Repentance (1 of 3): Turning From Sin
Open Your Bible
Joel 2:12, Psalm 51:1-19, Acts 3:19-20, 2 Peter 3:8-9
Text: Joel 2:12, Psalm 51:1-19, Acts 3:19-20, 2 Peter 3:8-9
One of the things I love most about Lent is its honesty.
This is not Christmas, where we deck the halls in red and green and pretty up our lives with twinkle lights and shiny bows. This is not the moment to don our Sunday best, to be as pulled together and ironed out as we know how to be. It is not for covering ourselves up, either in our overconfident armor or in blankets of shame. Lent is the opposite of that.
Lent is the time we let down the mask and reveal lines of sadness on tired faces underneath. Lent is the time we let our legs give way in their weakness and let our best efforts crumble to the floor in a heap. Lent is the time where we stop pretending and start confessing. It is a sober yet hopeful path to the heart of the heavenly Father, who “is patient with [us], not wanting any to perish” (2 Peter 3:8-9). And it all begins with a turning.
Lent begins at repentance.
The word “repent” as it is used in the New Testament comes from the Greek word metanoeō, which means to change one’s mind, to turn from sin. “Repent and turn back,” Peter said to the crowd at the temple, after the lame man went out healed and leaping, “so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19).
Not “repent and do better” or “repent and save yourself,” but repent and turn back. Repent and turn to Jesus.
Since we’re touting honesty here, can I honestly tell you that sometimes I’d rather not? Turn back, that is. When I do, I must see my sin for what it is—a stain I can never remove on my own. It is an offense to the God who has loved me faithfully from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). It is a stripe on the back of the Son who took the guilt of that very offense upon Himself and suffered in my place (Isaiah 53:5). To turn back means acknowledging that.
The sinful place where I stand—a place that is not God-honoring or God-facing, a place that does not acknowledge that God is God and I and the world are not—is a place I can get comfortable in if I let myself. The sights and sounds grow familiar, and I become accustomed to the view. I decide I’ll clean up the mess myself, and I refuse to turn back until I’m finished.
To turn may be simple, but it is not easy. The prophet Joel understood this. He described turning from sin as an emotionally laden event, accompanied by signs of deep sorrow and utter dependance. “Turn to Me with all your heart,” he said, acting as a spokesperson from God to His people (Joel 2:12). You and I have seen the dark corners of our hearts, so we question the invitation.
But questioning the invitation means questioning the love of our God. Leaving our feet stuck in the mire of sin means refusing the finished work of our Savior.
The Lord who calls us to repent and turn with all our hearts already knows our hearts. He stands ready to forgive, to remove our armor and our masks and clothe us with His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). He invites us to come quickly and honestly, with no hope other than Him. He invites us to turn from our sin, even when the turning itself is a struggle.
Lent is not for dressing up our sin in an effort to make it look less like sin, or succumbing to the despair that we’ll never get it right. Lent is for turning away from sin altogether. Lent is for stripping ourselves bare and standing uncovered before the God who made us, who knows and loves us fully, to say, I’m here, Lord, under all my disguises.
I’m still the sinner you rescued, a sinner who is nothing without you. O Lord, rescue me still.