Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
metanoia = change of mind, repentance, change in the inner man
zóé = life, both of physical and of spiritual existence.
When I hear the word repentance, the image that comes to mind most readily is one of being sorrowful about sin. (Extremely sorrowful, usually.) And, I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think many of us picture a “sack cloth and ashes” type scenario. Someone who is repenting–being very, very sorry for what they did–without much hope to ever really leave that state. However, in the New Testament, the word repentance never means “to be sorry for sin” or anything like that. Rather, once Jesus comes and brings us the new covenant, repentance speaks of changing our mind and entering into a new way of life. I could go on and on about this, but I won’t–at least, not at this time–because it isn’t the point of what I want to say. Instead, I want to focus on a small phrase mentioned almost in passing…”repentance that leads to life”. The focus of the passage of scripture is the fact that the Lord was reaching the Gentiles, that He wasn’t containing Himself or salvation to only the Jewish people. His family was growing–His “chosen” people was no longer such an exclusive list. That was, and still is, an amazing thing. The Gentiles were now granted “ the repentance that leads to life”.
If you or I were writing this account, I wonder, would we phrase it this way? Would we say that they were granted the “repentance that leads to life”? Or, would we simply say that they were granted repentance? Why does this matter at all? Am I simply arguing about semantics? This is why it matters: when we think of repentance, we often think of that being an end in and of itself. What is it that makes us Christians? Does God love us more then others? Is there something that set us apart and somehow made us more “worthy” to be His children then our neighbors? No. We are Christians because we have repented. We repent of our sins and ask Jesus into our hearts and then we are Christians. If our neighbors repent, then they become Christians too. It’s great! God’s love and forgiveness is for all!
So, what is the problem? The problem is that we often think of repentance of being the end. We enter into The Kingdom through repentance and instead of moving from repentance to life, we get stuck repenting. We never move into life. Our Christian life becomes an endless cycle of repenting. This shouldn’t be. Repentance is an invitation to life. It’s the door way to it, if you will. When you repent, you aren’t simply being sorry for sin, instead you are changing your mind. You stop doing things your way and begin doing things His way. You move away from dead works and sin and into a life of faith in Jesus. You believe what He says and live your life based on that. Once you do that…you enter into life. Both physical and spiritual. Both here and now and in the age to come. Repentance is supposed to be the doorway. If I lived in the doorway of my home, think of how much I would be missing out on. Sure, it would be an improvement over the street…but not much of one. Think of all the rest of the house! What a waste it would be to never use it–especially once I have access to it!
The Lord wants us to repent not because He is a tyrant who is in need of us to stroke His ego and tell Him that He is right and we are wrong. (Although, He does love our worship. But that is different!) He wants us to repent because He longs for us to enter into the fullness of life that He has provided for us. His Son was the price for that life. He was willing to pay an incalculable cost to give us the whole house–not merely the doorway. Let’s make sure that we use repentance as it was intended to be used–as a vehicle that leads to life. A doorway to all that God is offering us. Let’s move past the doorway, okay? Today, let’s celebrate the life that He has given us–by living it!
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