The Bible uses the word “repent” often. In the perhaps the oldest book in the Bible, Job says to God, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6) The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel called the people of Israel to repent. When John the Baptist arrived, he preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:1-2) Jesus launched his ministry with the same message. (Mark 1:14-15) And, when Jesus sent his twelve disciples out, they “preached that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12) So, what does repent mean and how can I do it?
Which way now?
When a person repents, he or she makes an 180o turn in thinking. It’s like a soldier marching in one direction who turns around in response to the command to about-face. When we repent, we choose to line our minds up with a new idea.
In the Bible, repenting is a complete change of mind — a rethinking of what we believe about God, self and sin. In Genesis 3, the serpent convinced Adam and Eve that God had lied to them, that they could become like God on their terms and that disobeying God’s command would benefit them.
To repent or rethink our view of God means that we become convinced of his honesty and integrity. It means we exchange the idea that he cannot be trusted with the idea that God can be trusted completely.
Repenting is a change of mind regarding the consequences of disobeying God. The Bible calls this disobedience sin and says the result is death. (Romans 6:23) Sin destroys families, as well as, our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
To repent is to change what we believe about ourselves. It takes us from being self-satisfied to dissatisfied with any attitude or action in our lives that is not like Jesus. When we repent, we move from thinking, “I’m not so bad” to “I really need help.”
When we really repent, it changes the way we act. Our thoughts shape our behavior. That’s why John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8)
Prayerful and careful Bible study is the primary way to open our minds to repent. As we read and study the Bible we discover new truths to replace our old ways of thinking. Ask God’s Spirit to reveal the truth to you as you study. Expect him to help you change your behavior as well.