Dr. John B. MacDonald
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In the previous post, repentance was described in terms of a change of mind, emotion, and will toward self, toward sin, toward God, toward Christ. 

How does repentance work in our lives?

 

4 dynamics of repentance 

1.         Repentance is a divine gift

“... God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18) and “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to ...” (2 Timothy 2:25). In both texts, “grant” translates the Greek word didōmi which conveys something of God’s generosity in giving repentance.

Repentance is God's gift. Yet, it is possible to resist or reject this gift as Paul points out in Romans 2:4-5.

Receive this gift with thankfulness by embracing and acting on it.

2.         Repentance is a deep change.

Remember that repentance operates in the deep inner places of your being. Anticipate an interior change of your mind, emotions, and will on a particular matter. 

This is not an issue of behavior modification causing repentance. On the contrary, new, life-giving ways of thinking, speaking, and acting will flow from the deep inner change that is repentance. 

3.         Repentance is a painful crisis.

Repentance means change. Such change is often experienced within crisis. 

Here are a few examples from biblical narratives: the prodigal son facing starvation (Luke 15:14-16); Jonah, thrown off the storm-tossed ship, sinking to the seafloor (Jonah 2); David being exposed by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). 

Instead of avoiding the crisis, move into it with the expectation of all it promises on the other side.

4.         Repentance is a new beginning

Christine Smith, in “Repentance: Hope for the World,” observes: 

Repentance allows the whole of creation to have another chance. The act of true repentance holds out the possibility, maybe even the promise, that individuals and whole communities can be renewed, can mend what we have broken, can find what appeared to be completely lost, can build a bridge to that which seems permanently severed, can re-member and restore the dismembered garment of shared life.

Smith paints the possibilities held out by “the act of true repentance” with grace-filled words such as promise, renewal, mending, recovering, rebuilding, and restoring. It is this intentional alteration of course that enables forgiveness – the rebuilding of broken relationships.

True repentance is about life and wholeness; it is about new beginnings.

 

4 dynamics illustrated

The 'story' of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) illustrates these dynamics of repentance. This son’s actions put him on his trajectory toward disintegration and death, including alienation from his father; loss of all he possessed; and, gnawing hunger. 

It is at this point of crisis he grasps the gift of true repentance and interior changes take place that hold out the possibility of a new beginning. 

Repentance is the literal turning point of this parable. Imagine for yourself the experiences of the prodigal as you read Luke 15:17-20a. This scene evokes the deep change and painful crisis of his repentance: 

  • change of mind: “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!’”
  • change of emotions: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” What depth of emotion must he have felt as he spoke these words.
  • change of will: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’ ... so he got up and went to his father.

The response of the father demonstrates the dynamic of a new beginning: "he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

The prodigal chose to act on the gift of repentance. What results from the dynamics of repentance is more than the “the possibility, maybe even the promise” of mending what was broken, recovering what was lost, rebuilding what was severed, and bringing to life a relationship that had died. 

 

Your take-away

For a moment, just sit quietly. Taking up the words of Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT), ask the Lord to examine your life, thoughts, and heart:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Are you being invited to grasp the gift of repentance in some area of your life? Have you been resisting or rejecting this gift of life? 

Take hold of this gift, and experience its dynamics as it holds out the promise of a new beginning.

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Photo credit: Wiertz Sébastien via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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