I was trained by Campus Crusade and Navigators (two highly respected evangelical campus ministries that are both effectively teaching and equipping believers to serve) that “repent” means “a 180° change in behavior.” Today this astonishes me. Partly because they have so much of what they each do so very correct, but partly because this misinformation is so off target.
The word that is being translated as “repent,” though, (metanoeo) means “a change in thought or change of mind.” It means that I believed something or thought a certain way, then something happened, and now I think differently. It doesn’t mean changed behavior, or John’s statement in Matthew 3:8, instructing Pharisees and Sadducees to bear fruits worthy of repentance, doesn’t make sense.
Changed behavior follows changed minds. Changed behavior is not repentance, though. It is the result of repentance. And having a changed mind is complicated. I can change my mind about something and have it be a settled issue as long as I don’t have to sustain the new mindset when I am fearful. Or when I am angry. Or when I first wake up in the morning. Or when my Ativan hasn’t kicked in yet. I need to make the new decision in each one of those places in my life in order for my resulting behavior to completely change. I need to be able to remember why I decided to think differently so that in each tempting moment I can make the decision again to stay in or return to that changed mind.
It is easy to be discouraged when I find myself back in the same place of submitting to fear or pride or whatever the change of mind is that I am trying to make. It can be discouraging when I don’t seem to be changing at the behavior level. I just need to keep adding more truth to support the decision. Keep putting sticky notes everywhere I need one to remind myself why the change is important or why the old way is deceptive. Keep standing back up when I slip down.
Every moment you can see the new thought as truth, you are standing in victory. He is looking for a walk, not just a step. Keep making every good step you can make.