From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
Repent – When Martin Luther nailed his document to the door of the cathedral, he started a movement that led to the Reformation – a protest against the religious thinking and practice of that time, more than 500 years ago. That protest began with this statement, the first of ninety-five: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” We need to give this some serious thought, especially in an age when forgiveness is portrayed as a single, easy step. Luther would turn over in his grave to see what we have done with repentance. He was incensed with the idea that forgiveness could be purchased ahead-of-time through an offering to the church. We no longer buy our forgiveness with cash. Now we buy it with theological pronouncements.
“Repent” comes from the Greek word, metanoia, a word that means, “to change one’s mind.” But Jesus is not interested in just a new way of thinking. The word literally means, “to reverse your direction, to do an about-face.” It carries the idea of stopping, turning around, and going another way. There is a lot more than thought involved here. This is about change in attitude and action. You have not repented until you stop doing what you were doing and start doing what God wants you to do. Luther understood something we need to take to heart. Repentance never ends! Every day of your life you will discover something that needs a change in direction. You will need to stop and go another way. Every day that you live in God’s will, you will find that there is more to change. Repentance is a way of life, not a one-time event.
Today we don’t sell indulgences. You can’t buy forgiveness with the purchase of a document from the church. But we practice cashless indulgences every time we preach the forgiveness of future sins, as though my one-time conversion makes it unnecessary for me to seek repentance any longer. I will never outgrow my need for repentance until the day I am just like Jesus. God may remove the stain of guilt from my life, but that does not mean I no longer concern myself with confession and repentance. My goal is not to get to heaven. It is to be like Jesus. And anything that comes between me and Him needs to be a matter of repentance.
In a world where sin has no teeth, repentance is kept in the closet. No more! Sin is a hideous strength determined to destroy you. Repentance is the only antidote. Use it liberally. You’ll need it.