I added all of the extra exclamation points to the heading because that is always how I perceived the word “repent”. I imagined some preacher shouting at me to “repent or die”. The volume was always turned up to 11 and there was always a white handkerchief being waved with an "uh" shortly following. I did not care much for the word… not because of what it meant but because of how it was said.
Now I love the word “repent”. It means so much to me and all of us who are sinful and need God’s grace over and over again. The word actually means “to turn around” or “do a 180”.
There is a negative side and a positive side:
The Negative Side – I have taken a wrong turn into sin and am headed into trouble.
The Positive Side – God warns me and allows me to turn from my sin and back to Him as many times as needed.
Repentance is not… turning from bad behavior to good behavior.
Repentance is… turning from anything that is not Jesus to Jesus.
How great is it that God will allow us to come back to Him no matter how many times we have turned away and how far we have gone on the wrong road? He is generous with His grace. He is stern but loving with His warnings.
It may sound harsh or mean for God to tell us that we need to repent but think about it for a minute. If someone you love is going the wrong way and about to drive off a cliff, is it cruel to warn them in every way possible? It would be cruel not to warn them and watch them drive to their doom just because we did not want to offend them or sound harsh. Sometimes love requires that God tells us hard truths about ourselves. But those truths are not to drive us away from Him but to draw us back to Him.
The great thing about God is that the more we repent and turn back to Him the less we want to turn away!
I want to drive toward Him with my whole life because He has been so good to me. There is nothing I could go after that compares to Him. Everything else is a dead end. I learned this the hard way… by taking a lot of wrong turns. I have even run off the road a few times. I love Jesus, not because I have never taken a wrong turn but because He pursues me down every road I take. When I turn around He is always there, not ready to punish but ready to forgive and restore.
A brilliant man named Paul, who struggled just like us, wrote a simple but profound question about repentance almost 2,000 years ago:
Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?”