“testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.* Acts 20:21
The Bible talks a lot about repentance and it is therefore important to understand what repentance means. What it is and what it is not.
Repentance is not an act, but a change of mind. Repentance in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ‘metanoia’, which means a change of mind. If we present repentance as a deed, something we must do, then we are back to the doctrine of deeds, as under the law. If we say that someone must stop getting drunk, stop watching porn, stop lying and swearing and stop talking bad about others in order to earn salvation, then we do not have much to offer.
In ourselves without Jesus, we can not completely break with sin. And, in ourselves without Jesus, there is a will in us to live in sin. We are sinners in need of grace.
The Bible speaks both of turning away from sin and self-righteousness (dead works), but also of turning to God. And this is about an attitude. And, when you put your heart’s faith and trust in Jesus, something happens. Then you are reconciled to God and Jesus comes through the Holy Spirit into your heart. It will then result in deeds, right and good deeds because Jesus helps.
This is so fundamentally important to have in mind when presenting the gospel, because otherwise people say that this with Jesus is not for them. If we make them believe that they must behave and become perfect before they come to Jesus, then it is not the gospel they hear. Because if we could become perfect in our own strength, Jesus would not have had to die and rise for us. The gospel is definitely not about human willpower.
The message is – come just as you are to Jesus. That is repentance and faith. Then Jesus will transform the heart, you will be forgiven and you will have the will and ability to walk with God. Jesus will help you stop getting drunk and watching porn and stop lying, swearing and talking badly about others or whatever it may be for bad habits or addictions. He will give you other interests, which will be a joy for both you and your surroundings.
Thus, be sure not to present repentance as an act, but instead as an attitude. An attitude of wanting to receive grace and help from Jesus. Grace is undeserved and you get it by putting your trust in Jesus. Man’s own efforts to please God are not enough at all. Trust that Jesus is powerful to save, forgive, deliver, and help. That’s actually what He’s so professional at doing.
All by grace, by believing.
God bless you.
/ David Billström