Today we are looking at one more thing, for which we can be thankful, as we think about the gift, that God gave to mankind, of choice. And that is the gift of being able to change our minds. This is such a big gift because if we were not able to ‘change our minds’ we would find ourselves, once we had made our choice, locked into a course of action that we might not want, the consequences of which we might not have fully considered. Making choices would be very hard, and life rather uncomfortable and probably full of regrets.
In the Bible God often asks people to ‘repent’, and repentance gets a bit of a bad press because it is often associated with a ‘sackcloth and ashes’ scenario Luke 10:13. Often times in the Old Testament, when there was great conviction of sin people would tear their clothes, or literally sit in sackcloth and smear themselves with ashes Joel 2:13. Repentance was associated with great grief, a good deal of emotion, and even self flagulation.
The word ‘repent’ is not in itself a word conveying emotion. The root of the word repentance is about rethinking something, changing our minds, even turning around and changing direction. There may well be strong and sad emotion accompanying it, but as a Christian there can also be a lot of joy. Joy will be there particularly if we are changing our minds in order to line up with the way God is thinking about something, and often as our thinking changes so does our behavior, and that will please Him too.
After the second world war, Basilea Schlink, leader of a Evangelical Sisterhood based in Darmstadt Germany, wrote a book ‘Repentance the Joy filled Life’. It was the first time I had heard the words repentance and joy in the same sentence, but she had unearthed a jewel for all of us Christians. She saw that repentance, which may be a sorrowful experience for a while, actually leads to joy. This is because Jesus has paid such a price for all our sins, that there is no judgement left for us, only the warm embrace of the Father, when we turn back to Him from any selfish or wayward path that we have taken in thought, word or deed. I quote ‘Repentance – the gateway to heaven! Repentance – the way to the father’s heart and to overflowing joy!
I was recently sent (by one of this blog’s readers) another wonderful article on seeing repentance as a gift from God. It was written by Rob Des Cotes of the Imago Dei Christian Community. Both he and Basilea Schlink, have caught sight of the fact that repentance is not just about our initial turning to Christ, but about a lifestyle of getting closer and closer to Him. He writes, ‘To know that you need to repent is, in itself, an insight from the Holy Spirit. To know it in an ongoing way is evidence of God’s continued presence with us. It is a recurring gift that accompanies us along our whole earthly journey, purifying us as we go in thanksgiving for God’s mercy.’
As we grow in Christ and as we learn to be more and more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we will learn to welcome His correction and enjoy His redirection because we will find ourselves walking more closely with the Lord. There is a strange joy and relief in being ‘turned around’ by the Holy Spirit when we’ve diverged from His way of doing things. When we change our minds about a direction we are pursuing, that is not in accordance with His character and will, and choose His way, it is like we have the wind under our sails again and we feel lighter and freer.
This gift of repentance is surely something to thank Him for. Just knowing that at any time of the day or night I can turn to Him, ‘change my mind’ about something and draw close to Him again is truly a wonderful gift. Our ongoing journey of repentance is then a sign of growth, not failure, a sign that we are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing Glory, by His Spirit 2 Corinthians 3:18.
There is one post script that I want to add about this path of repentance and that is this, when we feel that we are being ‘pulled up’ about something by the Holy Spirit, a good test of whether it is the Holy Spirit redirecting us or the enemy condemning us is that the Holy Spirit will point out something that needs changing, and then take us to Calvary, where we can find grace and forgiveness, and yes, joy. The enemy will take us to Sinai, the law and condemnation. Don’t go with him, stay looking to Calvary at all times and joy will be yours.
Repentance the Joy Filled Life by Schlink, M. Basilea was republished by Evangelical Sisterhood Of Mary in January 2016