It is possible for us to always think about how we will look into examining our lives tomorrow. The problem is that with each passing day, we have the potential to keep putting off today’s need for self-examination till tomorrow. But, one day the clock will stop and for better or worse , we will be out of time. When the clock stops, the trumpet will more than likely sound.
In the Bible, the use of a trumpet usually signals an event of some religious purpose. It was used to call the the congregation together for meetings, to usher the beginning of the month, and to note solemn days and festive occasions. In this instance, however, the trumpet is used to sound an alarm and alert the people to the seriousness of the crises. It represents utter desperation---all human hope is gone. (Jerry Falwell. Ex. Ed. The Complete Bible Commentary. Paul R. Fink. "Minor Prophets: Joel". Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publsihers, 1999, p. 1005). Hope is gone because darkness and judgement had come as it was now time for them to face the music---to face the consequences of actions. They had been delinquent in examining their lives. Joel 2:1 ¡V 2, emphasizes the need for repentance.
REPENTANCE MEANS RENEWAL
It is possible for people to repent and yet try to recycle some part of their past. Repentance is about confessing to God where we went wrong and seeking to live a life that is in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). I read this one story about this man who tried to rebuild something new out of something old. Someone (Len Sullivan) recalls a story from their family history about his grandparents. "In the late 1920s my grandparents married and moved into Grandpa’s old family home. It was a clapboard house with a hall down the middle. In the ’30s they decided to tear down the old house and build another to be their home for the rest of their lives.
"Much to my grandmother’s dismay, many of the materials of the old house were reused in their new house. They used old facings and doors, and many other pieces of the finishing lumber. Everywhere my grandmother looked, she saw that old house--old doors that wouldn’t shut properly, crown molding split and riddled with nail holes, unfinished window trimming. It was a source of grief to her. All her life she longed for a new house.
"When God brings us into the kingdom, the old way of living must be dismantled and discarded¡¨. (David P. Barrett. ed. More Perfect Illustrations For Every Topic And Occasion.. [Citation: Len Sullivan; Tupelo, Mississippi]. "Don’t Recycle Old Life". Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2003, p. 192). How well do we discard old things that are a source of grief to us in our spiritual lives? Do we find ourselves trying to rebuild certain parts of our lives with unfruitful things of the past?
It is also possible for people to try to repent in part rather than to repent completely. "The story is told of a shoplifter who writes to a department store and says, "I’ve just become a Christian, and I can’t sleep at night because I feel guilty. So here’s $100 that I owe you."
"Then he signs his name, and in a little postscript at the bottom he adds, "If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest." ¡¨. (David P. Barrett. ed. More Perfect Illustrations For Every Topic And Occasion.. [Citation: Bill White; Paramount, California] "Shoplifter Comes Clean Almost". Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2003, p. 240). Repentance is not about compromising and negotiating. Repentance is about confessing and turning over a new leaf.