Repent doesn’t mean to “be sorry” or ashamed or regretful that we got caught. It does involve sorry. It should entail profound and behavior altering regret. Repentance means “a change of thought/action, to correct a wrong and achieve reconciliation.” It assumes the violation of some value, standard, the breaking of some law, and the desire to minimize the consequences – and not just for self.
Repentance acknowledges that something – something God regards as offensive – has created distance in the relationship with him, and the only way to heal the separation is to acknowledge the wrong.
In Hebrew, repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow). A reorientation is in view, one with pathos, emotion and feeling. And that is an indication of something living – alive inside of me!
In the NT, the Greek word μετάνοια (meta-noia) means “after/behind one’s mind”. ‘Noeo’ means to perceive or think. ‘Meta’ means after or with. Thus, “to think differently after or afterwards.” That cognitive moment, that mental awareness, that sudden sense of a new moral framework within which one must live moves us to think and act differently. That is the gateway to change. Repentance involves both time and change. Time – there is a specific moment. Sometimes a season. Change comes with an epiphany: “I can’t live like this anymore!” There is more than a fresh resolve. A divine inner push moves us to reach out to God for the power to live differently. And with that repentance becomes the doorway to change!
Metanoia (Greek) is after-thinking which is different than former-thinking. It is a change of mind, accompanied by some level of grief or regret, and followed by a change of direction, thus, a “change of mind and heart.” A “change of consciousness”.
The Prodigal son, came to himself, and said , “I will return … And I will say … Father, I have sinned, make me a hired hand …” (Luke 15). America, and Christians in the nation, need a moment in which they are shocked by the moral environment they now see as acceptable, even normal.
Christians should be godly. They should not be charged for criminal acts. They should not be committing adultery or robbing banks. But having made a lists of sins – major and minor – and having stayed clear of ‘major’ sins, most Christians think of themselves as a godly decent people – and then rationalize away the need to be in pursuit of holiness. “I am not a saint. I am just an average Christian.” Vance Havner often said that “the average Christian is so sub-normal, that when we meet one that is normal, we quickly conclude that they are abnormal.”
It is not normally the big “sins” that destroy our joy, that rob us of our peace, that mar our testimony and make us like the world around us. On 131 different measurements including values, attitudes and behaviors, George Barna, the researcher, has discovered that there is no difference between believers and unbelievers.
- Those who call themselves Christians are no more likely to give assistance to a homeless person on the street than non-Christians.
- Those who call themselves Christians are no more likely than non-Christians to correct the mistake when a cashier gives them too much change.
- A Christian is just as likely to have an elective abortion as a non-Christian.
- Christians divorce at the same rate as those who consider themselves non-Christians.
- Even though there are more big churches than ever before filled with people who proudly wear the title Christian, 50 percent of Christian churches didn’t help one single person find salvation.
This is an excerpt from the Praying Church Handbook, Volume II, which can be ordered at alivepublications.org.