Vital factors in heart-felt repentance

  1. A change of mind …

Our word repent basically means re-think as does its French equivalent, repenser (re = again + penser = to think, as in pensive). The New Testament Greek verb metanoeo has a similar meaning (meta = after + noeo = perceive) – second thoughts, a change of mind.

  1. A sigh of regret

However, godly repentance is never merely a mental exercise. The Old Testament Hebrew nacham indicates a sigh. It is used in contexts that imply that the sigh is due to pity for others (including God) affected by one’s actions, because their expectations (and mine) had not been fulfilled. But when God’s prophets called his people to repent they aimed to provoke appropriate deeds and vocal confession in addition to emotions and thoughts. In 2 Corinthians Paul described their repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) as a rainbow of emotions: ‘[T]his godly sorrow produced in you … such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm [or reverence], such longing [to please God] …, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer’ (2 Corinthians 7:11, New Living Translation) – thus bringing closure to the immoral situation they had previously tolerated (1 Corinthians 5:1-3).

  1. A turn-around return to the Lord

Jeremiah spelled out repentance in one short paragraph, Jeremiah 4:1-4. A favourite verb of his, and of other prophets’, is showb, meaning ‘turn’ or ‘return’. ‘If you return, … to me you should return (1a) ‘…and … not waver’ (1c, Hebrew nod = wander; Genesis 4:12,14,16).

Like the church in Ephesus centuries later, who ‘abandoned the love you had at first’ (Revelation 2:4), Jeremiah’s fellow-Jews no longer loved the Lord with their earliest honeymoon affection – ‘the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride’ (Revelation 2:2).  Like the Ephesians they needed to repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 2:5). In fact, the Jews were removed, along with their temple’s actual lampstand, to Babylon.

  1. The removal of all that offends God

‘…remove your detestable things from my presence’ (Revelation 4:1b) – such as images of Baal, the god of fertility by rain from his alleged storm clouds (see Revelation 2:23; Revelation 6:15; 7:30; 32:34-35). The alternative is the unquenchable fire of  ‘my wrath’ on ‘the evil of your deeds’ (Revelation 4:4b). Using a farming metaphor, he went on to exhort Judah: ‘Break up your fallow ground’ with a plough; ‘and sow not among thorns’ (Revelation 4:3; Matthew 13:7). Jeremiah demanded:

  1.    A sworn confession of faith

‘[S]wear, “As the Lord lives,” in truth [= loyalty, as in the old marriage vow, ‘I plight thee my troth’], in justice [= equality] and righteousness [= integrity]’ (Revelation 4:2a).

  1. Earnest determination

He urged resolve (‘do not waver’, Revelation 4:1c) in their renewed dedication to God: ‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord’ in ‘your hearts’ (Revelation 4:4, not just be surgery in their bodies). In the new covenant, circumcision was replaced by baptism into Christ, ‘as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 3:21).

  1. Fruitful results

As a result of the testimony of such a lifestyle, outsiders will come to the Lord and ‘shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory’ (Revelation 4:2b).

* In preparation for such a harvest, let’s check how we’re progressing on points 1- 6.

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