Jeremiah — Restoring Repentance
Jeremiah 3:10-19, 4:1-4, 7:1-7, 7:8-14, 7:21-26, 10:23-25, 12:1-6, 12:7-8, 15:15-21, 33:1-11. Lamentations 3:19-38, 5:12-18
What Repentance Is Not:
1. Something you do once, and then only as a condition of salvation.
Repentance is what makes holiness possible. We are only finished repenting when we are completely holy. We will always have something to repent of.
2. Entirely individual in nature.
Jeremiah preaches national repentance as well as individual. Individual actions have collective consequences. For God, faithful individuals are insufficient. If Israel is to be a “light to the nations,” their collective reputation must be pure.
Likewise, repentance is something people do together. In addition to mutual support of individual efforts, God’s people are to lead one another to repentance, bearing one another’s burdens.
3. A basis for boasting.
Ultimately, our repentance happens not by force of our will, but by the transforming work of the Spirit of God. In the law, “responsibility” is established by ascertaining means, motive, opportunity, and evidence. When there is evidence that repentance has occurred, who really has the means, motive, and opportunity to make it happen?
4. Synonymous with a guilty conscience.
Godly sorrow produces repentance and leaves no regret. Repentance and guilt are related, but they are distant cousins. Guilt is awareness of responsibility for a bad situation. Repentance, on the other hand, is a conscious decision to change. A guilty conscience does not necessarily indicate that a change is imminent.
Likewise, the lack of a guilty conscience does not necessarily mean no repentance is necessary. As Jeremiah himself says, “It is not within a man to direct his own steps.” Even if the life you have been living is what you might call “good” – especially compared to other people you might call “bad” – if that life is entirely self-directed rather than Spirit-led, the call of God is to repent.
What Repentance Is:
1. To go in a different direction on purpose.
Repentance is an alteration of a person’s tendencies, direction, vision, or mission. Even God can repent. Example: God “repented” of creating man in Genesis 6. When Hezekiah prayed for healing from his illness, God changed His mind.
2. The acquiescence of the human will to the sovereignty of God.
Repentance occurs in three stages. First we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, His power. Then, we surrender ourselves to that power, allowing His will to become our own. Finally, we beg for forgiveness.
3. A lifelong process.
Each time we gain new knowledge of our sinfulness, we repeat the process. The model prayer in Matthew 6 includes an appeal to God for forgiveness. This is not something we acquire once and for all, but something we always need. The example of the Corinthian church is instructive regarding “lifelong repentance.” They were saints, holy to God, but still seriously flawed.
4. A result of the grace of God.
Repentance is as much a “working in” as it is a “working out.” See Philippians 2:12-13. Repentance lies at the heart of the message of Jesus. He calls people to a new life. When Jesus says, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” the promise applies to those who will repent. If you will mourn for your sins, you will receive the comfort that is holiness.
What Jeremiah Has To Say About Repentance
Holiness is impossible without it.
The spiritual garment of the people of God is sackcloth.
Buildings are no substitute for repentance.
Religion is no substitute for repentance.
Repentance starts with Jeremiah himself, then spreads to the leaders, and only then comes to the people.
Repentance must be sincere.
A lack of repentance is a disaster.