Rend Your Heart and Not Your Garments

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.
(Joel 2:12-13)

The book of Joel begins with the discussion of a devastating locust plague sent by God as a destroying army to punish His people and to bring them to repentance. Those were dark days, literally (Joel 2:2).

God’s wrath comes slowly, but when it comes it is an overwhelming flood of devastation. When God brings His punishment it is thorough, but it is also done it the right way and at the right time. You know when God brings down the hammer of judgment He has exhausted all other avenues and given all opportunities for someone to come to repentance.

But after all this devastation which was left in the wake of God’s wrath, He calls them in love and grace to fast, call an assembly, and to return to Him.

But what kind of return does God want? Does He want them merely to feel sorry that they ended up in such a bad situation? Is He looking for them to have guilt just because things turned out so poorly?

It was clear throughout Scripture and certainly in our lives today that we do not always have “godly sorrow” which “leads to repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We may be sorry we lost something important. It may be we are sorry we got caught. It may be we are sad because of the consequences, but that is not the sorrow God is looking for, is it?

The people of God could have torn their garments, fasted (it was not like they had much food at that point anyway), thrown ashes and dust on their heads and wailed and mourned. Was this what God was looking for? Not if their hearts weren’t in it.

“Rend your heart and not your garments…” Don’t tear your clothes, tear your hearts. God wants us to be heartbroken because of the broken relationship we have with Him, not merely sad because we are being punished for our sins.

Men, does God have our hearts? Are we on the surface trying to fix / avoid the consequences of our sins or are we truly getting down to the “heart” of the matter?

Rend your heart and not your garments.

Abhor What Is Evil

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Romans 12:9

It really is a simple concept, isn’t it?  Abhor, detest, or hate evil.  Cling to, adhere to, or cleave to what is good.  Who gets to define evil and good?  It has always been and will always be God.  God, the creator of all things, established good and evil from the beginning and ever since man has been confusing the two.

Why is that?  What motivates us to pervert such a simple concept?  Why do we, “call evil good, and good evil…substitute darkness for light and light for darkness?”  (Isaiah 5:20)

I submit to you that the main reason is shame.  Psychologists and therapists make very good livings trying to help people overcome their shame.  The alcohol and prescription drug industries are fueled by people intent on medicating their shame.  We will do everything we can to avoid shame.

Shame is the product of violating a set of standards that people and society holds.  We manipulate those standards, change laws, redefine marriage, and crucify morality to avoid shame.  We get so wrapped up in marginalizing sin to overcome shame that we fail to see it as a gift from God.  “Guilt is the fact of men doing wrong.  Shame is the God-given response to that fact.” – Andy Cantrell

Even though our culture is in a free fall and godly principles are openly mocked, it doesn’t change the fact that right is right and wrong is wrong.  We deceive ourselves as Christians if we think this is just a problem in the world.  The church faces the same challenge and is slowly being conformed to the world’s way of thinking.  God’s standards are being eroded in the body of Christ and too often we don’t even notice.

Brothers, we can do better…we must do better.

  • We must do better in the things we meditate on.
  • We must do better in the movies we watch.
  • We must do better in the language we use.
  • We must do better in how we treat each other.
  • We must do better in the clothes we wear.
  • We must do better in the priorities we set for our families.
  • We must do better.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” I Peter 2:21-24

Jesus lived in a broken world, among sinful people, and was crucified by evil men yet He never compromised His Father’s standards.  We must reach for that same standard, following in His footsteps, being driven by deep appreciation and profound gratitude for our Lord’s sacrifice.