Day 4

True Repentance

Jeremiah 3:6-25, Jeremiah 4:1-31, Jeremiah 5:1-13, 2 Kings 23:15-20, Ephesians 1:3-14

BY Claire Gibson

I work out at a small gym located on the corner of a busy street in Nashville. Joe, the owner, is a former body-builder with a bald head and more muscles than I could grow in a lifetime. Every Monday and Wednesday, he puts us through the standard suffering: jumping jacks, push-ups, lunges, weighted squats, bicep curls, body movements made impossible with the aid of resistance bands. When my sweat turns to tears and I groan and complain and curse, Joe looks at me and shrugs.

“I’m sorry,” he says, then announces the next set.

I know an empty apology when I hear it. If Joe were really sorry about my pain, he wouldn’t go on inflicting it—well, unless it were for my good in the long run; I do pay him for the “suffering,” after all. And that’s just the thing. Real apologies aren’t just words—they are words of genuine feeling married to new actions. Apply that on a cosmic, spiritual level, and that’s where we find the Israelites in Jeremiah chapters 4 through 5. The people are unrepentant, unwilling to marry their words with genuine feeling or change. And the Lord, in his mercy, can no longer stand idly by while they sin themselves into destruction.

Countless times over the course of this passage, I hear God’s heart in the words He uses to try and woo back the people He loves: Return to me. I long to make you My sons. I will not be angry forever. Return, I will heal. Through Jeremiah, the Lord is telling His people that the way they live their lives matters. At one point in this passage, He calls them to “remove the foreskin of [their] hearts” (Jeremiah 4:4). It’s a harsh word picture, no doubt, but one that reminds us that an outward sign like circumcision means nothing if not paired with an inner heart that values holiness, purity, and connection to God. When I verbally acknowledge that I have lied, but keep lying, I am not truly repentant. Real repentance is accompanied by a change in heart and behavior—a desire to turn away from sin and turn back to God.

Jeremiah would foretell what Jesus accomplished on the cross, the prophet’s words fully realized through the actions of the promised Messiah. Thank goodness we have Jesus’s accomplishments, because the truth is, despite our best efforts, we are unfaithful and will continue to fail in our own strength. But “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7–8).

Through Jeremiah, the Lord called the Israelites to look through the streets of Jerusalem, to search for a single person who acts justly, yet they couldn’t find a single one. On a good day, my life is full of folly, selfishness, and vanity. I’m sure if I had been alive in Jeremiah’s day, I would’ve been as unrepentant as the Israelites, “who made their faces harder than rock, and… refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3).

But there is good news for me, for each one of us: in Christ Jesus, we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,” and “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when [we] heard the word of truth, the gospel of [our] salvation… when [we] believed” (Ephesians 1:3,13). This does not change, even when we fail, even when we struggle to match our words to our actions. Jesus, who loves us, is forgiving and does not run out of invitations for us to return to Him. What God is looking to find in us is not perfect faithfulness—only Jesus can be perfectly faithful. What God is looking for in you and in me is a heart that longs to seek Him. By His Spirit, may we turn to Him.

Post Comments (80)

80 thoughts on "True Repentance"

  1. Pam Stayer says:

    Thankful that Jesus doesn’t run out of invitations for me to return to him!!❤️

  2. Megan McCoy says:

    This is such a beautiful read for today. To know that we are forgiven, loved, and chased by God daily so we may turn back to Him when we sin. He forgives us when we sin. He loves us through our sin. He chases us after we sin. There are so many times that I feel Him chasing me after my sin but I too am terrified to run back toward Him knowing that in my imperfections, I will sin again. How can God keep forgiving me and loving me and chasing me when He knows I will sin again? Because that’s how mighty our God is! He wants us to run back to Him every time! Never give up on yourself or God! Thank you Lord for your forgiveness, your love, and your desire for me!

  3. Kayleigh Ethayananth says:

    This devotional reminded me that since repentance involves action, it is a practice. I am sometimes afraid to truly repent because I worry I will permanently disappoint God (and myself) if I ever commit that sin again. And by only my own strength, I will! Every single time! But by God’s strength I can come back to Him over and over, each time working to be closer to his likeness.

  4. Sheila Joiner says:

    Love this image of God seeking us in our sin and asking us to return, that he will forgive and restore.

  5. Molly M says:

    How thankful I am that even though I fail him constantly the Lord still knows my heart seeks him. This lesson really spoke to me because I know that there are things in my life I need to better at. I constantly tell myself I’m going to do better and then I don’t. This lesson made me realize that words don’t matter if you’re heart isn’t in it and now I know it is. Dear Lord thank you for never giving up on me.

  6. Lisa Misenhimer says:

    Return, O faithless sons, for I will heal your faithlessness. Behold, we come to you, for you are the Lord our God. Thank you Lord for your constant mercy and love.

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