We’re in the last week of a 21-day media fast with over 200 students here at The University of Texas. Students, along with several staff members from different ministries have chosen to actively give up forms of media like facebook, youtube, TV, movies, twitter, etc; and commit to praying everyday for at least an hour, corporately going through a prayer guide specifically designed for this fast.
The neat thing about this fast is that each week has a specific topic that we pray into. The first week was humility, the second was prayer, and this week, it’s repentance. And this of course, got me thinking. What exactly is repentance? What does that mean and what does that look like?
When I was younger, I used to associate repentance with feeling really sorry and sad about all the bad things you’ve done in your life, usually accompanied with tears and being upset over what a horrible person you’ve been, and needing to get your act together. And while part of that is not untrue, we should be broken over the sin in our lives, my perspective did shift a little the day I found out what repentance means, and it is this:
Change your mind.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, the dictionary doesn’t give that definition so where am I pulling this from? Quite simply, I’m going to the Greek. In Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” But the word in Greek is metanoeo, which means “change your mind.”
So why did Jesus use that? I mean, “change your mind” doesn’t sound quite as authoritative as “repent”, so what gives? I think He used that term because the reality is, in order to truly follow Christ and obey God’s word, it involves changing our minds about different things. In other words, admitting that He’s right and we’re wrong, and we’ll go with His plans.
Bill Johnson once put it this way – “God will never contradict His word, but He will contradict your understanding of His word.” How’s that for food for thought?
God’s Perspective vs Our Perspective
I’m a stubborn person sometimes. When I feel strongly about a particular principle or issue, it’s hard for me to shift perspectives. But one thing that I’ve learned over the past few years is that contrary to popular belief, being willing and able to change your mind isn’t a sign a weakness, it’s actually a sign of strength.
One of the things that breaks my heart is when I see fellow Christians caught up in things that are really harming them instead of helping them. Sleeping with their boyfriends/girlfriends before marriage, alcohol, drugs, the list goes on. But what’s more troubling to me are the ones who can look me in the eye and say “I know it’s wrong, but…”
Somewhere along the line, they’ve decided they know better, and they’re refusing to hear anything different, even though in every case, I am certain God is still whispering to them in a still small voice, asking them to change. At the core of it, I think being willing to change our minds is crucial to the lifestyle of a Christian because it demonstrates that we are still open to God’s voice and direction, without which, we would easily fall into bad situations.
God is Waiting
Today I write because I think there are people out there who are afraid to repent even though they know they need to. Yes, there are some people out there who don’t want to repent and see nothing wrong with what they’re doing, but there are others out there who have come to believe that they are not worthy of repenting before God.
I don’t know who you are, what you’ve done or what you’ve been through. But what I will say to that is this: none of us are worthy before God. Let me repeat that, you will NEVER be capable of doing anything that will make you good enough for God. It is why we need Jesus, and why I am so thankful for a savior because it is only because of Him that I have the gift of eternal salvation.
So whatever it is that’s been keeping you from going to God, change your mind. Recognize that God is waiting to heal, to renew and to restore, but He cannot do so until you first change your mind and take a step towards Him. As one imperfect person to another, quit focusing on your imperfections, and instead gaze upon a perfect God.
Change your mind.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:13
Kimberly Chung is the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, a ministry focused on forging partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus. She is a campus minister to The University of Texas at Austin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org