‘How do I get ready for the power of God to break into my life and give me the victory? I repent.’ (i)
There is a theme of Scripture which affirms that the people of Israel have turned away from God. He repeatedly calls on them to return to Him.
7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:7)
A tendency to turn away from God, go our own way, do our own thing at the expense of our relationship with God is, it seems, part of the human condition.
The word ‘repentance’ means ‘turning’, or ‘returning’. But the act of repentance is more than simply turning away from, or back to something.
In Mark 1:15 Jesus says ‘Repent, and believe the good news.’ The word, translated here as ‘repent’, is from the Greek root ‘metanoia’ (Μετανοεῖτε). To the sense of ‘turning’, this Greek word brings both ‘change of mind and attitude’ and ‘regret’.
We still need to go one step further. ‘We are very apt to confuse two things – sorrow for the consequence of sin and sorrow for sin.’(ii) A child, caught with their hand in the biscuit tin might have a change of mind in the face of imminent chastisement. They may even express regret. However, in turning from their failed attempt at illicit appropriation of a biscuit they may retain the desire to return, devising a way to avoid detection. Their greatest regret may actually be that they have been caught in the act. They turn from their actions, they regret their actions, but they do not necessarily repent.
For the Christian, repentance is not something which can wait until we are caught out. It is the recognition of every sin: large, small, seen and unseen, and it is the nurturing of a true desire and commitment to be rid of it.
As I am writing this I am recovering from covid. My health is improving, but I want rid of the bug completely. Until it is utterly gone, I am still, to a degree, suffering from covid. Repentance cannot be complete until the desire to sin has been recognised and dealt with before God.
One thing more. We need to remember that for a Christian, repentance alone is not enough. We are to repent and believe.
‘Jesus preached that people should repent (change their minds) and believe. Repentance alone is not enough to save us, even though God expects believers to turn from their sins. We must also put positive faith in Jesus Christ and believe His promise of salvation.’ (iii)
Our return to God is characterised by a change of mind, regret at our weakness, and a commitment to absolutely separate ourselves from both the sin and from the desire to sin. That separation should be ‘as far as is the east from the west’. When our repentance is heartfelt, His forgiveness is absolute.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103: 11-12)
Repent,’ says Jesus, ‘and believe the good news.’
(i) Pawson, A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, , p27
(ii) Wm Barclay, New Daily Study Bible, the Gospel of Mark, (Mark 1:14-15) (loc843)
(iii) Wiersbe, ‘Be Diligent’, p20