It seems that most people think repentance is either something that doesn’t apply to them, or else it’s something they do once and then they’re finished with it. The Bible doesn’t present repentance as a place (as if we go there, and then move on). Rather, it presents repentance as a path. Specifically, a path to God.
Repentance is a path because God is righteous and we are sinners. Don’t agree with that? You must be one of those people who thinks repentance doesn’t apply to them. I must tell you that, aside from this being an erroneous attitude (we’d only have to ask some of your family or friends to make that clear), it is an attitude that will not get you very far with God. Jesus Himself, when all the people of ancient Judea were going out to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins by John the Baptist, joined right in – even over John’s protest (John understood Jesus’ unique state of sinlessness). If Jesus Christ was unwilling to refrain from taking the path of repentance, who are you?
As for this path, it is, as I was saying, the path from sinning to doing righteousness. And this so glorifies God, for it is an amazing and wonderful thing when a sinning person can be transformed into one who does right. The word repentance in the original language means “change of mind.” Thus to repent means an altered state of mind, a changing of one’s thoughts, a change in one’s thinking.
At its most fundamental level, the change in thinking that God seeks is that whereas we formerly did everything for ourselves, we now do it for Him. First, you have to acknowledge that you’ve been doing everything for yourself. Even when you said or thought you were doing it for others, you were really doing it for yourself. For example, why does someone want to be a good parent? Usually, because they don’t want the reputation of being a bad parent. I’m not saying they have no genuine concern for the child; I’m just saying a major concern is the parent’s own self-image or reputation in the community. This sort of selfishness is human and common, but we seldom acknowledge it…even to ourselves.
God wants us to overturn our fundamental motivation in life and live it not for ourselves, but for Him. This is major, and it simply can’t be fully accomplished in one day or one act. It is one decision, but that decision must be acted upon day after day after day. Doing everything for God takes thought!
Is God asking too much? Lots of people think so and that’s why they don’t repent. They are only harming themselves though, because God doesn’t tell us to repent so that it will improve His life. He wants to improve our lives. Repentance leads to righteousness and peace and joy. Every other path leads to disappointment, misery, and destruction. Which path are you on today?