Day 4

True Repentance

from the Lent 2020: His Love Endures reading plan


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 (76)

76 thoughts on "True Repentance"

  1. K D says:

    This was such a good word – one that I needed today. Thanks.

  2. Kayla Marie Shuster says:

    This lent I am learning how unkind I have been toward my body. I tell myself that I need to do better and yet I use unhealthy foods as comfort rather than finding true and lasting rest in the Lord. I will be striving ever more toward adopting healthy practices. God created my body and made it a temple. I will strive to do things that make me feel a lasting good and bring me health by relying on God’s strength not the poisons of sugar and fries.

  3. Julia M says:

    “Break up your fallow ground and do not sow among thorns.” A fallow field has been left to sit for a season in order that it may be more fertile and fruitful. From the surface, it looks dead, useless and empty. Underneath, tons of microscopic processes are happening that are regenerating the soil. If you are in a season that feels a bit like this (right here!), take heart: there are seasons for fallowness and God is working still even though we can’t see it in order to make us fruitful. There will come a day where we do just this- break up the fallow ground and begin to sow again in fertile soil.

  4. Stephie Gray says:

    Over the past few days I feel like my heart has really been longing to seek Him. I’ve been excited to read His Word and make time in my schedule for it. I feel a renewed desire to attend church tomorrow. I hope these longings continue. On the other hand, today’s devotional really makes me consider my own shortcomings. I will never be good enough. I continue to sin. I will never be a perfect follower and that makes me feel sad and guilty. I will never be good enough, but He loves me anyways and wants what is best for me.

  5. Chelsie Hansen says:

    Oh my, the passages of this day brought so many tears to my eyes. I too have been like the Israelites, faithless and at times let my heart become harden, sometimes struggling to repent. But oh how gracious, merciful and loving Our God is! To send His Son, Jesus, to live the faithful, perfect,spotless life I could not live all to redeem me through His blood of sacrifice because He chose me in Him before the world came to be, that I may be holy and blameless before God. Thank you, Jesus! His love is deep and wide!

  6. Erricka Hager says:

    This was such a great read. Our actions must align with our words. How can we truly expect to grow with Christ if we are constantly repeating negative actions?

  7. Dorothy says:

    Amen Jennifer Anapol, Amy E., Sarita Cochran, and Melissa McRonney.

  8. Melissa Mcronney says:

    Lord, help me to seek You with a pure heart. I pray in Jesus name Amen

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