Can repentance be a pathway to peace?
The Greek word for repent is a compound verb. It has to do with the mind, and can mean literally to “reconsider,” or to “change one’s mind,” to “change one’s direction.” Jesus in Matthew 4 tells us to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (verse 17). Repentance means recognizing we need to change direction and focus in life. It means to recognize our need for forgiveness, and to see God supplying that forgiveness for us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Forgiveness cannot be earned. Repentance is not a good work we do in order to be forgiven. Repentance can mean simply learning how to let go of convincing ourselves and others of what we dislike or hate about ourselves and discovering the sheer wonder of God’s grace in Jesus.
The real question underlying our need for repentance might be “how do I make peace with who I am?” Whenever we put the blame for our actions and faults on others we will never find peace. We do the same when we deny what we’ve done wrong, deflect the guilt, change the subject, or go on the defensive by attacking others.
How do we find peace? How can we make peace with who we are? By coming clean with ourselves and with God. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop blaming others. Stop excusing and defending ourselves. Simply admit to God who we are and what we are.
We cannot change ourselves. We do not have to change who we are. We do not have to pretend to be different. We simply need to accept ourselves as we are, and know that because of Christ and His cross we are okay. We are accepted, forgiven, and clean. Living in constant repentance is the first point of Luther’s 95 Theses. Those 95 Theses began the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago this month.
Thesis #1: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”