Have We (the Church) Truly Repented?

Some years ago, I did a word-study of the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in our English Bibles. As I result of this study, I came to a shocking conclusion: Most of us who call ourselves Christians, have NOT truly repented at all! This is mostly in part because of a mis-interpretation which has led to a misunderstanding, and therefore a misapplication the biblical concept of repentance.

Let me show you what I am talking about. When I was first introduced to the concept of repentance as a young Christian, I was taught that to repent means to be ‘godly sorrow for your sins.’ However, I would discover later on, that this definition is based on a faulty interpretation and misunderstanding of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. The apostle wrote: “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (KJV) Here are the same verses in one of the more recent versions; the ESV: “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Now, here’s the thing that most people have missed about what Paul said. Paul DID NOT SAY godly sorrow or godly grief ‘was’ repentance. He said godly sorrow or godly grief ‘works’ or ‘produces’ repentance! Godly sorrow/grief and repentance are two different concepts; they are not synonymous! They are not the same!

So, to feel sorry for your sins is not the same as repenting, it’s just feeling sorry for your sins! But, feeling sorry for your sins ought to produce repentance! Feeling sorry for your sins ought to lead you to the act of repenting. So, that brings us to the question: If being godly sorrow for your sins is not the same as repentance, then, what does it actually mean to repent? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘repent’ has as its primary meaning; to change one’s mind or the way one thinks. Therefore, to repent is to change your mind or to change your thought process; repentance is a change of mind! True repentance is a change in ‘what’ and ‘how’ one thinks! This change of mind will invariably lead to a change in action, behavior and life.

Jesus’ first recorded public declaration is found in Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV) The Jewish people at that time were anxiously waiting for and anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God (the rule, reign, and authority of God among his people on earth). What Jesus was essentially saying was this: “Quit thinking about the Kingdom of God in the future-tense and understand and live in view of the fact that the Kingdom of God has now arrived!” The message of Jesus for us today is for us to quit thinking of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven in the future and start thinking of the Kingdom of God as a present reality!

Therefore, in view of what Jesus said, even most people who call themselves Christians still need to repent! Why? Because most Christians think of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven, in the sweet by and by! But the message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is also a present reality on earth in the sour here and now! The message is: Repent! Quit thinking religion and start thinking Kingdom! We’ve got our hearts set on ‘going to Heaven,’ but Jesus told us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” We’re want to leave here and go there, but Jesus wants us to stay here, working and praying that the ‘there’ will come here! He prayed to his Father in the garden on the eve of his passion, concerning his disciples and us: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Jn. 17:15 NIV) We need to repent, because we’ve been praying to the Father to get us out, while Jesus prayed to the Father to keep us in! We need to repent! We need to change our minds; we need to change our thought process! We’ve been thinking religion; but Jesus wasn’t about religion, Jesus was about the Kingdom! Jesus never told us to seek first religion; he told us to seek first the Kingdom! Religion is always about the past and the future ‘over there,’ but the Kingdom is primarily about in the present here! Religion allows evil to win in the present because of a faith in a future victory, but the Kingdom defeats the power of the enemy in the present and will ultimately destroy the enemy in the future! That’s why the enemy doesn’t mind us ‘having religion,’ because religion blinds us to the present reality of the Kingdom! The message to the church today is the same as the message Jesus proclaimed centuries ago: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” The Kingdom of God is not just pie-in-the-shy-when-you-die-by-and-by; the Kingdom is the present power and reality of God in the world right now! The Kingdom of God is not just later; the Kingdom of God is NOW AND LATER!

How To Have A “New” Year!

CalendarAs I sat down to write this post, I intended to write about: “How to Have a Happy New Year!” But then, I thought about it: We would be happy or happier only if next year was indeed really “new.” Let me show you what I am talking about! This time of year (the days after Christmas), people normally think about plans for the New Year. However, no matter what or how many new resolutions are made, most of the time, the New Year eventually ends up being a replica or a repeat performance of the old year! The reason is because, in most cases, nothing is truly new except the year! It’s a new year; but it’s the same old person! It’s a new year; but we do the same old things! It’s a new year but we think the same old thoughts! I preached a sermon once and I think repeating the title would be appropriate for the thought I am trying to convey. The title of the sermon was: “I Don’t Need a New Year: I Need a New Me!”

The point of the sermon and the point of this post is that we can’t expect next year to be a “new” year if we don’t do anything to make it new! The year will not be new if we don’t change! Next year will be just like this year, which was just like last year, which was just like the years before, unless and until we make a change! Well, what changes can we make to truly make next year a “New Year?” First of all, we can change our thinking! We can change the way we think and change what we think! Everything that happens in our lives is produced by what and how we think; our thoughts and thought patterns! Change your thinking and you change your life! Now some might think this is “new age” thinking, but it is not “new age” nor is it really new! The Biblical author wrote centuries ago: “As a man thinketh in his heart; so is he!” John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth both preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” What many modern Christians fail to comprehend is that the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in the statements of John and Jesus means; “to change the way you think, or to change your thoughts.” What Jesus and John were saying was that God’s Kingdom is not a just a place and future event at the end of time, but rather it is also a present reality! And the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it was not Heaven in the sky, when we die, bye and bye, but rather the present reality of the rule and authority of God in our lives! So in order to have a “new” year, we must also repent! We must change what we think and change how we think!

What thinking and thought-patterns do we need to change in order to have a new year? Well there are several, but I’m only going to touch on a few. First of all, we must quit thinking of life as happening “to us” and realize that life is really what “we” make it! Everything that has happened in your life up to this point; you caused it to happen! You caused it either by what you did or what you didn’t do! You caused it by your actions, in-actions or thoughts! So, if next year is really going to be new, then you must accept personal responsibility for the circumstances and conditions in your life! You must also quit the blame game! I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that somebody “made” them mad! But the truth of the matter is this: No one can “make” you angry! Your anger is an emotional response that is controlled by your thoughts or your thinking. Since no one can control your thoughts but you and your thoughts control your emotions, then if you got angry, it was not because that person “made” you angry, but rather it was because you chose to respond with anger! Your emotional response of anger was a choice you made! You could have chosen to respond differently! Quit the blame game! Losers fix the blame: winners fix the problem!

That’s another thing you’ve got to quit if you want to have a new year! You’ve got to give up the idea that you have no choice! You always have a choice! I’ve heard people say that they go to work because they don’t have a choice! But they do! They could choose “not” to go to work! It’s really not a matter that they have no choice; it’s really a matter of not liking the consequences of the alternative choice! By the way, if you are working a job only because you feel you have no choice, you really need to choose to do something else!

If you want to have a new year, then you must also quit complaining and grumbling about the circumstances of your life. Whatever your circumstances; you directly or indirectly created them! So, if you don’t like the circumstances of your life, accept personal responsibility for the fact that you created or caused them, and then change them! Whatever situation you’re in, accept the fact that you were the major cause, and then understand that you have a choice! You can change it or you can accept it! But by all means, don’t constantly complain and grumble about it! Constantly complaining and grumbling does nothing to help the situation, in fact it makes it worse! The more you complain and grumble; the more you’ll have to complain and grumble about!

The bottom line is this: If you really want next year to be a new year, then you’ve got to be “new” next year! You’ve got to do differently! You’ve got to think differently! You’ve got to respond differently! Things will not change unless and until you change! You can’t have a “new” year with the same “old” you!

Disclaimer: I realize that there are and have been circumstances and situations in which a person may have not been a contributor and/or had/have no control such as conditions of slavery or poverty. This post is directed toward those of us who have a fair amount of freedom in our lives. But, to any person who may be suffering because of the actions of others (such as an oppressive government) this post is not an attempt to blame those who are truly victims.