From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17 NIV)
I was going to repent once, but then I changed my mind.
That may be a humorous quip but it contains an important point. The word ‘repentance’ that we find in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoeó which has the meaning ‘change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God).’ 1
It is unfortunate that St. Jerome, in the 4th century C.E., translated this word into the Latin word paenitentia, which came to mean ‘penance’ or ‘acts of penance,’2 as it has affected the Christian view of repentance ever since.
But repentance is not doing penance. It is not even primarily a behavioural issue. Any change in our behaviour is a result of this repentance that has taken place inside of us. To put the change of behaviour first in the matter of repentance is to put the cart before the horse; sadly this has often been the case in Christian history which has resulted in people concentrating on changing some external aspect of their life whilst not changing their fundamental worldview. This inevitably leads to a Christianity that focuses on external requirements much more than an actual change of heart and mind.
Yet it is the change in our inner being that will enable us to change the way we live.
The repentance that Jesus spoke about as he began his ministry was this change of mind, a change in our worldview, a change in our inner-being. This repentance involves a change of mind from where I am the centre of the universe to the point where I love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind
This repentance isn’t about what we do; it’s about a new perspective, a new way of looking at things that were already true long before we came to see them. It’s a change in how we think about God and about ourselves. It’s about us saying ‘yes’ to God’s ‘yes’ for us.
Repentance then is the start of a new relationship, a new friendship, as we trust and believe that Jesus has already done everything needed to restore humanity to a right relationship with God. It is out of this reconciled relationship that we can go on and live for him.
Why not take a fresh look at Jesus, his life, his claims, his death and resurrection?
It may be time for a change of mind about him.
Father, create in me a fresh understanding of who you are and who I am in relationship to you through Christ, and enable me to repent and believe this. I thank you that you love me not because I have changed but to enable me to change.
Have a good week exploring Jesus.
(1) Strong’s Concordance 3340.
(2) Wilkin, Robert, N. New Testament Repentance: Lexical Considerations, Bible.org.