What Real Repentance Looks LikeOctober 24-28
Spread the Word
Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation. – Joel 1:3(ESV)
Dave Branon writes: The heritage of Christian workers never ends, though their work sometimes must. I thought of this recently after hearing of an elderly woman who no longer feels useful. Despite her years of service as a Sunday school teacher (for which she is remembered fondly), as well as the spiritual influence she has already had on her children and grandchildren, she feels as if she isn’t helpful anymore. But it’s not true.
The Bible reminds us that God’s people are to pass along to the next generation the stories of God and His people and times of repentance. In Joel 1:3, for example, the inhabitants of Judah were told to convey a story about locusts to their children. Because the story had prophetic implications, it was an important part of the heritage of the people and thus it had to be passed on. (Today in the Word)
Telling what Christ has done for us leaves signposts for those who follow. Who are the people of a previous generation that shared stories of the faith with you? Is there someone younger in the faith than you that you could share part of your story of repentance today?
“I Love to Tell the Story” is a well-known hymn that was written as a poem by an English evangelist, Katherine Hankey. Let these words be your prayer and praise today.
I love to tell the story,
It did so much for me;
And that is just the reason
I tell it now to thee. —Hankey
What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. – Joel 1:4(ESV)
When I was 5 years old, standing in my backyard in Whittier, it happened…A large grasshopper landed on my left shoulder! He was the size of a small Mack truck. He had armor plating all over his body. He was huge, and mean, and he was going to eat me alive. I still hate them to this day. I’ve grabbed a rattlesnake by his tail once but I don’t do grasshoppers! Joel is writing in-between invasions: Between a locust plague recently past and future judgments of a military invasion, and ultimately “The Day of the Lord.” (Brian Bell)
Tough love is a love that is strong enough to be tough when needed. Parents show tough love to a child when they refuse to give in to a temper tantrum. Tough love is strong enough to reprove one who needs correction, and it is willing to allow others to suffer the consequences of their foolish actions in the hope that they will learn from their experiences. God used tough love in the case of Israel by sending a plague of locusts in Joel 1. The goal of God’s tough love was to bring His people back to a place of repentance and restoration.
Can you think of the events in your life that God has used to get your attention? Perhaps He has used the consequences of your own actions to help you see the folly of making sinful choices. Ask some trusted friends to share some things God has used to get their attention and the lessons they learned as a result.
Praise God for using tough love in your life when you have needed it. Praise God for the blessings that came as a result of your repentance. Pray God uses what it takes to get the attention of anyone you know who has strayed from God’s will.
Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. – Joel 1:14(ESV)
When Arthur Andersen auditing firm was indicted for destroying documents related to a Federal investigation of one of its clients, some of the firm’s employees staged a public protest. One employee even wrote to the President of the United States, complaining that the indictment was unfair because of what it implied about the thousands of honest employees who worked for the company. “They are casting doubt on our honesty and our integrity,” he wrote. Some of the people of Joel’s day would identify with this complaint. They too may have wondered whether it was fair for many to suffer for the sins of a few.
The plague of locusts that had so devastated Israel’s crops carried an important lesson. Sin is not just an individual matter–it is a corporate one as well. The proper response was for God’s people to take responsibility for the sins of their nation and seek God’s forgiveness. Speaking through the prophet, the Lord called for Israel’s national and religious leaders to publicly express their grief for their sin in a “fast” and a “solemn assembly” (Joel 1:14). The priests were instructed to take the lead and summon both the elders and the people to the sanctuary in order to fast and cry out to God for deliverance. (Today Along the Way)
Fasting is a way to express repentance. Have you ever experienced the benefits of fasting? Have you ever been part of a corporate fast?
If your physical health permits, why not skip a meal and spend that time confessing sin to the Father? Pray for yourself, your church, and your nation–God is pleased by our recognition of our corporate responsibility and our heartfelt repentance. When you are finished, thank God for His grace and mercy.
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, – Joel 2:1(ESV)
I didn’t think that the hesitation in my car engine and that little yellow “check engine” light on my dashboard really needed my immediate attention. I sang it away, saying that I would get to it tomorrow. However, the next morning when I turned the key to start my car, it wouldn’t start. My first reaction was frustration, knowing that this would mean money, time, and inconvenience. My second thought was more of a resolution: I need to pay attention to warning lights that are trying to get my attention—they can mean something is wrong.
In Joel 2:12-17, we read that God used the prophet Joel to encourage His people to pay attention to the warning light on their spiritual dashboard. Prosperity had caused them to become complacent and negligent in their commitment to the Lord. Their faith had degenerated into empty formalism and their lives into moral bankruptcy. So God sent a locust plague to ruin crops in order to get His people’s attention, causing them to change their behavior and turn to Him with their whole hearts. (Marvin Williams)
Our cars come with lights and bells to alert us when something is wrong. What warning lights are flashing in your spiritual life? What needs to be tuned up or repaired through confession and repentance?
Praise God for loving you enough to send warning signs when you are making destructive decisions. Confess and repent of any sin that God is warning you about.
It’s From the Heart
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. – Joel 2:13(ESV)
Johnny, the painter, was big on cutting corners so he could make more of a profit. So when a church hired him to paint their wooden building, Johnny submitted the lowest bid and was hired. As always, he thinned his latex paint with water to stretch it. One day while he was up on the scaffolding — the job almost finished — he heard an oppressively loud burst of thunder, and it began raining cats and dogs.
The torrential rain washed the thinned paint off the church while intense winds blew Johnny off his scaffolding to the church graveyard, surrounded by puddles of thinned paint. Johnny interpreted this as a warning from God above, so he got on his knees and cried: “Oh, God! Please forgive me! What should I do?” God’s voice thundered from heaven: “Repaint and thin no more!”
The prophet Joel called for God’s people to genuinely repent and not try to cut corners. Rending garments was an outward sign of repentance. However, someone can perform religious actions and not have their heart changed. Religious emotions are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical, but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. (Fan The Flame, J. Stowell)
The heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. What is the spiritual condition of your heart currently?
Praise God for His mercy and grace in your life. Talk to God about the condition of your heart. Ask Him to clean areas that need cleaning, restore areas that need restoration, and encourage areas that need encouragement.