“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Central to the Christian thinking process is repentance. The Greek term is metanoia, which is a word that literally means “changed thinking.” The biblical meaning is to change the way you think and change the way you behave. Repentance is not merely behavior change. But because true repentance involves a change of heart and purpose, it inevitably results in a change of behavior.
The message is clear: transformation happens from the inside out. The Lord calls us to change our way of living by first changing our thinking. This means acting with faith in response to God by doing three things:
- Recognize and confess you are apart from God because of sin.
- Recognize that Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice for sin.
- Receive Jesus as savior and king, and turn away from our sin.
Repentance is not something you do only at the time of salvation; it should be an ongoing mental discipline for every Christian. Pay attention to your thought patterns and behavior patterns. If your thinking or action drift off-path, repent. Trust God and turn away from wrong thoughts. Turn away from wrong behavior.
God calls us to repentance and offers us salvation as a gift of grace. Grace is the Greek word charis, and it means unmerited favor. Grace is God’s love and kindness toward those who are undeserving of his favor. Grace means that God does not give us what we deserve and instead gives us gifts and blessings that we don’t deserve.
Keep in mind that grace is free, but at the same time very costly. It is free to us in the sense that we cannot earn it, but costly to God because of the sacrifice of his Son. We must understand this. To talk about grace as just the kindness of God is to miss something profoundly important to the Christian faith. Embedded deeply within the word "grace" is what it cost God to offer it to us.
Paul gives us a sense of this in 2 Corinthians 5.21. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Grace is also costly to us. Receiving God's grace in Christ requires us to give up our old self-oriented life and receive new life in Christ. Scripture is clear. We must die to the old life. We must turn away from those things that are not pleasing to God, which is what scripture calls repentance.
Jesus clearly communicated the message of repentance to his disciples: "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Mt.16.24-26)
In his classic book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned against what he called cheap grace. He wrote: "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."
What we need, Bonhoeffer said, is costly grace. "Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"
To summarize: Repentance is not something you do only at the time of salvation; it should be an ongoing mental discipline for every Christian. Pay attention to your pattern of thinking and patterns of behavior. If your thinking or action is off-path, repent. Trust God and turn away from wrong thoughts. Turn away from wrong behavior.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55.6-7)
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3.19)