I have been thinking about a word that has become blurred and perhaps has even receded from modern Christian culture. When something disappears, other lesser forms of it can take its place.
The word is Repentance. This word is significant because without it, there is no Christian life. Without it, there can be no radical shift between the old life and the new.
We all know that words evolve through history. An example would be the word nice. Nice used to be an insult and meant foolish or stupid in the 13th century. Silly meant blessed or happy in the 11th century. Pretty used to mean crafty and today means good-looking.
Although words change, certain words should never change, because in doing so, they lose their power.
Most modern dictionary definitions all define repentance as feeling remorse regret, and sorrow. These are emotional reasons that have little to do with the original meaning of Repent which deals with choices. Emotions don’t count for anything without choices.
We use words like Accept Jesus which are by no means a crime as many have earnestly come to Christ in this manner. But in using these lesser forms of a radical word, have we nurtured a mindset of consumerism that views Christ as a salesman trying to talk people into going to heaven?
When John the Baptist uttered the words, “Repent and believe the kingdom”, he didn’t mean be regretful or remorseful, and believe the kingdom. That wouldn’t make sense. But he meant change the way you think so you can see the kingdom. It’s more than just feeling bad, you must see a whole new reality . . . And in doing so, you will change.
Repent in John’s story means to change your mindset. Brainy Quote beautifully defined it this way: To change the mind, or the course of conduct, on account of regret or dissatisfaction.
Other cultures have a better grasp of this word than American culture.
I thought about two cultures I have been exposed to, and how they come at this word repentance. The Ukrainians ask you, “When did you repent?” (not when you said a prayer, but when you changed). In the Hispanics culture, when someone comes to Christ, it is said, “He surrendered”. We need to return to this kind of radical expression.
The most powerful times in my life have always been when my mindset was changed from one thing to another - When God’s revelation turned the lights on, and in a moment of clarity, everything was transfigured. During those seasons, I was never worried about whether or not any acceptable words were used to help me change, I was worried about changing.