Jesus started His ministry with the same message as John the Baptist.
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
I don’t usually think of Jesus calling people to repent, except when He was haranguing the Pharisees. I see Him teaching people about the Kingdom of God and healing them and training His disciples. But the message of repentance preceded all the other things (except the miracle He performed as a special favor to His mother).
So if the first message is to repent, I have to understand what that means. Merriam Webster on-line says it is “to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.” This is a start, but I think there must be more to repentance.
I’ve often felt sorry after eating too many slices of pizza because I feel really uncomfortable for a long time. When I’m stuffed and feeling a little sick, I really want to eat less next time. But when next time comes, the pizza looks so good, and I’m hungry, so I keep eating, even though I told myself I’d only have one piece. I don’t think I ever really repented of eating too much, even though I was sorry I did.
According to Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, one of the Greek words for repentance, metanoeo, means to change one’s mind and purpose. So it’s not enough for me to be sorry I ate too much. I have to change what I think about food and what I intend to do about it. In other words, if I truly repent of eating too much, I have to change the reason I eat pizza. Instead of doing it because I like to eat, I should eat to satisfy my hunger and nourish my body.
John the Baptist said it in a much simpler way than that. “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (Luke 3:8)
The main character in a new book I’ve contributed to did that. Mara hurt a lot of people before she was saved. When she came to know the Lord, she repented. She was not only sorry she hurt people, she proved it by finding each of them to tell them so. She changed her mind and purpose. I encourage you to read Mara’s story. You might find it encouraging.
Mara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to
In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.
Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job that she ever thought possible.
Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.