Scripture Reading: Joel 2:12-17, Zephaniah 1:7, Romans 5:18-21
“Repent and believe.”
These are the words Christ uses in the Gospel of Mark to begin His earthly ministry (Mark 1:15). But isn’t it funny how quickly we skate past that first part? Believing is beautiful, but repentance is less glamorous. Yet, right out of the gate, Jesus’ ministry began with a call for us to repent of our sin and believe He came to save us.
If we skip repentance, what do we believe He saves us from?
I spent thirty years hearing the story of the prodigal son one way: a young foolish son squandering his inheritance, only to crawl back home when he had nowhere else to turn. To me, the story was always more about the father. I assumed the lesson here was that I should be as forgiving of foolish people as he was. Years passed, and now when I read that same story, I realize I’m not the father in this scenario. I’m the young fool. The story is as much about repentance as it is about forgiveness.
Scripture tells us the son came to his senses. He found clear eyes to look around and see the mess he’d made, then delivered a simple yet profound confession and repentance to his father: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21).
Repentance wasn’t easy. The son wasn’t even sure if his father would take him back. But the father received him with open arms as a beloved son.
If Christ calls us to repent and believe, let’s not skip the first step. In doing so, we miss the fullness of the gospel. Let’s listen closely and hear the call to repentance spoken by the prophet Joel on behalf of God Himself:
“Even now—this is the Lᴏʀᴅ’ꜱ declaration—turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lᴏʀᴅ your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and he relents in sending disaster.”
- Joel 2:12-13
Let’s rend our hearts, like the prophet Joel said. But let’s do so with the confidence that we are returning to a Father who will receive us with open arms and forgive us. He will rejoice over us with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). As my pastor sometimes says, when our repentance is at its deepest, the joy of our salvation is at its highest.