Here's a sermon/talk/devotion/whatever from last night. The Hebrew and Greek word studies were from Studylight.org, which I linked to from Biblegateway.com. Very cool!
Matthew 4: 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”
Some thoughts on repentance…
Repent is not really a fun word. It sounds really old, and it kind of makes me feel guilty just thinking about it. You may be imagining some preacher on the street screaming it at the top of his lungs. Let’s look at the definition:
repent - [ri-pent]
–verb (used without object)
1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. He repented after his thoughtless act.
2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better; be penitent.
3. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one's injustice to another.
4. to feel sorry for; regret: to repent an imprudent act.
Now, these definitions are from a modern English bible. Translated closely, when we see “repent” in our Old Testament it means more closely “to turn away from”. In the Greek form where Jesus says this in Matthew, the Greek word means “to change one's mind, i.e. to repent to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins.”
At this point I’d like to digress for a moment. How many of you guys have had a close friend or even a girl/boyfriend do something to make you mad or hurt your feelings? Have you ever gotten what I like to call a “halfway” apology? It all centers around one or two words. Check it out, note the difference:
“I’m sorry that I hurt you” vs. “I’m sorry if I hurt you”
The first acknowledges that your actions have hurt the other person directly; the second is really more a mere admission that the other person may have been hurt indirectly as an unintended result of your actions. See the difference? I’m sorry THAT I hurt you is an apology, I’m sorry IF I hurt you is not. We see this all the time with really bad celebrity statements. I actually run into this a lot with my soon to be wife Sarah- I give her the halfway stuff. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” is MUCH different from “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings”. Because regardless of intent, damage had been done.
Much in the same sense, repentance isn’t just about admission of guilt or wrongdoing, although that’s a big step one, repentance is about change. So often I find myself giving God a halfway apology. The Biblical understanding of sin and repentance should lead us to realize that repentance isn’t just a one shot deal, but rather a continual process. If you punch your sister and say you’re sorry, it doesn’t really matter to much the next time you punch her and say you’re sorry right? To feel sorry, to realize something as wrong, to regret an action or thought is meaningless, unless it then takes root and leads to change. 1 John 3: 4-6
See, at New Years we see all the headlines about resolutions and think “ok, this is it! I can do it”. Then two weeks later we’re right back where we started. This is tempting because as people we love quick results! But often if we expect to be drastically different people inside and out overnight, we’re going to end up very discouraged. I’ve brought an example to show you how the process of repentance works. My car has a hideous reputation for always being trashed. It has earned this reputation because it’s true! Here is all the trash that was in my car as it sat in the parking lot.
Now, has the ‘Bu ever been clean? Sure! Once while we were in Mexico Susan McIntyre cleaned the whole thing! Just a couple months ago I paid my sister to clean it up. But the catch is, even though my car had changed my habits had not. In order for my car to stay clean, I must become disciplined enough to take the Dr. Pepper bottles out when I get done drinking them! If I really cared about my car being gross, I would change my habits instead of letting the crap pile up and then getting my sister to clean it up.
So as we enter into 2008 we need to not give in to the tempting thought that we can change overnight. However we also need to know that if we’re not really seeking to change, we aren’t truly repenting. And so while you can’t change in 24 hours, maybe you can find small change in a week. Maybe a little more in a month. Maybe a little more in a year…you get the idea. We can’t just mentally acknowledge that we should be sorry and then keep on sinning. We can’t just become apathetic and comfortable because “at least we’re not doing __________”. No, our new years resolution will not be a glamorous renouncing of our old ways with a sudden dramatic transformation; but rather the Christian will repent and thus begin the painful, almost boring work of changing our habits of what we do, what we think, and even what helps us evaluate the choices we make. And then? You wake up and do it all again tomorrow! 1 John 1: 8-9
Psalm 103: 12