REPENT! We hear that word and we get visions of the old-timey, hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher shouting and pointing a long, bony finger with one hand while pounding on the pulpit with his other. That picture does not give us a full understanding of what scripture means when it call us to repent.
The word from the Bible we translate as repent doesn’t simply mean to feel sorry or remorse, though those feelings may accompany repentance. It more literally means to change your mind. It includes changing the minds perceptions, purposes, and dispositions.
In previous articles I have stated in that the basis of our sinfulness is a declaration that we don’t need God, that we can be our own god or at least choose our own god. When someone like Peter in Acts 3:19 calls us to repent and turn to God what he is saying is to let God change our mind and acknowledge Jesus as God and that he alone is God.
Many of us who are Jesus Followers may have the impression that repentance is only for salvation or when I commit some obvious sin, but when we understand that to repent means to let God change our minds it opens up so much more. Stop for a moment and try to recall when the last time was that you let God change your mind?
The most recent occurrence for me was in a conversation I was having with a friend in which I had intended to share a particular anecdote of how God had worked through me to help another person. But God restrained me, showing me that my motives for sharing that story were not altogether pure. Underlying was a sense of pride and self-promotion and so God changed my mind about telling my experience.
Maybe God needs to change your mind about the direction or course your life is taking; maybe about how you have been insisting on having a situation go your way. It may be a tradition or teaching that you have held all your life and God is showing you it’s incomplete or just flat-out wrong. We will never reach a place in this life where we are beyond the possibility that God needs to change our mind.
Isaiah 30:15 says “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (NIV) Rest, quietness, trust. We will be hard pressed to hear where God wants to change our mind without allowing space for these three things in our lives. Maybe that’s the first thing to repent of.