Do we take the time to examine ourselves? Many folks may look the part, but what’s in our heart? We may fool people, but we cannot fool God.
The prophet Joel was called to warn Judah of God’s impending judgment, and urge them to turn back to God. The people were caught up in a circle of bad behavior, of which they would ‘repent,’ yet change of life did not take place. They did not follow God any longer, but they attempted hollow measures to keep His blessings upon them. We must understand, God sees beyond pointless, routine activity, and straight to the heart!
Judah’s sinful behavior was obvious, their moral senses were dulled (as well as their physical senses due to drunkenness). They had become self-centered. Yet, they were still going through the motions! We read in Joel 2:12-13 “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God:”
Guilt, remorse or sorrow, was often shown by tearing (rending) one’s clothes. But God did not want just an outward display, He wanted true inward repentance. He wanted their love and loyalty to Him because of who He is, and they wanted to get away with living how they chose, (yet still wanting his blessings).
We see this kind of behavior all through the Old Testament, we see it in the gospels where Jesus rebukes the religious leaders, we see Paul, and others, address it… and we still see it practiced today! An important point in all of this, is to remember God has given this message to His people, those living under His banner, and occupying the land promised, to be a witness to all nations that He alone is God! Now yes, God’s Word is for everyone, but when those who claim to be His followers, abandon His commands, and the new life He offers, then our witness to the lost is crushed, and God will not excuse such behavior. (1 Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?)
True inward repentance will be displayed in our actions. Even when we stumble, a repentant heart will shine through. When the Spirit of Christ lives in us, it reigns! Galatians 5: 22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
So, let us examine our hearts today. Are we guilty of just going through the motions? Are we only concerned about church attendance, or receiving praise for giving (whether monetarily or a special talent). Do we try to fool friends and family so they’ll get off our case about certain issues? Or is there genuine penitence? Has our new heart produced praise to the Father, a consistent prayer life, and a disciplined bible study? It should!
Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Rev. Cathleen N. Cathcart is the pastor of New Life Worship Center in Spartanburg. This is the sermon she delivered this past Sunday.