The word “repent” means to turn around, to change one’s mind and direction, but many believers think that repentance is only for the heathen. Some teach that repentance is not necessary for the believer and even demonstrates a lack of confidence in the finished work of the cross. Such teaching demonstrates a profound lack of understanding and robs it’s followers of one of the most powerful secrets to a victorious Christian life.
The misunderstanding begins when we think of repentance as turning AWAY from sin; 180 degrees in the opposite direction. But a man could turn away from his sin and still be lost. For example, if a man is hiking through the wilderness, he looks at his compass and realizes he is off course, he will need to turn. But spinning wildly and randomly moving in another direction will not help him. Turning away from his lostness is not enough. He must make sure that he changes his direction in such a way that he is now heading towards his desired destination. Turning away from sin is important, but what you turn TO is more important than what you turn away FROM. We do not need to turn away from sin as badly as we need to turn TO Christ. Incidentally, when a man turns to Christ, he automatically turns away from sin.
Let’s say that our hiker discovers that he is only 2 degrees off course. Though he is only slightly misdirected, he still needs to turn, to change direction, to “repent” if he wants to arrive at the desired destination. The hiker needs to constantly reference his compass and adjust his orientation accordingly. To think of repentance as being only for the rank sinner, the unbeliever and prodigal is a mistake. Repentance is NOT ONLY for those who are committing gross sins or living in blatant immorality. Repentance is the practice of the righteous. We must constantly turn our hearts to God; from darkness to light, from the flesh to the spirit, from the temporal to the eternal, from death unto life.
As the people of God our hearts must be focused on Christ. He is our goal and we must be always moving towards Him. If we are moving in any other direction, pursuing any other thing, or having our desire and affection set on anyone else, we are off course and we need to “repent”.
With this understanding, “repentance” takes on a whole new definition. If I have lusted or lied, I must repent…yes. But, I am not simply “repenting”, or turning, FROM those sins, I am turning TO Christ. Bringing Him back into focus and setting my heart upon Him afresh. If my focus is on the sin, I will miss the real point and may even still be off course. Instead I recognize sin as a symptom of a deeper problem; that I am moving in a direction contrary to Christ. If there is hatred, malice, envy, or strife in my heart, it reveals to me that my heart is not towards Christ. Therefore, I must refocus it. I must recalibrate it to bring myself back into alignment with Christ.
I find myself repenting all day every day. I am not repenting because there is so much sin in my life, but because I need to constantly refocus my heart, my attention and my affection on Christ. This is the only way to live and walk in the Spirit.