Is Our Heart Right with God?

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In this passage, the Lord God addresses his rebellious people, Israel, calling them to repentance through the prophet, Joel. Israel had been sinning against the Lord for a long time, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge their sins and repent. Thus, the all-holy and righteous God warns them of impending judgment and disaster coming upon their land – unless they seek God’s mercy in repentance and obedience to his Word and will for their lives.

Firstly, therefore, this message is addressed by God to his own unfaithful and disobedient people living in a backslidden condition. However, this warning message can be seen as a call to repentance both to God’s backsliding people and also to others who have not yet experienced God’s love, mercy, and grace in their lives. According to God’s Word, these unregenerate people in the world around us are still living under his holy and righteous wrath because of their unforgiven sin (Rom. 1:18).

Whether we are backslidden Christians living a lifestyle contrary to God’s Word or have never previously sought God’s mercy through repentance and faith in his Son, this message through the prophet Joel is a word to us from God.


Thus Joel proclaims this message to God’s unfaithful people:

12             “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

               “return to me with all your heart,

    with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; (Joel 2:12 ESV)

Are We at Peace with God?

Where do we stand in our relationship with God? Are we at peace—or war—with God?

Israel had sinned grievously against God over a prolonged period—but God had not forsaken them utterly. He had removed his near presence from them. He had warned them of impending judgment. Nevertheless, before bringing judgment and disaster upon them for their sinful lifestyles, the LORD was making one more appeal to his sinful people:

­12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

               “return to me with all your heart…” (Joel 2:12a ESV)

Have we, like Israel, turned our backs on God?

God is holy, righteous and just, who will by no means clear the guilty. However, God is like a father who truly cares for all who seek repentance. He knows all about us. He knows all we have ever done, but he shows mercy to every genuinely repentant sinner.

We Cannot Change Our Heart

We may attempt to change our life for the better, but we cannot change our hearts. As the Scripture says:

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9 ESV)

If our heart is not right with God, then outward reform of life will never commend us to an all-holy God. It will never make us acceptable in his sight. For God sees not as man sees. God looks upon our hearts. When God sees our hearts, he sees that we are like an unclean thing. His Word says that all our righteousness — all our best intentions and endeavours — are like filthy rags in his sight.

As God declares through the prophet Isaiah:

6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags….” (Isa. 64:6a KJV)

Our hearts and souls (our inmost being) must be cleansed, but God must cleanse us. We must be born anew (spiritually), but the Holy Spirit must create a new heart, a new and right spirit within us. God must grant us new life in Christ Jesus by his sovereign grace and mercy. There is no other way to be made right with God.


Perhaps we are not total strangers to God’s love, grace and mercy. Perhaps, once, we professed Jesus as our Lord. Subsequently, however, we drifted away from the good and right way. We may still be attending church services, but we know that our heart is not right with God.

We may have turned our backs on God’s truth and disobeyed the teachings of his holy Word. Have we, for example, been enticed by false and ungodly philosophies or false doctrines and practices—doctrines and practices condemned by God in his Word? Or are we seeking spiritual experiences that, we are told, should augment and enhance our faith in the Lord Jesus?

If we believe, embrace, or tolerate false teaching or erroneous lifestyle concepts masquerading as enhanced Christian experiences that are, in fact, contrary to the teaching of God’s Word, we sin against God and need to seek his face in genuine, godly grief and repentance.

Seek the Lord!

             “Seek the LORD while he may be found;

               call upon him while he is near;

7 let the wicked forsake his way,

               and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

    let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,

               and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isa. 55:6,7 ESV)

Do we want to be pardoned? Do we want to receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing?

The Scripture tells us to seek the Lord our God with all our hearts. If and when we do, we will be found by him. Let us seek God’s forgiveness through his Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.


Concerning unbelievers, however—those outside the church who have never experienced God’s saving grace—no one can ever come to faith in Christ unless the Father draws him. All will come whom God calls, but no one can come until God enables that person to respond by his Holy Spirit. Salvation is by grace and by sovereign grace alone.

The Lord Jesus says,

44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” (John 6:44a ESV)

And again,

27 “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt. 11:27 ESV)

We may rest assured that everyone, without exception, whom God calls through his Word and regenerates by his Holy Spirit will never experience rejection when they come to Christ. For the sake of his Son, God will accept every repentant sinner who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus from a pure, humble and contrite heart.

 As the Lord Jesus said:

37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37 ESV)

Although we may see ourselves as exceedingly sinful before God, God can cleanse us through his Son’s atoning sacrifice for sinners. He can redeem us and make us whole in heart and soul (Isa. 1:18; 1 John 1:7,9).

Return to God!

Let us be reconciled to God. Sin alienates us from fellowship with the thrice holy God, but hear once again his call to each one of us:

12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

               “return to me with all your heart,

    with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

13            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 ESV)

What will our answer be to this gracious invitation? What can we offer as a recompense to make us right with God?

The recompense has already been offered — by Another — on our behalf. The debt we owe to God has been met and paid in full. We need not — indeed, we cannot — ever offer more.

Upon the cross at Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on our behalf. He died upon the cross as our Substitute and our Saviour. He is the One who has fully paid — and paid forever — the penalty due to us.

Mercy With the Lord!

Let us heed these words of the Psalmist carefully,

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

               a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:17 ESV)

And let us plead with the tax collector:

13 …saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13 ESV)

The Scripture says:

13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,

               but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Prov. 28:13 ESV)

Our text declares:

12  “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

               “return to me with all your heart,

    with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

13a           and rend your hearts and not your garments….” (Joel 2:12-13a ESV)

Dear friend, is your heart right with God?


JOE0212.DOC / HAL02 (2) / 81/86/95/22 © Gordon Lyons, 2022

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