‘From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”…
They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,”Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”’…
… people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.’
Matthew 4:17; 18-19; 24
When we are called to change, and begin again with God, it always happens in a particular place and time. Think about where you are, now, and where you’ve been. Can you see in your mind’s eye, the time and the place where you had a major life change? You know – or you sense – that God was in the experience. Did you change as a result? Did you miss the opportunity? We all experience change that lasts for a few days, weeks, or even months, and then we go back to “the same old, same old”.
Biblically, to repent means a lifelong commitment to deep spiritual change. It should be an ongoing way of life. And it tracks the lifelong transition from darkness to light; from no Jesus – or “meh” Jesus – to Yes, Jesus is my Lord and Savior. When we repent in that way, we turn, learn, and heal over the course of a lifetime.
We leave behind old ways of life – sinful patterns – that don’t die in an instant. And the repenting we do, going forward, is done on a foundation of grace, which means it should be less frightening, more normal, and even a ‘joy’. We are not forced, but choose to repent, because we know the learning and healing that come along with it. This is how Eugene Peterson – pastor and translator of The Message Bible – puts it:
“Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.” (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, pp. 29-30)
If we turn and go with Jesus on that path, what do we leave behind? It should get pretty specific:
- Consistent pattern of “white lies”, for grace-filled truthfulness in all things.
- Destructive habits for godly habits that honor the fact that you are God’s temple.
- Consistently foolish for consistently wise decisions.
- At the mercy of our emotions, to governing our emotions under the power of the Holy Spirit.
- No worship, or worship once in a blue moon, to the discipline of weekly worship.
- Spiritual quick fixes, to careful, balanced spiritual troubleshooting.
- No, bad, or weak boundaries, to healthy, Christ-centered boundaries.
To repent is to decide to turn around and learn (disciple) in The Way of Jesus Christ, and this will heal you over time.
At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus sets the tone of his whole ministry:
- He calls everyone to repent – we turn.
- He calls disciples to himself and promises to equip them to “fish” for people – we learn.
- Jesus heals the sick and delivers the demon-possessed – we heal.
Jesus fishes us out the waters of chaos, darkness, and disorder, and equips us to do the same.
Which waters were you pulled out of? What was life like before you knew God? Or maybe you’ve been rescued, but you don’t know the name of the One who rescued you. Jesus was the One. He pulled out so that you could go back in and fish out people like you. So, turn to Him. Learn from Him. Receive healing from Him. Then, go, and do likewise for those who will become members of the family you just joined.
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I pastor Mattituck Presbyterian Church, on the North Fork of Long Island. You can visit our website, HERE, and if you would like to view our worship services, you can join us on Facebook at 9:00am (Contemporary) and 11:15am (Traditional Worship Service): FACEBOOK, or you can watch recent messages on YOUTUBE.