Repentance is a forgotten word

Repentance is a word that has been forgotten by many. It is a word has lost its true meaning for others. As I talk with people in my work and my life I find that repentance is a word many have never heard, let alone understood.

In a world that says that is okay for you, but my truth is my truth. I am not perfect but I am okay as I am. I do not need to change or apologise to anyone for who I am. I am okay and God loves and accepts me as I am.

While God loves us and accepts how we are, He does not want to leave us this way. God wants us to grow and change and be the people He created us to be. He wants the very best for us. This is where repentance comes in.

The word repentance in the Bible literally means “the act of changing one’s mind.” True biblical repentance goes beyond remorse, regret, or feeling bad about one’s sin. It involves more than merely turning away from sin.

Eerdmans Bible Dictionary includes this definition of repentance: “In its fullest sense it is a term for a complete change of orientation involving a judgment upon the past and a deliberate redirection for the future.”

The classic biblical example is the Apostle Paul. He started out as Saul, a high ranking Pharisee who was zealous in persecuting the early Christians to the point of arresting and having them killed. He wanted to wipe Christianity out at all costs.

This changed when he had a vision on the road to Damascus. In Acts 9 we see Saul had a radical transformation after hearing from Jesus. Over the coming months he went from a killer of Christians to someone who brought people to Christ and helped them grow in their faith.

In Philippians 3:4-9 NLT we read…

[4] Though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! [5] I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin-a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. [6] I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. [7] I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. [8] Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ [9] and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Paul, as Saul, was a zealous, murderous man who wanted to wipe out Christianity, but after his conversion he counted those things as garbage. He was solely focussed on knowing Christ and making Him known to others.

Paul was not just sorry for his previous life, but in his repentance he chose another path. The path to follow Christ wholeheartedly. His old life was gone and his new life had come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So what does this mean for us today? It means repentance is a key part of finding faith in Jesus. We ask God for forgiveness of our sin, trust Jesus for our salvation and we repent by heading in a new direction. Like Paul, we chose a new path. The path that God chose for us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10).

But what happens if we stumble along the way? None of us are perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:23). The key is to confess to God and receive His forgiveness afresh (1 John 1:9). Then we can get up and continue on the path knowing that God will continue a good work on us until the day of completion when Christ comes again (Philippians 1:6).

For us today as Christians, repentance cannot be a forgotten word. It is a word and action we need to be keenly aware of. It is a word that calls us to a new life, a new path and a new way – the way of Christ and His Kingdom.