Repentance is a necessary part of the Christian life. You cannot be a Christian without it. It is not only the doorknob to the wicket gate, but the navigational steps along the narrow way. The command is so important for us that John the Baptist and Jesus both begin their ministries preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). Likewise, throughout the book of Acts, the apostles continue the pattern by instructing their hearers to repent.
The word repentance used throughout the New Testament comes from the Greek word metanoia. This is a compound word. It consists of meta, a preposition meaning, “after,” designating change, along with noia, which means “mind.” It encompasses a change of mind that results in a change of action.
When someone hears the Word of God and is quickened to repent, the change begins in the mind and is carried out in lifestyle. Hence when a sinner repents, there should be a radical and noticeable change. The response is forsaking the sin once loved and embracing the God with which one was once an enemy. After all, a dead heart has been regenerated. The old has gone the new has come.
We must also be mindful that repentance is not just a one-time experience. As Jesus speaks to the seven churches in the book of Revelation He is continually calling His Church to repent. Though they have repented once upon salvation they are charged to be continually repenting of their sins.
As we move through 2017, we remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The person remembered as the main catalyst for the event was Martin Luther. In the first of his 95 Theses, he states, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, `Repent' (Mt 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Luther was expressing that Jesus’ words were present and active. Believers are to be continually and actively repenting.
How do we do this?
First, we must know God’s Word. Faith (which includes repentance) comes through hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It is a gracious gift (Acts 11:18, Phil. 1:29, Eph. 2:8). By the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s law becomes like a mirror that exposes our need for repentance and leads us to Christ.
Second, we must confess. True confession is homologeo, “to say the same thing.” When we know God’s Word, we will know what He calls sin. We will then be able to call out the sins God has revealed to us in our lives. We should be mindful that this is not Mom catching us in our sin, but the omniscient God. He not only sees what we have done but knows our heart behind the action.
Third, we turn from those sins. The Spirit produces within us a godly sorrow over our sins. We forsake the sin we have loved for a greater love with the Lord Jesus.
Fourth, we trust in the promises of God to forgive us. He is faithful and just. Our sins are accounted for in Jesus death and His righteousness is accounted to us.
Fifth and finally, we repeat. We are charged to continually repent. This is to be the continual pattern of our lives. We will not be perfect until we are glorified and made like Jesus upon His return. Until then, we examine ourselves by God’s Word, confess our sins, turn from those sins, trust in God's promises toward us, and repeat.
Ben Lane is husband to Sarah and dad to Eva and Abi. He has been in Christian ministry for over 15 years. For the last 5 years he has replanted and served as Lead Pastor of Coram Deo Baptist Church in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. He is originally from Memphis, TN and unofficially a BBQ connoisseur and self-proclaimed coffee snob. He also loves to travel.