Tear Your Hearts, Not Your Garments

We love outward shows of piety and righteousness. We like people to know when we do something right. We also like people to know that we have repented when we do something wrong. We like visible shows of piety. But Joel 2:13 reminds us that the goal is a change of heart, not a change of clothes. You can make all sorts of signs of repentance. You can weep, moan, kneel, do penance, pray, and yet your heart remain untouched. Outward signs of repentance do not mean there has been inward change. 

We like shallow repentance. We like easy answers, with little digging and little pain. We want to be forgiven and yet keep our sins. But Jesus tells us to pull out our eyes if they cause us to sin.  Joel tells us that tearing our coats are easy. Giving a little extra money is easy.  Kneeling is easy. Tearing your hearts? Not so easy. Gouging out your eyes? Not so easy. Cutting off a hand? Not so easy.

The good news is that Jesus is kind. He will grant us repentance if we seek for it. The real question this morning isn’t, “Will Christ grant us a heart to repent, forgive us, and help us turn from sins?” The real question is, “Do we want a repentance that deep?” Or do we just want to look repentant? 

Exhortation before the confession of sin: March 15th, 2015. 

1st Sermon on Joel

Here is an outline of my first sermon on Joel.

Sermon: A Repentant People
Joel 1:1-20

I. Explication/Exegesis

Introduction to Joel
Joel never mentions any specific sin. He only mentions God’s judgment upon Israel for their sins. We also have no idea when Joel was written. There have been various guesses from 700 to 300 B.C. But John Calvin rightly says that we have no idea. Joel is generic. God in his providence has given us a book that walks us through repentance and the fruits that come from that repentance. It is as if God said, “Give my people something to use anytime I bring my judgment upon them, anytime my wrath rains down upon them.”

Joel is structured into two main sections with those two sections each divided into two sub-sections.
Joel 1:1-2:17 Israel is being judged by God and needs to repent.
Joel 1:1-20 A locust plague has come as judgment from God. Israel needs to repent.
Joel 2:1-17 The army of the Lord is coming. Israel needs to repent.

Joel 2:18-3:21 When Israel repents God will pour out his blessing upon her.
Joel 2:18-32 When Israel repents God will restore the land and pour out His Spirit.
Joel 3:1-21 When Israel repents God will judge the nations and restore Israel to her former glory.

II. Joel is telling us what a repentant people look like. This is a corporate repentance, not a private one.
a. A Repentant People have woken up to God’s judgment.
i. God wakes us up by His Word. (vs. 1)
ii. God wakes us up by taking away his blessings. (vs.
iii. God wakes us up by taking away true worship (vs. 9 & 16)

b. A Repentant People grieve over their sin.
i. Shame is key sign of a grieving over sin. Understanding we are exposed before God, that all our thoughts and desires are laid bare before his eyes.
ii. Lamentation is another sign of true grief. Here we have weeping like a young bride whose husband has died. A young bride who looked forward to long life and many years with her spouse, but in a blink the spouse is gone. The future forever changed.
iii. Wailing is the final picture Joel gives us of grieving over our sins.
iv. Emotion not a requirement. Too often those things which are commanded in Scripture are things we think should show up spontaneously. Rejoice Paul says. But we say I do not feel like rejoicing so if I rejoices I am being untrue. One of the great lies of romanticism is that we only do what we feel like doing. If we do what we don’t feel like doing we are being untrue to ourselves.

c. A Repentant People cry out to God.
i. The people are called upon to cry out. (vs. 14)
ii. Joel cries out to God. (vs.19)
iii. Even the beasts cry out to God (vs. 20)One of the primary places we cry out to God is in the worship service