What Is Repentance?

Many a time and oft, it is not a thing of surprise to hear preachers yell at their congregation “Repent lest you burn! Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Their idea of repentance entails crying, beating your chest and ripping your clothes apart, crying out loud “Lord, we have fallen short!”, making restitutions and resolutions and doing penance for your sins. They have taken a legalistic approach to something that was meant to be so beautiful.


The word “repentance” in the Greek is the word “metanoeó” which according to Strong’s Greek Concordance means “to change your mind” (metá— change  and noiéō—think/mind) That’s all it means! The Biblical idea of repentance is dropping your thoughts & ideas about God and His things and replacing them with the thoughts of the Word.


Therefore, this means that even if the word “repent” is not used always when addressing believers, repentance is still going on even as God’s Word is preached— people are changing their minds about God.


So what exactly brings about true repentance?


Romans 2:4 tells us that “it is the GOODNESS of God that leads to repentance.” You don’t have to scare the people of God unto repentance, just preach God’s goodness & watch the Holy Spirit work!  Repentance produced out of fear is false & will never last. When you tell God’s people that they will be damned if they don’t quit sinning, obviously they will stop for a while out of the fear and terror of God but they are doomed to go back to their old lives because nothing birthed out of fear will thrive. Only the goodness of God will produce a true & lasting repentance, and it begins with an inward heart transformation.


In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables that really bring home the point about Biblical repentance. Repentance doesn’t necessarily have to be FROM sin, repentance could also mean changing your traditional religious ideas about God — to stop seeing Him as a frowning God and start seeing Him as a smiling God!


The first parable: Jesus told this parable when He was condemned by the”religious mafia” of His day— the Pharisees & teachers of the law— for associating with sinners.


A shepherd has a hundred sheep and one gets missing. This shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes after that one sheep! When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, goes home & throws a party just for one sheep! Jesus was trying to communicate a heavenly truth that religious minds cannot grasp.


He is the Good Shepherd who would leave ninety-nine sheep just to find one missing! It was not His fault that that one sheep got missing but He will go after it anyways! What a Saviour! When He finds the sheep, He doesn’t yell at the sheep in anger, definitely not! Instead, He JOYFULLY puts the sheep on His shoulders and goes home to throw a party for a lost sheep! This is by no means logical! But that is what Christ would do for you! Now, Jesus says that this is what happens when a sinner repents.


Question, how did the sheep repent? The Shepherd lost the sheep, the Shepherd looked for the lost sheep, the Shepherd found the lost sheep, the Shepherd rejoiced and carried it home & the Shepherd threw a party for the sheep! This appears a bit one-sided. The Shepherd did ALL the work so how did the sheep repent? Simple, it allowed itself to be rescued, to be carried and to be celebrated! Repentance is nothing more than consent to be saved! When God stretches out His arm of Grace towards you and you let go of pride & let yourself to be rescued, the Bible calls that repentance!


The second parable: A woman had ten silver coins. She loses JUST ONE and she goes into a frenzy just to find this one coin! She flips over the chairs, opens all the drawers, sweeps the house carefully until she finally finds this lost coin. When she does, she calls her friends and throws an “illogical” party over just one coin! Jesus once again refers to this as repentance. How did the coin repent? I mean it is just a coin! Did it do penance or make resolutions? Definitely not! Repentance is simply yielding to the worth that God has placed on you & giving your consent to be found!


The third parable: This Parable is more well-known of all the three. It is commonly referred to as “The Parable of The Prodigal Son”. A man had two sons and one day, the younger son asked his father for his own share of his wealth (inheritance). This was the ultimate form of cruelty from a son to his father in the Jewish setting. He was literally saying “Dad, you have lived way too long and I can’t wait for you to die therefore give me my share of your wealth now!”


The father, probably grieved, did as his son asked and shared his wealth among his two sons. The younger son liquidated his assets and went off to a distant land where he wasted his wealth on wild & riotous living. After he exhausted his wealth, a severe famine came on the land & he had to tend pigs just to survive— he was so hungry that the pig’s food seemed delicious and one one gave him anything.


Then the younger son came to his senses,  he remembered how even the hired servants in his father’s house had enough food even to spare therefore he made a rehearsed speech and went back home to his father to become a hired servant. While he was still a great way off, his father saw him, ran towards him, fell on his neck and kissed him, probably smelling of pig and sweat. His father did not mind. His father had him cleaned up, put the best robe on him, put the signet ring (a sign of authority) on his finger and shoes on his feet. The fattened calf was killed and once again, an “illogical” party is thrown for the son!


Again, how did the son repent? We know that the only reason why he came back home was because he was hungry! He thought of how his father’s hired servants had more than enough to eat and therefore, he made up a pretensious rehearsed speech to try to convince his father to make him a hired servant! But his father, seeing him at a great distance, and not even caring what his reasons and intentions were for coming back home, ran towards him and showered him with love & unmerited favor! Jesus is so good that even if you take a step towards him with all the wrong reasons, He will run towards you!


At the end, the son could not even recite his rehearsed speech and remained speechless just enjoying the Father’s love! Repentance is responding to the Father’s love, taking a step toward Him & allowing Him to lavish you with His goodness!


Religion has taught us that repentance is sad & mournful but actually it is a very beautiful experience that happens every time you catch a fresh revelation of God’s love for you. The genuine change of mind can only happen when you know that God is for you and not against you— this is the Biblical meaning of repentance. God bless you!


© Josh Banks Ministries. December 27, 2015.


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