Friday, July 11, 2008

Repentance

I am sure that every Christian has heard the word “repentance.” To many, the word means that we stop doing something. We stop worrying, we stop fornicating; we stop our adultery; we “JUST STOP SINNING!” Is that what true repentance means? Surely we will stop those things if we are repentant, but is the act of stopping equal to repentance or is it the result of repentance?

Maybe I should start by looking at how God deals with His children when they sin. Note that God isn’t dealing with His children on the basis of condemnation and punishment, but out of a loving caring for our wellbeing and for our relationship to His other children. He knows what’s good for us and He doesn’t want to see us hurt ourselves and to hurt others.

So when we sin, God brings about a conviction in our lives. He says, “Gary you made the wrong choice!” “The path you have chosen will only bring you pain and will hurt those who are close to you.” At this point I have two choices, I can choose to agree with God (confess). I can say, “You are right Father, I made a choice that was wrong; I was choosing to do it my way instead of trusting you.” The other choice I can make is to go my own way. I can say, “Father, I hear what you are saying, but I am choosing not to trust you with this, I think my way is better.” Of course most of us don’t actually verbalize it in that way, but the result is the same as if we had.

I still haven’t got to repentance yet. I have talked about conviction and I have talked about confession, but what is repentance? The Greek word for repentance is “Metanoia” and literally means “to change your mind.” So what are we changing our mind about? Well, in the context of what has been discussed thus far, it means to change our mind about our direction; to choose God’s way instead of our way and it takes the form of a change from unbelief to belief; from distrust to trust. It is telling God that I no longer want control of this area of my life and that I am giving Him control of it…I am trusting Him with it.

Notice that in all of this there is no mention of an attempt on our part to change our behavior. That is because I have only been talking about our part in this. It is up to us to change our mind, but it is up to God to change our direction, to change our behavior…for we can do nothing apart from Him!

3 comments:

Judah Himango said...

Gary, a lot of Christians don't realize that repentance is a central concept to Judaism as well.

In Hebrew, this concept is called "t'shuvah", which means to turn around, to return. A 180 degree turn from where you were headed, if you will.

Repentance isn't an "I'm sorry, God.", and as you note, it isn't just "Ok, I'll just stop."

The process of T'shuvah from a Scriptural, Torah-based perspective is this:

1. Recognize the sin.
2. Confess that the sin was committed.
3. Repent of the sin (turn from it, change your actions.)
4. Correct any wrong caused by the sin.
5. Become ritually clean by doing a mikvah (what Christianity calls a "baptism").
6. Make the sacrifice for the sin.

Some might say the last 1, or even the last 2, are abolished or have substitutions now that Messiah has shown up.

Thought you might find it interesting.

Hope you have a good weekend (and shalom-filled shabbat!).

Bino Manjasseril said...

When we sin, I don't think God convicts us of the sin, instead He convicts us of our righteousness in Christ. I think it was Apostle Paul who said, 'Walk in the Spirit, then you will not fulfill the desire of your flesh'. It is NOT that we stop fulfilling the desires of the flesh first, and THEN walk in the spirit. But it is first we start walking in the spirit, then we will not fulfill the desires of our flesh.

His spirit will keep on reminding us about our righteousness in Christ, so the sin would seem foolish to us. It would like we going back to the street from the mansion where we are placed in Christ.

AmyC. said...

Gary,
Ah...excellent question you bring up. Is stopping sinning repentance or the result of repentance. I believe it is the latter.

Why? Because I believe repentance must REALLY come FIRST from the heart. Within. God "listens" to the heart. When a person is truly repentant, then they ask Father to help them change their behaviors...and do such. But actually stopping the sin may take a period of time...a process. If we were to "judge" whether a person is repentant (which really is NOT our job, period, but God's only) based solely on their success with stopping the behavior, it could take a long time for "us" to say, "Ok. So-so-so is really repentant b/c they've finally completely stopped such-and-such behavior," yet long ago, that person committed in their hearts to stop doing that sin. Such judgement is futile, as it bases repenance, upon performance.

~Amy :)