I was born again on May 6, 1973. I remember that date, because I had an encounter with the Word of God – Jesus. My old life ended. I have done a lot of changing and growing since then. Forty-four years have come and gone. I don’t think the same; I don’t act the same. And yet, there are still some things in me that I recognize from my old life that I can’t explain. Things that I think should have passed away from my life.
But like I said, I don’t think the same way as I used to forty, thirty, even five years ago, I can’t explain it. All I know is when I read the scriptures, I see things that were invisible to me before.
One of those areas of thought is the concept of repentance. Repentance goes hand in hand with the new birth. Depending on church denominations, ideas on repentance can vary. However, I believe I’m seeing some common thought about repentance that seems to go straight through the church. And it’s this.
Repentance is seen as a prerequisite for salvation. What does that mean? Well, Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It certainly comes before the word baptize, which comes before the idea of receiving the Holy Spirit. So it sounds pretty convincing here, that repentance, indeed is conditional for salvation. Is it?
Simply put, repentance means to change your thinking. So, here’s my premise. I can’t change my thinking until I change my being. “As a man thinks, so is he”, right? And I can’t do anything about my being except to clean it up. Trying to change who I am being is what religion is all about. People have been repenting, making promises and actually seeing results only to cave at some point. That experience is true of every living breathing human. What messes us up is to go back to repentance thinking it’s a condition for salvation.
So, I’m not trying to persuade anyone’s belief, thinking, or anything else, here. I’m simply sharing with you where I’m at and what I’m seeing. People are naturally resistant to changing their minds about anything. The only way I can change my thinking is to see something I didn’t see before. Jesus said the kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the good news. Seeing controls what I think. By seeing, I mean perception. My perception is controlled by my own internal lens. It’s the birthplace of bias, prejudice and opinions.
I don’t see repentance as a condition for salvation; I see it as its fruit. The only way I can see the kingdom of God is by being born from above, viz., being born again. When a person is born again, they literally become part of a new species of people. A new creation. Being born again has nothing to do with my repentance. My repentance comes as a result of seeing the kingdom of God. It doesn’t come with observing religious criteria. I think that’s called sorrow.
Bible study can stimulate the mind and heart to hunger after God. I recommend Bible study and prayer. Repentance comes because of what I can see. The more I see, the more I can change into what I see. If salvation came as a result of my repentance, it would not be a gift, but a wage. Salvation is not a wage. Repentance is necessary to move forward. After all, repentance is a change in the mind acted upon by the will. When I fall short of God’s revelation to me, I need to repent, and get complete in my relationship with my Father. It’s a true learning experience about forgiveness, grace to move forward after a sinful setback, and what true love looks like.
I have seen for forty plus years a vicious cycle in my own life and in the lives of others the personal failure and repentance back to God, to only repeat it time and again. I am quite sure God has something grander than this recipe for insanity. I believe it’s safe to say Christians have no real idea of what it means to be Christian, any more than humans know what it means to be human. Why do I say that? Both humans and Christians (human also) only know what it is to be either inside the context of both human and Christian. Our context for the human species has restraints in the context. The designer for humanity has something more in mind for you and I.
Consider the words from God’s heart in Psalms 82 through The Message.
God calls the judges into his courtroom, he puts all the judges in the dock. “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough, you’ve let the wicked get away with murder. You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them.”
Ignorant judges! Head-in-the-sand judges! They haven’t a clue to what’s going on. And now everything’s falling apart, the world’s coming unglued.
“I commissioned you judges, each one of you, deputies of the High God, But you’ve betrayed your commission and now you’re stripped of your rank, busted.”
O God, give them their just deserts! You’ve got the whole world in your hands!
Jesus spoke these words to his 12 disciples on the evening before his death. “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”. Luke 22:28, 29
According to Hebrews 6: 1-3, the issues that the church clings to like baptisms, repentance, healings, etc. are foundation stones for growth and maturity. We are instructed to build on these foundational stones and come up into the whole house of Christ. Instead I see the church throwing these stones at each other in debate, much like the early disciples argued over who the greatest was, while lounging at the table. Jesus introduced the example of how gentile kings rule over their subjects, and finished by saying, “this is not who you are”.
As long as we hold to the idea that salvation is produced from a regime of effort and repentance, then we received what we worked for. If salvation comes to me because I see with spiritual eyes what I did not see before, and repent (change my thinking) as a result, I have something very different. I have an entrance into the Kingdom of God.