A Repentant Heart

Open Your Bible

Joel 2:12-13, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 15:11-32, 1 John 1:5-10

Text: Joel 2:12-13, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 15:11-32, 1 John 1:5-10

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel.”
– Mark 1:15

In the Gospel of Mark, we see Christ begin His earthly ministry with one clear instruction: repent and believe. Isn’t if funny how quick we can be to skate past that first part? I mean, think of all the advertising slogans and ornaments and crafty pillow covers and gold-leafed art prints that shout a sparkly “BELIEVE!” to us at Christmastime. The believing part seems to be much easier—much more attractive—than the repentance part. I have zero ornaments on my tree that declare “REPENT!” in glitter glue or Swarovski crystals. (If you have one, I’d love to see a photo!)

Right out of the gate, Jesus’ message was a call for us to repent of our sin and believe He is our Savior. 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 fool of a son taking and squandering his inheritance, only crawling 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.

But as years passed and I heard the story over and over again, my eyes opened to the truth—I’m not the father; I’m the young fool. The story isn’t only about forgiveness; it’s about repentance, too.

Look at verse 17 in the story. It says the son “came to himself,” or came to his senses. He found clear eyes to look around and see the mess he’d made, then prepared and delivered a simple yet profound confession and repentance to his father:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

His repentance wasn’t easy. The son wasn’t even sure if his father would take him back (he was prepared to be taken back as a hired servant, not a son). But the father received him with open arms as a long, lost child! There may have even been a moment at the party when the son was tempted to cross stitch “believe” on a nearby feedsack to celebrate his new, deeper understanding of his father’s love for him. (Okay, probably not. But still—this big forgiveness was a big deal!)

The prodigal son’s repentance—and that of any of us who gets honest before the Lord and humbly confesses from the place of our deepest need—can be summed up in these words my pastor said to me a few years back:

Our joy is only as satisfying as our repentance is deep.

If Christ calls us to repent and believe, let’s not skip around. To do so is to miss the fullness of the Gospel! Let’s listen closely and really hear the call to repentance spoken by the prophet Joel on behalf of God Himself:

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart…
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.”

Let’s take time today, friends—real time— to sit before the Lord to bring our sin and shame to Him. Let’s repent because He has told us to do it. Let’s rend our hearts, like Joel says. 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!

When our repentance is deep, our joy is like no other. And we can believe as sons and daughters who have seen with our own eyes that the Gospel is true!


For an added layer of worship during this sweet season of adoration and expectation, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for Advent 2014! You can find the complete SheReadsTruth | O Come Let Us Adore Him playlist at this link, or listen to today’s track on the player below. Enjoy!


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103 thoughts on "A Repentant Heart"

  1. Tina Mullins says:

    The book, The Prodigal God, takes another perspective on the story. The elder brother has followed all if the laws and been obedient to his father yet he only does it because he wants the Father’s inheritance. He will not repent and refuses to enter into the celebration for his brother. It’s a short read with a profound message.

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  3. Jen says:

    Love this take on repentance, “if we skip repentance, what do we believe He saves us from? “

  4. Hannah says:

    I had come on this website to continue the day that I was on in a plan and couldn't remember what last one I had done. I picked a day and God totally showed me something amazing that I needed to hear although the day might have messed up. So thankful.