June 15, 2016



When a surprised looking cartoon character hears something new and startling, he says, "Whoa, I need to change my mind. This is really good news!" Interestingly, what he says gets at the root meaning of the Biblical term, REPENTANCE! 

Essentially the Greek word metanoia means 'a change of mind.' Repentance should not be confused with 'conversion.' This latter term means 'a change of direction or disposition.' This too happens when a sinner is saved, but is preceded by 'a change of mind' which is wrought by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit enlightens a darkened mind, a person then understands the Gospel, experiences a change of mind concerning it, thinks differently, and now is free to truly know the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and, believing in Him, is saved. Whereas once he rejected the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, even scoffed at it, now, like a light bulb going on, he sees and grasps the true meaning of the story of Jesus. 

Repentance is indispensable to salvation. It is part and parcel of faith. If faith is one side of a coin, repentance is the other. Both sides make the coin. Even so, repentance and faith make for saving faith. A person understanding the Gospel is freed from misconceptions concerning it and can now, by the Holy Spirit, believe it. This 'change of mind' is the work of God and part of His matchless grace which saves sinners. Often God works by means of goodness to produce repentance. Paul so stated this in Romans 2:4 when he said, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" 

On the other hand, in a time of great persecution, Peter talked about God who "raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a  Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31,32). So, by whatever means, His goodness or His finger-pointing at our responsibility of sending Jesus to the cross, it is God who grants repentance. It is His effectual mind-changing power to make us sinners think differently. 

He did this dramatically when the ranting unbelieving Saul was on the road to Damascus. Saul (the Apostle Paul) purposed to carry out his mission of destroying Christianity. God suddenly stopped him cold, identified Himself to Saul, and miraculously gave him the gift of repentance and faith toward Jesus Christ. Saul was most learned in the Scriptures but had refused to acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Christ. He thoroughly knew the detailed Old Testament Scriptures that pointed to a coming Messiah. In his natural mind, brilliant though he was, he could not put the Jesus of Nazareth together with the promised Messiah. He refused to think that the earthly Jesus of his time fulfilled all those unique Old Testament predictions. Such a One was coming, but would He come from Nazareth? He did not have the discernment, or scope of understanding, to conclude that living Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of the Living God! But God gave such insight to him! And when He did, Saul was able to immediately preached the Gospel (Acts 9:1-20). When he saw the truth he simply turned rejection into acceptance. All the concepts he knew about the coming Messiah, and which he had refused to apply to a contemporary person, he did! He went from enemy to Christianity's most noted proponent. Notice he did this 'at once.' And, he immediately proclaimed the good news that Jesus saves!

Ponder Paul's own testimony concerning all this when he wrote to the Galatians and said: "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with  flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except  James, the Lord’s brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, 'He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.' And they were glorifying God because of me" (Galatians 1:11-24).

Why this detailed testimony?

Because repentance, a change of mind, immediately turned his thinking around. From rejection Paul now believed. From seethingly hating Christians, he willingly joined them and became the great proponent of the faith, the Apostle Paul. He then was used of God to write so many of the New Testament epistles. As the Church's first and greatest theologian he purported the essentials of Christian doctrine. The Holy Spirit who gave him the ability to understand the Gospel proceeded and enabled him, by inspiration, to write so much of Holy Scripture. Everything he knew he at once positively and willingly applied to the One from Nazareth, who had died and rose again for the salvation of sinners. Later, when standing trial for his faith, he boldly said to King Agrippa, “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (Acts 26:19-20). 

M. Unger says this, "Repentance, it is thus seen, is the gift of God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; Romans 2:4). It is so because God has given His word with its revelations concerning sin and salvation; also the Holy Spirit to impress the truth and awaken the consciences of men and lead them to repentanceBut, as with faith so with repentance--it is left to men to make for themselves the great decision." 

This is New Testament truth and believers in Jesus Christ are under orders to preach repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge  the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Being saved is more than lightly agreeing with the concept that Jesus paid for my sins and so I'll believe and be saved and safe. To be genuine it Biblically entails a revamp of how I think, not  just about His saviorhood, but also about who He is, that He is Creator God, Lord of life, coming King, Messiah and therefore, right now, as I believe in Him, I submit to Him as Lord of all life, and Lord of MY life. He is MY King, my Lord and the One for Whom I will now live. The ongoing Christian life is a perfecting of all this! And so, from this moment on I will ponder the Bible, learn His mind and daily let Him alter my mind to think His way and live for His glory!

- dick d christen