Repent. What does it really mean?
When John spoke to the people at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, one of his most famous quotes was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
By the way, Jesus said the same words.
In most Christian circles, the word “repent” is the most misunderstood word and causes an incredible amount of bondage in most Christians lives. Believers read the words of John and Jesus and think repent means to have the attitude of sorrow and to feel shame for whatever sin was committed. When Jesus said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, our belief system as Christians is that Jesus was reminding us that “GOD IS WATCHING! You better start looking at your sins and doing something about them! God is checking His list and checking it twice. In other words, John and Jesus were telling us to STOP sinning! Right?
Let’s look at the word “repent”. The greek word is “metanoeo”. Metanoeo means to “think again” or “think differently”. Actually, John and Jesus were telling us to change our former ways of thinking because a new WAY has arrived. What is this new WAY? One word.
The ten commandments were never written as a behavioral modification guide for God’s creation. God knew we couldn’t keep the commandments. That is why He created the ministry of priests with sacrifices. The ten commandments (actually there are more than 600) are simply God letting us know what His standard of perfection is. So why would John and Jesus come and tell us to stop sinning, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand? The answer is…they weren’t. We look at all the commandments and know we can’t possibly keep them. They are tough. You know what is even tougher? Look at Jesus’ interpretation of the commandments. Thou shalt not kill…(murder) for example. The God who made that commandment came later and said that if you hate your brother, you are guilty of this commandment. Thou shalt not commit adultery? Again, the same God who wrote it, later said that if a man looks at woman and thinks about having sex with her, he is guilty of this sin. Talk about tough! The point I’m trying to make is…we can’t keep the commandments and God knows it. The ten commandments weren’t designed to regulate our behavior. You will never live in GRACE unless you realize that.
I’m reminded of a story of a father giving a birthday party for his daughter. All of her little friends showed up and the father told the boys and girls that he wanted them to have as much fun as they want. Eat cake, ice cream, run and play, swim, jump on the trampoline and just have a great time. He then mentioned that he had only one rule. He pointed at the flower bed and sternly and specifically told them NOT to spit in the flower bed. The kids now aware of this rule became focused on rules rather than fun. Before the party was over, the flower bed had been spat in at least 30 times. Christians act no differently. When we focus on the law and our behavior and things like getting up at a certain time to pray for an hour and reading 5 chapters in the Bible every day and doing this and doing that…we realize that there is no joy in those things unless you are living in GRACE. In 2nd Corinthians 3, Paul calls the law a curse. Another place in the new testament, he calls the law the ministry of death.
John and Jesus were telling us that the new Way was going to require a different way of thinking. GRACE requires us to “think” differently.
No Christian would disagree that the whole purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is GRACE!!!!!! That’s why the disciples were so passionate! The problem is…we don’t understand GRACE. What is believed among most Christians today is that Jesus died for us and when we ask Jesus to come into our hearts our sins are forgiven. After we are born again, it is then our responsibility to focus on obedience and sacrifice. With God’s help we take on our sins one by one and conquer them and become better and better Christians. I’m sorry to say, this isn’t GRACE. GRACE means to be Not sin focused. Let me ask you a question. When you became born again, you have faith that Jesus’ death erased and cleansed you from your sins correct? Let me ask you this. (Paul asked the same thing by the way.) Why then do a lot of Christians not have the faith that Jesus’ resurrection and life will not make them Christ like? Instead they follow a drudging path of focusing on rule following and sacrifice, etc. etc. You can’t accomplish these things…give it up. Focusing on being saved by Jesus’ blood and then it’s up to me to improve my behavior and if I don’t it carries the same looming cloud of judgement that was so prominent in the old testament isn’t good news! That way of thinking is bondage! When you focus on GRACE and have faith in what GRACE accomplishes, these Christ-like things become natural. Why? Because GRACE is supernatural!!! Yayyyy !!! This is what I believe John and Christ were telling us when they said “Repent”.
Jesus said that He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. How do you have abundant life when you are sin focused? GRACE is here! The same God that said adultery is worthy of death is the same God that told the adulteress, “I don’t condemn you.” Is God trying to confuse us? Of course not! He is letting us know that GRACE is here! Be free! Be happy! Be joyful.
The fact is, sin focused Christians don’t attract people into a relationship with God. Sin focused Christians live their lives in confusion. Sin focused Christians are mind numbing boring! Sin focused Christians who teach obedience…obedience…obedience are terribly unattractive!
Living by GRACE means to believe in a Father that is very approachable and very personable.
Living by GRACE means to know that God loves a serial killer more than you love your own son or daughter or mom or dad.
Living by GRACE means to believe that God wants to marry you and that if you were at a dance…you would be the first one He would ask to dance.
Living in GRACE is to realize that the word “punish” left God’s vocabulary the moment Jesus died.
Living in GRACE is to believe that God smiles at you ALL THE TIME!.
Living in GRACE is to know…as it says in Proverbs…that the precious thoughts God has toward you each day is more than the sand on the sea shore.
I don’t remember where in the old testament it says this, but God loves me so much that he actually CARVED my name into his hand! My GOD…..how great is that? And, I could go on and on with this list. Make your own list and see how much love you find. Think about things like..(I’m pulling this out of thin air)…when I get to heaven, God walks up to me and laughs and hugs me and says…”Come on…let’s go fishing.”
NO WONDER THE DISCIPLES WERE SO PASSIONATE!
My whole goal in life as a person and as a child of God is to understand more and more about GRACE. I doubt I will ever completely understand it here on earth, but i do realize there is freedom in GRACE. GRACE is supernatural. GRACE is what changes a person’s behavior, not will power. GRACE is what kills addictions and frees junkies and alcoholics. In fact, to live in GRACE is to know that focusing on good behavior…actually promotes bad behavior. (READ THAT AGAIN PLEASE.) The reason I say that is because for years I was taught in church that I must practice the spiritual disciplines. Read my bible everyday…have my quiet time with the Lord everyday…blah blah blah!!!!!! I had a quiet time every night for 4 years. I prayed an hour…sometimes 2 hours. (I can hear a law focused Christian now saying, “Well? You’re supposed to have your prayer time in the morning. That’s the problem.”) To be truthful? I was miserable. I read about the godliest woman (in my opinion) on earth. Mother Teresa. Her writings revealed very dark and deeply troubled thoughts about her relationship with God. Why would Mother Teresa be troubled? Wowww. I will never be as Godly as her. If I am sin focused, I don’t have a chance!
So how do we live so that we are free and full of joy unspeakable? Quit focusing on sin and focus on the truth that GRACE is supernatural. What changes me is believing that the Holy Spirit is living in me and making me like Jesus. Do I understand it? No, I don’t. Why? It isn’t logical. But…neither is tithing. Tell me…how does a person live better on 90% of their salary better than 100%? Try to figure that out by typing it into a calculator. Laughing now!
“Repent” means to rethink or think again. Remember that okay? It does not mean to fall on your face and beg God to forgive you for a sin and then promise you will never do it again. What a tortured way to live! Everything I just wrote in this blog is with the hope that you will REPENT… “think differently” about God and His way. Focus on GRACE!
Pastors that are gifted in teaching GRACE?
Clark Whitten, Joseph Prince
Read the book “Pure Grace” and “Ragamuffin Gospel”