Even now-[this is] the Lord's declaration-turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, [so you can] offer grain and wine to the Lord your God. – Joel 2:12-14 HCSB

Most of us have seen the crazy guys on the streets wave their signs, “Repent, the end of the world is near!” But when God calls us to repentance He has an entirely different approach. He cries out, “Repent, because I’m willing to forgive you!”

As a stubborn child, I often got spanked by my father. The spankings were useful[1] in getting me to associate bad behavior with pain and in modifying my external behavior, but they did not change my heart.

What changed my heart was my father’s sorrow at having to spank me. Oh, trust me! He got plenty angry lots of times. But his love for me was shown by the tears in his eyes as he applied the paddle of learning to my seat of understanding!

I remember times when Dad hugged me after the punishment and cried, “Why did you make me do it?” There are times when I hear that same cry from my Heavenly Father when I am undergoing His discipline.

A lot of people today tell us, “God is love! God is patient! God is understanding!” What they say is true, but if their intent is to excuse a lack of obedience to the Word, then they are trying to attract us to a lie from the pit of hell by coating it with a superficial layer of spirituality. Don’t swallow it![2]

Like the Sleeping Beauty who failed to recognize the wicked stepmother in the old hag who offered her an apple, we too will end up spiritually comatose. It is the kiss of our Prince that can wake us from our slumber.[3] The very fact that there is Someone out there Who loves us sacrificially and is hurt whenever we sin should motivate us to practical holiness.[4]

When we do sin, we should run to our loving heavenly Father, sobbing “I’m so sorry I hurt you. Will you please forgive me?” When we stiffen our necks in stubborn refusal to change our hurtful ways, we are demonstrating that we don’t know God at all. For God is love. And those who truly know Him will walk in love.[5] They will obey His commandments[6] and be sensitive to sin.[7]

God is graciously, patiently, lovingly compassionate; so repent and return to Him. Do this, and be blessed with a life marked by gratitude.

[1] Proverbs 3:11-12; 13:24; 19:18; 20:30

[2] 1 John 4:1

[3] Ephesians 5:14

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:14

[5] 1 John 4:7-11

[6] John 14:15

[7] Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 4:2