This morning, we’re starting a new message series entitled “re:THINK”. In this series, we’ll be dealing with the issue of repentance. Repentance is a churchy word that’s been given a bad reputation by critical and judgmental people and churches. However, repentance is necessary. As we dig in and begin studying, we’ll find that repentance is not really a judgmental subject, but rather, one that is quite encouraging!
Repentance is all about changing our way of thinking to improve ourselves for the better. It is literally, by the original Greek word’s definition, about repurposing our lives. In this series, we’ll learn to re:THINK several different timely and relevant subjects. Rethinking these subjects and getting our lives in alignment with God’s word will ensure that we set ourselves up for an abundantly blessed, satisfying, and successful life!
To get the series started, we’ll first lay a foundation of what repentance truly is and why God requires that we repent. Repentance is something that has existed since the time that sin came onto the scene back in the beginning of Genesis. Just as God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so repentance has remained the same forever. We find calls to repentance and examples of drastic real-life examples of repentance all throughout scripture in both the Old and New Testaments under both the old and new covenants between God and man.
In both the Hebrew and Greek original words translated into the English word repent, the verb form’s definition is to change one’s mind and the noun form’s definition of repentance is a change of mind of one’s purpose or of one’s actions. The Vine’s expository dictionary expounds on the definition of these root words and adds that it is a change for the better.
In our culture today, repurposing things, improving ourselves, and having a change of mind regarding ourselves, are all very popular concepts that people get excited about. By literal definition, this is exactly what repentance is. Since this is the case, then why do people not get as excited about repenting? Why is it that social media and video platforms are not buzzing with new ways to repent? Well, they sort of are.
The buzz that is filling these platforms, in reality, is repentance. However, the world’s definition of life improvement, change, and purpose is vastly different than what God has in mind! Change that the world desires isn’t change that God desires. The purpose that the world wants us to fulfill isn’t the purpose which God wants us to fulfill. The perspective and mindset that the world wants us to possess isn’t the perspective and mindset that God wants us to possess.
The reason that repentance is such a taboo subject isn’t because of what repentance is. Repentance, in reality, is hugely popular and desired. Repentance is a taboo subject because true, Biblical, repentance, doesn’t tell us what we want to hear. It doesn’t encourage us to continue into the bondage of sin and give us new ideas about ways to sin. It encourages us to escape the bondage of sin and toward complete freedom! True, Biblical repentance encourages us into the purposes that God created us for and to change our minds away from what our flesh desires and toward what the Spirit desires. True, Biblical repentance leads us to a life of satisfaction, freedom, and abundance! It’s the best life that we could possibly choose to live!
In Matthew 4:17, whenever Jesus first began to preach, He preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. In the context of our culture today, what we hear Jesus saying with those words is essentially, “None of you are good enough because you’re all a bunch of sinner trash. Clean up your act and start being religious!” In our culture, preaching at people to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near, gives us the impression of someone looking down and judging other people for their sins.
However, remember what it truly means to repent! This call of Jesus to repent wasn’t a critical, judgmental preaching that drove people away from Him. Jesus was drawing people to Himself and calling them to re:THINK what they knew about the Kingdom of Heaven! That’s why Jesus preached, “You’ve heard it said this…, but I say to you that …”. Over and over again, Jesus preached messages saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like this…”. Jesus’ call to repent was a call to re:THINK what they thought they knew about God and His Kingdom. It was a true call to repentance, to have a change of mind, and not by any means a message of judgment and condemnation!
Jesus was calling them to have a change of mind about the Kingdom of Heaven. He didn’t just use words, either. He was a man of action! He didn’t just talk about the Kingdom of Heaven, His call to repentance was accompanied by a tangible display of the Kingdom of Heaven. You could literally follow Jesus and not only hear about what Heaven is like, but also literally see Heaven invade earth!
When Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”, He really meant it. He was saying, “Come and re:THINK – have a change of mind – about the Kingdom of Heaven and your role within it!” He was saying, “Come and re:THINK – have a change of mind – about the purpose and life that you are living!”
So with all of this in mind, why do people not get excited about repentance? Why do people today get offended by the call of Jesus to repent?
We are a very prideful people. We don’t like to be wrong about anything, especially about our lifestyle choices and our world view. We’ve created a culture where absolute truth no longer exists in the name of tolerance and acceptance. What you believe to be true is true and what I believe to be true is true and there’s no need to criticize each other for our truths. To accept me, you cannot disagree with me. We’ve created a culture were if you don’t agree with me, then you hate me. If you don’t agree with me, then you have rejected me. This becomes confusing because that doesn’t agree with a culture of tolerance and acceptance.
True Biblical repentance – having this change of mind about our purpose and behavior – isn’t popular because it takes the stand that there is absolute truth. It takes the stand that there are standards for living life to its full. It takes the stand that there is right and wrong. It calls sin what it is – sin. It breaks through the lies and deception of sin and reveals it for what it truly brings – not a full and satisfying life, but rather, death. True Biblical repentance encourages us to have a change of mind to see things the way they really are through the eyes of truth.
True, Biblical repentance will offend us and will cause sorrow in our lives initially. It breaks us down when we realize that we are wrong and need to have a change of mind, purpose, and behavior. However, the ultimate goal of Biblical repentance is to build us up into better people who lead a more abundant and satisfying life! This repentance should very much so be encouraging!
However, I see something else occur in my own experiences. From my short time as a pastor, I’ve found that people are not very welcoming and open to Biblical truth. Whenever someone is making life choices that are contradictory to Biblical, Christian living and they call themselves a believer, they seem to be very hardened and resistant to truth.
I’ve been there myself, on the receiving end of repentance, many times before and will be many times again! Whenever we know that we’re wrong and we know that we’re hurting ourselves and denying God’s truth, we become very defensive and easily offended toward that area of our lives. We’re quick to justify ourselves and defend the wrong choices that we’re making. We’re very slow to repent and we reap the harvest of this stubbornness. Whenever people reach out to us in love because they care about us and only want to see the very best for us, we snarl and bite at them. We defend our sin like a dog and its bone.
This is far from God’s desire, though! Jesus wants to see us be free! Jesus wants to give us life and life to its full! Jesus doesn’t want anything to hinder our relationship with Him! However, for any hindrances to be removed from our lives, for us to live a life of true freedom, the traps and snares that we’re caught in first have to be revealed.
There is a very fine line between judgment and condemnation and encouragement. The difference lies in the heart and the intention of the person giving the call to repentance. Whenever we call someone to re:THINK their perspective, purpose, or behavior, we need to make sure that we’re doing it in true Godly love and that the person that we’re communicating with knows that we love and care for them.
If we’re on the receiving end of a call to repentance, and we all should be there frequently, we simply need to turn to God and allow Him to reveal His truth to us. It’s then our choice to turn away from our wrong perspective, purpose, or behavior and, by the empowering grace of God, turn to God and to His perspective, purpose, and desired behavior. He’s our creator and He not only knows, but also desires only the best for us!
We have the ability to know and to test God’s will for our lives!
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
As we progress throughout this series, we’ll cover subjects that will make us a bit uncomfortable. We’ll certainly be offended by the truth of God. We’ll certainly find that our thoughts and our ways are not in alignment with God’s. We’ll be confronted and forced to re:THINK our perspective, purpose, and behavior in many areas of life.
Next week, we’ll take another step toward these subjects as we learn how we should respond when God challenges us and we are forced to re:THINK these things. In closing today, however, I want us all to keep in mind that God deeply cares for us and loves us more than we could ever love ourselves or anyone else. God’s plans are to give us a hope and a future. God’s plans are to help us to be successful and prosperous in life. God’s plans are for us to live our lives as an adventure and to their full. Be challenged, but be encouraged!
I encourage everyone to take time to fast and pray for this series and for yourself entering into it. I want all of us to enter into this series with open hearts and open minds that are hungry for God’s word. I want this series to draw all of us to God and not drive us away from Him. We all need to be prepared to re:THINK and to have a change of mind about our perspective, purpose, and behavior in life. This will allow God to have His way and invade earth with Heaven once again as Jesus is glorified. God’s response to our desire to repent is sure to be powerful and life-changing!
Just as Jesus proclaimed, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”