Christians hear the word repentance quite often. It’s an essential part of our faith, to say the least. As a child, I was taught that it meant being sorry for your sins. But as I grew older, I began to see that true repentance extends far beyond a simple, “I’m sorry.” Rather, it’s a complete transformation.
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The Greek word most commonly translated as “repent” in the New Testament is metanoeo (or metanoia in its noun form). It means “to change one’s mind or purpose.”
So when Jesus told us to repent, He wasn’t simply telling us to be sorry for our sins. Rather, He was asking us to change our minds – to turn our thoughts away from sin and towards God instead.
Jesus clearly demonstrated this in the gospel of Mark when He said:
…”The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:15
Jesus wasn’t simply asking them to say sorry. He made it clear that entering the Kingdom of God is a two-step process – turning our minds away from sin and setting our sights on Him.
It’s not enough to be sorry – true repentance requires a complete change of mind.
Up until the time of Christ, the Law of Moses gave clear instructions on how to act and behave as God’s people. It was mostly about a person’s actions, at least that’s how the religious teachers perceived it. They would regularly boast about their “righteous deeds.” In fact, they even added laws to make themselves feel more righteous.
But Jesus changed the game…
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell….You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28
The Pharisees believed they were righteous because of their actions. Jesus turned things upside down when He stated that true righteousness stems from a heart that longs to please God.
We should be more focused on our minds than our actions. Why? Because when our heart and minds are in line, our actions follow. And not only do our actions follow, but they stem from an obedient heart with good intentions. The Pharisees had their good deeds, but they weren’t following God with their hearts. Their good deeds stemmed from pride and the need to look good in front of others.
So will you join me in thinking consciously about what it means to change your mind?
True repentance isn’t just about turning away from sinful actions; rather we have to make the choice to change our minds and turn away from sinful thinking.
And as we turn our minds away from sin, we replace those thoughts with our hope in Jesus Christ, and we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out.
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*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.