We all know what it is like to fail at something in a context where our authority is domineering and without mercy and grace. In an atmosphere like that what is the temptation when we fail? Do we run to that person or do we run away? Are we transparent or do we hide what went wrong? The most natural thing to do is hide that failure.

Given this reality, what happens when we view God as someone who demands total perfection  and is ready to pounce on us if we fall short? Will we run to Him or away from Him when we sin?

The problem we all have is making God into our own image rather than living in relationship to who He truly is as revealed in the Bible. Here are the facts.

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor (Habakkuk 1:13a)

God is holy and necessarily demands that we reflect His perfect character because He is pure and is the standard of right and wrong. God does demand total perfection before Him.

And yet this is also true:

For in Your sight no man living is righteous (Psalm 143:2b)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

Romans 3:10-18 paints a real picture of who we are before God and it is not pleasant.

Given these realities that God is totally pure and we are totally depraved it is really important that we know who God is toward sinners. Again, if we are around another person that we are accountable to and they are without love, mercy and grace we do not tend to acknowledge our sin, we tend to hide it.

So is God a God who is looking to jump on sinners for their sin or is He a God that is looking to redeem sinners? The answer is God is an infinitely merciful God to sinners who do not trust themselves but trust in Him alone.  And unless we are aware of that we will not come running to a holy God as unholy sinners.

The book of Joel helps us see why we ought to actually run to this Holy God who cannot look upon sin even though we are sinners. Joel is a prophecy to Judah during a time of their great rebellion against God. And not surprisingly, Judah is called to return to the LORD (i.e. repent) during this time of sin:

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning;  And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God (Joel 2:12-13a)

Why? What could possibly entice sinners to run to a holy God instead of running away from Him? How could it be safe to run to a holy God? The LORD knows who we are and He knows what we need to hear in order to run to Him even when we have failed Him in very sinful ways.

Why return to Him? Why repent of our sin and run to this holy God that cannot be accepting of any sin?

For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil (Joel 2:13b)

If you have no relationship with this holy God through Jesus the Christ, why should you run to Him even though you are a condemned sinner before Him? Because…

 He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil (Joel 2:13b)

If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus who has sinned grievously against your God, why should you run to Him? Because…

 He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil (Joel 2:13b)

He is slow to anger. He is not seeking to pounce on sinners, that is why He sent Jesus the first time to save sinners not judge them (John 3:16-17). His heart for the lost ought to inform lost sinners and saved sinners alike that God abounds in lovingkindness:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)

who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4)

And remarkably He is “relenting of evil.” That is, He is eager to turn away from justly judging sinners. He is eager to not carry out punishment upon sinners. And He can be just in this eagerness to turn away from just judgment because of what Jesus did on the cross in our place:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2)

So why should all people everywhere repent? Because God loves sinners and delights in not giving them what they deserve. He delights to lavish sinners with grace to the praise of the glory of His grace. But He only does this for humble sinners. Sinners that find their shelter in an unrelentingly holy God who is simultaneously an unrelentingly gracious God to the humble.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:7-10)

Why repent? A better question would be, given who God is, why wouldn’t we repent? Why would we not run to this God? Child of God, why would you not run to Him about that sin in your life right now? He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindess and is eager to turn away from punishing sinners. Run to this God of love, He accepts you if you accept that Jesus is your only hope before Him.