change: to cause to become different; alter; transform; a radical transmutation of one’s character or core nature.
“You better change your mind, young man, or you’re going to be in serious trouble!” was shouted at me by my mother who was chasing me after I had done something wrong; I don’t recall for certain, but I think I was about 8 years of age at the time.
The “serious trouble” my mother was referring to was a spanking I would receive when Dad came home from work. That’s an expression I heard very often when my mother caught me engaging in some wrong behavior when I was a boy. What was Mother really saying to me? She was saying: “Bill, the problem is really not what you’re doing wrong; your wrong thinking is causing your wrong behavior. You need to change your wrong thinking!”
How about you? Of the two, which would you say is the bigger problem for you: your wrong behavior OR your wrong thinking? If you could change some of your wrong thinking in various areas of your life, would that help correct your wrong behavior?
Are you asking: “Bill, what in the world is this all about? Why are you writing about the way I think?” Because the way you think makes all the difference in this life . . . and in your life to come.
Here’s a general statement: Most–not all–adult humans tend to fear and resist change. Okay, okay, I know you don’t fear change; you’re the exception. I said most adult humans fear and resist change, not all of them.
I’m not writing so much about generalized changes that take place throughout our mortal journeys in the external world around us—technological changes, new inventions, political changes, cultural changes, and the like. Those types of external changes just sort of “happen” around us as we journey through life, and we have a tendency to take them in stride as they occur. For example, just think back a moment to the multitude of changes in your external world since you were born and began your mortal journey.
The Big Changes
The changes I’m writing about that we tend to fear and resist are internal changes, in the interior of our beings—changes we must make inside us as we journey through life. Those are the hard changes most of us deal with throughout our mortal journeys.
Hey, I could just tell you: “Get over it. Replace your fear of change with your faith—and your resistance with compliance!” That’s much easier said than done, dear reader. Yet, that’s exactly what God expects us to do throughout our lifetime journeys if we’re going to grow, develop, and mature as followers of Jesus.
Many extensive surveys and studies the past few years have disclosed that one of the greatest fears among both teenagers and adults is the fear of changes which might occur in their futures. In fact, such fear of the possibility of future changes has led to an entire category of mental and emotional illnesses roughly categorized as “anxiety” or “panic attacks.” For the most part, such illnesses are caused from fear of the unknown future. In turn, such illnesses create stress (actually dis-stress), which, as you know, often is the cause of many other, stress-induced illnesses such as some cardiac problems.
Hospital beds, psychiatric hospitals, and mental health clinics are filled to overflowing with people who suffer from distress, anxiety and panic attacks, which, in turn, cause all sorts of other illnesses. Yes, fear of the future leads to stress, panic attacks, and anxiety, which, in turn, are the causes of many other illnesses.
I just came from having lunch with an old friend. My friend seemed unable to talk about anything except his fears of the future and all the changes taking place in and around him. As he talked, he was actually shaking from such fears. It seems like that’s all he could think about and talk about. After I let him tell me about all his fears and anxieties for almost an hour, this is how I responded: “There is one prayer God will not answer with ‘Yes’: ‘Please, God, let things remain the same; please, no more changes!’”
I informed my friend that changes were going to continue in his life for as long as he lived, and he needed to begin to ask God for help as such changes occur. Otherwise, he was going to make himself physically ill. In fact, he already had some physical illnesses likely caused by his worry and anxiety about his future.
Changes began in each of our lives at the moment of our conception when our first fertilized cell changed and divided . . .and changes will continue right up until the moment of our death . . . and beyond. When we were conceived our bodies began to change, our souls began to change, and our spirits began to change. And such changes will never cease in each of our lives. The only predictable thing in your life is change: change in your body, change in your soul, and change in your spirit!
On a vastly larger scale the entire created universe is constantly changing, growing, and expanding. Nothing in all of God’s creation ever stays the same; nothing remains unchanging.
The only Person Who never changes is God, who doesn’t need to change because He is whole and complete in and of Himself. Malachi 3: 6 emphatically states: “I am God; therefore, I do not change.” Hebrews 13: 8 states, “Jesus [God the Son] is the same yesterday, today, and for all the ages of time and eternity.”
The theological word for God’s unchanging-ness is “immutable.” Just thought I’d throw in that word so I could impress you with my deep theological understanding . . .
But let’s take another look at all the changes occurring in our lives . . . and changes that will be coming in our futures. Get used to change. Learn to deal with changes in your external world and inside you. They’re going to keep coming. They’re not gonna stop. You can’t run from them. Change is here to stay. You can learn to embrace change rather than fear it!
Job’s Ageless Question
Thousands of years ago a man named Job (pronounced jobe) asked God a question . . . and then answered his own question. He asked: “If a person dies, shall that person live again?” He then stated: “I will wait until my change comes.” What change was Job thinking about? He was thinking about the change that comes to every human when they die.
We will all die (except for those people who will be alive when King Jesus returns to consummate his Kingdom on earth). You will die. I will die. We will all die. If you don’t believe that . . . well you must be living in a world far, far, away from the real world the rest of us live in.
Biggest Change Yet To Come
I’m going to begin by writing about the biggest change we all face . . . and then work backwards from that big change to other changes in our mortal lives leading up to that big change.
1 Corinthians 15: 51 and 52 teaches about the Great Change coming when King Jesus will return to consummate his Heavenly Kingdom on earth:
“Pay attention! I am telling you a previously hidden truth. We will not all sleep in death, but we shall all be changed—in a nanosecond, in less time than it takes to blink. A trumpet will sound and we will be raised from the dead, free from decay. Yes, we shall be changed and transformed.”
That will be sort of our final change, when we are changed from mortals to immortals, but it’s not really a final change because we will continue to change for many years to come after that event . . . and then beyond those years when we enter into our eternal state of being.
In the meantime, God wants us to continue to change, grow, and develop in this mortal life before we die or before Jesus returns—whichever occurs first. Most changes that need to occur in our lives during this mortal journey are changes in our mind, attitudes, and thought patterns so we see life more and more from God’s point of view and think more and more like Jesus thinks.
I’ve stated this before: “If we’re not green and growing, we are ripe and rotting.” I know, I know, that’s kind of a dumb statement, but—as dumb as it is—it’s true!
The first change people need to make in their lives is to be born2. (born twice, born again, saved, converted, see the light–whatever term is most meaningful to you). That change into a new person—into a newly created immortal being—automatically sets in motion a lifelong process of change, growth, and development.
You became a brand-new creation—a “changeling” when you were born2—and will spend the remainder of your mortal journey here on earth being changed and transformed back into God’s image as best seen in Jesus.
Uh, oh, there’s that word. A word that most of us don’t like. An old-fashioned Bible word that we’d rather weren’t even in the Bible. Repent! What does that word really mean. Do people in our modern times still need to repent like they did in Bible times? It’s an old-fashioned, harsh-sounding, scary, weird, Bible word, REPENT. Wow, doesn’t that word really “turn you off”?
What type of mind-pictures form in your brain when you think of that word? Do you see a dirty old drunk kneeling at an altar in some run-down Gospel Mission on Skid Row—mumbling, crying his heart out, promising God he’ll quit drinking? Or maybe you picture in your mind poor lost sinners streaming down an aisle in an old-fashioned tent revival meeting, heading to an altar where they’ll promise God never again to commit some horrible sin.
Perhaps you see some young woman sobbing her heart out because her boyfriend has charmed her into committing the “unpardonable sin” with him. Or maybe you remember seeing a movie where some hardened criminal repented of his crime just before the switch was pulled to execute him in the electric chair.
Are those some of the images that pop into your mind when you think of that word, Repent? Maybe you visualize a cartoon picturing some religious fanatic carrying a placard which proclaims: “Repent! The End of the World is Near!” Or perhaps you’ve heard or read of “poor lost sinners” screaming and begging God not to send them to hell forever.
I have a pleasant surprise for you . . .
Yes, just like people did in the “olden days,” we—you—me—must repent. But wait a minute, I need to explain to you what that word really means in the Bible. It doesn’t mean what most people have been led to believe it means. There are two words (and their derivatives) used in the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible which have been translated “repent” or “repentance” in English. The most basic meanings of those Hebrew and Greek words are to change one’s mind. Period! Nope, no “Yes, buts . . . ” It just means to change one’s mind. Maybe right now you’re thinking “Yes, but I’ve heard that it means . . . ” No, what you’ve heard is probably wrong. It simply means to change one’s mind.
Now let’s zero in and closely examine the word “repent” (or repentance) in a little more detail in the Bible. Again, in their most basic form in the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible, the words mean “to change one’s mind.” The words occur over 100 times in the Bible. Of course, a lot of words occur over 100 times in the Bible, but this frequency indicates that repentance is an important subject in the Bible.
It does not mean to cry, to moan, to sob and weep at a church altar or to “walk down the sawdust trail” in a tent revival meeting, to be extremely sorry for wrongdoing, to promise never to do something again, to promise to turn away from sin, to make a resolution never to commit a certain sin ever again. It does not mean that you have to do penance or be a penitent for a period of time.
Nope. None of those. Repent means to change one’s mind. Period!
Okay, that’s a very basic definition. Let’s amplify it just a little more to give you a better feel for what it means: repent means I set my will to change my mind to stop living a self-filled, self-absorbed life and start living a Jesus-filled LIFE.
A “self-filled life” simply means that I want to live life my own way without any interference from God or anyone else. It means I mistakenly feel I’m in charge of my own life—not anyone else . . . and certainly not God.
There’s a little “throne” on the inside of your life. To repent means you make a quality decision to have God rule and reign on that inner throne . . . instead of your own “self.” Here’s an even more expanded, amplified meaning: Repentance is to live in a continual state of changing mental (and attitude) awareness where I see life and reality more and more as God sees them, and think more and more like God thinks by continually changing my mind. How do we reach such a state of awareness and comprehension?
We repent by continually reading and studying the Bible and letting Holy Spirit point out what we need to change our minds about. It means that—based upon the Bible’s teachings—we are constantly changing our minds throughout our lifetimes so that we develop godly minds and think more and more like God thinks.
There are many references in the New Testament that teach this concept; I’ll let you look up those references for yourself. The life of a Jesus-believer is a continual, lifelong state of repentance, of changing our minds and attitudes.
No Penance or Penitence!
Repentance is never just a one-time act a person commits in order to be “saved”! It’s a lifelong process of changing our minds. Also, as I’ve already mentioned, it does not mean “doing penance” for a period of time after we repent or continuing to be “penitent” for a period of time after we repent.
The concepts of Penance and Penitence are human-made traditions not found anywhere in the Bible! Oh, after we have repented of a particular sin, transgression, or wrongdoing, there may be a period of remorse or regret; there may be a time when we feel contrite; that’s pretty normal for most people; that’s okay. But, nowhere does the Bible teach there should be a volitional, intentional period of penance or penitence after we have repented (changed our minds) about something. So, go ahead and feel remorse or regret or contrition if you have sinned and repented of it. But, don’t feel there has to be a time of penance or penitence to make your repentance “stick;” that’s simply not taught anywhere in the Bible.
You may be asking, “Bill, isn’t it almost blasphemy to teach we can think like God thinks?” I’ll let you answer that question for yourself after you read and ponder just a few references from the Bible: Romans 12: 1 and 2; 1 Corinthians 2: 16; 2 Corinthians 10: 5; Ephesians 4: 23 and 24; Philippians 2: 5; Colossians 3: 1 – 4, and Hebrews 8: 10.
Don’t all such references say either directly or by inference that we are to develop the mind of Jesus? How do we develop the mind of Jesus so we think like He thinks? By constantly repenting—constantly changing and renewing our minds and attitudes based upon what we read and study in the Bible! It means to maintain an ongoing state of changing our mind and attitudes so we see reality through God’s eyes rather than through ours and, as a result, our lives are steadily, consistently, and irrevocably changed for the better.
Let’s look at a few more passages in the Bible to see if we can discover more about the meaning of repentance. 2 Timothy chapter two, verses 24 through 26 is a good place to begin. Among other subjects, this reference is about Bible teachers who teach people about repentance. It is about God granting repentance to people who are being taught properly. This reference says if teachers teach about repentance correctly, God will give learners opportunities to practice repentance as a way of life and come to know the truth.
Keep in mind Jesus is the ultimate embodiment and personification of truth. People—you, me—first come to know the truth. Then, knowing truth—Jesus—restores God‘s own mind and thoughts in us. This helps us to escape from a clever trap in which the devil captured us—because we don’t understand the clear truth about repentance. (At this point, you may want to check out another brief teaching on this website entitled Truth.)
Further, this reference in 2 Timothy goes on to say if we learn the truth about repentance, God will help us re-arrange our de-arranged or dis-arranged minds (I didn’t write “deranged”; I wrote “de-arranged”—there’s a difference).
Let me try to put it this way by paraphrasing part of the reference something like this (we’ll call this “The Simplified Paraphrase”):
“The devil has caused us to misunderstand what repentance really means. He has de-arranged our minds and scrambled our thoughts so we have misunderstood what it really means to repent and come to know the truth. When we understand the truth about repentance, then God will free us from the devil’s trap, help us have new, re-arranged minds, and thus revolutionize our lives.”
I hope this teaching about repentance will liberate you from the devil’s entrapment. I believe that’s really going to happen to you and you‘ll become freer than you’ve ever been before. If you honestly want to become emancipated from bondage to spiritual, mental, and emotional slavery, read on . . . I’m going to take my time and go slowly as we study together this important biblical subject. God wants to heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. He wants to proclaim liberty to you if you have been held captive by your de-arranged thinking. God wants to lead you into an entirely new lifelong process of changing your mind and attitudes—repenting!
If “repent” means to change our minds and attitudes, what do we need to change them about? I’m glad you asked. . . Let’s see how I can put it. Perhaps this way. Each of us has a particular viewpoint, a particular mind-set, a worldview, a specific way in which we perceive and comprehend life, reality, the universe, God, ourselves, others.
For the most part, the way in which we perceive and comprehend those things is due to everything we have learned and experienced—through our 5 senses—since we were born. That’s just the way it is; we’re “products” of this world, this time, this generation, our education, our family, our friends, our experiences. We’ve had our minds shaped and molded simply by virtue of the fact we were born as humans on this planet at a certain time, in a certain place, into a certain family and cultural milieu.
Unfortunately, these “products” (that’s us—you, me) are marred by a reality called SIN! (Gulp! Yes, I‘m really going to teach about sin.) Call it whatever you choose, sin is part of the reality of our lives. I’m not going to spend much time teaching about sin; most of us know enough about it by experience. I think I’ll just say it like this: sin is a “force” or a “power” to which each of us has fallen prey, causing us to choose to live self-filled, self-absorbed lives instead of Jesus-filled lives.
Sin has distorted, and twisted, and flawed, and marred each of our lives, causing each of us to be far less than God originally intended us to be. If sin is not summarily dealt with at some decisive moment in each of our lives, it could eventually destroy us. It’s terminal, like cancer—except worse. God has provided us a remedy for our terrible sin-sickness, but that’s for another lesson. Suffice it to say, God has completely taken away our sin and emancipated us from it—if we’ll just accept his remedy.
The presence of sin is why we need to learn about and practice repentance as a daily way of life. God created us to live on a high level of life where we perceive and comprehend and live in reality as He does; sin has dulled and blinded our perception and comprehension of reality. Sin causes us to see reality as if we’re constantly stumbling around blindly in a murky fog or trying to swim upstream in a river of gelatin. Because of sin, we just don’t think straight and live properly—if left to ourselves to deal with it.
Sin has de-arranged our minds so we don’t think, and perceive, and comprehend reality the way God does. Repentance—changing our minds and attitudes—brings us back to a point where we can think like God again, feel as God feels, perceive as He perceives, and comprehend as He comprehends. We need to begin to develop a mind like God’s and think thoughts like his when we learn and practice the skill of repentance.
Honestly now, just for one day—or even one hour—wouldn’t you like to see everything just the way God sees things? What tremendous, comprehensive new insight into our own lives that would give us!
We Have Met The Prodigal, and He is Us!
Please turn in your Bible now to Luke 15: 11-32. Please don’t read any further in this teaching until you’ve read that entire reference. If you read any further without reading that biblical reference, this teaching will self-destruct and vaporize right in your hands or on your computer—
You probably recognize this as the familiar story of The Prodigal Son. I have a question for you now: Is there anything about repentance in this story Jesus told? If so, where? What verse? Look again. You’re right, verse 18 is about repentance. This young man made a quality decision in his mind—he changed his mind—and said, “I will get up and return home to my father; I will say to him: ‘Dad, I have sinned [there’s that word, ‘sin’] against God and against you.’”
Notice this story does not say this young person cried, screamed, wept, and moaned. He didn’t promise to be good and never to sin again. He didn’t spend hours bemoaning his horrible fate or blaming someone else for the mess he was in. He wasn’t kneeling at an altar with tears streaming down his cheeks. Nothing like that happened.
Instead, this young person simply came to realize he had seriously messed up his life. He realized that his thinking and attitudes had become de-arranged. He realized God had been right all along. He thought things over and realized he had made some serious wrong decisions and choices along the way. He came to his senses and understood he had de-arranged his thinking and attitudes about God and about life in general. He accepted the fact he had been irresponsible with all God had given him. He came to realize he was not perceiving the realities of life through God’s eyes.
He made a decision in his mind; he committed an act of his will. Notice he did not make a mere emotional decision . . . they never last. He just changed his mind. Then, having made that decision, he stood up, squared his shoulders, and started home. I imagine that first step was the hardest he had ever taken, but he had changed his mind, he had repented, he had made a quality decision—and now God gave him the inner strength and the resolve to get up and start back towards God and home. An old song goes: “See, the Father greets him out upon the way, welcoming His weary, wand’ring child!”
How about you, dear reader? What is the Father telling you to repent about—to change your mind and attitudes about—today? Read that simple story in Luke two or three times and you’ll begin to hear God’s gentle voice inside you urging you to change your mind; you’ll hear God’s soft voice calling, “Change your mind and come on home, my child, my weary one; all I have is yours. Come on home. All things are ready for you. Your homecoming party‘s about to begin!”
Let‘s continue on now with some more thoughts about what it means to repent. Remember repent means to change our minds, to begin thinking the opposite from what we’ve been thinking; to think God’s thoughts instead of our own flawed thoughts; to begin to see our own lives and the lives of others through God’s eyes because our inner, spirit-eyes have “cataracts” and we see things as being very cloudy and fuzzy. That’s what repentance is all about.
Three Vital Reasons
There are three vital reasons (actually there are many, many reasons) why we need to develop a lifestyle of repentance. I want to make this point first—before we go any further: God doesn’t change our minds for us, and our minds don’t change by means of some sort of spiritual magic.
No! We change our own minds using the inner power of Holy Spirit whom God has already placed within us.
Once we change our minds, then the Holy Spirit empowers us from within to change our attitudes and our behavior—based upon our change of mind.
Here are those three reasons why we need to repent—change our minds.
First, God COMMANDS us to repent. Yes, I said “Commands“! “ It ‘s not optional to repent. We are commanded to repent. You might ask: “Does God have the right to command us to repent?” Let me answer this way: “Who are we? Who is God? Who’s in charge?” He commands us to repent. He doesn’t suggest we repent. He commands it. You might read all about that in acts 17: 30 and 31. I spent many years serving in the United States Armed Forces. One thing you learn very quickly in the military is to obey a lawful command. God’s command for us to repent—to change our minds—is a lawful command. He has every “legal” right as our Creator to command us to repent. The only proper response is for us to obey! And . . . if it’s not instant obedience, it’s disobedience!
The second reason? We need to learn to repent because GOD IS A GOOD GOD! Psalm 119: 68 (and many similar references) teach that God is altogether good and absolutely everything He does is good. When we begin to see how good He really is, we just naturally want to change our minds in order to begin to be like Him. Every human ever born yearns to be good. Even the worst humans want to be good—but sometimes they go about doing so in bad and evil ways because their thinking has become so horribly de-arranged.
Oh, a lot of people won’t admit it, but we do want to be good—not “goody-goody,” but just plain good: upright, responsible, honorable, honest, clean-living, trustworthy, reliable, wholesome. When we begin to see that God is a good God and loving Father—instead of a stern old heavenly tyrant as we’ve been falsely taught—we then want to repent. I’d like you to look that up in Romans 2:4.
Here’s the third biblical reason why we must repent. It’s the verse in the Bible that all the hell-fire and damnation preachers use—wrongly. It’s the one that says “Godly sorrow works repentance.” Isn’t repentance about crying and feeling really sorry for our sins? Don’t we have to feel deep remorse and really convince God how sorrowful we are for what we’ve done?
Well, let’s look at that verse together. It’s 2 Corinthians 7:10. It says “Godly sorrow causes repentance.” That’s exactly what it says, and here’s part of what it means (you do understand, don’t you, that I’m only explaining part of what this reference means? There’s much more to it than this simple explanation, but I’m trying to stress a particular point): If you have godlike sorrow (which God gives you), you will repent. The sorrow originates and comes from God, not from yourself!
What does God feel sorrowful about? God sees how we hurt ourselves and each other—how we fail to live up to our full potential . . . how we need to be more like him . . . how we fall so short of all the good reasons for which God created us . . . how we hurt and are in pain so much . . . how we often don’t have enough money to pay our bills . . . how our relationships are so fragmented . . . Yes, God sees all these things in our lives—and more—and it causes him to be sorrowful for our plight.
That verse is about how God feels about us, not about how we feel about ourselves. And when we begin to comprehend and understand how God feels about us . . . when we understand his pity and his goodness . . . how he wants to change us to be like Himself . . . how He wants to lift us up out of the quicksands of life that we’ve plunged ourselves into . . . how He wants to change us to be like Him . . . Then we begin to change our minds and allow the power of God’s Spirit to permanently and forever change our lives.
In a sense, then, repentance is merely opening our eyes to see ourselves as God sees us—all those areas in our lives needing changing. Yes we need to tap into God’s type of sorrow which causes us to repent, not a human type of sorrow and self-pity which are usually just emotional feelings and don’t change much of anything, at least not for long.
Next, let’s take a look at the actual “mechanics” of repentance. How do we actually “do” repentance? How do we actually go about changing our minds toward God? We’re going to begin by looking at a familiar reference, I John 1: 9. I’d like you to turn there and actually read that verse. What does this verse have to do with repentance?
We need to understand what that word “confess” means. It’s a word which in Greek means “to speak the same things” or “to agree.” It has the same root meaning as our English word, “homogenized,” for example. It means to be in agreement, or to be like-minded; it means to be in agreement with God or to think the way God thinks. Remember earlier when we taught about sin? I hope so. “But, Bill,” you say, “I’ve always been taught that this verse means that I have to weep, and to moan, and to cry out to God, pleading urgently with him to somehow find a way to have mercy on me and forgive me of my sins.” I know that’s what you’ve been taught; it’s wrong . . .
All this verse really says is when you do something wrong—when you sin—all you need to do is simply agree with God that you’ve sinned, and accept his provision for your forgiveness—provision He already made possible fully and completely over 2,000 years ago. That’s all. Just agree with God about your sin. You don’t need to feel deeply remorseful, promising God you’ll never do something again and pleading for him to scramble around and come up with enough mercy to forgive you.
It’s really a very simple three-step process: 1. when you sin, you agree with God that you’ve done so, and 2. accept his full and complete forgiveness. Beautiful, huh? It’s likely much different from what you’ve been taught. In other words, you admit to your sin in a mature, responsible manner, you change your mind about it (repent) by agreeing with God (confess the sin), and then accept God’s full and complete forgiveness he’s already provided for you. Step 3 is below.
Are you asking, “How can this be so simple? How can God forgive so readily, quickly, and easily?”
He doesn’t forgive so easily. His forgiveness cost him everything—the ugly and excruciatingly painful death of his very own beloved Son! His forgiveness comes at a greater cost than we can ever comprehend. But since that awesome price for your forgiveness was fully paid over 2,000 years ago, now it really is very simple and easy. God is able to freely forgive you and cleanse you—without hesitation—every time you sin, because of the tremendous price He paid for your sin over 2,000 years ago. Now He can instantly and freely forgive you the second you change your mind and agree with him about your sin.
“But,” you ask, “What if I sin again, and again . . . and again?” Wow, have I got good news for you. Look up 1 John 2: 1 and 2. Are you thinking it can’t be all that simple and easy. If you really don’t think so, then you need to change your mind about that, too, and agree with God. If you’re saying it can’t be that simple, then guess Who you’re calling a liar?
Here’s the final step—step 3—in how repentance works. It involves the inner power of Holy Spirit. Again, step 1 is we make a decision of the will—an inner decision of the mind, a decision to change our mind. We change our mind about our sin. We agree with God about it. We agree with God’s thoughts in the matter. Step 2 is to accept God’s full and complete forgiveness for whatever it is we have repented of.
Step 3: God’s Spirit (who has taken up permanent residence within us) gives us the inner power to act upon our decisions and make the necessary changes in our lives. We change our mind to align it with God’s evaluation of a given situation. We let down all of our defense mechanisms and decide to quit making excuses for our sin. We decide to see the situation as God sees it. We agree with God and put away all excuse-making, rationalization, and self-justification.
We form a new purpose and determination in a given situation. We grow up and accept a mature responsibility for our own actions and character. We quit blaming others. We change our minds about negative and harmful habit patterns. We say: “I change my mind and cooperate with God as He carries out his purposes to form a new mind and character within me.” That opens us up, allowing Holy Spirit to give us the necessary inner power to make the changes.
Repentance is not something you do only once when you first become a child of God’s Kingdom; it is an ongoing, continuing state of changing your mind Godward. It is not an emotional act; it is an ongoing lifestyle of changing your mind to think like God thinks and to see reality as He sees it.
How in the world do we learn what God’s thoughts are in order to agree” with him? I’m glad you asked that . . . Here it is again: to know God’s thoughts, his mind, his intellect, his will, his emotions, his feelings, his personality, his nature, and his character—to really get to know him intimately as a Person, we must know our Bible. Not know about it, but know it.
God has revealed his nature, character, and attributes to us humans primarily in and through the Bible. Knowing about the Bible won’t do it, my friend. You must come to know it! The Bible is God’s personal Word to you. The Bible isn’t just another religious book; it’s God’s written Word to humanity—His revelation of himself to all people. God gives us the Bible not merely to inform us, but to transform us!
Let me ask you a couple of questions: First, in comparison to your television viewing (an average of 4-6 hours per day for a typical American family!)—in comparison to viewing television, to reading Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Playboy, Sports Illustrated (or whatever else you wish to include in a list of those things which occupy most of your time), how much time do you spend reading and studying the Bible which is God’s personal Word to you? C’mon, be honest.
My second question: If you’re doing everything but reading and studying the Bible, and if you’re feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, depressed, alone, unhappy . . . if you’re burdened with sin and guilt . . . if you’re feeling unloved . . . if you have no sense of direction and purpose in life . . . if life seems dull and meaningless most of the time . . . if you’re wondering where God is in your daily life . . . Do you see any connection with what you’re spending your time on?
Seems kind of obvious when you look at it that way, doesn’t it? Or does it? If it doesn’t seem quite obvious to you, maybe the problem is far more serious than you realize. If the Bible really is God’s loving Word to you . . . if the Bible really is God’s written Truth to help you learn to change your mind and think God’s thoughts . . . if your Bible really is collecting dust day after day after day while you give your attention to everything and anything else except the Bible, there’s a serious problem somewhere, dear reader!
How can you possibly change your mind to think God’s thoughts if you have no idea what his thoughts are? How can you obey his commands if you don’t know what they are? How can you stop being self-centered and self-absorbed if you don’t know how to become God-centered? You simply cannot perform those changes of your mind by magic. They just won’t come without your reading, studying, and OBEYING your dusty Bible which has been lying there on the coffee table for months while you dust around it once a week.
Let’s summarize before we proceed any further. Repentance is an act of your will whereby you decide—when you make a conscious, quality decision—to change your mind and attitudes. It is not an emotion or a feeling. Emotions and feelings often result from having made a decision to repent, but the emotions and feelings are not the act of repentance itself.
The power which makes it possible to actually change what you have changed your mind about is the power of the Spirit of God Who lives inside you. Once you make the decision to change your mind, then God’s Spirit inside you gives you the inner power to carry out whatever changes become necessary based upon the decision you have made. God’s Spirit inside of you is a Person of Power, an unfailing Force within you. He’s not inside of you merely to help you have a nice religious experience or to feel warm and fuzzy when you attend church. He lives inside of you in order to give you power to change.
What do we need to change our minds about? God the Holy Spirit lives inside of you in your spirit. Your spirit is inseparably fused with the Spirit of God. He speaks to you out of your spirit into your mind and tells you whatever needs changing in your mind and attitudes. When you change your mind, then He helps you to take whatever action is needed because of what you’ve changed your mind about. He speaks to you. You change your mind. He gives you the power to make the necessary changes in your life. It’s that simple, dear readers. It really is! But our understanding of repentance has become so distorted that most people don’t even want to think about it, much less do it.
Again, what do you change your mind about? Whatever God tells you to. There’s only one catch here. You’ve got to believe that God is alive and actually speaks to people today just like He did in the Bible. If you don’t, you probably won’t do much repenting and will think that people who do are pretty strange. What God tells you to repent about is between you and God. And He is a good God and his goodness leads you to repent. You’ve got to believe that He is alive, that He is good, and that He speaks to you. Put those three things in proper perspective and you’ll have no trouble being a person who develops a lifestyle of repentance.
What is the still, small—gentle—voice of God inside of you telling you to repent about right now, right as you read this teaching? If you’re a human being, God is dealing gently with some areas of your thinking and your life that need changed. All you have to do is change your mind and then God’s Spirit inside of you will give you the power to make any necessary changes.
Hey, this “repentance” thing works! Got any idea how I know? I’ve been repenting for many years now, just realizing that God is a good God who lives inside me and wants me to do some changing. It’s a lifelong process, but it’s simple once you begin the process. You just come to realize that because God is good He wants good things for you, but you have to change your mind a lot in order to receive those good things from our good God.
I know that right now as you read these lines, God is putting his finger on an area of your life that needs changing. Listen quietly for that still, small voice speaking from inside you where God lives. Change your mind! C’mon, you can do it . . . See what a fantastic difference it makes as God’s Spirit surges up inside of you and helps you to make whatever changes He has put his finger on. That‘s true biblical repentance!
I’ve been practicing repentance and teaching about it for many years. Over the years, I’ve discovered seven major areas of our lives most of us need to repent about. Oh, I’m sure there are more than seven—and many variations and nuances within these seven areas—but I believe you’ll see yourself throughout these seven areas as you read on. This will not be a full and complete teaching on each of these points, but, rather, a summary “in a nutshell” of the major points I have taught for years.
“Change your mind and then turn away from your sin so your sin wont ruin you. Turn away from your rebellion and I will give you and new heart and a new spirit.” –God, Ezekiel 18: 30 and 31
One more time: remember that repentance means to change one’s mind. That‘s all it means—nothing more, nothing less. Here are the seven major areas in which I’ve discovered most of us need to repent—change our minds about.
7 Matters we Need to Repent About
ONE: We need to change our minds about who God is and what He is like. For whatever reasons, many of us have grown up picturing God in our minds as some type of wild-haired, bearded, angry old man sitting on top of a stormy mountaintop somewhere in heaven just waiting to cast judgmental thunderbolts at us if we do something wrong. God is not angry with you. He is good, not mean and angry. In a sense, Jesus is God “focused” in such a way so that we humans can better comprehend God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. The Bible says “Jesus went about doing good and healing all..” (Acts 10: 38) That’s what God is like. Remember how we taught earlier that the goodness of God causes us to change our minds?! God goes about doing good and healing all . . .
TWO: We need to change our minds about Jesus. Jesus is not some namby-pamby, wishy-washy, minor deity whom God uses as his errand boy. Jesus is fully God and fully human. And Jesus is Lord! What does “Lord” mean? It’s the same as our modern concept of a dictator. Not a tyrannical dictator, but a totally good and benevolent dictator or master who should have complete control of our lives because He is the only one who can work out everything for good in our lives.
If Jesus is not your dictator—your kind, benevolent, good master—in total control of your life, then you need to change your mind about who He is. If He is not in total control and you are not totally subservient to him, then you need to do some major re-thinking about who’s in control of your life.
THREE: We need to change our minds about who we are. First of all, once upon a time we were unforgiven sinners constantly falling short of God’s purposes for our lives. Then we asked for his forgiveness and he freely gave it to us. Either way—unforgiven sinners or forgiven children of God—we are not good as God is good. Oh, you may be as good or even better than some other people, but in relation to God you are not good. Only through God’s forgiveness of your sinful condition through Jesus can you be good.
But don’t let this matter of sin trip you up or fool you. Some people—even though they have been forgiven of their sin—continue to let sin drag them down and keep them from being all God has created and designed them to be. You are not a worm crawling in the dust, just waiting for God—or other people—to step on you and grind you down. No, you are God’s highest order of creation, destined for greatness as He works out his grand purposes in your life!
You must change your mind about who you are and begin to rise as an eagle in the heavens to the greatness for which God has created and destined you. You are a child of the king, being groomed in the king’s household for great things God the King has in is master purposes for your life in his Kingdom.
FOUR: We need to change our minds about the Church. I don’t mean a building, a denomination, an organization, a religious “place” where people do religious things, a movement, or an institution. The Church is a living organism. I define the Church as “everyone everywhere and everywhen in whom Jesus dwells permanently in the form of Holy Spirit.” Because the Church consists of human “building materials,” it has it’s faults and is not perfect. If the Church were perfect, the minute you or I became a part of it, it would become imperfect. The church—like it or not—was designed by God to be composed of imperfect human beings living and working together to represent God and do his work on this planet—and throughout all creation.
If you do not have a vital relationship with a local expression of the Church, there is some question—from the Bible—about your respect for God and his “body” the Church. Even if you’re in prison or living in some nation where you cannot participate in the life of the Church, just two or three of you gathering together whenever possible constitutes a local expression of God’s Church.
One cannot be considered to be an authentic child of God if one is not connected in some meaningful and vital way to a local portion of the Church, because the minute one becomes an authentic follower of God, church becomes part of the total package of God’s full and complete salvation for you. Yes, some of you need to change your minds—repent—about your relationship (or lack of it) to God’s Church.
FIVE: Let’s think about sin for a moment. Are you thinking: “Uh oh, here it comes; haven’t I been beaten over the head enough about sin in my life?” Maybe. Maybe not. Have you admitted honestly you’re a sinner and your sins estrange you from God? Have you accepted God’s free offer of total forgiveness of your sin—and then left the matter with God?
That ‘s all I want to write about your sin. Stop dragging your sins around with you. If you gave them to God, then He’s forgotten them—and you should, too. Change your mind about your sin. Walk away from it. Forget it. When Jesus comes to live inside of you, sin will linger in your life, but when you recognize it as such, give it to God—quickly—and be rid of it. Don’t keep pleading with God and begging him to forgive your sin. He already has! Accept that and get on with the new life He has designed for you. Change your mind—repent—about sin.
SIX: Uh oh, here’s a biggie. . . Your M-O-N-E-Y! A reference in the Bible, 3 John 2, states that above all things God wants you to prosper and be in good health! How can you be prosperous? By giving God money. “Wait a minute,” you say, “If I give my money away, I ‘m sure not going to be prosperous!” Sorry! That’s the way it works with God. Not to give all of it away, of course, but whatever, wherever, and whenever He tells you to give. To give is to gain. To keep is to lose. God has allowed you to be a steward or “business administrator” of a certain amount of time, talent, and treasure (money). The only way to “increase” these is to “invest” them in God’s work. Let me give you a brief Bible definition of prosperity. Prosperity means “to have enough for a good journey.” That’s the Bible definition of prosperity.
You and I are on a pilgrim journey from birth to death and then on to the next stage of God’s grand purposes for our lives. The only way for you to have enough for your journey—enough time, enough talent, and enough treasure is to keep giving enough away so that God can give you a good “return” on your “investment. People are no fools who give what they cannot keep in order to gain what they cannot lose!
SEVEN: You need to change your mind about health and healing. God wants you well. He wants you to have a healthy body and a healthy mind because you are the “temple” of God the Holy Spirit. Have you ever seen a once-beautiful church building that has fallen into disrepair and ruin? I saw a number of them when my wife and I were teaching in China. Many of your “temples” have fallen into disrepair because you have not kept up with your routine maintenance and repair on your bodies and minds.
As is the case with prosperity, above all things God wants you to be in good health. He has given you both modern medicine and prayer in order for you to be as healthy as possible. He is the source of both medicine and divine healing and health. Both of these are God’s means of healing.
God doesn’t cause people to be sick. If you really believe He does, why would you go to a doctor or to the hospital? If you really believed that, you should pray to be sicker. That’s really wrong thinking that you need to change your mind about. People make themselves sick. Sin makes people sick. Germs make people sick. Viruses and diseases make people sick. Unsanitary living conditions make people sick. Accidents make people sick. Not God! God wants you well!
And He wants you to have a sound mind as well as a healthy body. He has not given you a mind full of fear and timidity. Yes, some of you need to change your minds—repent—about divine health and healing for your minds and bodies, and work as hard (in cooperation with God) to get well and to stay well as you’ve worked in becoming sick and unhealthy.
That’s it… Now that you know what it really means, REPENT!!
“I appeal to you in view of God’s mercy to make a decisive dedication of your bodies to God, which is only reasonable, and is well-pleasing to God. Don’t be conformed to the external, superficial ways of this world, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.” Paul, Romans 12: 1 and 2, paraphrased
An old Gospel song puts it like this—about our constant change and God’s unchangeable-ness:
God’s oath, his covenant, his blood,
Support me in the ‘whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
The only way for us to deal with all our lifelong internal changes is to rest upon God’s unchanging support and stability. If we know that He never changes—and that all changes in our lives are working out for our ultimate good—then we can face all of life’s changes with confidence.
Model For Inner Change
When you were born2, in a nanosecond Jesus came to live permanently inside your spirit in the “unbodied form” of Holy Spirit. Part of the work of Holy Spirit living inside you—his “job”—is to bring to your attention changes needing to be made in your thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. When He points out those things needing changed, you job is to change your mind about them . . . to repent.
Then, once you change your mind, Holy Spirit furnishes you the inner power to make the necessary changes. Once you make the changes, then He will bring to your attention more changes you need to make . . . and so on.
Here’s how that “model” for change looks and “works”:
The Holy Spirit brings to your attention thoughts, attitudes, or behavior needing changed– you change your mind–Holy Spirit gives you inner power to change–you make the necessary changes with his inner power–Holy Spirit brings to your attention more thoughts, attitudes, or behavior needing changed–you change your mind . . . and so on, throughout your entire mortal life here on planet earth.
That’s the model, that’s how it works, that’s how you make the necessary changes using Jesus’ power within you from where He lives in your human spirit.
Thoughts, Attitudes, Behavior
Our thoughts need changed, because before we are born2, for the most part we learned the thoughts and thought-patterns of this world and it’s ways. We learned a “worldly” wordview; we need to unlearn many of those views and newly learn a biblical worldview. We need to learn to see life here on planet earth as God sees it. Of course, we learn such new thoughts and thought patterns by reading, studying, and obeying the Bible!
Next, we need to learn new attitudes. Why? Because 90 to 95% of what we do (or don’t do) every day of our lives is based upon the attitudes we have at any given time. Our prevailing attitudes dictate almost all that we do—or don’t do—at any given time in our lives. We definitely need to change many of our attitudes. We weren’t born with attitudes; we’ve learned them throughout our lifetimes. And, “bad” attitudes can be unlearned and replaced with “godly” attitudes.
As to our behavior, well, our behavior is based on our thoughts and our attitudes. When our thoughts and attitudes change to be more godly, then changes in our behavior will follow.
Yes, dear reader, it’s a lifelong process of repentance—changing our minds: to see life more and more as God sees it, to think more like Jesus thinks, to change our attitudes and our behavior.
Keep repenting! Keep changing! Stay green and growing!
“And be constantly renewed in your mind, having fresh thoughts and attitudes. And put on your new nature–your new self–being created to be like God in true right-living and wholeness.” –Paul, Ephesians 4: 23 and 24
“All the universe is about change—about moving on. And when things stop changing, they are dead.” –Twyla Tharp
Revised and Updated January 2023