You don’t have to read very far into the New Testament to see just how important repentance is. At the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 3:1-2), Jesus’ ministry (Mark 1:14-15), and Peter’s ministry on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-38), they all preached repentance.
So, repentance is absolutely foundational to our relationship with God, which leads to one huge follow-up question: what in the world does repentance actually mean? What does it mean to repent?
The New Testament wasn’t originally written in English because the English language hadn’t been invented yet, so we need to take a closer look at the original Greek word. The original Greek word for “repent” or “repentance” is metanoeo. “Meta” means to change, and “noeo” refers to the mind, so at it’s most basic level repentance is changing your mind, changing the way you perceive things.
The second thing we need to look at is how the Bible infers a relationship between repentance and new behavior. Here’s what John the Baptist preached to the crowds when he started his ministry.
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Luke 3:7-8
So, the biblical meaning of repentance is simply this: An inner change of mind that results in an outward change of behavior.
So, if you truly want to grasp biblical repentance, you need both parts, you need to change the way you perceive things, and you need new behavior as a result. If you have one without the other, then you’re missing a critical part of repentance. If you change the way you behave without changing the way you think, all you’re accomplishing is behavior modification.
When one of your kids hits the other, what do you tell them? “Say ‘you’re sorry.’ Like you mean it.” They said sorry, just like you asked, but did they truly change the way they thought? No, the second you turn around they’re going to hit each other again. If you change behavior without changing the mind, that’s not true repentance.
The opposite is true. If you change your mind without changing your actions, all you have is intention. You can intend to run a marathon all you want, but intention alone won’t get you across that finish line. If your kid hits their sibling and before you even get onto them they say genuinely, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened to me. I lost control. I’m truly sorry. It will never happen again.” Wow, that’s something, that A). is genuine and B). never happens. But how genuine is it if they have to come back to you again and again day after day because they keep hitting their sibling?
Genuine repentance requires an inward change of mind that results in an outward change in behavior. That’s what it means to repent, and that’s what Jesus commands us to do.
When Jesus walked out of that empty tomb on that first Easter morning, he not only secured our pathway to eternal salvation, he also secured our victory in this life through the coming of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminded Timothy of this life-changing truth when he wrote, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Because of the empty tomb of Easter, here are five empty tombs you can walk out of:
1. Fear – There are many things we can be afraid of (future, illness, uncertainty), but there’s nothing we have to be afraid of anymore. The greatest thing to fear, death itself, was conquered and vanquished by Jesus when he rose on the third day. Because Jesus made good on his promise of eternal life, what’s left to be afraid of? Fear is an empty tomb from which Jesus is calling you to walk out.
2. Hatred – The victory of the cross was the victory of love over all. By his selfless sacrifice, Jesus demonstrated God’s love for all the world to see (John 3:16). That Spirit of love now resides in us through the Holy Spirit. Hatred is a dark tomb threatening to snuff out the life of its occupants. Through the power of Jesus, hatred has been robbed of its power and has become and empty tomb from which we can now exit.
3. Loneliness – You don’t have to be alone anymore. Jesus’ resurrection paved the way for the Holy Spirit to come, God now residing in us who believe. Loneliness no longer needs to be our companion because Jesus provided a better way when he walked out of that empty tomb. Alongside the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ resurrection paves the way for a new spiritual family on this earth, those united by our belief in Jesus. Loneliness is an empty tomb that has no power over you anymore.
4. Defeat – Paul summed up the victory of Christ when he said, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). The life of a believer is a life characterized by victory and power. If you’re settling for defeat, then you’re accepting the hollow taunts of an empty tomb. Jesus proved victorious over death and the grave when he walked out of that empty tomb on Easter morning. And his Spirit now resides in you. Jesus provided victory for you. Live like it.
5. Mediocrity – This transitory life has incredible purpose because of the resurrection of Jesus. Even the mundane is infused with meaning because of what Jesus did. The resurrection proved the existence of eternity, and now every action we take can have an impact on someone’s eternal destiny. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing in front of crowds or sitting in a cubicle buried under mountains of paperwork. It doesn’t matter how rich or famous you are in the eyes of the world. Because of the resurrection, every believer has the ability to influence souls for eternity. Mediocrity is an empty tomb waiting for you to exit.
When Jesus walked out of that empty tomb on Easter morning, it not only paved the way to your eternity, but it infused your everyday life with fearlessness, love, fellowship, victory and purpose. Choose to walk out of those empty tombs today, dear Christian.
Easter is more than just an incredibly true story. It still affects us today. An event that happened 2000 years ago still affects us ripples through our every day world. Here are three ways the resurrection of Jesus still impacts us today:
1). The resurrection validates everything that Jesus said. Jesus said some pretty outlandish things about life, about God, about himself, about what was really important. But when Jesus prophesied his own death and resurrection and then pulled it off, it validated everything he ever said, so we have to take his words as gospel truth.
2). The resurrection proves there is life after death. The resurrection proves the existence of eternity. At one time or another we’ve all wondered if this life is really all that there is. Is there life after death? Well, Jesus died and came back to life, proving there is life after death. In fact, even before his death he spoke about eternity and how to get to heaven by trusting in Jesus’ name. And then he proved the reality of eternity by coming back from the dead.
3). The resurrection transforms you from the inside out. The gospel writer Luke didn’t just write the book of Luke, he also wrote the book of Acts, which was part two, the story of what happened to the disciples after the resurrection. And go read it for yourselves, but after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were never, ever, ever the same.
Do you feel like life has somehow forgotten you? Do you ever look at the filtered highlight reels of everyone else on social media and wonder what you did to deserve such a mediocre life in comparison? In a world that rewards the extraordinary, does your life seem painfully ordinary? In a world that applauds only the best, does your world seem average at best?
If you could honestly characterize your life as mediocre, take hope. If you have trouble carrying the baggage from your past and wonder how God could ever love you, take heart. If your hopes and dreams are dashed and you feel left behind and forgotten by this world, rejoice! Why? Because God favors the forgotten. Be reminded of these incredible truths from Scripture:
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
So, if you feel forgotten, despised or simply ignored, be reminded of these eternal truths from your Heavenly Father:
Your I.Q. doesn’t determine your influence.
Your wealth doesn’t determine your worth.
Your popularity doesn’t validate your purpose.
Your status doesn’t equal your success.
Designer clothes do not give you your dignity. Your outward beauty does not determine your inward blessing. How you look isn’t how God looks at you, because God doesn’t value what this world values. God favors the forgotten.
God isn’t interested in your currency so much as your character, your fame so much as your faithfulness. God doesn’t want your ability so much as your availability, your strength so much as your submission. God isn’t interested in making your name famous as much as making his name famous. God doesn’t care how many cars you own, how many degrees hang on your walls, how many vacations you take or how many Instagram followers you have. God doesn’t love you because you’re good or smart, pretty or famous, wealthy or successful. God loves you because you’re his, and when this truth settles on you, it will transform your destiny: God favors the forgotten.
So what does this mean for you? How does this change the way you approach your average, everyday life?
God wants to replace your daily mediocrity with a divine mission.
God wants to remove your baggage and give you a boldness because God is bigger.
God wants to fill the persecuted with his power.
God wants to give the despised a new destiny.
Why? Because God favors the forgotten, and that changes everything. Take heart and rejoice, you who feel neglected and forgotten, for God’s favor rests on you!