The word in the New Testament usually translated repent is the Greek word metanoeo. It means to change your mind; reconsider; or to think differently. We usually think of repentance when someone has done something that they know is wrong and have come to their senses and realize the seriousness of what they’ve done. The person changes their mind about the sin and repents of it.
But the concept of repentance is much deeper in the Scriptures. It has a context of changing our minds about how we look at God. A repentant person is one who realizes that they are out of step with God’s will and they have relied upon themselves instead of God.
Sin entered our world when Eve decided not to trust God’s word concerning the fruit of the tree of good and evil. She listened to Satan’s lies that if she ate of the fruit that she wouldn’t die but instead become like God Himself. As soon as she ate her eyes were open and she knew she had made a terrible error by not trusting or believing in God’s love and promises for her. We can say that sin is doubting God and not taking Him at His word. We especially doubt God when we don’t believe that His sacrifice, mercy and grace are enough to secure our salvation.
Repentance is thinking differently about our relationship to God. It is a desire to put Him first in our life and allow Him to guide and direct our paths. It is turning our back on our rebellion and sinful desires and putting us into God’s hands.
In Matthew John the Baptist proclaims to the people who have come to hear him preach, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2 He is calling the people back to God because the time of the Messiah is at hand and they need to turn their backs on their old self-centered thinking and put God first in their lives.
Evidently, John’s preaching of repentance bore a great deal of conviction on the people and, as a result, he baptized a great many of them. However, when a group of Pharisees and Sadducees came for baptism he responded, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance” Matthew 3:7b, 8.
Repentance is more than saying you are sorry. True repentance has a profound impact upon our relationship to other people. When we repent of our sinful desires and longings that are wrapped up in our desire to have everything revolve around us, we take notice of others and have compassion on them. John could call the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” because they were being baptized almost like a magic ritual instead of having a true desire to see their lives surrendered to God.
On the day of Pentecost the Apostles and other followers of Jesus poured out of the upper room and into the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ atoning death, His resurrection and ministry at the right hand of God. The peoples hearts were cut with guilt, shame and longing to be right with God. But, how could they become right with God after all they had inflicted upon Him? They cried out in their desperation, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37 That is the crux of so many people’s problems. They know they are guilty before God, they know they have done wrong but they don’t know what to do to make it right?
“And Peter said to them, ‘repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” Acts 2:38. Here is the answer to the cries of thousands of people on the day of Pentecost who had come face to face with the reality of the love of God and the nastiness of their own sinful natures.
They were to repent and change the direction of their thinking regarding God and the world around them. The result of repentance is to be baptized as a symbol of your death to the old ways of living, thinking and relating to God and being raised up out the water in the newness of life. None of this is possible, however, without the graciousness of God who pours His Spirit into our hearts convicting us of His love and our need of forgiveness.
Whatever stands between you and God needs to be repented of and removed as a roadblock to your relationship with Him. For some people it is a need to accept Jesus as Savior, and for others it is a need to surrender particular long held sins over to Him.
As we move swiftly into the last days of this world God is calling us to repent of everything that puts Him second in our lives. He is calling on us to become serious about our relationship with Him and put ourselves at His disposal for ministry. Maybe in North America, more than anything else, we need to repent of our addiction to ease, comfort and indifference towards the lost and the broken. We need to ask God instead to give us a new heart filled with compassion and love for those who don’t know Him.
* As the world sits by persecution of Christians continues. In 2014 there was more global persecution of Christians than any other year in recent history. Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of Syriac Orthodox church in Iraq describes the situation as “genocide” and “ethnic classing”. Please take the time each day pray for these people who are suffering for their faith in Christ and that those in this world who have the authority and power to change this injustice and will stand up against this atrocity! Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/