Morning and Evening, is a devotional penned by C.H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon, who’s nickname is affectionately the “Prince of Preachers”, was a 19th century preacher of a church in London. He was a gifted Pastor, and many things he wrote still apply completely today. After all, the Gospel does not change. I read this entry yesterday morning. It was one of those readings that cut right to my heart when I read it.
Morning, December 18
“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.
Garment-rending and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations—for such things are pleasing to the flesh—but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; 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 article 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 wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which 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 of 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 then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which 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 hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’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 rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.
The language Spurgeon uses is roughly 150 years old so some sayings and words may seem a bit unfamiliar. But, his point is equally valid. How much of what people today call religion is nothing more than ritual? A going through the motions, if you will. As Spurgeon so eloquently stated true religion is “too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men“.
True repentance is indeed humbling. It is only when we empty ourselves of self; that is, to renounce the throne of king over our life, and admit the rebellion we have participated in against God, that we learn who we really are. That throne is only rightfully occupied by King Jesus. Either we live our life in rebellion only to die in defeat, or accept the amnesty God has granted us in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
When we come to the realization of who God is, who we are, and what we have done, the only natural attitude of our hearts is repentance. The only thing left for us is the cross of Christ. Complete surrender to Christ, to the death He paid for our sin, in return for His righteousness and adoption as sons and daughters. How amazing is it that God has satisfied his judgment in Christ, and given us His righteousness! How amazing that we who are in Christ, have gone from rebellious enemies to adopted in to God’s family!
I love how Joel tells us to “rend our hearts, not our garments.” God is not looking for emotional responses to put on a show, He is looking for a change in your heart. Turn away from sin and rebellion. God is gracious and merciful to forgive. Don’t put on a show for those around you, let God soften your heart and turn to Him.
I am reminded of what God said to Samuel when Samuel questioned God’s rejection of David’s older and bigger brothers, and choosing David as King of Israel: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV) It is not in the appearance, which our society is so caught up in, that God looks at. He sees your heart and who you really are. He knows you to the very depths of your soul, and will still forgive you if you turn to Him. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive, except going to your grave rejecting Him.