What would you do today if you believed you won the lottery? Would that change anything in your day? I’m not talking about if you played the lottery and thought you had a chance to win. I am saying imagine you just got a certified letter, hand-delivered to you by Regis himself, saying that you’ve just won $100 million and the check is in the mail.
Would that change your behavior?
YOU BET IT WOULD! Are you kidding me? I’d be dancing in the street! I’d be screaming so loud that the neighbors would hear! I’d drive straight to my workplace – with resignation letter in hand – but before I submitted the letter, I’d go around and tell everyone how I REALLY felt about them!
(Note to all who work with me now: please don’t be offended by the last sentence. Of course I was just exaggerating to make a point. I’d never want to work with anyone other than you guys and as long as I don’t win the lottery any time soon, I’m sticking with that as my story :) )
The point is this: if you really believed that you had $100 million right now, it would change your behavior. You couldn’t go about your day as usual. That piece of information entering your mind will affect how you behave and the decisions you make.
Said another way, the inner change of mind (I am not broke anymore, I now have money) will lead to outer change of behavior (singing, dancing, telling off my co-workers). There’s no way that it wouldn’t!
Yesterday we agreed that repentance starts with a CHANGE OF MIND/ATTITUDE. It starts with changing your way of thinking about sin. But while repentance may begin in the mind, it certainly shouldn’t end there. The second aspect of repentance is that it is a CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR.
“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” Matthew 3:8
Repentance must bear fruit. If not, then something is wrong. If I am truly changing my mindset about sin, then it must be apparent in my actions and behavior. Changing your thoughts is like planting new seeds. If I keep planting seeds and there’s no fruit… something’s wrong.
Wait a minute.Does that mean that if I don’t stop sinning, then I didn’t fully repent?
NO WAY! That is not what it means. I didn’t say that repentance means never sinning again; I said it means a change of behavior. Huh?
You may not stop sinning, but maybe your repentance will manifest itself by changing your strategy against sin. Maybe you’ll pray more. Maybe you’ll take a period of fasting. Those are changes in behavior that may result from repentance. Maybe you change some habits which contribute to you falling so often. Maybe you’ll get an accountability partner to help you out. You see, repentance isn’t about results as much as it’s about process.
Think of it this way. Imagine standing outside on a hot summer day here in the nation’s capital. The weather is hot and humid and that means GNATS! Lots and lots of gnats. If you’ve never experienced gnats, they are literally the most annoying creatures on the planet. They seem to be infinite in number and they never leave you alone – flying around your head, in your ear, up your nose… IT’S THE WORST!
The only thing you can do is wave your hand and try to swat them away when they come near. It isn’t very effective because they just come back as soon as you put your hand down. So you end up just waving your hands pretty much the whole time you’re outside or you give up and live with gnats in your ears.
The gnats are the temptations of the devil – infinite in number and never let up. You block them from one entrance (ear) and they’ll find another (nose). They keep coming and coming.
Repentance starts with a change of mind. In this case that is you saying “I HATE THESE GNATS and I will do whatever it takes to get them out of my face.”
Instantly that thought manifests itself in an action – waving your hand across your face. That’s the change of behavior. You didn’t solve the gnat problem, but at least you’re doing something. You’re not just lying down and watching them. You are doing something.
That is repentance: change of mind + change of behavior.
It doesn’t mean no sin anymore. But it does mean that you’ll fight. You’ll change your thinking and change your behavior. If those changes end up yielding 12 gnats in your ear instead of 15, that’s a win. But even if you don’t decrease the number of gnats in your ear, the important part is the fight that you put up.
Repentance doesn’t mean perfection. Repentance means change: change of mind + change of behavior.
For discussion: Is there anything you want to add to my definition of repentance?