I’m honored to have this post featured at First and Second Blog! Feel free to click here to read more about the lies the enemy tries to convince us of regarding sin and repentance.
Repentance is a big part of being a Christian.
Lately, I’ve been trying to teach my preschoolers about what it means to say “I’m sorry,” but I’m still not sure they completely understand the concept. They sometimes say it to avoid getting into trouble. (Didn’t we all as young children?) Or better yet, they will say it and go right back to doing what they were apologizing for in the first place.
As Christians, I think we all desire to have a repentant heart. We long to please God and it begins with the realization that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. We need His salvation desperately. But since repentance is so crucial to our faith, it’s important to understand its true meaning – a meaning that the enemy likes to distort.
True repentance requires a change. Like my daughters, a lot of us say we’re sorry but deep down we know that we’ll just end up saying it again for the same offense. This is not true repentance. In fact, it makes our apology meaningless.
Repentance is not just about saying “I’m sorry.”
The phrase “I’m sorry” only maintains its meaning and power if the person saying it intends to make a change.
We’re called to repent and bear fruit – to be productive for the Kingdom. Genuine repentance says, “I’m sorry, and I intend to prove it to you.”
Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. – Luke 3:8 (NLT)
I’ve heard it said that repentance means that we turn away from our sin. But the truth is that the original Greek word used through the New Testament (metanoia) doesn’t really have anything to do with sin. It actually means “change of mind.”
True repentance isn’t just about sin.
In Acts 26:20, Paul says that he “preached that they should repent (change their minds) and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance (changed minds) by their deeds.” God doesn’t just want us to be sorry for our sins. He desires that we change the way we think – that we would renew our minds in Him. When our minds are renewed, our actions change and we begin to produce godly fruit.
Simply being sorry for our sins isn’t enough. We need to change the way we think and prove our new way of thinking by our deeds. It’s not just about being sorry for our sins; rather it’s about replacing the sin in our lives with righteous living.
Since Paul’s day, the meaning of repentance has evolved quite a bit. While the original Greek word simply means to change one’s mind, it now means to feel guilt, shame, remorse, and even regret (and that’s according to our English dictionary). Conviction is a good thing, but shame is something God never intended for us to feel.
Repentance isn’t about living in a state of false humility, guilt, or shame.
The difference between conviction and shame can be difficult to distinguish but let’s put things into perspective:
Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, and it leads to godly change. It’s the desire to please God in all that we do to the point that we can feel the difference between right and wrong as the Holy Spirit guides our lives. It’s never shameful or condemning, and it causes us to want to run towards God and His will for our lives.
Shame, however, comes from the enemy. It’s what Adam and Eve felt in the Garden of Eden after they sinned. It literally entrapped them in their guilt. Shame and embarrassment make us want to run and hide from God, rather than run towards Him. It says, “God could never forgive what I’ve done” or “Maybe if I work hard enough, God will look past my mistakes.”
In our attempt to be humble and repentant, we have nearly become self-loathing. We live in a place where we think so lowly of ourselves that we just can’t imagine how God could use us. We see ourselves as lowly, sinful human beings with little to no value apart from the fact that for some reason, God chose to save us. This way of thinking is completely contrary to Scripture.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” – Romans 10:11 (NIV)
The Bible doesn’t say “For God so tolerated the world…” It says “For God so loved the world…” He loved us before we were in Christ, before we were declared righteous, and while our hands were still dirty with sin.
God looked at you and saw that you were worth the price Jesus paid on the cross. (That makes you extremely valuable!)
Living in a state of repentance does not mean we live in place of self-loathing and shame; rather it means that we constantly strive to have the mind of Christ. We run from sin towards our heavenly Father who loves us deeply and unconditionally.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. – Acts 3:19 (NIV)