One of the most vivid memories I have of my time in college was the street preachers who stood in the common areas of campus. These men in suits would hold signs that told of God’s judgement and yell at passing students about the dangers of their fornication and debauchery. You can imagine how this strategy was received – um, not well.
These men believed they were preaching repentance. In their mind, they were calling people to turn to God. And when most of us think about repentance, we think about men like this – hateful, judgmental, angry people who place themselves on a spiritual pedestal over others who don’t believe like they do. As a result, when most of us hear the word repent, we don’t hear good news, we hear bad news.
And it’s a tragedy. Because in Scripture, the idea of repenting is one of the most hopeful realities we can encounter. The word repent means to turn around, but it’s much more than that. It means reconsider. It means rethink. It means to see the world through a different lens. I love how Brian Zahnd puts it:
“Repent” is not the chide of finger-wagging moralism, but an invitation to rethink everything in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The call to repent is not a call to judgement, but an invitation to see the world differently in light of Jesus. In fact, it’s the ‘finger-wagging moralism’ of these prophets of doom that keep people from seeing the world in light of Jesus.
As Christians, we can’t call the world around us to a repentance we ourselves aren’t experiencing ourselves. More often than not, we haven’t began rethinking our own lives in light of Jesus if we stand over others in judgement.
Martin Luther turned the world – and especially the Church – upside down with his 95 theses written in 1517. This challenging call started with a foundational statement for every Christian: “all of life is repentance.” Christians never stop repenting. We never stop looking to Jesus and rethinking our entire lives in light of Him. The moment we stop repenting is the moment we cease to follow Jesus.
In our series “Throwback,” we are going through the book of Acts, learning from the story of the early Christian Church. The book of Acts mentions repentance more than any book in the Bible. These early Christians were bold in their calls to repentance, but even bolder in their continual repentance themselves. They were constantly encountering the risen Jesus and rethinking everything in light of Him.
When we are struggling in our faith, it’s typically not a thinking problem, it’s a rethinking problem. We’ve stopped being open to Jesus changing our mind about who we are, where we are headed, and how we get there.
This weekend, we are talking about one of the most astonishing examples of rethinking everything in the entire Bible. It is nothing less than stunning. Join us Sunday night!