I was sitting at lunch talking with a friend about the concept of repentance. While that sounds like a way heavy lunch conversation, you should know that one of my hobbies is to break down church-y concepts like that so that they retain their teeth but are more naturally connecting to regular life.
Sometimes, I call words like repentance “Bible-babble” because they can be almost nonsense words to people who don’t yet know the Story.
We were talking about how normally when we think of the call to repent, we imagine a list of things that we’ve done that are wrong and that make God not accept us. So to repent means to STOP. We’ve got to stop drinking. Stop dancing. Stop doing bad things.
Of course, there is truth in the idea of stopping the doing of bad/wrong things, but to limit repentance to stopping, robs it of the ongoing process of initiating new life. John the Baptizer (He was not Baptist in the denominational sense) called on the people to “Repent because the Kingdom of God was drawing near!” In Acts, Peter called on the people to “Repent and be baptized…”
The understanding of repentance, wasn’t just to shed off external symptoms of bad choices, but the beginning of some new action or lifestyle that was more inline with God’s restoring work.
The biblical definition of repentance comes out of the idea of going the wrong way. The idea is to turn from the direction we’re going and begin a new course. Like when those old Garmins used to yell at you, “Recalculating.” If you remember when you heard that Englishy voice (seriously, does anyone use Garmins anymore?) you’d reconsider the direction you were going and listen for new instructions on how to head the right way.
Repentance is more than a ceasing doing of bad things. It’s the very important first step receiving directions towards a new life in Christ.
First movement of repentance is realizing where you’re heading. Is how you’re living moving you closer to the Lord? Or do you feel like you’re getting lost?
The second movement is to listen for that still, small voice that is recalculating a new route for you. Maybe that’s towards the fellowship of a church community, a first meeting a nice, chatty pastor 😉 or into God’s Word for some further instructions.
The third movement in the process of repentance is probably the most significant: It is having the courage to alter your life course based on what you’re hearing. Amplifying Matthew 3:8, we should bear tangible evidence of our new movement towards God’s purposes.
I often say, looking back at my own story of faith, that the deeper the understanding of repentance, the more significant the transition will be to a Knowing and Living out a new life in Christ.
And, as repentance is empowered by the Spirit and greater freedom is found in this new direction you’re called to live, you’ll find your own Story to Share about God’s transforming work in your life.
Which direction do you sense your life is heading right now?
Have you ever listened to for the voice of the Holy Spirit in calling you to turn and recalculate a new road?