One of Jesus’ first word at the start of His ministry was “repent“.
“This is the time of fulfillment.The kingdom of God is at hand. So repent (mετανοείτε), and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
I find it so fitting and perfect that these were His first words when He began His ministry. He calls us to repent. He came to earth, God in the flesh, to give man the opportunity to repent. Without Christ, people don’t even have the option to turn to God. We were born in this world stained with sin, and like we learned in my study on Matthew 1, because Adam sinned and we were all in his body when he fell and became separated from God, we all fell and became stained with sin and separated from God.
But Christ changed things. From my study on Matthew 2, we learned that the name Jesus means salvation, and that’s because He is the bridge leading us back to God. He is the hand of God, reaching out to us poor, wretched sinners, and asking us to come. He is our Maker, who suffered tremendous torture in order to give us this choice, this opportunity to repent.
So, what does repent mean?
It means to turn.
Repent means that you turn to God. Your life was on a trajectory in one direction – a direction away from God and towards damnation. But when you repent, you humbly realize that you’re a sinner in need of a saviour. The direction of your life is now towards God and away from sin.
Repent is not necessarily an outward behaviour of just “doing good things and not sinning”. Repent is such a deeper thing. It’s in the deepest corner of your heart. It’s your heart changing, turning towards God which leads to forgiveness and redemption. In this, you become born-again and actions begin to follow because of your changed heart and regeneration. Not the other way around. Heart first then behaviour changes.
Repent is such a term used so often and even in ways that the word was mistreated or misplaced. It’s been used in ways promoting a works-based salvation and been used in abusive ways. But really, the word simply means changing your heart towards God.
This happens right before you are saved and it leads to the moment of salvation.
Then, for believers, their lives and hearts are now set on the things of God and not desirous of sins that are displeasing to God. Yet, because we’re human and will always fall short and slip up, we’re called to continually turn to God and repent. But this repentance isn’t the kind to get us saved or keep our salvation, it just means that we are aware of our sin, and continually walking that narrow path of a Christian, turning to God when we mess up and trusting that He has grace for us.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
Christ’s call for all to repent is so life-giving. It’s an invitation to turn our hearts to God. It’s a door that we can open into eternal life by putting our faith in Him and turning towards Him in repentance.
Repent is a beautiful word and can ignite both a spark of hope in one person and fear in another person. Spark of hope because repentance leads to salvation, and fear because if one doesn’t repent, they will suffer damnation.
Let the word repent ignite a spark of hope in your heart.