Ash Wednesday

True Repentance*

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Christians commemorate Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection during Lent, which comes from a word meaning “spring.” This solemn forty-day time of preparation begins with Ash Wednesday and culminates on Easter. The forty days do not include Sundays, which is the day Jesus rose from the dead.

On Ash Wednesday some Christians put ashes on their foreheads. This practice goes back to Old Testament times when putting ashes on one’s head showed mourning or repentance. For example, when the Lord revealed his mighty power, Job replied, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 5-6).

What is true repentance? Repent means “change or turn another way.” It is easy to say, “I’m sorry.” The real question is: have we changed? Have we turned away from our sin?

One of the thieves crucified beside Jesus showed true repentance. Although both thieves had been mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44), one heard Jesus ask God to forgive those who crucified him and those who mocked him. Awed that someone could do this, the thief’s faith was kindled. He stopped mocking and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“Today you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus told him. Although the thief was helpless to show repentance by doing something, Jesus saw the man’s faith, his changed heart (Luke 23:39-43).

I used to hurry over the somberness of Lent (especially Ash Wednesday) to the joyfulness of Easter. Now I meditate on my need for repentance—true repentance. I cannot live without sinning. I cannot do anything good enough to take away my own sins. But I can give thanks that Jesus, the sinless Son of God, bore all my sins Himself on the cross, and I can accept the forgiveness that He offers.

DIG DEEPER:

Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. What is the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow?

Read Mark 28:15-17. What did Jesus tell the scribes and Pharisees when they asked why he associated with sinners?

According to 1 John 1:9, what do we have to do to receive forgiveness for our sins both before and after we accept Christ as our Savior?  What does 1John 1:5-7 say about the evidence of true repentance in our lives?

Nancy J. Baker

*This devotion first appeared in The Secret Place, Spring 2009

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