Rend Your Heart

By on September 30, 2018

Part 22 in Sermon Series: A Region Ripe for Revival

Scripture reading from Joel 2:12-32

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One Comment to “Rend Your Heart”

  1. Donald McMahon
    October 1, 2018

    “Rend Your Heart” (Joel 2:12-32)(9.30.18)
    Again, God’s people had turned their backs on Yahweh. So, the Lord has prepared an army of locusts to decimate the nation. Disaster is at their doorstep, but the Lord gives them another warning through the prophet Joel. Can we hear a whisper of warning for our day? Does it seem to you that today you have a locust-filled life?
    Joel 2:12–32 (NIV84) Rend Your Heart
    12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
    13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
    Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.
    14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
    and leave behind a blessing—
    grain offerings and drink offerings
    for the Lord your God.
    15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    declare a holy fast,
    call a sacred assembly.
    16 Gather the people,
    consecrate the assembly;
    bring together the elders,
    gather the children,
    those nursing at the breast.
    Let the bridegroom leave his room
    and the bride her chamber.
    17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
    weep between the temple porch and the altar.
    Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord.
    Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
    a byword among the nations.
    Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’ ”
    18 Then the Lord will be jealous for his land
    and take pity on his people.
    19 The Lord will reply to them:
    “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil,
    enough to satisfy you fully;
    never again will I make you
    an object of scorn to the nations.
    20 “I will drive the northern army far from you,
    pushing it into a parched and barren land,
    with its front columns going into the eastern sea
    and those in the rear into the western sea.
    And its stench will go up;
    its smell will rise.”
    Surely he has done great things.
    21 Be not afraid, O land;
    be glad and rejoice.
    Surely the Lord has done great things.
    22 Be not afraid, O wild animals,
    for the open pastures are becoming green.
    The trees are bearing their fruit;
    the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
    23 Be glad, O people of Zion,
    rejoice in the Lord your God,
    for he has given you
    the autumn rains in righteousness.
    He sends you abundant showers,
    both autumn and spring rains, as before.
    24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
    the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
    25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm—
    my great army that I sent among you.
    26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
    never again will my people be shamed.
    27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
    never again will my people be shamed.
    28 “And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
    29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
    30 I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
    31 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
    32 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
    for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
    among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Today, we will wrestle with the first three verses and explore the rest over the next couple of weeks.
    Even now; even now. What blessed words we receive in this “even now.” No matter what you are up against; no matter how many times you have turned away from God; no matter how many times you failed to love your family, your neighbor, your co-worker, that annoying person at church, even though you have failed to love God our Father, the Almighty is calling to you. Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart.
    Have you been selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed or self-consumed? Have you not been generous? Profanity, pornography and obscenity might be your cousins. Are you struggling with some form of addiction? Feeding our addictions sucks the life out of our soul, like a hyena gnawing on our bones and cracking them open to get at the marrow. Even now, even now declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart.
    Is your mind polluted with politics or popularity? Must you take a stand on every divisive issue? If you are like me, you always have to be right. Is a word of complaint on your lips instead of praises to God? Maybe you are skimming a little off the top here or there. Maybe you have failed to do what you know you should do. Even Now, the Lord beckons you to return. Return with all your heart.
    Wait a second pastor. Is this message for individuals or for the nation of Israel? I answer yes. Both. A human is the unit of which when multiplied makes the nation. That is why this broom and dustpan are up here. Preacher Harry Jones said,
    “But, remember, that the whole is made up of parts; several items construct the whole. Every one who honestly tries to see himself and his wishes in the light of the Lord of righteousness, aids in the solution of national and social problems, whatever they may be, whether they concern order, home distress, or troubles beyond the seas. The individual is the unit of humanity. A sense of general vexation must never blot out that of personal responsibility. As each sweeps before his own door, the street is clean. (REPEAT) As each honestly turns to the Lord, the attitude of the whole is corrected.”
    That is why we need to be concerned when any person’s rights are denied. That is why we need to be concerned whenever the weak are oppressed. That is why we need to be concerned whenever someone suffers due to the color, ethnicity, gender, economic level are any other factor is used to objectify or dehumanize them. How many times have we stood by silently when we should have spoken out? Even now, the Lord declares, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
    How little we deal with fasting today. Don’t we give into most every urge? We are encouraged, go ahead, live a little. You deserve it. Isn’t this a major marketing strategy? Fasting in Bible times, for nearly everyone, would involve refraining from eating. When most of the population was poor, this was a big deal. For me, and probably most of you, skipping a couple of meals would be no big deal. But fasting is about demonstrating control over yourself. My grandson Nathan has to give up his phone for one week for one of his classes. For most seminary students, fasting from Internet access is harder than fasting from food or any other similar challenge.
    We will come back to weeping and mourning later.
    Joel knew his nation was ripe for a revival. The army of locusts was at the doorstep and all food sources were going to be destroyed. Because the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity; Joel gave this Even Now revival message. With Joel, I say to you today, my brothers and sisters, Rend your hearts.
    Listen to another account of a region ripe for revival. This little green book is titled, The Half Can Never Be Told. It was compiled by the World Wide Revival Prayer Movement that was based just over in Ventnor.
    “The autumn of that year was signalized by a sudden and fearful convulsion in the commercial world. That calamity was so speedily followed by the reports of revivals of religion and remarkable displays of Divine Grace, that it has been a widely received opinion that the two events stand related to one another as cause and effect. In the day of adversity men consider, When the hand of God is suddenly laid upon city and country, the sources of prosperity dried up, fortunes taking to themselves wings; houses, venerable for years, integrity and success, tumbling into ruins; the names never tarnished by suspicion, becoming less than nothing in general bankruptcy, it is natural to believe that men will look away from themselves, and say, “Verily, there is a God who reigns.” As in the time of an earthquake, or wreck at sea, men’s hearts failing them for fear, they will cry to Him who rides upon the whirlwind; so it was believed that the financial storm had driven men to pray. And it doubtless did. Never was a commercial crisis so inexplicable under the law of trade. It was acknowledged to be a judgment. The justice of God was confessed in arresting men in recklessness, extravagance and folly. Thousands were thrown out of business, and in their want of something else to do, assembled in meetings for prayer. But these meetings had been already established. The Spirit of God had been manifest in the midst of them. Before the commercial revulsion, the city and the country had been absorbed in the pursuit of pleasure and gain. Men were making haste to be rich, and to enjoy their riches. Recklessness of expenditure, extravagance in living, display in furniture, equipage, and dress, had attained a height unexampled in the previous social history of our country, and utterly inconsistent with the simplicity and virtue of our fathers. These signs of prosperity had filled the minds of good men with apprehension and alarm before the panic seized the heart of the world. Christians who had kept free from the spirit of speculation and the mania for making money, had trembled for the future of a people so absorbed in the material, as to be oblivious of the spiritual and eternal. These pious people had been gathering in meetings for prayer, before the convulsion began. Now, indeed, the meetings received large accession of numbers in attendance, an infusion of life from above. More meeting were established, and large numbers attended. The prayer meetings became one of the institutions of the city. Christians in the distant parts of the country heard of them. They prayed for the prayer meetings. When they visited the city of New York the prayer meeting was the place to which they resorted. The museum or theatre had no attractions. Returning, they set up similar meetings at home. The Spirit followed, and the same displays of grace were seen in other cities and in the country, that were so marvelous in New York. The revival is to be remembered through all coming ages as simply an answer to prayer.”
    How do we return to God with all our heart? We do it in complete brokenness. We realize how sadly we have yielded the battlefield of our everyday existence to everything but God. This brings us to tears. We have a deep heartfelt regret. Likewise, fasting, tears, and mourning are a sign of contrition. King David tells us in Psalm 51:17 (NIV84)
    17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart,
    O God, you will not despise.
    Jesus declares in Luke 13:3 (NIV84) But unless you repent, you too will all perish. So, how do we rend our hearts and not our garment? In the Jewish culture of Bible times, the outward manifestation of an inward turmoil would be the pulling, twisting, and tearing of the clothes that you were wearing. Everyone could see how strongly you lamented your situation. Joel is telling us, God is telling us, “Make sure this is the real deal. Make sure you are making a real commitment to this relationship with your Creator. An outward show without an inward transformation is worthless.”
    Now, I want to share a visual illustration to help signify and solidify this repentance. You have probably been wondering what the heck a coconut is doing up here on the altar. This coconut is a little bigger than the size of a human heart. And, as you would expect, it is hard and a little dirty. {Puncture coconut. Pour out milk. Crack with hammer.}
    Even if you have never made a commitment to following Jesus, you are still beckoned to come. It all still applies. Come with your whole heart. Fasting, weeping, and mourning still applies. Rend your heart, break it open before your God. Even now, for he is gracious and compassionate.
    Have you been on the fence? On one side is faithfulness to God. On the other is waywardness. In the old days we called it backsliding. Maybe you have always been waffling back and forth. That faith highwire seems so high; what if I fall? If you fall the safety net will catch you; the everlasting arms of God; the abounding love of God is waiting to receive you.
    You are not alone. Millions kneel where you are kneeling. Hear this man’s testimony:
    “Now reminiscences of former times crowded upon me. Those happy days of yore when my soul had enjoyed religion, how much more satisfying they were than these days of my infidelity! If others could find satisfaction in religion, and if others could reach God in prayer, why should not I? Why should not I pray again? But how could I reach the throne of grace?
    “Days and weeks passed, and the subject was continually on my mind. Finally there came a night of agony – of agony unspeakable. My associates began to joke with me and ridicule me for attending the prayer meetings. I began to see the weakness of my infidel arguments. The Holy Spirit had me under conviction. And I began to feel the agony of repentance. Again I went to the prayer meeting. I was cordially invited when I entered. Was asked to go to the altar and confess Christ, but did not. Home I went conscious of the crushing weight of the burden of sin. In my room all alone agony came upon me and I seemed to see Jesus at a distance while Satan was near. A voice said, ’Pray, ‘pray.’ I said, I could not. But Jesus seemed to smile on me and say, ‘How foolish you are, I have saved others as bad as you. Doubt not My power, when you are in earnest, then look to Me.’ Hours passed. I tried to be penitent, to believe, to pray, but I could not. Sleep I could not. Finally I told Satan to get in back of me and asked Jesus to be my Savior.”
    We look at suffering as the ultimate harm because our framework too often is limited to this world. God’s perspective is eternal and that is the Lord’s focus…he purposes to bring us into proper relationship. We look at human suffering and we judge God. Oh my! Hasn’t the Almighty given us everything needed, equipped us, to combat suffering? Even if we have to lay down our lives for others, the definition of love, wouldn’t God be glorified?
    Instead of thinking that as God’s people we shouldn’t be exposed to hardship and trials, realize the opposite is true. It is precisely because the Father loves us that we should expect our faith to be exposed to a refining fire.
    And in a human illustration, we exercise parental authority over our children, not other people’s children. This only applies partially to God because the Lord has a grand purpose to make Jesus known to all peoples. But, those of us that claim God as Father and Jesus as Savior, are to be instruments of that very purpose. Therefore, we pray not only God save me; but also, God what am I to learn? How am I to grow through this?
    Have you ever said to your children? “This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.” Did you believe that? It is often true.
    Preacher’s speak about what Jesus experienced as he took on the sin of the world and experienced the fierce anger of the Father. Imagine what it cost God the Father to inflict this punishment on the BELOVED SON!! Doesn’t this break your heart? When you remember your part in Jesus’ crucifixion, it should move you to deep repentance. It should bring you to completely rip open your heart to the Lord so that God the Holy Spirit can enter your “being,” your personhood, fully and completely.
    Revive Thy work, O Lord,
    Thy mighty arm make bare;
    Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
    And make Thy people hear.
    Revive Thy work, O Lord,
    Disturb this sleep of death;
    Quicken the smold’ring embers now
    By Thine almighty breath.
    Revive Thy work, O Lord,
    Create soul-thirst for Thee;
    And hungering for the Bread of Life
    O may our spirits be.
    Revive Thy work, O Lord,
    Exalt Thy precious Name;
    And, by the Holy Ghost, our love
    For Thee and Thine inflame.
    Revive Thy work, O Lord,
    Give Pentecostal showers;
    The glory shall be all Thine own,
    The blessing, Lord, be ours.
    My brothers and sisters, Even now, return to God with your whole heart. Rend your heart so that the King of glory may enter. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.
    Yes, we turn to God Almighty and he may return to us. To God be the glory.
    Amen and amen.


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