I’ve recently challenged people to learn the meaning of Christian repentance. I might as well describe it a bit, right?
This is important because repentance is good for you, whoever you are, because it goes alongside an important leadership quality, self-reflection. But it’s also important because you can’t be a Christian without practising Christian repentance. It’s a non-negotiable for us.
1. A U-Turn
We pick up this metaphor from Acts 26:20 where Paul summarizes his teaching. He says that people should “repent and turn to God”. Christian Repentance is a U-Turn towards God. The Bible is clear that you’re either for God, totally devoted to him, or you are against God. There’s no middle ground. Here’s the important thing – you should constantly be ensuring you are not off-course. But in Christianity there’s only forwards and backwards. Either your actions are for him or against him; towards Jesus or away from him.
This doesn’t mean you suddenly arrive at your destination as soon as your 180 degree turn happens. You don’t suddenly become perfect. But you make a U-Turn. Away from wrong. Towards Jesus.
2. A Tree
This was a common metaphor that Jesus used. For Jesus, the outcome of repentance is bearing good fruit (see Matthew 3:8, & Luke 3:8). Just like a tree, there needs to be internal nourishment to lead to an external good. In Christian repentance, change needs to happen from the inside out. It’s not about behaviour modification. You don’t cut off a maple branch and expect apples to grow. You plant a seed that will one day bear fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23a ESV)
3. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Death. Then new life. Put sin to death. Live a new life. This is at the core of Christianity. This is the gospel. However, this isn’t just a metaphor but the power behind all Christian repentance. The Bible often talks about the power of the gospel. It’s powerful because all your sin/wrong/shame/failure gets transferred onto Jesus when you make that U-Turn decision towards him. But here’s the really important thing:
You can make the turn towards Jesus, and you can try to get down to the root of your sin issues, but if you aren’t centred in the gospel your efforts will be fruitless.
In the gospel we are not loved because we failed but loved despite our failures.
In the gospel we are not shameless because we don’t sin be we are shameless because Jesus put shame to death on the cross.
In the gospel we do not try hard because we have to but rather God’s Spirit breathes life into us.
In the gospel, we are continually reminded of the love of Jesus and that leads us to love others. We love because we have been loved. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We have life because Jesus put life in us. And we continue Christian repentance regularly because we want to keep turning towards Jesus, remove the weeds from our hearts, and live for the one who lived and died for us.
That’s Christian repentance.
// Quick note about comments. I’ve taken down the comments on this blog. I find conversations happen better through fb, email, face-to-face, or even twitter. On most websites, comments aren’t very helpful or edifying. So I’ve removed them. //