Today’s Scripture: Repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mark 1:15b

“I hear another man cry, ‘Oh, sir my want of strength lies mainly in this, that I cannot repent sufficiently!’ A curious idea men have of what repentance is! Many fancy that so many tears are to be shed, and so many groans are to be heaved, and so much despair is to be endured. Whence comes this unreasonable notion? Unbelief and despair are sins, and therefore I do not see how they can be constituent elements of acceptable repentance; yet there are many who regard them as necessary parts of true Christian experience. They are in great error… But listen! To repent is to change your mind about sin, and Christ, and all the great things of God. There is sorrow implied in this; but the main point is the turning of the heart from sin to Christ. If there be this turning, you have the essence of true repentance, even though no alarm and no despair should ever have cast their shadow upon your mind.”
Charles H. Spurgeon

A great confusion has come about because of the evolution of language. Words can change meaning based upon their common usage. Dictionaries are constantly being updated to coincide with how the general populous treats a word. Some examples of words that have changed are:

  • Gay: Originally meant “happy and joyous” but then became to mean “bright and showy”. It was then used to indicate immorality and now is used in association to homosexuality.
  • Fantastic: Originally meant, “existing only in the imagination” but now means “wonderful” or “marvelous”.
  • Words such as “pitiful” and “awful” were originally used to mean being full of pity or awe but now mean pathetic and bad.

The word “repent” has also changed meanings. The Greek root word, “metanoeo,” means to change one’s mind. Spurgeon saw that people had started to change the meaning from the act of changing their mind to the sorrow they felt when they changed their mind. He stated that if you turn your heart (your innermost being) to Christ, even if you never had had the slightest worry or sorrow, you have true repentance.

Even today, there seems to be many definitions of repentance – all with the same meaning but to different extents. Some people state that to repent is to “confess and be sorry for your sins,” some state that you must “confess, be sorry, and promise to turn from all sin,” while even others define repentance as “confess, be sorry, and abandon all sin.”

Man keeps changing the definition, but what really matters is what God says about repentance in relation to eternal salvation. God’s use of the word repentance is very interesting. Although repentance is used at times in association with the gospel, the Gospel of John never uses the word. John 20:31 states, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, John never once used the word ‘repent’ even though His purpose was to present salvation. The reason for this is because if you trust Christ as the payment for your sins, you must change what you previously thought about salvation. When you believe, a change of mind happens automatically.

Sorrow for sin isn’t repentance; it is repentance that can bring about sorrow. When we understand that God sent His Son to die for our sin, we may have sorrow, but that sorrow doesn’t have anything to do with being saved. It is our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ Who died, was buried, and rose again that gives eternal life. Change your mind about repentance today!

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder