“Now therefore, says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:12-13).
” . . . Turn to me with all your heart.” Our heart–that is where our problem really lies, isn’t it?
“Out of the heart,” Jesus says, “proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Mt. 15:19). We have all those things and more in our own hearts.
Even if they don’t all come to light in our actions, as with Cain who murdered his brother or Judas who betrayed Jesus, the potential is always there because our hearts are still evil. Murder begins with anger and hatred; adultery and fornication begin with lust and sinful desires; theft begins with coveting; false witness and slander begin with unloving and unforgiving thoughts towards others; and blasphemies begin with not fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things.
Which of these are not in our heart? Even when we fail to see them or recognize them in our own heart, God sees them crystal clear. He sees far more than we ever could.
Yet, as filthy and corrupt as our hearts are, God still calls to us: “Turn to Me with all your heart. . . . ” That is God’s gracious call to us this Lenten season.
Take an honest look at the corruption in our heart and turn to the Lord our God with genuine sorrow and repentance. Now take to heart the glorious word of promise contained here: “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and he relents from doing harm.”
God’s Perfect Love
During Lent especially we see how God has turned to us with ALL His heart. He has loved us with a wholehearted love. We see that perfect love when we behold our Savior’s unswerving journey to Golgotha and His soul-wrenching suffering, knowing that everything He did He did for me.
We can be sure that, when we turn to Him with all our heart, He will not turn us away but will receive us. He will cleanse our hearts with the blood of His Son Jesus. He will be gracious to us.
“So rend your heart, and not your garments . . . ” Mere outward actions will not do. Going through the motions of extra services or fasting does not bring one closer to God. God does not want lip service. He wants your whole heart.
Where the heart is sincere, the actions will follow “with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart. Tear it open and lay it bare before God in contrition and repentance. Rend your heart in true sorrow over sin and turn to the Lord for grace. This Lent let God’s Word penetrate into your heart. Let it take root and grow.
May His love poured out for you on the cross move you to true repentance and faith, so that He may make your heart clean and holy, wholly dedicated to His will. Turn to the Lord your God “with all your heart.”
–Pastor David Reim