Here’s another three-syllable word for us to explore.
John the Baptist and Jesus both preached a message of repentance. Both went to the highways and byways proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17). Jesus also said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32) and “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
They obviously didn’t attend the latest church-growth seminar... Shouting “turn or burn!” will not pack the pews!
Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was also a call to repentance. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins...” (Acts 2:38) and Paul preached at Athens saying, God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
So, I get it ... repentance is important! But what is it?
Look at the Greek word metanoeō, translated repentance. It’s a compound word derived from meta, meaning after, and nous, meaning mind. Thus, metanoeō means a change of mind.
A quick look at a related Greek word will be helpful. The word, metamorphoō, is translated into our English word metamorphosis and used to describes the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2). Like a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly, Jesus was fundamentally transfigured!
Repentance, therefore, is not a minor change! It is a radical reorientation, a complete redirection, a transformation, a full 180-degree U-turn. Repentance occurs when a sinner turns away from self-centeredness, self-service, and self-satisfaction, turning in faith toward Jesus, the only hope of life and forgiveness.
The concepts of repentance and salvation are intimately interwoven, inseparable, indivisible! One can’t turn to something without turning from something! You simple can’t have salvation without repentance!
While most calls to repentance are directed at the lost, the church is also called to repent. Paul called the Corinthian church to repent (II Corinthians 7:8-13) and Jesus called the church at Ephesus to repent (Revelation 2:1-5).
I’ve been thinking about the recipe for revival found in II Chronicles 7:14. God says, “If My people... will humble themselves, pray, seek, and turn... then I’ll send revival!” God demands that we turn. He calls upon us to have a radical reorientation, a complete redirection, a transformation, a full 180-degree U-turn! He calls us to repentance!
One last observation... Jesus didn’t say there is joy in heaven when a Christian reads his Bible, when a church sends a missionary, or when child quote a memory verse! Jesus said, “There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents!” (Luke 15:7).