Torn Up Repentance

18 Dec
Torn Up Repentance

This morning’s Morning and Evening might have been timelier for me a few months ago. One of my assignments required a few short Bible study notes on the difference between penance and repentance. Spurgeon’s text this morning is taken from the passage I chose for that assignment.

“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. — Joel 2:12-13

The study was titled: God Wants Torn Up Hearts, Not Torn Up Clothes. Here is a short outline from the passage (minus a few details):

  • What distinguishes repentance from penance?
    • Repentance is complete – both internal and external (the whole man)
      • Biblical definition
      • Repentance turns from sin and returns to God with…
        • All your heart (thought, intent, desire)
        • Fasting (prayer, self-denial)
        • Weeping and mourning (emotional response, remorse)
    • Penance is incomplete – external not internal
      • Historical definition
      • Penance relies on external signs of grief to appease judgment
        • God is more concerned with the heart (Matt 9:4; Mark 7:21; Luke 16:5)
        • Rend your hearts and not your garments
  • What assurance do we have that God will forgive us?
    • Why return to the LORD?
      • He is gracious and merciful
      • He is slow to anger
      • He is abounding in steadfast love
      • He relents over disaster
    • When should we repent?
      • Now! (“Yet even now…” beginning of verse 12; 2 Cor 6:2)
      • Don’t delay, today is the day

God doesn’t want part of us. He wants all of us. He is not interested in our personal treasuries of merit. We cannot consolidate our debts or pay for our crimes. All we can do is cling to the cross of Christ, repent of our sin, and trust in the graciousness of God. Repentance is more than remorse or the removal of sin. It is returning to God with all that we are.

Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

* * * * *

…rend your hearts and not your garments.
— Joel 2:13

The tearing of garments and other outward signs of religious emotion are easily displayed and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will pay attention to the most minute ceremonial regulations—for those things are pleasing to the flesh. But true faith is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of people of the flesh; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly.

Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: But they are ultimately delusive, for in the face of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

Heart-rending is divinely worked and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief that is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked about and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and completely sin-purging, but it is also sweet preparation for the gracious consolations that proud, unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally as hard as marble: How, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: A dying Savior’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men tear their garments in the day of lamentation.


Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Devotional, Study


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2 responses to “Torn Up Repentance


    December 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Reblogged this on prayertherapyblog.

  2. Faithful Stewardship

    January 15, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Reblogged this on Faithful Stewardship and commented:
    I was wonderfully blessed by this blog post. I pray that you, too will find blessing in this as you pray and meditate on the call to repentance found in Joel 2:12-18.


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