How many times have you seen repentance depicted in the media or cartoons as some scruffy old guy wearing a sign that says something like, “Repent, the end is near!” Or how many times is repentance shown as some preacher breathing threats of hellfire and damnation if people don’t repent and turn to God.
Funnily enough, although there may be some truth in such depictions, this is not the way The Lord and the early disciples presented the need for repentance. Repentance is one of the foundation teachings of the New Covenant and when it was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus or the disciples, it was presented in a very different light to the images of the popular media today.
What is repentance?
The word repentance comes from the Greek word “metanoia” which means literally to “change your mind.” It is probably better translated as to change the way you think.
When we come to Jesus we are called to change how we think about all things. The worldly life leads man to sin and to do evil. In the world, evil is quite often accepted as being OK, but in Christ we are called to change what we do and how we behave.
The key to changing how we behave is to change how you think. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:5,
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
This is the essence of repentance. The ability to capture your thoughts and focus them onto something else before they have a chance to take root and lead you to doing the wrong thing. If you can control your mind and the way you think, then you can control your actions and behaviours. You will not be led by emotion, but instead will be led by reason, knowledge of The Lord and the insight of the word of God.
And God gives us the power to be able to have this control over our thinking. When He gives us the Holy Spirit and the spirit commences his work within us, we begin to bear the fruits of the spirit. And one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit as we see in Galatians 5:23 is “self-control.” Self control is the ability to take every thought captive and repentance is the mechanism that draws us there.
So we see that to learn repentance is a good thing. If we consider the way the popular media present the need for repentance, they do it out of fear. They try to drive the need for repentance by making people afraid. It’s sort of a “Repent or you will suffer the consequences” form of ministry.
But the truth of the way The Lord and the disciples presented the need for repentance was that to repent was to receive good things.
When John the Baptist and when Jesus began their ministries they commenced saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Surely receiving entry into the kingdom of heaven through repentance is a good thing and not something to be feared?
Repentance presented this way is a great blessing, not an enforced process for fear of suffering, but a blessing for the joy and peace that will follow. We see also in these scriptures in Acts 3 today that the disciples Peter and John told the crowds that to repent was a good thing and there would be great blessings follow. Look at the words in verses 19-21.
19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,
21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
In these few words we see three amazing blessings promised to those who repent.
- First, your sins will be blotted out. Not just forgiven, but blotted out, taken away and removed.
- Second, you shall receive times of refreshing from The Lord. As we are washed in the word of The Lord we receive his favour through God’s amazing grace and our tired and worn out life is refreshed and renewed in Jesus Christ.
- And third, God will send Christ to us to make His home with us, to teach, guide, lead and give us salvation and the promise of eternal life if we remain faithful to Him.
All of these blessings are offered to those who will come to Christ and turn back from the ways of this world. This is the promise of repentance and it is a great blessing to all who receive it.
Repentance is one of the six foundation teachings of Christianity, which are listed in Hebrews 6:1-2. Repentance is the beginning of the Christian walk and it is an ongoing process.
Unlike some other foundations and ordinances of the new covenant, repentance is not a one time thing. There is a need for repentance throughout our walk with Christ Jesus. We may get baptised only once and have hands laid on us to receive the Holy Spirit just once, but repentance is needed every time we make mistakes and do the wrong thing. And we will do the wrong things many times in our walk with Christ until He leads us to the place of maturity and we are trained in the Holy Spirit and transformed into the image of Christ.
But knowing we will mess up from time to time is not a cause for concern. The Lord knows we are not perfect. That was why He came…to take away our sins and enable us to become perfect in due course as we walk with Him. And that is the whole purpose of Grace, which is the undeserved kindness and favour of God.
We don’t deserve to be forgiven our sins or to have them overlooked. But because of God’s grace that is exactly what He does when we come to Him in repentance. For when we repent we are being obedient to God and recognising Him as greater than ourselves and humbling ourselves under His mighty hand.
God expects us to learn and grow through repentance, but He also knows we will make mistakes as we walk the journey with Christ. And the great news is that He does not condemn us, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus as Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, so we too must learn not to condemn ourselves either.
Stop calling yourself a sinner! Jesus has taken away your sin. Stop beating yourself up when you make mistakes. Just learn from them, put them behind you and move forward in The Lord. While you dwell on you past sins or your weaknesses you are not living a life of repentance in the grace of God. Put the past where it belongs, behind you and move forward looking to Jesus to transform you into His image through the working of his Holy Spirit for that is where the future lies.
Repentance is a good thing and promises great blessings to those who are trained through it. Seek the blessings of The Lord and come to him to learn, grow and mature as you walk with Christ Jesus.
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