Repentance is central to the Christian faith, but it is also foundational to the Christian faith. Without repentance as a base or foundational starting point, we build our faith on false foundations. One day the false foundation will let us down and our fall will be great.
As we read in the Book of Acts, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell in unimaginable power and the disciples began speaking in the foreign tongues (languages) to all those in the market. They preached the Gospel of Jesus to the crowds, saying:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
And hearing this, they were stabbed in the heart, and said to Peter and to the other apostles, Men, brothers, what shall we do?
Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38).
Peter said to those wanting to be Christians, “Repent and be baptized…” “Repentance” was the first thing they needed to do, now they believed. They believed, then they needed to repent. What is repentance?
In the New Testament, “Repentance” comes from the Greek word μετανοέω or metanoeō and means, as Strong’s says: to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): – repent. Thayer’s says of it: 1) to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent, 2) to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.
The word repent is a verb. It is “doing” word which required our positive and affirmative action. Repentance is not to be confused with the confession or acknowledgement of our sins, but it is the changing of our mind over our sinful ways; a decision to change our mind and our lifestyle and to turn around and walk away in the opposite direction.
In the new Testament, “Repent,” as the ISBE says is “the Hebrew word נחם or nāḥam, is an onomatopoetic term which implies difficulty in breathing, hence, “to pant,” “to sigh,” “to groan.” Naturally it came to signify “to lament” or “to grieve,” and when the emotion was produced by the desire of good for others, it merged into compassion and sympathy, and when incited by a consideration of one’s own character and deeds it means “to rue,” “to repent.”
From the Hebrew understanding of sin and repentance thereof, the ‘repentee’ / ‘repentor’ laments over the sin and the grief which the sin has caused to God. When we repent, we grieve, we rue, we apologise, we deeply and inwardly acknowledge the sin and all the pain which that sin has caused God, and we turn away from that sin, form those past sinful actions, in shame and in ignominy, seeking God’s forgiveness. This is not just lip-service, this is a life changing action on our part – to intentionally, willingly and purposefully, walk in the opposite direction from which we once walked.
There are three aspects of repentance which we need to consider, so that we can come to a full and correct understanding of repentance for a Christian.
The First Dimension – Mental Change:
We need to change how we think. We need to recognise that while sin ‘A’ was normal and enjoyable for us in the past, in our new paradigm, in our new thinking process as a Christian, we need to undertake a mental change which now says that what we once did was wrong and unacceptable and we will no longer do it; we choose to no longer do it! We see what we used to do as wrong; now we need to choose in each circumstance, to do the right thing, the correct thing, that which aligns with the Will of God.
This is no easy task for as Romans 8:7 warns us: “… the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be.”
Repenting is contrary to worldly views and to our carnal fleshy nature. It truly is a fight to change – a fight for many of us which may be protracted and a hard fought bloody battle. This is important to know, for many in the Church fail to see that our sins can be the result of demonic activity within us, or simply our unrectified fleshy ways. Praying against demons will not cure us of our fleshy problems, nor will crucifying our flesh, cure us of demonisation. Each needs to be dealt with on its own terms.
The Second Dimension – Emotional Change:
Repenting can be emotional and many of us do not wish to face that challenge. Instead, we stay where we are and never attempt to cross that emotional bridge to freedom. We are too scared of the heights of the emotions and the depths of the despair which surround that bridge. What happens is that Christians speaks the words – but never challenge their old ways and deal with the emotions which accompany the sins.
Some of these emotions run deep and go back to childhood, where our immaturity was unable to deal with them. Failure to deal with potential emotions means that there is no real repenting; instead we build a wall around them to screen them from us, as we pretend we have dealt with them. However God knows, and Satan knows, if our repentance is incomplete. Incomplete repentance bars us form full and complete healing from God which in turn, restricts us from full entry into our destiny of blessings from God.
Satan, on the other hand, takes every opportunity of his legal rights to us for these unrepented sins, and will use all the opportunities for his benefit, each chance he can get and make.
God already knows our sins, so hiding from Him is both futile and dumb. We need to deal with our emotions, but we don’t need to broadcast them to the whole world – God and God alone matters. He is the one we need to repent to, for it was Him against whom we sinned. We must not forget this.
The Third Dimension – Action of Will:
As we saw above, repentance is a verb, a doing word. It is not a ‘thinking’ word, but a ‘doing’ word. Our repentance, our change of mind and walking away in the opposite direction to our previous sin, is a demonstrable action and a choice of will. We can judge our repentance, as can others. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: has our repentance, and our continuing repentance, resulted in changes in our actions? If we are still walking and luxuriating in our past sins, then true repentance has not taken place. We kidded ourselves, we fooled ourselves when we came before the Lord to say, “Lord I repent…” We didn’t fool the Lord, nor did we fool Satan, just ourselves. Those around us who judge us according to what we say, rather than what we do, well, we didn’t fool them either – we just appeared as hypocrites in their eyes.
Brothers and Sisters, I truly believe repenting and repentance is central and foundational to our walk with the Lord and many Christians are missing the whole point here. With our rose-coloured spectacles of pride on our noses, we easily delude ourselves and think higher of ourselves as we should. What shall we do to be truly saved? Believe and Repent, knowing that God can and does, read our hearts, our minds and our actions.