One of the places where human depravity is more clearly displayed than rush hour traffic, may be a child’s birthday party. These gatherings, designed to celebrate a child’s special day, can easily turn into self-fests, with every attendee assuming that he, himself, is the reason for the season. Meanwhile parents visit with one another in relative oblivion, until little Johnny Schmidt goes too far.
Then you hear it. “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt! You tell little birthday Bobby you are sorry.” Called from parental lethargy, Mrs. Schmidt arises, grasps John Jacob by the ear and marches him to the emotional remains of birthday Bobby and repeats the command. “Say it! Say your sorry! Say it now!” She bellows.
John Jacob barely opens his mouth and barely disturbs the air with his virtually inaudible, “Sor-ry.” And everyone who observes this farce thinks the same thing. The thought bubble above everyone’s head screams, “No You’re Not! You’re not one bit sorry!” Everyone knows that John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt is anything but sorry. Birthday Bobby knows it. Mrs. Schmidt knows it. And John Jacob smiles inwardly. The use of a magic word has relieved him of all consequence. Nothing has changed. Bobby is still an emotional wreck, the party has been ruined, contrary to her self-deception, Mrs. Schmidt has not actually parented her son. All that was broken is still broken. But John Jacob has been released from trouble. Or has he?
This is what most people think repentance looks like – like John Jacob using magical religious words, smooth words to remove consequence and relieve himself of obligation for his sin against God and others. We mumble a half-hearted prayer, say “sorry” in liturgical dressing and, voila, everything is fixed. Or is it? We are so self-centered by nature that we can never escape the gravity of self-love in order to truly repent under our own power. Repentance demands sorrow for how our sins affected others, not just how they affect us. The Apostle Paul distinguishes between godly sorrow that rightly grieves its offense and worldly sorrow that only grieves its consequences.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10
Real repentance begins with God — with his kindness, with his grace, with the convicting work of His Holy Spirit. Without this kind of real repentance, we live lives that are broken – broken in our relationship with God and broken in every other relationship as well. It is not enough to say, “sorry” and think that magic words will put the world back the way it was before. What we need is real, gracious, God-given repentance.
As God calls Judah to account for her sin through the prophet Jeremiah, His Words are not words of bare judgment, but a gracious call to repentance, grace, forgiveness, mercy and salvation. This same call comes to us to show us the way home from the pig-sty of our own selfishness. Have you received God’s gift of repentance unto life? Do you want to see what that looks like and hear how to find it?
Join us this Sunday, July 14 as we examine the amazing grace of God and his call to come home in Jeremiah 3. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.