Yet Even Now

Joel 2:1-2 ESV

Blow a trumpet in Zion;
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.

Do you know that the book of Revelation is Jesus’ (God’s) message to the church? He wrote Revelation through John, his servant, in order to let his servants (his followers) know the things that must take place. The prophecy was written for the saints of God who are to hear God’s word, and who are to keep (obey) what is written in it, because the time is near (Rev. 1:1-3).

Do you also know that just prior to all the judgments being announced in Revelation that it was the church who was warned about what was coming, and she was, in most cases, called to repent of her sins or face judgment? But, if they repented, and if they overcame, that then they would receive heavenly rewards and blessings? (See Rev. 2:1-29; Rev. 3:1-22.)

And, do you know that physical numbers in the book of Revelation are often symbolic in nature, and not literal, and that “seven” means complete? And, so even the letters to the seven churches should (or could) be regarded as a letter to the complete church, the total church of all ages and locations? And, that it should be applied “where the shoe fits,” even today?

And, do you know that the New Testament warns the church of divine judgment many times? For, we are told that we must be holy in all our conduct as God is holy, and that we must be obedient to our Lord, and that we are not to be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance. For, God judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, so we are to conduct ourselves in the fear of the Lord (1 Pet. 1:13-19; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Co. 11:27-32; Heb. 10:30-31; Heb. 12:1-13; Jas. 3:1; Jas. 5:9; Rev. 18:4-5).

And, do you also know that the New Testament teaches that repentance and obedience to our Lord are essential to our salvation from sin and eternal life with God? And, so the church is warned over and over again not to buy into the lies and empty words and feel good messages that tickle itching ears. And it warns, too, that if we walk (in lifestyle, in practice) according to our flesh and not according to the Spirit, we don’t have eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-24; Gal. 6:7-8; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).

Joel 2:12-14 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.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord your God?

And, yet our God is gracious! Even when his people turn their hearts to other gods to worship them, and even when they stray from their pure devotion to the Lord, or they become complacent or worldly, and they largely ignore him in favor of following men, instead, he is reaching out to his church, and he is calling them to return to him as their only God and Lord (master).

But, returning to the Lord is not about mouthing empty words of confession or empty promises of heart renewal. For, there is a difference between worldly sorrow, which ends in death, and godly sorrow, which ends in eternal life. We can feel badly that we sinned against God, but if it does not result in true repentance and changed lives and hearts, then it is worldly sorrow.

So, if we have gone astray from our Lord, for a time, returning to him will involve godly sorrow which leads to true repentance, which is dying to sin and living to God and to his righteousness. It is forsaking our former ways of living for sin and self to now follow our Lord in surrender to his will and to his ways. It doesn’t mean we will be perfect, but it does mean that what we practice will be righteousness and not wickedness. We won’t keep returning to wallowing in the mud, but we will be walking in his righteousness.

Some people, nonetheless, have this idea that being a Christian means they can now sin as much as they want without guilt. Others believe that, once they are saved, their sins no longer matter to God. Still others will go through the motions of repenting and renewing their relationships with the Lord, but it is for show only, in pretense and not in truth, and so they keep recycling the same behavior patterns over and over again, and they never move forward. And, that is because they never truly repented.

But, we must realize that, just because God is gracious, and he is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, he is still God, and he is still going to do what he says. For, if we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction (decay, death). But, if we sow to please the Spirit, only then will we reap eternal life with God. So, don’t gamble with God’s grace. He will judge those who play church and who think they can keep on in their sinful practices. So, please believe God (Gal. 5:19-24; Gal. 6:7-8).

Joel 2:18-19 ESV

Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
The Lord answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.”

When we truly repent of our sins, we turn away from them and we turn to follow our Lord Jesus according to his will and to his ways. And, he forgives us, and he renews us, and he fills our lives with his spiritual blessings. And, that is awesome! He blesses us for our obedience. And, he ministers to our spirits, and he comforts us with his love, and he counsels us in the way that we should go, and he strengthens and empowers us to do his will.

It is just awesome to follow our Lord in obedience to his will and to watch him work out all things according to his plans and purposes for our lives. It is marvelous to see how he works in and through our lives for his glory, honor and praise. And, it is amazing what he will do through lives which are truly committed to him and to his service and who will follow him wherever it is he leads, and which will do what he asks, no matter how difficult.

It doesn’t matter where we have been before or what we have done in the past, if it truly is in the past and not recycled continually in the present. What matters is our walks with the Lord today and tomorrow and the next day until the day our Lord returns to take us home to be with him forever. Some of us have done some pretty horrible things in the past, but those are forgiven, and God has renewed our hearts and lives, and he is using us for his glory, not because of our goodness, but because of his mercy and grace.

But, repentance has to be real, and God knows who is faking it and who isn’t. For, we can’t fake repentance, and we can’t fake obedience to our Lord. He knows the truth. For, he sees what no human eye can see. He sees it all, he knows it all, and he knows the end from the beginning, too.

But, for those whose repentance is genuine, and who have truly forsaken their former lives to follow Jesus in complete surrender to his will, he will forgive, he will renew, and he will use them for his glory and to advance his heavenly kingdom, too.

And, that is where we all want to be, living for our Lord, doing his will, going where he sends us, and saying what he gives us to say to whomever he gives us to say it, no matter what may come. And, one day we will get to be with him forever, amen!

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Words by Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907
Music by George C. Stebbins, 1907

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Friday, September 20, 2019

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