Changing Our View of Repentance

“Low self-esteem causes me to believe that I have so little worth that my response does not matter. With repentance, however, I understand that being worth so much to God is why my response is so important.”
—John Ortberg

Repentance has not been a popular message in recent times. I see two causes: first, it has often been delivered poorly and has a bad press, for many conjuring up images of wild-eyed street evangelists preaching fire and brimstone without compassion. Secondly, as Joseph Parker puts it, it can be that “the man whose little sermon is ‘repent’ sets himself against his age, and will for the time being be battered mercilessly by the age whose moral tone he challenges. There is but one end for such a man: ‘Off with his head!’ You had better not try to preach repentance until you have pledged your head to heaven.”

But at its heart, repentance is a gracious command to realign our thinking with God’s – to know the truth and be set free. Repentance is beautiful. It’s what saves us and what continually transforms us!

The call to repentance should never be dumbed down lest we rob Jesus of His inheritance and the bride of Christ of her destiny. The message of repentance will always be central to the mission of the Church. Our privilege is to help change the minds of others regarding Christ and so help change their direction regarding eternity. Most importantly, without the call to repentance, we render the cross redundant. As Paul wrote, “If righteousness could be achieved by the law then Christ died in vain.” The kingdom of God is always near, but it cannot be accessed without the key of repentance.

The literal meaning of “repent” is to turn around and face in the opposite direction. At its simplest, repentance is turning away from depending on ourselves to depending entirely on Jesus and trusting in Him. Repentance is not deciding to change our behaviour (because that won’t last), it’s changing our minds so that God’s grace can work in us and, in due course, our behaviour will follow suit.

“Repent” was the first message preached by John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter because God in His compassion was appealing to all those who were “facing the wrong way”, heading towards darkness instead of the light.

The message of repentance is one of saving compassion, not condemnation. Father God seeks to draw us, by His love, to embrace His Son, Jesus, and trust in Him alone. The cross of Christ remains an offence to many – because people don’t like to be confronted with their sin nor reminded that their self-righteousness deeds will never justify them before God. But if we live in a state of grace-fuelled repentance (daily having our minds renewed), we will find that our lives are transformed to bear much spiritual fruit!

Jesus said, “Whoever sins is a slave to sin” and so a slave to suffering. The kindness of God leads to the majestic outcome of renewed thinking and a change in direction. Welcome into the excellencies and ecstasies of repentance.

This article is an extract from 

God Hunger: Meditations from a life of longing

(Purchase here)


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