What it means to repent…

This year we are reading through the gospels one chapter at a time, we have just begun Matthew again. One of the great opportunities we get in reading through a text more than once is that we begin to see things that might not have stood out to us before, especially when we look at things through a bit of a different lens (a different translation).  Feel free to contact me if you have questions about translations.

This time through the gospels I am reading from the Jesus Bible which is the New Living Translation (the NLT is biblically sound but easier to read) and following along in Robert Mounces’s commentary on Matthew.  In today’s scripture, we see the call to “repent (NIV),” which is translated in the NLT as “Turn from your sins and turn to God (Matt. 3:2).”  Quite often today people think of repentance as saying you’re sorry.  This is not what it means, nor is it what the people would have understood it to be.  

Robert Mounce explains this the following way, “To Repent (Metanoeo) does not mean simply to be sorry but to change one’s way of life completely.  The corresponding Hebrew verb means ‘to turn, ‘ that is, ‘to reverse completely the direction of one’s life.’”  The Jesus Bible (in a side block) states it this way, “John’s message was simple; Make a u-turn when it comes to sin.  Then God can do his work.”

Robert H. Mounce New International Biblical Commentary – Matthew, p. 22

At the end of John, we saw the comments about fruit (we spoke about this as not just being outward fruit, but inward fruit that is seen in someone’s life — the fruit of the Holy Spirit as seen in Gal. 5).  Here in Matt. 3:10, John states that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

The Pharisees probably saw the potential that something was coming, and they figured that it might make sense to check it out, but John saw through them.  It’s not about “saying you’re sorry” or being baptized (washed with water), but what is necessary is to “turn from your sin and turn to God.” This brings about the fruit of true repentance which is visible to those around you (something the Pharisees weren’t interested in)!

Mounce puts it this way, “The fruit that genuine repentance produces cannot be added onto the life but grows out of a basic disposition of the heart.  If there is no fruit there has been no fundamental change of heart.” 

Robert H. Mounce New International Biblical Commentary – Matthew, p. 24

As we look at the call to become a multiethnic people, we understand that we are going to need to turn from some of the things we have learned and believed, and seek to be more like Jesus, whose love (a fruit of the Spirit) for all people led Him to the cross, so that He could make payment for our sin!

Lord, our desire isn’t just to give you lip service, but to be changed by You and Your word.  The fruit You are looking for, the “Fruit of the Spirit,“ comes from Your Holy Spirit living in us.  Lord, reside in us, and reveal Your will to us, and may Your fruit be visible through us, as we seek to see Your kingdom here on earth (a loving multiethnic body of believers worshiping and serving You), until that time when You return or call us home.

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