What do the words Gallimaufry, Pluviophile and Librocubularist all have in common?
They are all words that were once commonly heard but have largely fallen out of the vocabulary of ordinary people. (I will leave you to Google them if you want to slip them appropriately into a conversation)
I want to talk about another word that used to be heard commonly but now is rarely heard, REPENTANCE. When I was growing up it was one the most common words I heard in and around the church. My memory is probably a bit hazy, but it seems to me our pastor used it a lot. When I would go into town there were often a group of people from a local church with large posters that had REPENT on them. I always found them scary people and maybe that is why for many years the word repentance had negative connotations for me. It seemed to be about making people feel bad about themselves.
The reason this is worrying is that repent is among the first words we hear from Jesus, it was fundamental to his whole mission and message
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Mark 4:17
Unlike so much of the church today, Jesus didn’t just offer acceptance to sinners, he wasn’t afraid to call them to repentance
I can’t remember who said it, but they said “Jesus accepts us just as we are, but won’t let us stay just as we were” I like that, it balances acceptance and repentance in “Jesusy way.”
So, given that it’s so important what exactly is REPENTANCE?
Is it about confessing our dirty little secrets, crying a bit, and asking for forgiveness?
Is it just something we do once at the start of our Christian life?
I checked in a dictionary, and it said that repentance means something like “sincere regret” but when you look at the word and how it’s used in the Bible that’s not really what it’s all about.
Basically, to repent means a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. It means changing your mind about something and this causes you to choose to change direction in an area of your life.
Repentance certainly has to happen at the start of our Christian life but as often been said the whole of our Christian life, is a life of repentance.
Specifically, it means changing our minds about our tolerance of a particular sin, deciding that it’s serious and that change of mind leads us to stop doing what we have been doing.
Now, this may seem obvious but changing direction means turning our back on something to face something else. In repentance, we turn our back on what we know to be wrong, which is leading us away from God so we can face God and begin to move towards him.
The key idea in repentance is deciding to stop moving away from God and change direction in our life so we can see God and move toward him.
So how do we know when and how to repent?
Well, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin, to highlight to us the areas of our life where we have turned our back on God and are moving away from him. This sometimes happens through that “still small voice” or a feeling of discomfort we get doing something, at other times fellow believers might warn us about something or we feel something said in a sermon was aimed right at us.
What do we do then, when we think God might be calling on us to repent?
First, bring it to God and pray about it, if it’s a grey area, ask God if he is calling on you to repent.
Discuss it with a trusted friend or spouse—someone you know who won’t judge you but will speak the truth to you
Some big changes in direction may need a plan. If so come up with a plan on how you are going to change directions
Act on that plan
Tell someone trustworthy of your plan to have accountability.
Remember Jesus talks about repentance not because he wants us to feel bad but because he wants a relationship with us. However, in order for that relationship to begin or deepen there will be things we need to turn away so we can turn to him, and repentance is simply for how we do that.
Let’s popularise REPENTANCE again, but not just in the vocabulary of the church but more importantly in our lives.