Repent. It must be something we can do because it was one of the first things Jesus taught. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) But what is repentance and how do you do it? Well, repentance is sort of on the “endangered species” list of words and even ideas, as has happened to so many other words that once were clear and understood by all.
This means a lot to me because repentance was an essential step in my life that brought me out of indescribable darkness and death and into this (most-of-the-time-anyway) happy life I’ve had for decades. Probably most English speaking people have at least some inkling of what repentance means, even if they don’t fully understand it or even like the idea.
Simply put, “repentance” means to change direction in your life but from your innermost being, to have a change of heart. And it also implies that the direction you’ve been going has been wrong and that some at least of what you’ve harbored in your heart needs to be abandoned and turned against. But there are a few more utterly essential ingredients that go into repentance if it’s to be real and lasting.
I know this because I repeatedly tried to repent when I was using drugs in university. It was like I was vowing a vow, “I’m NEVER going to do this again!” But a few months later I did. What went wrong? I was sincere and desperate; I was really trying to repent. This is where another of those “endangered species” words comes into play: sin.
“Oh, Mark, please! It’s just insane to bring up these ragged, old, tired, unscientific concepts that belong to the dustbin of history! ‘Sin’! Mark, really? No one believes in that kind of thing anymore; you’re making a fool of yourself!”
And yet, this is the very best terminology to describe what happened to my life and how I survived to live beyond my 21st birthday. It’s like Paul the Apostle said, “The good that I would, I do not. But the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) That’s exactly how it was with me. Although I was not familiar with that word yet, I really wanted to “repent”. But I just didn’t have the personal power to resist what I was into. That’s why Paul went on to say, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I do that do it but sin that lies in me.” (Romans 7:20)
Of course there’s a sense in which, in the big picture, God allows us to really go down the wrong path so that we will learn firsthand what the difference is between right and wrong. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15) and often we have to learn the hard way. He even uses our wrongdoing to be His instrument of correction to bring us back to His highest and best. As unpopular a concept as it may be among the worldly, the Lord does chasten and punish His children and even those who aren’t His children to bring them back to a better way.
It sounds really hopeless and in a sense it is. But let’s bring in another of those “endangered species” words: Jesus Christ. No, not the words so many use as a loud and profane curse, but the man of the Bible. To cut to the chase here, I never was able to really repent until I accepted the saving power of Jesus by asking Him into my heart. I didn’t understand it all, in fact I didn’t understand very much of it at all. But it came down to instincts and my gut, as they say. I knew I needed help desperately. I met people who’d been in the same fix and they said it had all changed when they’d prayed to become new creatures through His forgiveness and regeneration. So I tried it.
Up until that time, I had stopped using hallucinogenic drugs but I was still smoking marijuana sometimes. I’d come to believe in the God of Abraham and I read my Bible every day. But I still had a lot of fears and confusion and I had no idea who Jesus was. But as I’ve shared elsewhere, the Bible verse that best summed up my experience is this, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)
Once I received Jesus, I had power I’d never had before. With that new power within me, I not only repented of using drugs at that time (and have never touched them since), I had a whole regenerative experience in my innermost being, in my heart, mind, soul and spirit.
So, from my experience, repentance without the power of Jesus in your heart… well it didn’t work or happen for me. But with Him, “all things are possible to him that believes.” (Mark 9:23) There have been other things over the years I’ve had to repent of, as the Lord brings them up in my life. Usually it’s been deeper things of my heart rather than physical sins like drugs. But the point is, through Jesus repentance is really possible, no matter what you’re facing.
Are you feeling doomed, defeated, utterly overwhelmed by aspects of your personality or life that you just can’t get on top of and overcome? As old fashion and out of style as it may sound, taking these things of your life and heart to Jesus Christ, through personal prayer, may very likely be the only way you’ll ever get a lasting victory over things that may end up being your total downfall and even death. It is possible, it does work and and I hope you’ll try it : repentance through the power of Jesus. God bless you.