Perhaps we have heard somewhere that the Lord is slow to anger and is merciful. We are comforted by these words and encouraged by the sentiment. But notice for one moment the whole picture Joel gives us (2:13); “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.” The kindness of God is show on the repentant.
What does it mean to repent? A diver told me that the best strategy for breathing under water is to exhale completely and then the inhalation happens automatically. If we only focus on breathing in our breaths become shallow and we risk drowning. To repent in the Bible literally means to change your mind or thoughts (metanoia). Repentance is asking God to change our thoughts and that leading to a visible change in actions. Perhaps the reason our faith is so weak is that we are not willing to really be changed. To be filled with the Holy Spirit we must be completely exhaled of self.
So when we pray for repentance it is more than disgust for the wrongs we have committed or sorrow for their effect, it is asking God to change us. A dangerous prayer indeed since most of us think we are almost perfect and only need a tweek. The reality is we need to be totally changed. We need the mind of Christ, not a better version of me.
Lets turn back to Joel for a moment (2:12); “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “ Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Repentance is something we are to be serious about and intentional in. It requires serious reflection on where we really are. It requires looking to God. It requires action. John the Baptist reminds us that we need to bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8).
Stephen Wilson is our based in the Galway in the West of Ireland.