What is true biblical repentance-part 2?
Contrary to what legalists and law preacher's claim, grace preachers don’t say that there’s no need for repentance. Actually, grace preachers are for repentance, not against it. We say things like “repentance is essential” and “repentance is to be our lifestyle.” We are for repentance, for without it no one can receive the grace of God.
But what is true biblical repentance?
Repentance is one of those words that means different things to different people. Those with a performance-oriented mindset typically interpret repentance as turning from sin. It’s something you do (turn) as a result of something you’ve done (sinned). It’s fixing what you broke. It’s atoning for your mistakes. It’s sewing fig leaves to hide your shame.
In contrast, grace-based repentance is always done in response to something God has done. It’s the change of heart and mind that happens when you encounter His grace. A legalist/law gospel will define repentance in terms of a prescribed set of behaviors (e.g., turning from sin) and emotions (e.g., sorrow and grief).
But insisting on the proper way to repent is tantamount to putting people under law. The fruit of repentance may take 101 different forms—don’t limit God—but repentance itself is simply a change of mind. It’s what the word literally means. Repentance … means a change of mind! Formerly I thought sin a pleasant thing, but now I have changed my mind about it.
Formerly I thought the world an attractive place, but now I know better; formerly I regarded it a miserable business to be a Christian, but now I think differently. Once I thought certain things delightful, now I think them vile; once I thought other things utterly worthless, now I think them most precious. That is a change of mind, and that is repentance. No life can be truly changed apart from such a change of mind.
We all agree that repentance is a good thing and that there should be more of it, but how do we get people to repent? A legalist/law preacher will use carrots (“Turn from sin if you want to see God”) and sticks (“If you don’t, you’ll pay the price”), but this is the way of the flesh, not faith. This sort of repentance will lead you to trust in your own repenting efforts and miss the grace of God.
Consider the Pharisees. They turned from sin on a daily basis yet they did not recognize the Grace of God even as He came and stood among them.
Legalist/law preachers say, “We need more preaching on repentance,” as though this would motivate people to repent. But it won’t. Only one thing is guaranteed in Scripture to lead people to repentance and that is a revelation of God’s goodness: … God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.(Romans 2:4b, ESV)
Repentance isn’t doing something about your sin. Repentance is responding positively to God’s kindness and grace. Think of Zacchaeus, the corrupt tax-collector. The Grace of God walked into his home and he became a different man. The goodness in Jesus’ spirit created a comfortable, safe environment in which, though there was no pressure to change, Zacchaeus found himself wanting to and choosing to change. The goodness of God expressed in Jesus produced a true repentance.
How does a grace preacher encourage repentance? By preaching the goodness of God as revealed in Jesus. A legalist/law gospel says, “You gotta repent or else,” but the grace gospel says, “See Jesus!” A legalist/law based- repentance puts the focus on you and your badness, but new covenant repentance puts the focus on Him and His goodness.
When you see the Lord of grace looking at you with love and affection, you will repent. You will turn from sin to Him not because you have been bribed with carrots or threatened with sticks but because Jesus is more attractive than anything this world offers. He is the Beauty who draws us to Himself.
When Jesus said “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15), He was saying “Here is the good news of God’s grace—change your skeptical mind and believe it.” If you want to see more repentance, preach the good news of God’s kindness. Tell people about the goodness of God that is found in Jesus.
# Disseminating the truth
# Bringing freedom
# Perfecting the saints