Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21
As you read these scriptures read today, I hope that you noticed a theme running through each of them. I hope that you heard the ideas of repentance, fasting, and prayer. God’s people were in need of repentance, they were in need of coming humbly before God with a broken and contrite heart, they were in need of His forgiveness, and in need of seeking His face. So are we today.
Wednesday begins a time of Lent. Lent is a special time because it is a time of inward reflection. It isn’t about doing things so others see what you are doing. It is a time of reflection, a time of inward searching, and true repentance for the sins committed. Lent is the 40 days beginning Ash Wednesday. It is complete on Palm Sunday in time for the celebration of Holy Week. It can be an important spiritual time for a believer if they look at these 40 days as more than just a time to give up something. It is a time when fasting is important but only if the correct perspective is taken. Fasting should be replaced with a filling of God. The 40 days has become an important time because it was the number of years the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years, and 40 days was the number of days that Jesus fasted prior to beginning His ministry.
Today, we are talking about this because I would encourage you to search deep within you as you prepare for this special time. I encourage you to take advantage of these 40 days and grow closer to Him during this time. How do we do that? I think that we begin this with the information from the Scriptures we heard today.
There are 4 lessons that I believe are important. I encourage you to go back and spend time on each scripture and see what God is revealing to you in each.
1 – Come Together…God is calling His people together. He wants us to come together physically and spiritually in worship. He wants us to be on the same page…serving Him and being dedicated to Him. That is important to really be in true worship to the Father.
2 – Hear the Lord Calling…We often have so much noise going on in our lives that we rarely take a few moments to hear God calling. He is calling His people. He is looking to His people to get it together. He doesn’t want us to continue in our sin and separating ourselves from Him. Joel reminded us that God is calling us to turn to Him. He is asking us to return to Him…in the arms of the One who is slow to anger and of great kindness.
3 – Realize Where We Are Falling Short… In Isaiah, we read about how they thought their fast was just fine. Turned out they were wrong. Didn’t really know what the fast was about. Their hearts weren’t in the right place. They weren’t truly repentant which was evident by their actions. They justified their sins because they thought they were doing the right thing. God had another plan. His plan was not like theirs. He said their fast should change them. The fast would change them and their world around them because God could work through them. As long as they were holding on to their ideals and what they thought was right, they would miss it. God had plans for the hungry to be fed, for the poor to have a home. That would be the results of a real fast.
For us, we have to realize our need for Him and our place where we have fallen short. That can be different for each of us. Psalm 51 reminds us that God is looking for humility, a broken spirit, a person who is really truly repentant…not sorry.
4 – Seek Him…When we realize where we have fallen short and we see our sins (they are before us) and we know our need for the Lord and Savior, we want to seek Him. We have this desire to be with Him. 2 Corinthians reminds us that we shouldn’t take for granted what we have been given…the gift of forgiveness….the gift of love…the gift of repentance…the blessing of new life through Him. We won’t take it for granted if we realize how much we need Him and the blessing that it is to know Him. We will find ourselves seeking Him.
As we seek Him, let us do it humbly…in fasting and prayer…in giving and worshiping…without a show, without anyone else being involved. Just an opportunity to spend time with the Savior and get things right…in a right relationship…so that you can serve Him with all you are.