Repentance. What do you think of when you hear that word?
For me, that word has always had a negative connotation. Repentance means I have done something that God said I shouldn’t (or not done something I should have done), and because God is holy and hates sin, I must confess my wrongdoing, turn away from it, and turn back to God.
I once wrote a paper for a Biblical Counseling class where I expounded the Scriptural passages that speak of repentance and discussed the true meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words for repentance. But 12 pages later, I was still missing the point. For me, repentance was a legalistic requirement, a commandment laid down by a holy God that I as a Christian was expected to obey.
Only recently did I realize there is a different way of looking at repentance. Rather than focusing on what I have to give up, I can choose to look instead at all that I have to gain by turning from my sin back to God: an intimate relationship with the King of the Universe.
Have you ever really pondered the reality that the all-powerful, infinite, holy God who created the heavens and the earth wants to be with you? That the reason God is constantly urging us to repent is because He loves us and can’t stand to be separated from us? God’s love and desire for a relationship with His creation is the theme of the entire Bible.
I love the incredible picture of God’s unconditional love for a rebellious and wayward nation in the story of Hosea. He relentlessly pursues those who have betrayed and rejected His love. He has such an intense longing to be with those He loves that He is willing to do whatever it takes to get their attention so they will return to Him.
This is why He sometimes allows painful circumstances and suffering in our lives; because His ultimate goal is restoration.
The New Testament also has some powerful illustrations of God’s longing for restoration with his lost children. In Luke 15, we find three such stories: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son. Each one of these passages communicates anguish over losing something of great value, the relentless searching or waiting to find what has been lost, and the joy when what was lost has been found.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:7
When even one lost and wayward sinner repents, all of heaven rejoices! That’s how much God longs for a relationship with us.
Have you ever longed to be with someone you love? I have. My boyfriend is in the military, stationed nearly 3,000 miles away, so spending time together requires expensive plane tickets, hours of traveling, and saving up precious vacation time.
Every day we are apart increases the longing to be together once again. The joy of being reunited after months of separation is indescribable.
I realize now that this is the same thing God feels, except at a much deeper level because He loves perfectly and completely, unlike humans.
Have you experienced His love? Do you know the God who loves you so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die on a cruel cross so that you might be able to experience a relationship with Him? If not, will you consider turning to Him today?
Maybe you have been close to God in the past, yet now you find yourself far away from Him. God is waiting with open arms for you to come back to Him. You will never find anyone on earth who loves you more than He does.
So don’t delay. Run into His open arms today and experience the God who is love.
One way God shows his love is by replacing the destructive and shameful labels we’ve carried with new ones: Beloved. Redeemed. His child. Download your free bookmarks as reminders of how tenderly God sees you.