A sister recounted to me how she conversed with a man on the street about God. The man asked, “I like to smoke and drink. Can I still go to heaven?” The implication was that he had no intention of giving up his vices, and God would either have to accept him on these terms, or not at all.
Without making any comment on the sinfulness of the habits so beloved by this man that he would attach the value of his eternal soul to them, we can certainly say that smoking and drinking have become his idols. He is more devoted to them than to God. The person with a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) calls to God, “I will no longer allow anything to come before you, and whatever you ask me, I will give” (Matthew 6:33; 1 John 5:3). Scripture refers to this attitude as repentance, and to such a humbled spirit the mighty power of God rushes to save, to lift up, and to aid (James 4:6-10).
The prophet Jeremiah vividly portrays what ideal repentance looks like. In Jeremiah 3:22-25, he pictures a people that fully recognize what a delusion their pursuit of worldly pleasure has been, that confess freely that only in the Lord is salvation found, and that without excuses or self-justification admit their shameful actions.
As the text continues in chapter 4, verses 1-4, God makes his expectations clear for these penitent individuals (Jeremiah 4:1-4). He demands that they utterly remove from their lives the items, people, and situations that were associated with their sin. He calls for a transformation of the heart. If they do these things, the people can take hold of his promise: “Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness” (Jeremiah 3:22). They can expect a loving reception despite their sins, and the help and healing of God so that they can follow through in repentance!
Times of Refreshing from the Lord’s Presence
Repentance is not God depriving us of any good thing. The monster that is sin has stolen everything from us, and God’s call to repentance is a gift to us (2 Timothy 2:25). “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20). Living the righteous life is living the best life. Why hesitate?