Repentance simply means to change ones mind. If you look it up online, most dictionaries make it unusually hard to understand. The Bible mentions it in quite a few places, which we will get to shortly. So why is it so important to understand? Lets look at some examples to help clarify.
Example 1. Let’s pretend you are unemployed because you are too lazy to go out and look for a job. One day you then decide that maybe that is not such a great way to go through life. You get off the couch and find a job. You changed your mind.
Example 2 Let’s pretend you hang out with a rough crowd and that crowd curses a lot, which in turn influences your language. One day you decide, “I curse too much and it really is not very appealing to those around me”. So you stop hanging out with that crowd and stop cursing. Guess what? That’s repentance.
Example 3 Let’s pretend you are a workaholic and you spend excessive amounts of time at work. Your family suffers and you notice that your family life seems to go on without you. One day one of your children says that they really miss hanging out with you. Then it dawns on you as to what is really important and what is not. The next week you work a regular week and continue to spend more time with your family. Now were talking!
Example 4 Here is where it gets harder…Someone at your job gets the guts to tell you that they think your arrogant. At first this is a crushing blow, one in which you are not sure how to recover from. First anger, then denial and then when you get a quiet moment to really think about it, acceptance. If you really decided to be serious about the change you would get the nerve to ask that person why they think you are arrogant and really listen to their reasons. A humble response would be to apologize and then ask that very person to help you to change. To have them tell you each time you start to fall back into your old arrogant ways so that you can change your…..character. Now that’s repentance!
There are a lot more examples of repentance but I think you get the point. Repentance is changing your mind. Now the real issue is why you change your mind. God calls people to repentance, he calls them to change. He wants you to change the things that keep you from being close to him. Usually these are not pleasant things to address, no one wants to address their own character. It is the Godly man or woman that chooses to change because they know it pleases God. But guess what? It is not a one and done type of thing. Repentance is ongoing, we have to continually work on ourselves because we are not perfect, only one person (Jesus) was perfect.
We have to spend a lifetime of trying to change to become more like Jesus.
So let’s look at some scripture to help solidify the meaning of repentance.
Matthew 3:2 John the Baptist says to “Repent for the kingdom of heaven as come near” The New Testament beginning of the philosophy that you need to change some things to be in God’s Kingdom.
Matthew 3:8 Producing fruit in keeping with repentance. The easiest way to explain the concept of producing fruit is to think of a fruit tree. A tree grows and produces fruit only if it has the basic nutrients and water that it needs to be healthy. If it is missing any of these, it will not produce fruit that is beneficial. John was trying to get people to change their minds and admit they needed a savior. At the time most of them did not think they needed to change anything about themselves which led them to not being able to help anyone else need to change their characters either. John preached that producing fruit was setting an example or what we call, practice what you preach.
Mark 1:4 John the Baptist preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 6:12 The Apostles go out and preach that people should repent.
Luke 13: 1-8 Jesus begins to lay the ground work saying that if you do not repent you will perish (die) Also there is a nice example of producing fruit.
Luke 24:45 Where Jesus first teaches his disciples about repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Acts 2:38 Peter preaches that you have to repent and be baptized to receive salvation. Repentance and baptism go hand in hand. This is where a lot of people go off the tracks when they see that repentance and baptism go together.
Acts 3:19 Repent and turn to God
Acts 17:30 God commands all people to repent
Acts 26:20 Demonstrating your repentance
Is this becoming more clear to you? You have to change things about yourself in order to have a relationship with God. It is one of the reasons why everyone gave Jesus such a hard time, no one really wants to work on themselves. This is the starting point. Repentance is hard but it is necessary. You cannot do it by yourself, you have to have help. Having people in your life that want to help you to change because they are trying to change as well. Godly people want to truly repent and produce fruit.
This is just the beginning, if you still are not convinced, go to your church and ask the members what they are trying to change. If they look at you like you have two heads, perhaps you are at the wrong church.
If you want to know more, keep reading or keep asking good questions. There are lots of people in the South Lake Church of Christ that are willing to be humble and tell you what they are trying to change and help you in any way they can.