Author: Frank W. Nelte
Date: May 1998
Repentance is one of the basic doctrines of the Church of God. In fact, it is the first of the six basic doctrines Paul listed in Hebrews 6:1-2. Repentance is the foundation of a Christian life; it is the first step we have to take in order to establish contact with Almighty God.
So the question is:
Have YOU repented? How do you know? Can you know for sure? Exactly what did you do when you "repented"? Do you in fact clearly understand exactly what repentance is? Exactly what is it that God requires from you?
Repentance is a very personal and individual thing. It is something that takes place between an individual and Almighty God. It is neither my purpose to pry into that very personal experience, nor is it to make anyone feel guilty or bad. But here is what is of importance:
Before we can actually do something God requires of us, we must clearly understand exactly what that "something" is. If we are unclear in our own minds regarding WHAT EXACTLY God wants us to do, then it follows that the risk is very great that we will not be in a position to comply with what God expects from us.
There is a very great danger that if people, who do not really understand what real repentance is, are baptized, THEN they may not meet God's requirements and if that is the case then God will NOT give His Holy Spirit to them ... even if they were baptized by a minister of the true Church of God. And then they will not be in the first resurrection.
This is a very serious matter to understand.
THE PROBLEM WE FACE
It seems quite clear that over the past 60 years MULTIPLE THOUSANDS of people who had never repented have been baptized by ministers of the true Church of God. That includes some people who were baptized by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong himself, and in all likelihood it also includes people baptized by every other minister of the Church as well. I now know that I too have baptized some people who were not really repentant. Yet at the time I thought they were repentant; and the people themselves thought so too.
The problem is that real repentance is not something we can discern physically. But we have baptized people based on what we have been able to observe ... based on what we could see these people do, the words they would speak and how they changed their conduct, etc..
It shouldn't surprise us to learn that pretty well all of us ministers have made some bad judgments regarding the people we decided to baptize. Such "bad judgments" have been with the Church right since its inception. In Acts chapter 5 we have the account of two people, Ananias and Sapphira, who had never really repented; yet had managed to get themselves baptized. Soon afterwards the preaching of Philip resulted in another unrepentant person, Simon Magus by name, being baptized (see Acts 8:13) ... Peter's statement that Simon Magus was "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity" (verse 23) makes clear beyond doubt that Simon Magus had never really repented, even though he had "believed" (see verse 13 again). When Paul spoke to the assembled ministers from Ephesus in Acts chapter 20, Paul stated very openly that he felt that some of those very ministers would in the future speak "perverse things to draw away" followers after themselves (Acts 20:30) ... very likely they were men who had not REALLY repented in the first place.
So this present age is no different from the way things went in the first century A.D. ... we too have had unrepentant people baptized. It ties in with what Jesus Christ said ... that Satan would manage to sow "tares" within God's Church (Matthew 13:24-30). "Tares" is not a term that applies to people who are really repentant; yet these "tares" manage to get into the fellowship of the Church; they manage to get themselves baptized.
THE THINGS WE LOOKED FOR
Before baptizing a person we have usually looked for a number of things. We wanted to know whether the person was willing to obey God's laws (e.g. keep the Sabbath and Holy Days, tithe, not eat unclean foods, etc). We wanted to know if they were repentant ... by which we usually meant: prepared to acknowledge that they had broken God's laws in the past and that they were determined to change in those areas of their lives where God's laws required a change. We wanted to know if they had counted the cost ... of being willing to endure persecution and other trials that might result from changing their way of life to conform to God's laws.
We may have wanted to know if they were prepared to humble themselves before God ... if they had an attitude of humility. We may even have wanted to know whether they were prepared to submit to ... "the government of God which (so we erroneously claimed!) currently exists only within the Church of God".
To determine these things we would look at the things they were willing to change (start keeping the Sabbath, stop smoking, etc.), and the things they would say. If they spoke in humble terms about themselves and had started to implement the laws of God we had brought to their attention, then we would usually take that as evidence that they were indeed "repentant", and so we would baptize them.
And certainly, VERY MANY of the people we baptized under such conditions were indeed repentant. But the point is this:
The process described above is only partly focused on true repentance. It largely ignores what repentance is all about. So let's examine this subject more closely.
WHAT IS IT THAT GOD REALLY WANTS FROM US?
People sometimes make the mistake of viewing God's laws and God's instructions to us as an end in themselves. For example, I have heard ministers speculating about us keeping the Sabbath for all future eternity, as occasions when we will all (supposedly) appear before God the Father. But is that really what God is looking for ... people who will for all eternity keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days? Is God looking for a group of people who have agreed to live by a certain set of laws for all future eternity?
What exactly is God looking for in you and in me?
To answer that, let's start by seeing what God is NOT primarily looking for in a person. God is NOT primarily looking for people who will merely DO THE THINGS HE TELLS THEM TO DO! God is NOT looking for someone who merely does all the right actions!
Do these statements surprise you?
Yes, certainly, we must "do" the right things. Yes, certainly, we must "obey" all of God's laws. But it is not our actions God is primarily concerned about.
If our THINKING is right before God, then the right conduct and the right actions will follow from that. But the right actions (e.g. Sabbath-keeping) by themselves have no merit or value if they are not the product of the right way of thinking. And we should immediately realize that the right actions (e.g. compliance with given instructions) can at times also be produced by a wrong way of thinking. Doing what is right with a wrong attitude or from a wrong motivation is of no value at all; it is no better before God than outright disobedience, as I will show.
Notice the following Scripture:
For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: BUT TO THIS [MAN] WILL I LOOK, [EVEN] TO [HIM THAT IS] POOR AND OF A CONTRITE SPIRIT, AND TREMBLETH AT MY WORD. (Isaiah 66:2)
It is a certain frame of mind that God is looking for. That right frame of mind will most assuredly be totally submissive to all of God's laws and instructions.
Notice also what Paul explained:
7 Because THE CARNAL MIND [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8)
Again, it is THE MIND which is the problem, and which must be changed. Verse 8 tells us that those with the wrong mind "cannot please God" ... even when they do the right things (keep the Sabbath, etc.).
A little further in the book of Romans Paul stated:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
A repentant person is someone whose MIND has been renewed. But outward physical actions (Sabbath-keeping, tithing, not smoking, etc.) don't really require a renewed mind. There are any number of people on earth today who don't smoke or who do try to keep the Sabbath or who tithe or who don't eat unclean foods ... and their minds have never been "renewed" from the mind they grew up with.
So understand this:
God's FIRST intent for us human beings is not to have individuals who will obey His every command ... the "holy angels" of God (see Revelation 14:10; etc.) already do that perfectly. When God determined to create the Family of God, it was (and is) His intention to create beings that would THINK the same way He does; beings that would inherently have the same outlook and viewpoint and perspective of life as the one HE has! Beings whose minds would automatically operate from the "GIVE-principle" as apposed to Satan's mind working from the "GET-principle" (as Mr. Armstrong used to explain it to us). Beings whose minds were guided by "love" as opposed to being guided by "lust".
When God resurrects us into His Family, it is THE MIND that is resurrected, and then placed in a body composed of spirit. The molecules and atoms which make up our present physical bodies will not in any way feature when we are resurrected or (if alive at that time) changed into spirit beings.
Now the consequence of a mind being "renewed" to see everything in life from God's point of view is that it will motivate the person to WANT to do everything that is "God's desire". It will CERTAINLY strive to obey God's laws in every aspect of life. But it will go much further: it will not only ask: "What do I HAVE TO DO?"; it will also ask: "What would God LIKE ME TO DO?"
As the Apostle John explained, God hears the prayers of those who are motivated by a desire to please Him ...
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, AND DO THOSE THINGS THAT ARE PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT. (1 John 3:22)
The renewed mind must operate from a premise of desiring to please God in every aspect of our lives. BECAUSE the mind understands that all of God's instructions for us are just and pure and for OUR good anyway, THEREFORE that renewed mind will endeavour to please God in any and every way possible.
It is a far cry from the mind that says the following things:
"Well, as long as God does not specifically forbid me to do this, then I don't see why I shouldn't do it." [Note: This is a mind that does not "SEE" something.]
"What do I HAVE TO DO in order to be in God's kingdom?"
"As long as there is no SPECIFIC commandment from God against these things, I will feel free to dress the way the world does, to groom myself the way the world around me does, and to participate in the customs and traditions of the people around me."
"As long as it is not one of the unclean foods listed in the Bible, I feel free to eat whatever I like. If I eat things that are bad for my health, things that contain some carcinogenic substances or other substances that are known to adversely affect human health, then that's my business."
"I accept all of God's laws which are clearly spelled out. But don't give me all these "principles" you've drawn from those laws in order to apply them to our modern world, so you can tell me what things I should really avoid doing or getting involved with. That's going too far."
None of these views express the attitude of:
"Lord, what would you really LIKE me to do? How would YOU like me to look and to groom myself? What things would YOU like me to avoid eating? How would YOU like me to look after my health? What entertainment would YOU like me to be involved with? In short: how would YOU like me to live my life?"
It is not a matter of throwing up our hands in shocked righteous indignation at any of these things, but of incorporating the right principles into our general, overall way of life, without being side-tracked by specific individual events or situations here or there, situations which could indeed be described as "picky".
AN ANALOGY FOR EXPLAINING REPENTANCE
Many of us are familiar with computer concepts. Perhaps an analogy from the world of computers can help to clarify the concept of repentance.
Every computer has an operating system which manages all the functions of the computer. Examples of operating systems are: DOS, Windows, OS/2, Unix, etc.. With the operating system installed, the user then adds all those software programs that he feels he will want to use ... e.g. word processors to type manuscripts, spreadsheets to do book-keeping functions, database software to store large bodies of data, Bible-software to do Bible study, encyclopedia software for research purposes, etc..
Prior to repentance we, in analogy, are like a computer which has been loaded with a large volume of software. That "software" represents the way we are as people ... the beliefs we hold, the customs we observe, the knowledge we have, the skills we have, etc.. That "software" determines how we as individuals function and operate, how we live our lives.
Then we come into contact with the truth of God. We learn about the Sabbath, the Holy Days, tithing, etc.. We also learn that some things, like smoking, are very damaging to our health. We also learn a lot of head-knowledge that may not have an immediate and practical application, such as: human beings don't have an immortal soul, there is no ever-burning hellfire, heaven is not the reward of the saved, etc.. We may also learn that certain customs which society at large accepts are in fact pagan in origin (e.g. Christmas, Easter, etc.).
Now here is what frequently happens:
We throw all of the old "software" out of our minds and replace it with new and correct software. Examples: we throw out Sunday-keeping and replace it with Sabbath-keeping; we throw out eating pork and seafoods and replace it with a diet limited to only clean foods; we throw out Christmas and replace it with observing God's Holy Days; we throw out the belief in the trinity and replace it with the understanding that God is in the process of building a Family; etc.. In short:
WE REPLACE ALL OF THE WRONG "SOFTWARE" IN OUR MINDS WITH THE NEW UNDERSTANDING (THE NEW SOFTWARE) WE HAVE COME TO!
Doing all this will certainly make us different from all of the other "computers" all around us ... since we no longer run all the software programs that are installed on them (in their minds). They will perceive us as being different to them.
Repentance is not a matter of throwing all of the old "software" programs out of our minds! That's not it at all!
The real key with a godly repentance is that ...
WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE WHOLE OPERATING SYSTEM, AND NOT JUST "THE SOFTWARE"!
The operating system determines HOW the computer will function. And different operating systems work in totally different ways to other operating systems ... even when they produce the same or similar end-results.
Likewise, at real repentance THE IMPORTANT THING that has to change is THE WAY OUR MINDS WORK! We have to install a new operating system in our minds. Only then can we install "the new software" into our minds. And the new operating system God requires us to install in our minds is not really compatible with the operating system we grew up with. Please don't read more into this statement than is intended, but it is like our minds have to change from using the operating system of an IBM-compatible computer to using the operating system of an Apple-Mac computer (or changing from the Apple-Mac system to the IBM-compatible system, without implying that one of these two systems is better). We must change to another operating system which is not compatible to the one we have used up to that point in time.
Now once that operating system has been changed, THEN we'll find that the old software programs don't really run all that well on the new operating system ... some old programs may not run at all! Yes, where necessary we can still achieve the same results with this new operating system and the new software, as we used to achieve with the old operating system running the old software. But there is a difference in how that is achieved.
Now when God looks at us human beings and wants to know who is repentant and who is not repentant, then God does not look at "what software programs are they running in their minds?". No, what God really looks at is: "WHAT OPERATING SYSTEM IS INSTALLED IN THEIR MINDS?"
As the Apostle Paul explained in the Book of Hebrews ...
12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] A DISCERNER OF THE THOUGHTS AND INTENTS OF THE HEART. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but ALL THINGS [ARE] NAKED AND OPENED UNTO THE EYES OF HIM WITH WHOM WE HAVE TO DO. (Hebrews 4)
We human beings can only "see" the software programs that run in other people's minds, because we can see the results that are produced. But God sees which operating system is installed in every person's mind. So when the wrong operating system produces what looks like "the right results", then we human beings are satisfied; but God never accepts "the right results" when they are produced by the wrong operating system.
With God the software is always secondary to the operating system that is being used. New software programs are easy to produce. It is God's desire that we change the operating system of our minds to a new operating system, on which it will be IMPOSSIBLE to run the old software programs we grew up with. When God resurrects us and places our minds into new spirit-bodies, it is not enough for God to know that we have decided to never again run any of those old software programs in our minds; God must have the absolute assurance that the old programs simply CANNOT run on the new operating system installed in our minds.
With that new operating system installed in our minds, then, when we are resurrected as spirit beings, it will truly be IMPOSSIBLE for us to sin! And real repentance is a foundational requirement for achieving that result.
To state it in plain terms: When it comes to the subject of repentance, it is not the software programs we run in our minds that God looks at. It is the underlying OPERATING SYSTEM that God looks at to determine whether or not a person is really repentant. It is not denied that in many cases outwardly similar results can be produced by the wrong operating system in the mind, but those outwardly similar results are not what God is looking for. As Paul wrote: "So then they that are in the flesh (i.e. those whose minds have never changed over to a new operating system) CANNOT PLEASE GOD" (Romans 8:8). That "operating system" is not only about "WHAT" we think; it is primarily about "THE WAY" we think.
I have given you an analogy here. My purpose is to help explain the process of repentance. I do not mean to apply this analogy to the n-th degree. All analogies have their limitations, and the one I have given here is no exception. Also, this analogy is not presented as "proof" for anything; that is never the purpose of analogies. It is simply my hope that this analogy may help some people to get a clearer grasp of this abstract subject of repentance.
So let's continue with our discussion.
OBEDIENCE PRODUCED BY THE WRONG OPERATING SYSTEM
I mentioned earlier that doing what is right with a wrong attitude or from a wrong motivation is no better before God than outright disobedience. That is perhaps most clearly illustrated in the example of the pagan "soothsayer" Balaam (see Josh 13:22).
When Balaam was approached by the messengers of the king of Moab, God very clearly instructed Balaam: "YOU SHALL NOT GO WITH THEM; YOU SHALL NOT CURSE THE PEOPLE FOR THEY ARE BLESSED!" (Numbers 22:12). All the way through the account it is quite clear that Balaam only obeyed God VERY RELUCTANTLY ... he was in a wrong frame of mind towards God all the way through this episode.
Balaam's outward obedience to God's instructions was of no value in the eyes of God ... and so God saw to it that Balaam was soon afterwards killed for his resentful obedience (see Numbers 31:8).
Even though outwardly Balaam was forced to obey God, the operating system in his mind (the way his mind worked) was hostile to God, just like Romans 8:7 tells us. This is evidenced by Balaam's repeated efforts to find a way around God's clearly expressed will, that the people he (Balaam) had been called upon to curse were in fact "BLESSED BY GOD".
And so in God's sight Balaam's forced obedience was in fact of no value at all for Balaam himself. He paid with his life for his attitude. The lesson for us is that obedience to God's laws is ONLY of value when it is produced by the right attitude and frame of mind. The underlying attitude and the motivation is MORE IMPORTANT than the outward physical acts of obedience.
Now let's take a look at the word "repent" itself. Let's look at the words that are used in the Greek text of the New Testament.
NEW TESTAMENT GREEK WORDS FOR "REPENT"
Notice Matthew 4:17 ...
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, REPENT: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)
The word translated as "repent" in this verse is "metanoeo". This word is composed of the prefix "meta", which means "with, after, behind, etc.", and the verb "noeo". This verb is derived from the noun "nous" which means "the mind". The verb "noeo" thus means "to understand, to perceive with the mind".
The verb "metanoeo" is used 34 times in the New Testament, and it is always translated as "repent" in the KJV. So here is what this word "metanoeo" means.
- A CHANGE OF MIND,
- TO THINK DIFFERENTLY WITH THE MIND,
- TO PERCEIVE FROM A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW THAN BEFORE.
So the point we should clearly understand is that the instruction to repent is ADDRESSED TO THE MIND! It is not really directly addressed to the outward physical actions. When we tell someone to repent, we are telling them to change the way they THINK, to think from a different perspective to the perspective they have used until that point in time. We are telling them to install a new operating system in their minds. Any changes in their conduct and behaviour should be A CONSEQUENCE OF them having changed their way of thinking.
Then there is another word in the Greek N.T. text which is also translated as "repent". That is the word "metamellomai", which is used six times in five verses of the N.T..
As we can see, this word starts with the same prefix "meta" which is joined to a form of the verb "melo". This verb "melo" means "to care, to take care, to care about". It is an expression of concern for something. Today we would use the expression "I'm sorry" to convey the feeling contained in the word "metamellomai".
The word "metamellomai" is in all six instances translated as "repent" in the KJV. But it really has nothing to do with the instruction God has given to us, that we must "repent. As such, it should not really be translated as "repent". The places where "metamellomai" is used in the New Testament are: Matthew 21:29, Matthew 21:32; Matthew 27:3; 2.Cor. 7:8 (twice in this verse), and Hebrews 7:21.
The "care and concern" which are implied by the word "metamellomai" do not necessarily require a totally different way of thinking; they don't require a new operating system in the mind. "Metamellomai" is something both, repentant and unrepentant people are capable of. "Metamellomai" is usually a positive and desirable emotion, but it doesn't go nearly far enough in meeting what God requires with the word "repent" (i.e. metanoeo).
To see clearly that this word "metamellomai" does not refer to what God requires from us, that it is only an expression of some concern and therefore can also be done by people who are in fact still "unrepentant" (i.e. they are still without "metanoeo"), let's examine all of the places where this word is used. Here they are:
He answered and said, I will not: but afterward HE REPENTED, and went. (Matthew 21:29)
This is the parable where a father had told his two sons to work in the vineyard. In this statement here Jesus Christ did not mean that this son "repented" in a godly way and was ready to become a true Christian and place his entire life into submission to God's will ... if that were the case then Jesus Christ would have used the word "metanoeo". Jesus Christ was simply saying that this son "afterwards" felt bad and therefore decided to do what his father had asked him to do.
Don't think for one moment that when a father tells his child to do something which the child at first refuses to do but later has a change of heart and then does what the father had instructed, that this change of heart is all there is to a real, godly repentance! Many unrepentant people have at times felt bad about some things they have said or done and they have then tried to make good the damage they had caused. But that is not what God means by "repentance". Translating the word "metamellomai" as "repent" has only served to confuse this matter. A better translation of this verse in today's terms would be: "... but afterwards he was sorry and went."
The next place where "metamellomai" is used is a few verses later in the same account.
For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen [it], REPENTED NOT afterward, that ye might believe him. (Matthew 21:32)
Again, Jesus Christ was not saying that these hard-hearted "chief priests and elders" (see verse 23) were still "unrepentant" by God's standards (they were that without question) ... "the publicans and the harlots" who believed John the Baptist were not necessarily really "repentant" either. Even Peter and the other apostles were at that point not yet "repentant" ... they only came to a real repentance later. Nor did Christ mean that the belief the publicans and the harlots extended to John the Baptist should have produced a real godly repentance in those priests; after all even His own apostles had not yet really repented. Christ simply meant that the priests and the elders should have had some feelings of remorse (i.e. they should have felt "sorry" for their response to John) once they saw how the common people responded to John.
The next use of this word "metamellomai" is by Judas Iscariot before he committed suicide.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, REPENTED HIMSELF, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, (Matthew 27:3)
In the next verse Judas even used the words "I have sinned", acknowledging his guilt. And then he went and hanged himself. Suicide is not the expression of a truly "repentant" mind; so this is not an expression of real repentance. Thus Matthew 27:3 simply tells us that Judas "was sorry" for what he had done. We need to realize that even unrepentant people can say the words "I have sinned"!
An example from the Old Testament that comes to mind is that of King Saul, who also used the words "I have sinned for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD" (see 1.Samuel 1524) ... and yet he too was not really "repentant". This is clear even from Saul's subsequent conduct right after he spoke these words.
Next, in 2.Cor. 7:8 Paul uses the word "metamellomai" twice.
For though I made you sorry with a letter, I DO NOT REPENT, THOUGH I DID REPENT: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though [it were] but for a season. (2 Corinthians 7:8)
As far as real repentance before God is concerned, there was nothing about his first epistle to them that would have required Paul to "repent". Paul hadn't done anything wrong! Paul is simply saying: "I am not sorry (or: not concerned) that I sent that letter to you, though I was at first sorry (or: concerned) for sending it."
Regarding this verse, the Greek word translated as "sorry" is "lupeo" and means "sorrowful", whereas the word translated "repent" is "metamellomai" and this focuses on "being concerned". Today our use of the word "sorry" covers a broad range of meanings and applications.
At any rate, it should be clear that Paul was not speaking about real repentance in this verse. Let's now see the last place where "metamellomai" is used.
(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and WILL NOT REPENT, Thou [art] a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) (Hebrews 7:21)
Since God is totally sinless, it should be clear that this reference has nothing to do with "repentance" either. The context here is that God the Father has absolutely guaranteed that Jesus Christ will be "a priest for ever after the rank of Melchisedek"; and God will not be sorry that He has guaranteed this; God will not change His mind or be concerned that Jesus Christ might perhaps misuse that position in some way in the future.
It is clear, however, that this use of "metamellomai" has to do with God not changing "HIS MIND". The mind is certainly involved in this use of "metamellomai", as it also is in all of the previous uses. But there is a component to, or an ingredient in, "metanoeo" that is not present in "metamellomai". Let's now compare these two words.
Both words involve the use of the mind.
To go back to our "computer analogy": with "metamellomai" we throw out some of the bad software, software that was causing us problems or that could cause us problems. Whether those software programs are "sin" or not is not really the issue. The point is that running them could make us feel unpleasant (or having run them caused us to feel unpleasant) and therefore we want to get rid of them. The rest of our minds stay unaffected by throwing those particular programs out.
With the word "metanoeo" we also throw some bad software out of our minds. But we also go much further than that. We throw out the entire old operating system and then install a new operating system. The reason we do this is because we have come to see that the old operating system was at the heart and core of all our problems, rather than our problems only being individual bad software programs. Once we have installed a new operating system in our minds, THEN we also do not reinstall all of the old software programs ... and in any case, many of them are not compatible with the new operating system and will not run on it.
With this background, it should be clear to us that only the word "metanoeo" refers to what God requires from us when He instructs us "to repent". It is not really helpful at all to also translate the word "metamellomai" as "repent" ... it only confuses the issue. It would be much better to render the word "metamellomai" as "to be concerned, to be sorry".
And while the word "metamellomai" could just as well have nothing to do with moral guilt before God as it could with acknowledging some real guilt, the word "metanoeo" ALWAYS involves a state of "missing the mark" before Almighty God and it requires us to face up to that guilt. That "missing the mark" need not necessarily involve wrong actions (though it usually does!), but it will ALWAYS involve a wrong way of thinking and a wrong perspective (which produces self-righteousness, etc.).
One last point regarding these two Greek words: of the two words ONLY "metanoeo" is used in the imperative mood, i.e. we are only commanded to "metanoeo" (to repent)! NOWHERE is there a command that we are to "metamellomai" (to be sorry, or to be concerned)!
Therefore it follows that if we choose to use the English word "repent" to express the action God has commanded us to perform, then it is simply not appropriate to also translate the totally different word "metamellomai" into English as "to repent". These two Greek words have different meanings, and those differences should be preserved when they are translated into English. So it is thus not correct to render "metamellomai" as "to repent".
This brings us to the next point.
A WRONG FOCUS
The fact that the translators have frequently lumped the meanings of these two words "metanoeo" and "metamellomai" together into the one English word "repent" illustrates that they themselves didn't understand the clear distinction between what God requires from us (i.e. that we repent, "metanoeo") on the one hand, and a quite common human emotion (i.e. to be sorry, to be concerned, "metamellomai") on the other hand.
Thus it should not surprise us that we too can very easily approach the subject of repentance with a wrong focus. And having such a wrong focus is a part of our difficulty in understanding real repentance.
For example, we may have said things like:
- "What am I supposed to repent of?"
- "I have repented of the sin I committed yesterday."
- "Have you repented of your sins?"
- "Okay, I repent of having said that about you."
- "Look, I have now repented and you ought to forgive me."
[That's basically what king Saul said to Samuel.]
Even in the outline for the baptism ceremony, as provided to ministers by WCG headquarters in the past, it was stated:
"... as a result of YOUR REPENTANCE OF YOUR SINS, which is the transgression of God's holy and righteous and perfect law ... I now baptize you ..."
The problem with this statement is that it focuses the word repentance on ACTIONS, on sins. There is no direct focus on THE MIND, the way of thinking. The correct focus really should be:
"... as a result of your repentance, by which we mean YOUR CHANGED WAY OF THINKING, which changed way has produced a guilt and a sorrow for having previously lived contrary to God's perfect law and which has now produced in you a zeal and a fervent desire to in future live in harmony with and in submission to all of God's laws ... I now baptize you ..."
I don't mean that those words necessarily have to be incorporated into the baptismal formula, but the understanding of this concept has to be included in the baptismal counselling. The person to be baptized must clearly understand that what God requires of him is that he must change the way he thinks, the way his mind has worked in the past ... and A CONSEQUENCE of that changed way of thinking is that he is required to live by all of God's laws and instructions and wishes, and he is to do so with the correct frame of mind.
When someone says: "What am I supposed to repent of?", it shows that they are focusing on ACTIONS, on things they may have done which are contrary to God's laws. The same is true for someone who says: "Okay, I repent of having spread this rumour about you." It is again a focus on outward actions.
But these statements ignore the wrong operating system that is installed in the mind! At our initial repentance after learning the truth of God, we have to root out a totally wrong way of thinking and replace it with the way God wants us to think, the way that reflects how God's mind works. When we have sinned subsequent to our initial repentance and conversion, then it means that we have to a greater or lesser degree allowed our former way of thinking to re-establish itself in our minds, and repentance requires that we again root out that former way of thinking ... and most emphatically that we stop doing what is wrong.
While repentance is something that must take place in the mind, it most assuredly will manifest itself in outward actions and conduct and speech. It is just that some of the actions produced by the wrong operating system can ALSO look very convincing; and that makes it difficult to discern the difference when looking at the outward actions alone. It is somewhat like the difference between the stars and the planets in the night sky: to the untrained eye they look alike. It is only when we observe them for a considerable period of time that it becomes clear that the planets are unreliable deceivers (which is what the Greek word "planetes" means) when compared to the stars, that the planets keep changing their positions in relation to all the stars. In the same way the actions produced by a truly repentant mind and the actions produced by an unrepentant mind can at times be very difficult to tell apart.
Sometimes the most difficult people to counsel for baptism are those who feel that they haven't really "DONE ANYTHING WRONG", because our natural focus is on outward actions. Sometimes people who have grown up in God's Church are in this situation ... they have always kept the Sabbath and the Holy Days, they started tithing when they earned their first income, they may have been protected from negative influences in this world, they have never believed and practised pagan religious customs, they have always accepted the true teachings of the Bible ... and there really is NOTHING bad in their background that they need to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. The worst things in their lives are that they have had wrong thoughts and they may have at times lied to their parents or to other people to get out of trouble.
A minister counselling such a person may have searched desperately in order to come up with something that will produce a feeling of guilt in the person's mind, just so that there is something for the person "to repent of", so the minister can help the person see what repentance is supposed to be.
In order to persuade the minister to baptize them, people in this situation may even exaggerate some of the relatively minor flaws in their past, things that other people going through the process of repentance would not even think about ... just to convince the minister that they really do see themselves as just as "evil" as the rest of humanity. And even while they say those words to the minister, deep-down they know that there isn't really anything they will be changing from the way they have always lived (e.g. growing up in God's Church). But it is expected of them to say the right things in order to be eligible for baptism.
And there is nothing wrong with their unspoken feeling that after baptism they will continue to live as they basically always have, in harmony with the laws of God. They'll continue to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days; they'll continue to tithe and not eat unclean foods; they'll continue to be helpful and kind towards other people; etc.. In none of those things does God require any change from them.
It is not that they view themselves as being perfect. Their "falling short" of the mark has always been basically on the same level as the "falling short" of those who are baptized. We ALL fall short; but those who have grown up with the way of life taught in the Bible haven't necessarily fallen "MORE short" than we who are baptized have fallen short since the time of our baptism.
THE EXAMPLE OF JOB
You know the story of Job. God told Satan that Job was a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God, and hated evil (see Job 1:8). And frankly, the statement in our baptismal formula did NOT really apply to Job! Does that shock you?
Our baptism formula says:
"... as a result of YOUR REPENTANCE OF YOUR SINS, which is the transgression of God's holy and righteous and perfect law ... I now baptize you ..."
But there weren't any "SINS" you could point to in Job's life. When GOD said that Job was a perfect and an upright man, then God was telling the truth. God ALWAYS tells the truth! But WE have tried to find some "sins" in Job's life, because ... "there is NONE righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10), right? We have REASONED our way into finding some "sins" in Job's life. After all, don't Job's statements "behold I am vile" (Job 40:4) and "wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6) prove that Job must also have sinned secretly in some way?
But our reasoning is based on OUR WRONG UNDERSTANDING OF REAL REPENTANCE! In order to justify the need for repentance, we simply must find some evidence of sins. We cannot conceive of the idea of real repentance if there are no sins (i.e. if there are no transgressions of God's law) that we can point to.
To get back to Job: the problem with Job was not that he was running the wrong software in his life. Job's problem was that THE WRONG OPERATING SYSTEM was still installed in his mind! And all the software Job was running in his mind on this wrong operating system was producing almost identical results to the ones that should be produced with the right operating system. But the results produced are not enough with God. Producing the right results on the wrong operating system does not give any guarantees for the future! And God WANTS guarantees for the future conduct! And those guarantees can only be produced when we run all our mental software on the right operating system.
What Job had to change was THE WAY HIS MIND WORKED! He had to change the way he thought about God and the way he thought about himself and the way he related to God. That is why, when he came to real repentance, he said: "... but NOW my eye sees you" (Job 42:5). His mind had taken on a totally different perspective. And in so doing "HE REPENTED"!
A MAJOR WEAKNESS IN OUR PAST UNDERSTANDING
It is totally misleading to tell someone to ... "repent of your sins"! Nowhere does the Bible instruct us to repent "OF OUR SINS"! The reference in our baptism formula to ... "your repentance of your sins" is equally misleading.
Check your own Bible with the help of a concordance. NOWHERE are we instructed to repent of our "sins". That concept is never used in the Bible. We are instructed "TO REPENT" ... but repentance does not focus on sins; it focuses on CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK!
As soon as we expand the instruction to read "repent OF YOUR SINS" we have in effect diverted the focus away from the mind and onto our actions. And we are missing the intent of God's instruction to us. The actions suddenly become more important than the underlying motivations for those actions.
It is not questioned that we need to confess to God and acknowledge our sins and determine to stop sinning; but these things must all be A CONSEQUENCE to us changing the way we think, the way our minds work. They are not an end in themselves.
The closest you will come to finding something in the Bible that ties "sins" to the instruction to repent is Paul's reference in Hebrews 6:1 to ... "the foundation of repentance from dead works". Notice that Paul did not use the word "sins"; he used the expression "dead works". "Dead works" are not necessarily all "sins"; they are just works that don't achieve anything as far as the process of salvation is concerned.
What Paul means by this expression is that we must change the focus of our minds. When we change the way we think, then a result of that changed perspective will be that many of the things we thought were so important to us become quite unimportant. We see that they have no real value. That's what Paul himself did ... he had repented and as a result he could see that his past "works" were "dead". That's what he meant in Philippians 3:7, when he said:
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
He wasn't referring to "sins"; he was speaking about the futility of all his past good deeds. With the changed outlook in his mind all those past good deeds had lost their value.
If you make a study of every occurrence of the verb "repent" (i.e. metanoeo) in the New Testament, and in every instance remind yourself that "repent" means to change the way we think from the world's selfish way of thinking to God's way of thinking, THEN you should be able to see that the Bible does not talk about "repenting of sins", that the intention to not sin again is really a consequence to having repented.
I know it is hard to break old habits; but we should really determine to not use any variations of the expression "to repent of your sins", because that expression only confuses what repentance really should be. We should not confuse "metanoeo" with "metamellomai", because that is what many of us have done in the past. We have focused on being sorry for specific events (things we have done or said or thought) and we have then assumed that our being sorry was proof of being repentant. And yes, being sorry should certainly be a part of real repentance, but it must go much further than that.
This is important to understand!
When we add the expression "OF YOUR SINS" to God's command to us to repent, then we are actually FORCING the meaning of "metamellomai" onto the word "repent". You simply cannot retain the biblical meaning of "repent" (i.e. metanoeo) in the expression "to repent of your sins"! This expression forces us to assign the meaning of "to be sorry" to the word "repent". And that results in us having a distorted view of the word "repent".
- When someone says: "I will not forgive him for having done that until he repents", the person means: I will not forgive him until he states that he is sorry for having done that; I expect him to express sorrow and remorse.
- When someone says: "Have you repented of your sins?", he is asking: do you have sorrow and remorse for your past conduct? Are you prepared to acknowledge your guilt?
- When a husband says to his wife: "I have repented of having had an affair and therefore you now ought to forgive me", he is saying: I am sorry for what I did and therefore you should now forget my transgression and not hold it against me.
- When someone says: "What am I supposed to repent of?", he is saying: what is it that I have done wrong? Where am I guilty of having sinned? Show me what I have done wrong.
- When someone says: "I repent for having told others what you had told me privately in confidence", he is saying: I am sorry for having said certain confidential things about you.
In all of the above situations the people using the word "repent" are basically assigning the meaning of "metamellomai" to this word. But God has instructed us to "metanoeo" ... to change the way we think and the way our minds work and reason. And the meaning of "metanoeo" is lost on all of the above situations.
Part of the blame for our blurred understanding of the concept of repentance lies with the translators who chose to also translate "metamellomai" into English as "repent". That was a mistake because it equated metamellomai with metanoeo, but these two words really have different meanings. Let's not perpetuate this mistake of the translators.
So how do we go about "repenting"? Is it something we do or is it something that God has to "give" to us?
DOES GOD "GIVE" US REPENTANCE?
In the New Testament the first time the word "repent" is used, it is by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2 ...
And saying, REPENT ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 3:2)
The next time the word is used is by Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:17.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, REPENT: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 4:17)
In both of these verses the word "repent" is used in the imperative mood. This mood is used to express a command. The imperative mood is also used for the word "repent" in Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 3:3; 3:19. Thus of the 34 times it is used (in 32 different verses) this word is used 10 times in the imperative mood, stating a clear command.
Now God only gives us commands for things that He expects US to do; God does not give us commands for things He Himself will do.
So the first thing we should have clearly in our minds is this:
REPENTANCE IS SOMETHING WE OURSELVES HAVE TO DO! IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT GOD WILL DO FOR US!
Remember that "repent" means "to change the way we think". But we on our own are incapable of changing the way we think. We need God's help in this process. So let's look at two other verses.
After the Apostle Peter had returned to Jerusalem from baptizing the Gentile Cornelius and reported the whole matter to the Church there, then people responded by saying:
"... then has God also to the Gentiles GRANTED repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18)
And the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and said:
"... if God peradventure will GIVE them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." (2.Tim. 2:25)
Here we have two Scriptures that tell us that God "GRANTS" or "GIVES" repentance. In both of these verses the Greek verb is "didomi", which means "to give".
So the question is: how can God possibly COMMAND us to do something, when it is impossible for us to do that unless He first GIVES it to us? I mention this because some people seem to think that repentance is all up to God, that if people don't repent then that isn't really their fault.
What God "grants" or "gives" to people is THE ABILITY to repent, to change their way of thinking. In analogy, God gives us ACCESS to the new operating system, but we have to do the installing ourselves. This "access" to changing our way of thinking (to renew our minds) is given to us through the Holy Spirit. Here is how it basically works.
The Holy Spirit opens our minds to understanding spiritual things. In 1.Cor. 2:11 Paul explained this, that it is through the Spirit of God that we can be enabled to understand the things of God. The Holy Spirit also enables us to have a spiritual perspective on life. This then presents us with A CHOICE ... we still fully understand our old way of thinking and reasoning, but we can also understand life from God's perspective (to a small degree!). This then puts us into a situation not unlike the one Israel found themselves in at the time of Moses, when God said:
"... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live." (Deut. 30:19)
For us to choose to repent, to choose to install God's way of thinking into our minds represents life. And if we choose not to install God's way of thinking that represents death, in the same way that God set "life and death" before ancient Israel.
It is not a matter of God not having "given" repentance to "all" those people who are still unrepentant in this world ... though that is certainly the case for the vast majority of unrepentant people alive today. But there are also those individuals who were given sufficient understanding by God to be able to make a choice regarding the way their minds work ... and they chose to reject God's way of thinking for any number of different reasons ... the understanding God made available to them may have fallen "on stony ground" or it may have fallen "among thorns" and choked. But they chose not to accept God's view of how we human beings should live even though they had been given access to this.
God requires us to put out effort in order to install His way of thinking into our minds. It doesn't come naturally or easy. We have to work; we must be willing to yield and to submit to God's guidance.
The point for YOU and for ME to keep in mind in this regard is this: God has ALREADY given you and me access to the new operating system for our minds. There is nothing more God has to do to grant US "repentance"! God having already opened our minds to understanding His will and His purpose, it is now up to us to voluntarily install God's way of thinking into our minds ... and it will require ACTIVE EFFORT IN THE FACE OF PRESSURE TO STAY WITH THE OLD OPERATING SYSTEM for us to install the new system for the way our minds work.
Real repentance (i.e. REALLY changing the way our minds work) most assuredly requires a great deal of effort on the part of the person who is "repenting".
So what about you? Where do you stand?
WHAT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR REPENTANCE?
I mentioned at the start that it is not my intention to make you feel guilty or to have you question your own repentance and conversion. But you do need to know, and know that you know, that you did indeed repent when you were baptized and became a part of God's Church. You cannot afford even the slightest degree of uncertainty in this matter, because your repentance becomes the foundation on which your relationship with God is built.
It is not important that you had perfect understanding at the time you were baptized ... until our dying day there will always be room for growth in knowledge and in understanding in our minds. So don't be perturbed if, after having read this article, you now feel that there were some things you didn't really understand before. You can still know that you really did repent back then.
There are two points that you can examine in this regard. The first point involves THE REQUIREMENT for real repentance, and the second point involves THE EVIDENCE of real repentance.
The most important requirement for real repentance is ... COMMITMENT! When you repented, did you make an unconditional commitment to strive to always seek God's will in every area of your life, a commitment to strive to please God in whatever way possible? Did you make a commitment to diligently seek out how God wants you to live and what it is that He would like you to do in every area of your life? Are you STILL committed to these things ... or has your resolve "mellowed"?
The commitment that God is looking for goes far beyond the matter of determining to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days, to tithe and not to eat unclean meats. It requires an active search for the will of God and a desire to understand the mind of God and to then conduct our lives in a manner which will result in us pleasing God.
For example, a lot of Israelites saw fellow-Israelites committing "whoredom" with Moabite women (Numbers 25:1); but there was only one man, Phinehas, who did something about it because he understood God's will. Phinehas took a spear and he ... "thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly" (Numbers 25:8). God then said that because of this zeal for God by Phinehas, He was turning His anger away from Israel (verse 11). Phinehas was committed to God's way.
Now our commitment to God today does not require us to go out and kill people, as was the case with Phinehas. But it must certainly go a long way beyond mere compliance with given instructions. Real commitment to God REQUIRES US to translate every biblical principle we become aware of into practical applications in our lives (as far as that is possible). How did Phinehas know that it would please God for him to kill those two people? How did he know that God would not look upon him as a murderer? Phinehas understood how God viewed the immoral conduct of the Israelites.
Phinehas' action was proof of his commitment to God.
How can God see proof of OUR commitment to Him? God sees our commitment by our diligent efforts at turning the principles God has revealed in the Bible into practical applications in OUR OWN daily lives ... our diligent efforts in this regard show God our desire to want to understand His mind, and to then implement in our daily lives what we have learned about the mind of God.
To put it another way:
Keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days and tithing, etc., only require us to install "new software" into our minds. That new software is certainly important, but it is of itself not evidence of real repentance. It is our diligent efforts at understanding the mind of God and of, as much as is possible, seeking out the principles God has revealed that, if implemented in our lives, lead to us PLEASING God that is the evidence that we have indeed installed a new "operating system" in our minds, that we have embraced a new way of thinking, that we now have a different perspective of life.
If we are really looking, then sooner or later we see principles that are in conflict with what we are doing or what we would like permission to do. It is then that the commitment we made is tested. If at times like this we suppress what our conscience tells us to do, then our commitment is not very strong. Yes, at times we all fall short; but we still have to face the truth.
Now YOU YOURSELF are the only one (on the human level!) who knows what sort of commitment you have made to God, how strong that commitment is, whether it is still as uncompromising as it was when you first believed or whether it has "mellowed" to "accommodate" some of the ways of this world. You are the one to know this. IF you can tell yourself before God (you don't need to convince anyone else of this) that you did make an unconditional commitment to God and that this unconditional commitment to God has only become stronger with the passage of time, then you need never doubt your original repentance. Whether or not you have at times slipped up and fallen short in applying this commitment is not the question. All of us have slipped and fallen short ... important is whether or not we still have that commitment and strive to live by it.
That's point one. Now let's look at point two.
The evidence of real repentance (which automatically leads to real conversion through the free gift of the Holy Spirit, see Acts 2:38) is A CHANGED MIND, A CHANGED WAY OF THINKING!
So how can you know whether your mind has indeed been "renewed"?
The Apostle Paul explained that God has given us a spirit of "power and of love and of a sound mind" (2. Tim. 1:7). Jesus Christ explained that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (see John 16:13). The Apostle Paul also explained that the Holy Sprit opens our minds to spiritual understanding (see 1. Cor. 2:11).
So how do these things translate into practical terms?
Yes, a renewed mind would have understanding of spiritual things. God's Spirit will enable converted people to understand God's plan and God's purpose, as well as understanding the Bible, the Word of God. But much of this "understanding" is really very basic and it is also understood by many people who have never yet repented. There are many "Bible scholars" and "Bible commentators" who have never gone through the process of real repentance, yet who have written commentaries on the Bible which can provide certain knowledge and information. While the understanding of such people may be lacking in some areas, it is basically correct in many other areas.
So clearly a renewed mind has to go beyond understanding much of the Bible. And it does! A renewed mind has much more than just access to additional knowledge and understanding.
What 2. Timothy 1:7 tells us is that THE OPERATING SYSTEM of a renewed mind is one based on "power, love and a sound mind". In other words, the perspective of mind for everything we do and understand become one of a desire to see God's will fulfilled, an outgoing concern (i.e. "love") for humanity as a whole from God's point of view. This is in contrast to the natural perspective of "me first". Yes, none of us will have this godly perspective perfectly, but there should be some evidence that our perspective has at least changed in that direction, towards God's way of thinking.
People in this world will "think it strange" that those who are converted don't have the same goals and purposes and don't think the same way they do (compare 1. Peter 4:4).
But let's get down to your level.
Most of us are in daily contact with many people who are not in God's Church and who have never yet really repented. And many of those people may indeed be very fine people. But as you interact with them (and I mean in non-religious matters!) can you see that they just don't think the way you do ... they have different priorities, they have a totally different vantage point on so many issues, things they view as important are often so unimportant to you, they have fears and insecurities which don't perturb you, often you only have very few things in common with them and lengthy personal discussions become difficult to conduct, at times their manner of speech makes you uncomfortable, their reasoning doesn't make sense to you, they simply don't understand your perspective on many issues of life, etc.?
Consider one biblical example:
While death is never pleasant, a godly perspective should help us to not sorrow even as other people in this world sorrow who have no hope (see 1. Thess. 4:13). The Apostle Paul himself was not all that concerned about whether he would continue to live or whether he would die (see Philippians 1:21-24). And while people can accept that the elderly must all die sooner or later, the death of a young child is a much harder matter. Now consider and compare the perspective of King David with that of his servants. The account is found in 2. Samuel chapter 12.
After King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, God struck the child with sickness. While the child was sick David fasted, to see if God would perhaps have mercy on the child and let him live. On the seventh day the child died and then David immediately, after first praying to God, broke his fast. To his unconverted servants this just didn't make sense. They said:
"... What thing is this that you have done? You did fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, you did rise and eat bread." (verse 21)
From their perspective the mourning only really started when a person died. But David had a different perspective. He said:
"... While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? ..." (verses 22-23)
The purpose for which David fasted was totally different from the purposes his servants would have thought of. We too should understand, like David, that there is no purpose in fasting and weeping for someone who has died. [At a time of death the expression of concern, empathy and compassion is for the bereaved who remain alive, rather than for the deceased.]
The point here is that David had a different mindset; he viewed life from a different perspective to those around him. That's one of the effects that results from installing a new operating system in our minds.
There are many areas in life where the renewed mind of a repentant and converted believer will have a totally different perspective from the common average perspective held by people in this world. That worldly perspective, in its ultimate form, was put into words by Satan, the god of this present age, when Satan said to God:
"... Skin for skin, yes, all that a man has will he give for his life." (Job 2:4)
The contrasting perspective of the godly operating system was stated by Jesus Christ, when He said:
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
Most of the perspectives in the natural operating system on all of the issues that affect life can in some form or other be led back to Job 2:4. And most of the perspectives in the godly operating system sooner or later lead back to John 15:13. This goes far beyond mere outward actions, which initially in many cases may appear very similar for both operating systems. It really goes back to "the thoughts and intents of the heart" (see Hebrews 4:12) which underlie those outward actions.
Now where you are the only one who can know the level of your commitment to God, when it comes to a renewed mind this is something that will very often also become apparent to other people, at least to some degree. They will often see whether YOUR mind sees life from the same angle that they see it.
So the question is: can YOU see that your mind functions differently from the way the minds of unrepentant people around you function? Or can you readily and easily identify with their goals and their purposes and their ways of reasoning and their ways of justifying their own conduct? Are you able to lead your actions back to the foundation of John 15:13 or do they lead back to Job 2:4? Are you motivated by a spirit of fear which Satan instills in people or are you motivated by a spirit of power which God imparts to repentant believers (see 2. Tim. 1:7)?
If your mind has been renewed, it will be able to follow the logic presented by other renewed minds, when it comes to understanding the Scriptures. Thus when you hear the Scriptures explained correctly, you will be able to discern this; and when the Scriptures are misapplied you will also recognize this (if not perfectly every time, then certainly far, far more often than people in the world would identify wrong explanations). It is basically like Jesus Christ said in Revelation 2:2 ... YOU have tested those who claim to represent the truth of God and you have found the false ones to be liars. The new operating system in your mind enables you to distinguish between the true and the false ministers.
Well, that about covers what I wanted to explain in this paper.
Yes: true repentance requires us to turn away from breaking God's laws and turn towards obedience; true repentance requires us to count the cost of taking such a step; true repentance requires us to confess our sins and transgressions to God; true repentance requires us to contemplate the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf; and true repentance requires us to seek God's forgiveness for our sins. But if you were baptized one or more years ago, you need to know mainly two things:
1) Did you make an unconditional commitment to from henceforth obey God in every way and to seek His will in every area of your life? And do you still abide by that commitment without having modified any of the clauses in it?
2) In looking back to your life before you repented ... can you see that THE WAY YOUR MIND WORKS has changed? Can you see that the things that were of the greatest importance to you before repentance have become rather unimportant now (Phil. 3:8)? Can you see that there is a gulf between the way your mind works and the way the mind of the average person you happen to know in the world works? Can you see that the way you yourself used to reason a year ago (or five years ago or twenty years ago) now seems strange to you? Can you see that you now understand far more about life and about God's plan and God's will than was the case years ago?
If between you and God you can answer "yes" to these two questions, then you are repentant, and need not be concerned or worried about when you first submitted your life to God. Rather, you can and you should focus on ... "hold fast that which you have, that no man take your crown" (Revelation 3:11) and you should ... "press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).
Frank W. Nelte