Summary: Let our lives be characterized by the love of Christ so that when those around us ask the question, "Where is their God?" They will see the answer plain and obvious in lives lived full of the costly grace of genuine repentance which leads us to not only
Where is Their God? Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the twentieth century pastor and theologian once wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without obedience, Communion without confession.
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace - is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy [for] which the merchant will sell all his goods.
It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. …
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
Ash Wednesday was originally called dies cinerum – the day of ashes – is a time when Christians recall the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as we enter into the season of the celebration of the Cross – the season of Lent.
In his work “Lives of the Saints”, the 8th century abbot Aelfric writes, “We read in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth.
Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent … let us repent of our sins during the Lenten Season.”
This evening I want to talk to you about an often forgotten and seldom preached part of the Christian life. What a tragedy it is that words like sin and repentance have become catch phrases for judgment and legalism.
These words have been stricken from the Christian vocabulary largely for the sake of unwilling ears and hearts who will not hear the whole council of God.
Indeed we live in an age when the very notion of sin and repentance are seen as archaic ideas – not having much or any bearing on our lives today.
Oh, that we might not miss out on the fullness of God’s work in our lives! Repentance is as much a part of the Christian experience as air is to the experience of breathing… We can never know the fullness of God until we lay our hearts bear before him in repentance.
In verses 12 & 13 of today’s Scripture it says, “Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.” (NASB)
This evening let us focus on what it means to rend our hearts and not our garments. It was customary in Old Testament era Israel for a person who was repentant to tear their outer garments as a sign of repentance.
The tearing of their garment was an outward symbol more than anything else. It was more ceremonial in nature than necessarily earnest. To tear one’s outer garment was not essentially an expression of what was happening inwardly so much as it was a tradition of ceremony.
In many ways we tear our outer garments as symbols of repentance. While we may be very unlikely to tear our shirts we also have ways of ceremonially repenting don’t we.
We go to God after a period of spiritual inactivity or active sinfulness and we take a minute or maybe two minutes out of our day to say, “I’m sorry God and thank you for forgiving me.”
While it is good to recognize our mistakes before the throne of God, what the prophet is telling us today is that God does not want merely our torn garments. He is calling us to bring broken hearts before Him in repentance.
Let us repent inwardly rather than outwardly and then that which has been wrought in our hearts will be made visible in our deeds. As we find forgiveness for ourselves in Christ we will find ourselves sharing that forgiveness with those around us.
Repentance has much more to do with becoming vessels of forgiveness as we lay down our own failures at the foot of the Cross and instead pick up and embrace the forgiveness that God has bestowed upon us and has given us to share with others.
I read a story of a little girl named Erin, who was usually the model of good behavior in church. One Sunday morning she was particularly wiggly and disturbing as she sat next to her father in the pew.