Admit it. When you hear the word “repent” you get a little defensive. For me it conjures up a mental picture of a skinny evangelist with a wild look in his eyes, foaming at the mouth, neck veins bulging, and baptizing the front row with good old-fashioned preacher spit. We think of repentance as a negative word. Some people use repentance like a baseball bat. Turn or burn. Get right or get left. And whatever you do, don’t even think about dancing to the devil’s music. Can I get an “amen” from the Footloose fans this morning?
Many years ago I heard a preacher talk about repenting of wearing polyester pants. He took his message from Joshua chapter 7, which tells the story of Joshua and the Israelite army being defeated by the small city of Ai. A man named Achan disobeyed God’s command to commit ALL the spoils of war from the battle of Jericho as an offering of first-fruits to God. He took a “Babylonish garment” (from the old King James Version) and hid it under his tent so he could keep for himself what was supposed to be given to God. I have no idea how he connected Babylonish garments to polyester pants, but he spent a lot of time telling us to repent of wearing that wicked fabric. Perhaps that is good fashion advice, but it has nothing to do with the biblical purpose behind repentance.
Repentance is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It means to align your thoughts with God’s, to agree with God, or to make an about-face in your way of thinking. Jesus, in the greatest message ever preached, gave us a clear understanding of how repentance blesses our lives.
Matthew 5:4” Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (ESV)
The word “blessed” means to be doubly blessed. It means blessed, blessed or happy, happy. It is a plural word. It is God’s way to have a blessed, happy life. It is to be blessed in this life and the next. It means to have a double helping of God’s blessing.
“Mourn” means to “think differently after.” Mourning rather than laughing suggests that you take it seriously. It is not a constant sorrow and sadness but repentance. It means that I must learn to think like God thinks about sin and life. The concept here is that repentance leads to hope. It shows that I matter to God and that he loves me.
Jesus tells us that learning to surrender our mind and will to God causes us to think differently. The great blessing in doing this is that I begin to align myself with God’s way of thinking. That brings true and lasting comfort. “Comforted” means “to call to one’s side.” God comforts me and calls me to his side when I agree with him and start to think differently. He encourages me and gives me hope. Repentance is not some negative, oppressive weight to bear, but a blessing that transforms our life. The powerful truth we glean from this is that I am blessed when I agree with God.
Romans 12:1-2 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)
God transforms me when I agree with God about his grace in my life. Repentance comforts me and draws me to the side of Jesus. The more I align myself with his way of thinking, his love for me, his gift of Jesus Christ, and his blessing of forgiveness and grace, then the more I realize how transformed I really am. I am brand new. I am righteous and holy because of Jesus. That leads to transformed thinking. God works in my spirit to transform my mind so that it shows up in my body. I am blessed when I agree with God!
Repentance aligns my thinking with God. It does not mean that I am sin focused, constantly thinking about my sins and numbering them. It means that I fully accept the fact that God has declared me to be righteous because of Jesus. He has fully forgiven me. He has justified me. He remembers my sins no more. Because God sees Jesus’ righteousness rather than mine, I am free to align my thinking with God’s. I am more and more aware of his grace. I constantly think about his efforts. My efforts could never satisfy God, but Jesus’ efforts have completely satisfied him. Therefore I am free through him. I am comforted because of what Jesus has accomplished.
I am blessed when I agree with God!