I am not sure quite when it happened…sometime between age 3 and 4…but I came to understand that if I were to step out in front of a truck going 55 miles an hour, it would be hazardous to my health. That realization has so impacted my life that, even now, every time I get near a street, I look both ways before I cross.
The truth: Belief transforms behavior. Reality affects reaction.
There have been a few times when I wasn’t thinking or had somehow gotten distracted. I walked out and didn’t look. In those moments I think, “That was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done”.
For many years, when I heard the word repentance, I thought of those guys who stood on the street corners with microphones and big placard signs…the guys that were pointing at people and yelling about repenting. Even though most of those guys had the most sincere of intentions and reached many people…for me…repentance was associated directly with judgment or condemning someone. I’ve discovered a Biblical understanding of the word repentance will not do that. Repentance instead will free us to be the type of men and women that God called us to be.
Repentance is a beautiful word…in Greek, metanoeō. It literally really means “to change the mind.” It is a change of mind so powerful that it changes how I respond.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NASB) “The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, skillful in teaching, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
The passage communicates so much. It says that the enemy can actually ensnare…hold a person captive…through wrong thinking, sinful behavior, or a distorted view of reality.
It also says that God is the One who grants repentance. It is a gift…a gift so beautiful that it will lead us to a “knowledge of the truth” (change our belief system) and grant escape from captivity (release from our wrong behavior).
God grants us the ability to understand enough about the situation for us to come to our senses. Our role then is to show the fruits of repentance….to walk out what God has cleared up in our mind.
God, with the new understanding, will give us a Holy Spirit-directed plan for change...for things to be different the next time. The plan will always align with the character and Word of God…and will almost always involve another trusted “bondservant” (pastor, spouse, or trusted friend). It will always move us to become more like Jesus Christ. Our response will change because our minds and hearts have changed.
I’ll never forget the day that my whole family was visiting Gatlinburg, TN. We love going up there and our favorite place to eat is The Pancake Pantry…it is awesome. As usual, the wait for a table was substantial and we were standing outside. At that time my son was about 5 years old and could actually run really fast. He was enjoying our attention so…. suddenly… he took off running as fast as he could toward that really busy street that runs through downtown Gatlinburg. I don’t know what your response would be, but… being the good father that I was…. I said, “Hey, son, just do what you think best.” …Of course, I didn’t say that! …I yelled out “STOP! Come back to Dad!”
I am so grateful that we had done some training with him when he was younger. We played games to teach lessons as early as 1 1/2 or 2. My wife, Chrisi, was the most incredible mother. She played Red Light-Green Light so he knew what “Stop” and “Go” meant. We lived on a quiet, safe street. One game was to have him stand close to the house and I would say, “Son, I will count to three and you take off running toward the street as fast as you can. When Dad yells ‘STOP!’ …then you stop and come back to Dad’” I would yell “STOP!” before he got to the street and he would come back to me. It was a fun game. You see, I was trying to teach him one of the most important lessons that I could teach my son…to recognize the voice of His father and to obey quickly.
We played another game with him. I would tell him, “Go to your room and just play, do your thing, but when you hear Daddy call your name, you immediately stop playing and run as fast as you can until you can catch my eye …then say, ‘Yes, Daddy.’ Then I will know that you heard me and you can listen for my instructions”. So, after a few minutes, I would call his name and he would stop what he was doing and run around the corner and catch my eye and say “Yes, Daddy.” It was a game. You see, teaching my son to hear the voice of the father and respond quickly was one of the most important roles I had as a Dad. I’m so grateful that we did this training.
As soon as my son, running toward that busy street in Gatlinburg, heard my voice yelling “STOP!” he literally stopped just a few feet from that busy street…looked …and in terror, came to his senses. He recognized what he was doing, stopped, turned around, and came back to Dad. You see that’s the heart of repentance. I am heading in a direction (either in my thinking or in my behavior) that’s taking me to a place that will ultimately be hazardous to my health, to my future, to my family, and even to my eternity. The Father is calling out, “Hank, STOP. Come back to Dad.”
That’s just a glimpse into the beauty of the word repentance. Sinful choices are not only rebellion against God but they cause us to go on the run away from God. The Lord is calling us to understand His heart for us, align our minds to the truth, view it differently, change our trajectory, and come back to Dad.
As you think about your life, is there something that the Lord is calling out to you about? He is saying, “I love you. I’ve got incredible plans for you. Come back to Dad”
“…the kindness of God that leads us to repentance” Romans 2:4 (NASB)
[As adapted from The Bondage Breaker and Stomping Out The Darkness by Dr. Neil Anderson and Dr. Dave Park.]