We are now in the middle of week 4 of our 7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on repentance.
I try to keep a “first things first” understanding in regards to what it means to be saved. It absolutely starts on the front end knowing that salvation can only happen by the grace of God alone. But salvation isn’t just a one-time prayer we pray – it is maintaining a posture of repentance and faith, which begins in a moment but is maintained for the rest of your life. Repentance means we are following the ways of God over the broken ways of this world. Faith means that we are consistently trusting in him both to rescue our souls and be our source of strength as we navigate this world.
The concept of repentance stands at the very heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Understanding who Jesus is causes a radical shift for his followers, resulting in a complete transfer of allegiance from our inherently selfish ways into a posture of submission to Jesus’ message and mission. The verb repentance stems from the Greek word metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose. One scholarly dictionary defines repentance as “a radical acknowledgment of God, as well as a radical confession of a sinful fallenness that is so total that recourse to the former means of salvation appears hopeless.” Repentance is the response one has to God through the convicting work of the Spirit. Therefore, we repent (or turn away from) a former way of living and now embrace the holy ways of God.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church and a hero of mine, understood the act of repentance as containing three principles:
- Conviction or self-knowledge
- Poverty of spirit
- Rejection of self-righteousness and self-justification.
It is my belief that repentance comes before faith because our heart needs to be prepared to understand the necessity of salvation and just how far we have erred through our sinful behavior. This is the first step in awakening the heart to the love of God and comes in response to the prevenient grace of the Spirit.
Having a heart transformed by repentance redefines our understanding of what it means to have faith.
Faith is then understood to go far beyond a mental assent to a list of facts that describe the character and work of Jesus Christ. Wesley describes faith as “not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us.” Scripturally, Philippians 2:12 is a good example of the mixture of repentance converging with faith, in which Paul exhorts us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
We repent because we are struck with both the reality and gravity that all our human ways to do life have failed. We are lost on our own and need to turn from these old ways towards the pure, gracious ways of Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls to us to live differently, so in our submission to Jesus as Lord, we are consequently choosing to emulate and represent his way of life to the world.
The work of repentance is evident in our lives through our fruitfulness within God’s Kingdom. As Jesus told us in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This lifestyle of repentance and fruit-bearing that Jesus calls us to will involve an entire shift in our focus. Things which we previously held tightly lose their importance in favor of the ways of the Kingdom of God. We must ask ourselves: Are we willing to switch our loyalties completely? Do we truly trust Jesus, and believe that his Kingdom is better than any kingdom of this world?
Let us take this week and ask the Lord to produce a deep work of repentance for the ways we have failed to keep Jesus and his Kingdom at the center of our lives. May God mercifully expose the ways we have fallen short, and give us the strength and courage to live differently.
God has called his people to pray! Our families, communities, and world are in need of healing and God makes a conditional promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that we want to live out. God is calling us as his people to humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. Please join us by:
- Praying daily at 7:14 a.m. & 7:14 p.m.
- Fasting one time per week