Beginning Lent

True Repentance

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25–27

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians around the world put ashes on their forehead. 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? To repent means “to change or turn another way.” We may say, “I’m sorry.” But the real issue is whether or not we have changed. Have we turned away from our sin?

One of the thieves crucified beside Jesus showed true repentance. Both thieves had been mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44). But one paid attention when Jesus asked God to forgive those who mocked and crucified 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” (Luke 23:42).

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

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.

Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, bore all your sins himself on the cross. During this Lenten season, meditate on your need for repentance and accept the forgiveness Christ offers.

Dig Deeper

  1. Read 2 Corinthians 7:8–11. What’s the difference between “godly sorrow” and “worldly sorrow”?
  2. Read Mark 2:15–17. What did Jesus tell the scribes and Pharisees when they asked why he associated with sinners? Why do you think the scribes and Pharisees didn’t recognize that they were sinners too?
  3. 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?
  4. What does 1 John 1:5–7 say about the evidence of true repentance in our lives?

Nancy J. Baker

Prepare your heart for Easter with our 50-day devotional, Restore the Hope: Devotions for Lent and Easter: This devotion is Day 1.

This devotion is part of a series, Unwavering Hope.


  1. Today, the ashes are administered, accompanied by the summons, “Repent and believe the good news.” May our repentance bear good fruit in our lives. (Matthew 3:8)

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