What Is Repentance?
Fundamentally, in the Christian sense of the idea, to repent is to turn from wrong thinking and attitudes about Jesus, to right thinking and attitudes about Jesus and his gospel.
To repent in this sense is to turn away from thinking that assumes Jesus was just a man, or just an example, or just a counselor, or, maybe, just some crazy person, etc. It’s to turn away from that thinking, and to believe the facts that Jesus is God, he became a man, he lived a perfect sinless life on behalf of his people, he was killed and made substitutionary atonement for the sins of his people, he was resurrected and is now reigning in heaven, and he will come back again to judge the world, gather his people, and restore all things.
To repent is to believe all of this and to live accordingly. It’s a daily practice. And it’s less about turning away from what is bad (out of fear, or guilt, or restriction, or law), and much more about turning toward what is good (in freedom and joy). It’s less about avoiding the bad, and more about pursuing what is beautiful, and good, and life-giving.
1Thessalonians 1 gives us a flavor of this thinking and living. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “...you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (vv.9-10).
Believing that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead, is in heaven now, and will come again to deliver us from God’s wrath, the daily-repentant-Christian-life is livedpursuing God, serving him, while turning from not-God, and waiting for Jesus to return.
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