JOEL 2:12-13: “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 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.”‭‭

OBSERVATION: What does true repentance look like? This is the question that comes to my heart as I read these verses from the Book of Joel. Joel was writing of the coming judgment of God against Judah. Yet, the prophetic book of Joel reaches beyond the judgment of Judah to the final judgment that is coming against the world in the “Day of the Lord”. With that in mind, this call to repentance takes on both a historical and a present importance and relevance.

Some have called Joel the “John the Baptist” of the Old Testament. When we ask the question – “What does true repentance look like?” – the life and ministry of John the Baptist offers a good comparison. John was preaching a message or repentance to prepare hearts for the coming of the Messiah. When the religious leaders came to John, he proclaimed:

  • “…You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

The religious leaders were proficient at “rending the garment”. This was an outward show of repentance through the visible act of tearing their garments and putting ashes upon their head. We too can do things outwardly, while inwardly our hearts remain unchanged. This is why the Lord called Judah to rend their hearts and not their garments. The outward show that feigns repentance will never move the heart of God. Repentance that is sincere must begin within. Only then will it be acceptable to the Lord.

How can one discern “true” repentance from “feigned” repentance? Feigned repentance finds its’ security in outward showings of “religious acts”. True repentance is manifested in changed behavior and “selfless acts”. True repentance is not concerned about giving an outward show for others to see. True repentance is concerned with humbling oneself before God and redirecting one’s life toward the pathway of life. John the Baptist once again gives us insight into understanding the fruits of true repentance.

  • “And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:7-8, 10-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

God desires to save, forgive, and to heal us. Again, the prophecy of Joel proclaims this truth – “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.” The time for the church to turn away from mere outward displays of repentance and toward sincere rendering of the heart is now. While John the Baptist was calling men and women to prepare for the “First” coming of Jesus Christ, the prophetic words of Joel are calling us to prepare for the “Second” coming of Jesus Christ. It is time for all believers to rend their hearts, to turn to the Lord, and to offer fruits worthy of repentance. Jesus is coming soon, and He is calling us to become ready once again.

Lord, create in me a clean heart that turns to you in sincere repentance. Give me the grace each day to live in and walk after Your Holy Spirit. Help my life be a light to lead others to Jesus Christ both in word and in deed. I know I can only do this by grace through faith, so keep me in the position of humility and full dependence upon You. Help me to rend my heart in preparation for Your soon coming!

In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy-to-follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com. Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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  1. dave grim says:

    What about when someone comes to a church and are unable to share are use their gifts because of the system and people that are already in place ? should the church repent when they make people feel insignificant and that they don’t belong ?


    • Dave:

      Thank you for your thoughts. I do repent that you misunderstood our heart and intentions regarding the Pastor’s Class and our requirement for Church Membership to be a part of one of our ministry teams. For anything that led to this misunderstanding – I ask for your forgiveness.

      We do allow people to share their gifts regularly at The Fellowship, as you did several times on Wednesday nights and on a few Sunday mornings. However, for someone to be a part of any ministry team in our church we ask that each person attend our membership class and first make sure they are called to become “planted” in our local church.

      Our informational pamphlet entitled the “Pathway to Ministry” that is available in our lobby explains this process:

      “So how does one get started on the pathway to their personal ministry at The Fellowship?

      FIRST – The initial step is to talk to a member of the pastoral staff. Let them know about your interest in becoming involved in ministry. At The Fellowship we have a new program called DISCIPLESHIP TRACKS which is designed to help you become a part of the life of our church and grow in your personal walk of faith with the Lord.

      SECOND – Attend the CROSS TRACK. This is a 4 week class which is offered 4 times a year. The focus of this class is to introduce you to the essentials of our faith, and the life of our church. This is an important “first step” in the process of getting involved in ministry. We are committed to this core value—”Relationship releases ministry”!

      If relationship releases ministry, then we must have healthy relationships. This means that we must be walking in agreement over the basics of our faith and our life together as a church family. This is affirmed in the next step of church membership.

      “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?” Amos 3:3”

      Dave, once again, please accept my apology for any misunderstanding with regards to this practice that has been a part of our church since we began in March of 2004.

      May the Lord bless you and your family.

      In Christ’s Love,


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