In 1535 William Tyndale translated the Bible from Latin to English and used the word “repent.” His translation veered away from “doing penance” and refocused on the meaning “to turn,” which was more in keeping with metanoia.
This is important because the religious practice of paying penance or submitting oneself to confession, is one step short of what we are talking about today, repentance/change.
For hundreds of years one might confess their sin, acknowledge their wrong doing, party on Fat Tuesday, and confess wrongdoing, but then return to the very wrong they committed. This t-shirt that is sold sums up exactly what I’m talking about…Sin, Repent and Repeat.
Except it is definitionally incorrect. So when Tyndale translated the Bible from Latin to English he used the word repentance, meaning “to turn”, as a way of returning to the intent of the Greek word, Metanoia. Both confession and repentance have a similar posture, but repentance carries with it a practice next step…to turn away from the wrong one has committed.
CP NOTE: Share a story that does NOT reflect what we will be discussing in regards to repentance, and how it affected your view of repentance. 3-4 minutes
I have to be honest, as I try to be every time I speak, I have an uncomfortable relationship with the word REPENT. It’s been under taught, over communicated, used out of context, and frankly, it has been weaponized against those of us who are not religious enough by those who are very pious in their walk with God. Growing up in church I would hear people say, “repent,” the look on people’s face when they said it, the tone in which it was used and the lack of relationship with those who need to repent…they were the very reasons I never brought my friends to church, and why I did not make a commitment of faith until my college years. Take it one step further, if it weren’t for my disdain of REPENT, I may not have met my wife.
We met in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and I was helping to organize hundreds of college kids to be in the French Quarter to love people to Jesus. We were trying to combat the hate-filled signs and corner preachers who wanted people to give up their sin without the message of a loving Jesus who came to die for them. These same types of people never taught what sin truly is, what it means, why they were so passionate about it. So our little army of college kids was trying to be a battalion of love, in a sea of godless debauchery on Bourbon Street. In the middle of all of that, I met Libby, and I saw her lovingly talking to young adults our age, filled with love and compassion, and still unwavering in sharing the good news of Jesus.
But let me also be clear, we cannot avoid talking about repentance. I know our culture teaches us to do what we love, do things that line up with your mental health, and if it’s too difficult then bail…but we don’t get a pass on dealing with repentance. Here is God’s take on the reality of this whole subject:
II Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So, today we want to go back to the basics of repentance. I mean, we’re going elementary here just like we all did when we were learning how to investigate a story, learn from a story. We’re going to use the 5W 1H approach: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How
Who needs to repent?
Romans 3:22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The simple answer is EVERYONE needs to repent, because everyone has sinned.
In a practical sense, we all have unhealthy habits, personal preferences and true spiritual obstacles that we need to reconsider on a regular basis.
Our unhealthy habits can lead to unhealthy outcomes
Our personal preferences can lead to personal blindspots of inflexibility
BUT…our spiritual obstacles lead us to a separation from God.
You see, our unhealthy habits cause us to lose/gain weight, get sick, shorten our life span, etc…
Our personal preferences cause us to be entrenched in an ideology or opinions that keep us from learning from our neighbor and causes relational strife
BUT…our spiritual obstacles affect our soul, our ability to be all that God created us to be. These are sin issues that truly eat at us, and cause us to bring separation from the one who created us.
Psalm 139: 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Do you know who said this in scripture? King David, Shepherd boy David, killer of the giant Goliath David, good looking David, musician David, favored David, anointed to lead David, the man after God’s own heart David. Yes, the same David who stole another man’s wife, the same David who killed the man to cover up the affair, the same David who then moved the woman into his home and bore him a son.
If a King who was called and loved by God needed to repent, that means we all need to repent.
What does it mean to change? What does it mean to repent?
Sin creates a pattern in all of us.
“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.” – Oscar Wilde
You might have sexual patterns that started in middle school that you thought would go away, and now you’re 40 and it only continues to grow.
Some of us eat gluten free, with veggies and water all day with our co-workers, but then top it off with cookies and ice cream at night, because we “deserve it.” Well, we’re not freshmen in college any more trying to study and get good grades. No, we’re 30/40/50 and that food covered by your room and board plan is long gone, but not the pattern you created, it has stayed.
And then some of us go to church, hear words that go in one ear and out of the other. We want to pray, but we’ll do it tomorrow. We want to be generous, but not until I get a raise, we want to serve others, but when we get more time, we want to honor God, “but God knows my heart” and I can’t right now. Tomorrow turns into next week, next month, next year, next decade…and we have grown a pattern of selfishness that keeps us from the one who loves us most.
So to repent, to turn, means to acknowledge the sex, eating, spiritual apathy pattern, to feel sorrow for them AND to put steps in place to no longer return to those very things. It doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect in the process, but it does mean we posture ourselves to NOT settle for living there any more.
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
- Nelson Mandela
By repenting and breaking the cycle of sin in our life, we then invite God’s grace to grow. The Apostle Paul in Romans 5 would say it like this “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through the righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When do I repent?
Every time you find yourself in a sinful state:
- While you’re considering a bad move
II Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
- In the middle of the bad move
Joseph was in the middle of being tackled by Potipher’s Wife (“a cougar”), and he would have had ample chance to have his way with an older woman who was attracted to him. But he ran…
- After you’ve made bad move
Acknowledging your bad move, your sin, act keeping it a singular act before it becomes a pattern.
- When you’ve realized a pattern has set in
It’s never too late to turn away from the very sin that has separated you from God, and the life God intended for you.
Where do I repent?
CP Note: This one should be kept short and simple to emphasize the point. We can change/repent at any point in our day or location. Maybe a quick anecdotal store to give an example.
Wherever you are, no matter who is present
Why do I need to repent?
There are actually two reasons to repent: 1. To be in right alignment with God
We repent because our sin, that which separates us from God, becomes an obstacle for true relationship. God cannot have a relationship with sin. So it is incumbent on us to acknowledge that which separates us from God and he purges our sin from us. You are NOT your sin.
If you grew up mainline or Catholic, you have been taught about the 7 Deadly Sins:
Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, Sloth
We’re not going to take time to dive into each of these, the history and theology behind them, or what they actually mean. We’re simply pointing them out today to show you that behind all of our actions, all of our sin, there are deeper rooted issues at work.
The 7 virtues that counteract these 7 sins are: Humility, Charity, Chastity, Gratitude, Temperance, Patience and Diligence
NOTE: Can we get a graphic that lines up the sins on one side and the virtues on the other side?
These too are roots in our life that cause us to express God’s faithfulness and grace extended to us. Let’s go back to the scripture we read at the very beginning:
II Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Why do we repent? Why do we change/turn? The second reason is to prepare the way for what God has in store. Because the new has come, and the old is gone. Just like Justin Timberlake sang it on T.I.’s single in 2009…
“And ooh I’ve been travelin’ on this road too long
Just trying to find my way back home
The old me is dead and gone, dead and gone”
When we find a home in Christ, we also come to find that many of the things that used to satisfy, or at least pacify, no longer suffice. So we prepare a way for God to move in us because of our alignment with Him. Today we will have people getting baptized, and when they do, they are being baptized as a celebration of new life, but they are also being baptized into a life of repentance. A new lifestyle emerges because we are now working to stay in alignment with God. We no longer live in our old state, we do the work of the new state.
This then takes us from a constant state of shame and confession, to a place of repentance and anticipation. One brings condemnation and the other breathes life and a hope for a future.
How do I repent?
Any kind of repentance can have what many people call the 4 Rs of repentance: Responsibility, Regret, Resolve, Repair But in our walk with God, the last R (repair) is something we cannot do. We do not repair and work towards receiving God’s grace. That work has already been done for us, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Instead, once we are willing to take responsibility for our sin, regret what we have done or how we have lived, and we resolve to live new in God, we simply now Confess.
1 John 1: 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
One example of confession is from St. Augustine when he says:
CP Note: This last point should be used to drive home the normalcy of repentance, and we will all close it out with a “Sinner’s Prayer” that we pray together as a church. Feel free to take out Augustine’s prayer, but I will use it as an example prayer of contrition.
O, Lord, The house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in. It is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases Your sight. I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, to whom shall I cry but to you? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare Your servant from strange sins.
– St. Augustine
So let’s close out our time praying together. We all are sinners, some of us saved by Grace, and some of us still exploring this God of grace. But we can all still pray this at the same time:
Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness. I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.
You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9, that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved. Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.
Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore, Lord Jesus, transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.
Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.