In my opinion, Christians have ruined the word repent. The word has been yelled from street corner to street corner in condemning tones by well intentioned sweaty evangelists hoping to turn the heart of just one soul. It has been waived in the streets on signs in crowds shouting in protest. Coming from the mouth of some the word repent can be a turn off or a source of fear. The truth is, repentance is a good thing. When we have an encounter with the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, he asks us to go and sin no more (John 8:11). Repentance brings about transformation and freedom for the human soul.
The simplest definition of repentance that I have heard is to go the other way. Unfortunately, I can’t find proof of that. Websters Dictionary says it is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, says repent means “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” Can we stick with going the other way? I think that is easiest. When I first heard the voice of God speak to my heart, it was a revelation of my sin. In order to see a new way to live, we have to see that the old way wasn’t good for us. Most of us walk around thinking that our sin is our very existence because we curse or lie or desire things that aren’t healthy for us. For me, my sin was insecurity. Who thought insecurity was a sin? A better definition of insecurity is fear of man. Drill it down further, people pleasing in order to be liked, needing approval to feel good about myself, dropping my God given identity in order to make a new person constructed to fit in with the world around me. Why is this a sin? It puts me on a thrown as the creator of myself and trashes God’s creation who is me in exchange for an idol who is me. Yikes. It is fear laden and fear does not come from God. Anything that is substituted for God as an idol is sinful. Sorry, it is true.
The thing about that voice speaking to my heart is that it wasn’t pointing it’s finger at me and yelling. It was soft and gentle. There was nothing in me that felt anything but love and affection. (James 3:17) It was so simple, like a duh moment. Not aha! It was oh…wow…The revelation of my sin came with a rhema word (A bible verse that stuck in my heart, even to this day) to direct me in a new direction. “You are clothed with strength and dignity and no one can take that away from you.” (Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity and Proverbs 31:25) Can you see what I am saying? Repentance reveals sin and replaces it with truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26). You cannot repent if your sin has not been revealed and you cannot change the way you are going until you understand the truth to replace the sin. That is why we need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us to comfort us and to tell us which way to go. He loves you, He doesn’t condemn you. He is showing you that you are on the wrong path and there new direction he wants you to take.
Changing your direction is a lifetime process. Confess, repent, and receive is the life you will live until you go to heaven and meet Jesus. While God knows everything about us past, present, and future, acknowledgement of our sin is important to the process of repentance. You can live in sin and believe you are doing good. I know that sounds weird but if insecurity is a sin then I bet a lot of things we don’t consider to be sinful is sinful to God. He is faithful to bring us into all knowledge, we have to be tuned in to the Holy Spirit, teachable and humble. After we confess and repent, we get to receive God’s forgiveness and love. We step out of the darkness and into the light where we can be seen and have renewed relationship and freedom (1 Corinthians 4:5).
One of the hardest things about being a Christian is taking up our cross, daily. Yes, we carry a cross. Sometimes our cross is our repentance. My first real conviction to change something I do regularly was drinking alcohol. Again, it was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that the reasons I chose to drink were not healthy for me. It was true. I used alcohol as a coping mechanism. One reason was to deal with my social anxiety. Alcohol released my inhibitions to be more outgoing and “fun” (does that sound like insecurity?). The other reason I used alcohol was to manage stress. Because I didn’t know how to calm my emotions, I used alcohol to subdue myself into handling stressful situations. Now, that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. It could produce an angry person or a happy person, I never really knew who would come out when I drank. Sometimes when you get a conviction and start changing the direction you are headed, people started noticing. All of the sudden, I was no fun. The old me would have taken a drink against my will and gotten drunk to be more fun. The new me had the strength to carry that cross and say no. I can’t say I did it with joy. I just left the situation or didn’t accept invitations to socialize with alcohol. Over time, though, I was able to accept invitations and enjoy myself without drinking. Then, one day, I asked the Holy Spirit if I could drink with my husband and got a yes. Yes, I can have alcohol with my husband. That has evolved into a yes I can have alcohol. I rarely want to drink. So, really it isn’t even an issue anymore. I have a new cross to carry. We can talk about that one later.
Repentance is something we are going to have to do over our lifetime. It isn’t a bad thing, God is just asking you to go another way, to choose His way. Sometimes God is asking us to give up something we love because we love it more than we love Him. Those are the times where we come head to head with Jesus, we might be angry but Jesus just looks us in the eyes with love and compassion and helps us see there is a new way to live. We can live without that thing that we thought we needed and loved more than Him, as long as our eyes are fixed on Jesus. Over time, living without that sin becomes easy and we can return to something that we like without it over powering us. So, friends, repent! Rejoice that you hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that you can fix your eyes on Jesus, and that the love of Father God is an all consuming, refining fire that strengthens you to live this life called Christianity. (See Hebrews 12:25-29)