Text: Joel 2:12-27, Jeremiah 24:4-7
“Lord, even my repentance is broken. Help me.”
Those are the words I scrawled in my notebook this morning as I tried desperately to lay my heart bare before God, frustrated that the process did not make me “feel” better. I am a sinner, and I know this. He is the one true God, and I know that, too. The lines of communication were open and I was trying to get there emotionally—wherever “there” is—but the warm fuzzies just weren’t coming.
Do you ever have these moments where you fear you’ve forgotten how to pray—where you worry you’re not doing this whole “repent and believe” thing the right way?
I went back to Scripture—to the passages we’re reading together today—and looked for the words “turn” and “return.” Maybe the answer was there—maybe I could learn how to come to Jesus all over again.
I found the first “return” in Jeremiah 24:7, when God says of His people, “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am Yahweh. They will be My people, and I will be their God because they will return to Me with all their heart.” Then in Joel 2:12, God says through the prophet, “turn to me with all your heart” and again just one verse later—“return to the Lord your God” (HCSB).
And that was all.
Much to my dismay, the call to return to God is not written alongside a long list of to-do’s, an attainable checklist so I can feel sure I’m returning correctly. No, there is just one qualification—to return with all my heart. Evidently the cleaned up, feel-good part of my heart is not all God is looking for. He doesn’t want only the parts of my heart I’m willing to let others see—He wants the whole messy, confused, narcissistic, achy thing.
So, to recap: You and I and our whole unholy selves are called to turn fully, openly, and sans-covering to the holy, almighty God of all the universe.
[Insert deep breath here.]
It’s no wonder we try to come to Him with layers of lies and pride and every other self-preservation instinct intact. It makes sense, right? Except it doesn’t… because Jesus.
The cross of Jesus is the path by which we return to our holy, gracious God. We need not fashion our own defense or disguise to shield our brokenness from His eyes—the blood of Jesus is our covering.
Our actions do not give us the right to return. Our emotions do not grant us access to God. We return because—and only because—Jesus Christ goes before us, His cross as our banner and His grace as our plea.
Sisters, when you doubt that your whole, achy self is welcome in the presence of our God, look to the Cross.
When you fear your return is lacking, that your repentance itself falls short, look to the Cross.
The Cross of Jesus is our only way to the Father—not just the first time, but every time.
His cross dispels each doubt;
I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear,
Each lingering shade of gloom.
I praise the God of grace;
I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine.
My God, my joy and light.
from “Not What My Hands Have Done”
Horatius Bonar, 1861