Repentance (2 of 3): Turning to God
Open Your Bible
Joel 2:13, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, John 1:19-34, 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
Text: Joel 2:13, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, John 1:19-34, 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
I am the human mama to a baby puppy and, so far, things aren’t going so great.
A dog trainer told us, when Pup was a mere eight weeks old, that we had only one job when it came to training a dog this young: teach him to come when we call his name. “No problem!” we said, and the trainer went on her way.
It’s been almost eight weeks since then, and if Pup has run off from us once, he’s run off from us a hundred times. It sounded simple in theory: preoccupy him with something, call his name, and give huge praise and a treat or two when he comes running. We’ve tried this, really we have, but do you know what our problem is? Consistency. I use his name for other things like, “Pup! Don’t chew on that!” or “Pup! Stop biting me!” or “Pup! No peeing on the floor!” And I’m not too keen on the idea of toting rewards around with me at all times like a walking dog treat dispenser.
Like I said, things aren’t going so great. And it isn’t the pup’s fault; it’s mine. That adorable, stubborn animal won’t come when I call because I haven’t given him much reason to.
Obviously, this analogy can’t go much further. You and I aren’t dogs, and our heavenly Father certainly isn’t a lazy, annoyed pet owner. But as silly as it sounds, I can see myself in that puppy when he’s looking back at me, the moment of decision in his eyes, trying to decide whether to respond to his master’s call or ignore it. (And lately, he ignores it.)
Repentance is not just turning away from something (our sin); it is turning to Someone (our God). Recognizing and acknowledging our sin is critical, but that is not repentance in full. With the turning away, there must be a turning to.
In his second letter to the early Corinthian church, Paul admits that he caused them grief with his first letter and that he wasn’t sorry about that. Because the grief they felt over their sin was appropriate grief—Paul called it “godly grief”—and it turned them to repentance. It turned them back to God.
The God whom the Corinthian believers turned to nearly two millennia ago is the same God who invites us to turn to Him today. We don’t have to wonder if He is trustworthy or consistent, if He’ll do what He says He will do. Like them, we can look to His Word and to His Son to see exactly who He is.
When I want to know who it is I’m running to, I open my Bible.
I read about the God who created mankind in love and then pursued them when they turned away, bridging the gap between their sinfulness and His holiness at His own unfathomable cost.
I read the stories of the God who never once violated His covenant to His people, despite generations of their broken promises to Him.
I read about the life of the God incarnate who entered this broken world by His own choosing, embodying love, justice, mercy, and hope as He walked among the seeking and the sick, the prideful and the weary.
When I read about this God, I see in black and white that what the prophet Joel said was, and still is, true: “He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love” (Joel 2:13). He is the God who hears, forgives, and heals (2 Chronicles 7:14).
When I turn from my sin only to turn to myself or to the world, I feel distraught and paralyzed. It can truly seem like there is no way out of the death all around me. But when I turn from my sin to look at the cross—when I turn my eyes to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29)—I have life. Turning from my sin to myself brings despair, but turning from my sin to God in repentance brings “seasons of refreshing” (Acts 3:19).
Friend, our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He calls us by name and is pleased to receive us, to wash us clean, and to bring abundant, everlasting life to our souls.
God stands ready to show you mercy (Isaiah 30:18). Turn to Him today.