“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” ~Matthew 4:17
The word repent, as used in the bible, is a translation of the original Greek word “metamelomai”. It means to “change one’s mind or attitude about”. It’s important that we confess our sins, but it’s equally important that we change our minds so that we don’t repeat our mistakes. When we initially hear the word repent, we may view it as punitive. The idea of repentance may feel uncomfortable because we don’t want to think about the mistakes we’ve made. However, God’s purpose for repentance is not to torture us or leave us wringing our hands over every mistake. That kind of thinking draws us away from God. Repentance is purposed to draw us closer to God, made possible by the blood of Christ which covers all our sins. So, similar to forgiveness, repentance is God’s loving invitation to freedom.
Discussions about repentance can be difficult to navigate; especially when we do not understand God’s character. God’s command that we repent is rooted in His deep love, mercy and compassion for us. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:13) Think about it this way. Whether we repent or not, God will always be God. Nothing we do or don’t do changes who God is and will forever be. So, repentance is for us. Everything God encourages or commands us to do in His Word is for our good. He doesn’t sit in Heaven standing by to punish us. He desires our repentance because He loves us so much and He doesn’t want our sins to stand between us and Him. “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” (Acts 3:19)
God sent Jesus so we never have to be defeated by our sins. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we don’t have to feel guilty about our mistakes or be afraid to go to God and confess our wrong doing. Remember, He’s God. He already knows what happened. God wants us to confess our sins to Him so we may relieve ourselves of the burden that sin carries and also remain connected to Him. Repentance liberates us, paving the way for us to return to God and experience the freedom inherent in His great love and compassion for us. “…For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.” (2 Chronicles 30:9)
When we make mistakes (and we will), we can rest assured that God is eagerly waiting to receive our repentant hearts. Like any loving Father, He’ll pick us up, dust us off, and remind us that we are forgiven, which is why it’s so important that we don’t withhold forgiveness from someone else. And once we repent and God forgives us, guess what? He doesn’t remember them any more. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12). This is the love and mercy of a Father who loves us more than we will ever know this side of heaven. So, when we think of repentance, instead of focusing on feelings of guilt, shame or fear, may we instead see God’s great love for us and draw even closer to the One who first loved us.
Prayer: Father, you are glorious and worthy to be praised. Thank you for the gift of Jesus, which allows me to come boldly to your throne when I have sinned and fallen short of your glory. Because of the blood of Christ, you only see my righteousness, not the mistakes I’ve made. Help me to understand that confession and repentance are for my good. You’ve given me these gifts so that nothing in this world can separate me from you. That’s how much you love me. I’m so grateful for your love, which can only be experienced, not understood, for it is far too great. I love you so much. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray. Amen