The worship song, New Wine, has been a recent regular fixture of the worship experience for Satellite, the high school youth group of our church. Sometimes, there are worship songs that encapsulate a moment in time so well, and New Wine is one of those. It resonates with our students, with its language of the inward transformation of our spiritual life that is, at times, difficult and even painful, and yet, when we yield to God and trust in Him, He breaks us and mends us, so we can be made new.
If you’re following us in the Pause Bible Reading Plan, I invite you to come to the Book of Joel this week and prayerfully read it in its entirety. Allow yourself to be drawn into the poetic images of punishment, lament, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. I pray it will be a moment of inward reflection in your heart, that will bring forth outward expressions of lament and repentance, which culminate in forgiveness and restoration to our God and the promise of His Spirit being poured out.
As I read Joel’s prophetic words, I saw the parade of outward expressions of lament and sorrow for sin and repentance seen in the call for the wearing of sackcloth and for corporate mourning by the Israelites (1:13). Now, I don’t put on sackcloth when I mourn, but that image and call to lament and mourn begs the question: What does mourning over sin look like for me, in Los Angeles, in the year 2018? It has to look like something. Dear God, don’t let it look like nothing – don’t let it be nothing. I was challenged by the description of the godly forerunners of our faith, who obediently followed the call of the prophet. I found myself asking: When was the last time I lamented over my sin, over the injustices of this world, over our desperate desire to see God’s Kingdom manifest on earth?
I was arrested by the beautiful poetic line: “Rend your heart, and not your garments” (2:13). The call to inner transformation. To rend, to crush, to split into two – is that what God is asking of me when I think about being made new? Does being made into new wine include the rending of my very heart? Is that what it looks like to obey the Lord?
The answer is simply, yes. I can’t see it any other way.
I’m praying for God to give me the strength to lay everything down at His feet and allow Him to do His will in my life, in total, and to let go of any outward religiosity that’s only surface level. I’ve been told I have a low pain tolerance. I’ve heard our culture called “pain averse” and, in this scripture, all I see is the need for our continual return to God – to a loving, patient and relentless God, who desires what is best for His children – even when it hurts.
So, as we approach the Advent season, I invite you to take time to open your heart to the pressing, the crushing, and the rending of lament. I believe, as we prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Lord – a past reality and the future promise – that if we “return to God will all our hearts,” God will show Himself to be “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (2:13). May we show the outward signs of His inward grace.
Pastor Ben McEntee