Change Your Mind and Turn, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand

“Sorry,” Ethan mumbles.  He’s just knocked his cup of water onto the floor while talking and flailing his arms. We reminded him several times to move his cup away from the edge of the table.

“Sorry, mommy,” Emery says and scurries back to the bathroom.  She’s left her dirty clothes on the floor…again.

“I messed up,” I confess to Bill after I discover that I didn’t pay a bill last month.  As a result, this month’s bill is doubled AND we owe a late fee.  Now we have to adjust our budget.

In each scenario, we said we were sorry for something we did wrong.  In each scenario, we felt badly because of what happened.

This is what I always thought repentance was – feeling sorry when you did something wrong…maybe even taking it a step further and confessing your sin and asking someone to forgive you.

But my understanding of the word missed the mark.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that some of the richness of the word was lost in translation.

In English, the word is typically used to mean feeling regret or feeling sorry and asking forgiveness.  That’s how I always used it.

Then, I encountered another, richer meaning when I read Matthew’s gospel. In Chapter 3, Matthew introduces John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who prepares the way for Jesus’ coming.

John said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

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When I read commentary on this verse, I saw that, in the original Greek, the meaning of the word translated “repent” was “to change one’s mind.”

Also, I read that, when the Greek word for repent was used in the Old Testament, it meant to change your attitude toward God, to “turn from one way of thinking and living to a different way.”

The same commentary said when John the Baptist used it in Matthew 3:2, he was calling “for people to remove obstacles from their lives that might hinder their reception of the Messiah and his Kingdom.”

The discussion caught my attention; repenting went deeper than I realized.

To repent meant much more than simply saying I was sorry.  It meant more even than asking someone to forgive me.

I kept repeating what I read:

Repent – change your attitude toward God

Repent – turn from your old way of thinking and living

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I fixated on that word – repent; I wanted to know more.  So, I turned to a strategy I learned called word study: I look up the word in the concordances of my Bibles so I can read other verses where it’s used.  This usually gives me a fuller understanding of the word as I read how it is used in scripture and as I read the discussion of that scripture in other commentaries.

During my word study on repentance, I read another commentary that explained that the word can refer to “the desire to turn from sin and restore one’s relationship with God.” 2 Corinthians 7:9

You see, sin separates us from God.  I cannot come before God with unrepentant sin in my life. So when I am convicted of my sin, I have to repent – not just feel bad, not just ask for forgiveness, but change my mind about the sin and turn from it toward God.

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Photo Credit: Truth For Life Blog

Repenting isn’t just a feeling I have.

Repenting is something I must do – an action; I have to change, and I have to turn.

It’s the whole “turning to God” piece that really convicts me, I think.  To truly get rid of the sin, I have to change my mind about the sin and then look to God.

Since I have been walking with God, I have been asking Him to show my sin to me, to convict me of it.  Since learning about the true meaning of repentance, I have started asking Him to not only show it to me, but to help me change my mind about it and then to tell me what to do instead.

The funny thing about talking to God and asking Him to do things is that He sometimes does what we ask 🙂  Especially the part about showing your sin to you and telling you what to do instead.

Next week, I’ll share a sin-trap I am falling into and how I am turning from it toward God.

My Dog’s Trash Can Looting Helped Me Understand How God Responds to Sin

When Zoe, our miniature schnauzer, is bored, she goes into a bathroom and roots through the trash can.  Her favorite item to shred is the toilet paper someone used to blow their nose. She’ll also pull out napkins, chewed gum…basically whatever she thinks she can tear up.  We’ve learned to keep our bathroom doors closed since the bathroom trash cans are the ones she raids.

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Zoe on her first birthday – June 2018

Just the other day, I saw a piece of shredded napkin on the floor and started to get upset but stopped to ask myself – why?  Why would she nose through smelly, nasty trash when she could chew on any of the dog toys lying around on the floor?

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Does that look like the face of a dog that would do anything wrong?  Does it?

Why choose something trashy over something you were meant to have?

Then I realized God might ask himself this same question when His children choose sin over Him.

“My child,” He wonders, “why dig through the trash when I’ve set blessings in front of you?  Why work so hard to find something sinful to fill your time when you could sit quietly at my feet and be satisfied?”

I’ve noticed that Zoe is more likely to turn to trash can looting when no one is paying her any attention.  It’s like she can’t figure out what to do with herself, so she turns to the easiest thing: digging in garbage.

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Her favorite place to be – my lap 🙂

Isn’t that when sin creeps in on us, too?  When we think no one is looking? When we’re idle?  Bored? It’s much quicker and easier to turn to something sinful than to turn to something good…and I don’t even mean something extreme like turning on the computer to look at pornography…although that could be the case.

I’m talking about those things we default to when there’s a moment of idleness – scrolling Facebook or Instagram and comparing your body, house, spouse, car, job, clothes, children to what you see on your feed; jumping on Amazon and ordering the Deal of the Day just because it’s 30% off and you have Prime so shipping is free even though you know that purchase will put you over the budget you and your spouse agreed on at the beginning of the month; turning on the TV to watch that show you find so entertaining but is filling your heart and mind with thoughts that don’t glorify God.

Look, I’m talking to myself here.  I’ve turned to all these things and plenty others when I didn’t want to take the time to think of something wholesome to do.  When I just wanted to chill out. When I needed an activity that required no real thought or effort…just for a moment.

I promise.  I’ve been there, and I’m not preaching to you or fussing at you.

But, that little moment is when sin creeps in.  The jealousy. The lust. The anger. The gluttony.  The laziness.

And sin is what keeps us from God.

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I don’t want sin to keep me away from God.  I want to be able to go to Him clean. So, I have to repent.  That means that I am more than just sorry that I got caught; I am remorseful to the point of turning – away from that sin, away from that lifestyle, away from that way of thinking, away from whatever stands between God and me.  I turn from that, and I look to God.

Repentance was one of the first messages Jesus taught when he began his public ministry.  Both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels record Jesus as speaking about repentance right away. So it must be important.

That means I have to do it.

That means you have to do it.

Ask God to show your sin to you.  Ask Him to convict you. Then turn from that sin and go the other way…toward Him.