A time to be re-formed

Re-formWe are being reformed. But I don’t mean rehabilitated. I mean re-formed. The Bible has a word for this. In the Greek it’s metanoeō, which means to undergo a change in frame of mind and feeling.

This word was later translated “repentance” in the 4th century by Jerome when he translated the Bible into Latin.

This is unfortunate because the word, repent, has the connotation of contrition, sorrow and remorse (e.g., re-penance), which metanoeō has never meant.

The Young’s Literal Translation has given us a more faithful rendering of what Jesus said about His Kingdom that had come to earth with Him (bold-type added).

Fulfilled hath been the time,
and the reign of God hath come nigh,
reform ye, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15 YLT)

Two things here. First, Jesus was saying that the time is here…now…for the Kingdom has come to earth. Secondly, we are to be re-formed, which begins by believing this good news.

For the Jews who heard Jesus say this it meant that they were to leave their bull and goat offering sin-conscious relationship with God and give Him their hearts instead. Jesus declares that God and His realm are no longer distant–He is here, present, now–He had come to live with them and will be in them.

For us it means that our Kingdom formation has already begun. To be formed into Who resides in us–Christ–our holy habitation that exists both in heaven and on the earth. We are to now live under this open heaven, this space where heaven and earth meet and where angels ascend and descend on the Son of Man (John 1:50-51).

This formation into what we already are is ongoing, for God likes reformation…all the time.

How are we being reformed at this time?

Much like the first Jewish believers in Jesus’ day, our understanding of “Christianity” is being deconstructed, challenged and turned upside-down in every area of what we once held with fearful rigidity.

Our stoic confidence is being replaced with childlike humility and tenderness. Being able to love with the Father’s heart has become more important to us than being right.

Our whole perspective changes because we are growing up into children who have our Father’s eyes. This changes everything–how we see our relationship with God, how we see ourselves and how we see the world around us.

We find that we can’t sing some of the same orphan worship songs we used to sing with passion, for a new sound has resonated in our hearts from heaven and we will not be satisfied until we can express it.

While the Word of God never changes, the Living Word is changing us. Everything we read is getting a fresh look through this reformation lens.

But this is not about tearing down the old foundations, it’s about pruning back to love and building on them.

We are seeing that what isn’t working in our experience in Christ is pointing to our next upgrade, for the Kingdom is always about upgrade.

Beloved of God, if you feel a strange unsettling and abiding joy that you’ve never experienced before, a hope in your heart that defies description yet is as clear as a warm summer day, then you are being reformed. You are not losing something, you are gaining everything.

Hold fast to the One who will never release His grip on you. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand yet. For He who lives in us searches the deep things of God and is revealing them to us once again (1 Cor.2:9-10; John 16:12-14).

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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21 Responses to A time to be re-formed

  1. Ron Barefoot says:

    I’ve been reading some other blogs from ministry leaders and I’m glad I came across yours. I feel as Christians we focus on the human element of change and not the reformation that occurs from the continuation of grace. Thank you for the reminder of reformation.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your comments, Ron. Much appreciated. Yes, that’s absolutely right. It’s God who continually changes us from the inside-out. Our part is to respond to His grace working mightily in us.

  2. A reform-ation… be ye transformed by the re-newing of your minds. Getting our minds reformed back to the new. Do the new again. To see ourselves like God has seen us from before the beginning. What a ride!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. It’s an awesome ride! We getting back to who we already are in Him–the new creation in Christ. We’re already complete in Him with every spiritual blessing, we just don’t know it yet. That’s why I love how the Holy Spirit reforms us.

  3. Brian Midmore says:

    If Jerome had in fact translated metanoia as ‘repent’ the Reformation may not have been necessary. In fact he translated it as ‘Do penance’. This tended to mean ‘conform to the religious practice of the church’ rather than be changed by the power of God’s Spirit.

    • Mel Wild says:

      You’re right in how this word was originally used, Brian. And you make a very interesting point. If people were always pointed to the Holy Spirit instead of the church, we would probably have had a very different church history.

      I don’t want to get too technical but from what I understand, Jerome originally used the Latin words, paenitemini, or paenitentiam. And it’s true, the Douay-Rheims Bible did translate Matt.3:2 into English, “Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But the Reformers didn’t do much better by using the English words, “repent” or “repentance.”

      According to the etymology dictionary, these words have a similar origin. “Repent: (c.1300) ‘to feel such regret for sins or crimes as produces amendment of life,” from Old French repentir (11c.), from re-, here probably an intensive prefix (see re-), + Vulgar Latin *penitire “to regret,” from Latin poenitire “make sorry,” from poena (see penal). The distinction between regret (q.v.) and repent is made in many modern languages, but the differentiation is not present in older periods.'”

      And this needed differentiation is where the confusion comes from. While contrition and sorrow can be a fruit, it’s not what metanoeō means. It creates a subtle confusion that requires this differentiation. That’s why I prefer the word, reform. Renewing the mind is actually more what metanoeō means than using a word that’s origin is related to penance. Perhaps future translators will come up with a less confusing word. As it is now, I have to do the translation in my head whenever I hear the word “repent.”
      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.

      • Brian Midmore says:

        Repentance can have an associated penitential act. When Jesus talked about Tyre and Sidon he said that they would have ‘repented in sackcloth and ashes’ Matt 11.21. It is the source of this act of humility that counts. If we humble ourselves under God’s hand (perhaps through a penitential act) then he will raise us up. If we walk in the Spirit we will live. The goal is reformation but this will involve humbling ourselves under God’s hand.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I would agree if you’re saying it’s an associated act, especially when involving sin. As long as we separate that act from what metanoeō actually means. Again, the problem with using the English word, repentance, is that it does have an direct association with penitence. I have to make the distinction in my mind when using the word. But penitence is only one of the many possible results of metanoeō.

          And this is the source of confusion, we always associate repentance with sin. But, in Mark 1:15, Jesus was not announcing to His Jewish audience to be contrite for their sins. They already had sackcloth and ashes and their intricate sacrificial system for that. He was telling them to leave their sackcloth and their trust in bulls and goats to make themselves right and give their heart to Him instead. The point being, while those offerings were appropriate before, they were not now. Change had come with Jesus. A new paradigm was needed in how they relate to God. Now, Jesus was going to remove the sin issue between them and God completely and live in them instead. This is still an issue where repentance is needed because we still want to save ourselves with our own versions of bull and goat offerings instead of trusting God.

          Let me say it this way. If it were possible that we never sinned or had anything to be sorry for, repentance (metanoeō) would still be necessary. We would still need to change our thinking, to be continually renewed and transformed from the inside-out, apart from sin. Reformation is a better English word for this. And I would also totally agree that these changes come from humbling ourselves like a little child. Our teachability allows “repentance” to begin, and God uses His goodness and kindness to make us want to (Rom.2:4).
          Thanks again for your comments. These are important issues to wrestle with. God is working on changing all of of us into the image of His Son.

  4. Brian Midmore says:

    I agree that penitence that comes from ourselves or is mere conformity to a religious system is not going to bring salvation. But in 2 Cor 7.10 Paul talks of a godly sorrow that leads to repentance which then leads to salvation. I don’t think it is appropriate to divorce contrition entirely from repentance in such a way that suggests that to repent you need not or indeed should not be contrite before God. Of course how we are contrite before God will vary from individual to individual as the Spirit leads.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Again, you are talking about sin issues, wrong-doing, or straying away from God (as in 2 Cor.7). Yes, amen, we should always be contrite about that. And humility must always be our attitude, otherwise we receive nothing from God. But that was not my point. The goodness of God also leads to repentance (Rom.2:4), but God’s goodness and kindness are not repentance (metanoeō), anymore than godly sorrow is. There is repentance that takes place that may not be associated with godly sorrow at all but with other emotions, like joy. Repentance is about reform. For instance, when the Spirit reveals something to us we didn’t know before and this revelation produces change (metanoeō) as He works in us. So, in this sense, sorrow and repentance are divorced. Revelation from God always leads to some change in mind and direction (repentance) but it’s not always about sorrow. And “believing the good news” is so much more than when we first came to Christ. I guess that was my reason for making the distinction in this post. We tend to only associate this word with sorrow and sin and miss its ongoing work in our growth in Christ, apart from sin or wrong-doing.
      Blessings to you, brother. I’m glad we could have this discussion. I hope we’re on the same page now.

  5. Brian Midmore says:

    Thanks Mel
    You are right to say that repentance is not penitence and can occur without the other. I think contrition is a way of life. Most Christians are contrite in our hearts and minds by the Spirit most of the time. As for the proud his heart is not upright in him but the just shall live by faith. Pride is contrasted with faith. Those who believe in Jesus are contrite before him and through this contrition receive the grace of God. When we fail to be contrite (e.g. are unforgiving) trouble ensues for we deny the grace of God. Protestantism has tended to major on faith as a means of grace but sometimes has not understood the role of contrition and found Scriptures like Matt 6.12,14 difficult to understand. If we justified by faith why do we need to do something like forgive in a seemingly quid pro quo fashion? Of course a word like ‘contrition’ has a lot of baggage like every other word. Reading your above post I think we agree.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I agree. While learning the glorious truth about our freedom in Christ, we must remain humble and teachable. This allows a constant flow of grace to continually change us into His image. I gladly forgive others because I’m forgiven. Thanks for your comments, Brian. Much appreciated. Blessings.

  6. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this word re-formed. With the word repentance it has always felt like to me an action I had to do. I was the one who had wronged and deserved punishment. I therefore had to stop doing wrong and change.

    To me the word re-formed still talks about the need for change. However, rather than inferring that I through guilt and my own will power change it seems infer the need for another to bring change. That it is a change that happens when one allows themselves to be reformed by the hands of another. Like a piece clay being reformed by the artist into a beautiful masterpiece. The clay cannot change on its own. Change is only possible if it is in the artist hands.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. You bring up an excellent point, Cheryl. God is the artist changing us. Our part is to allow the re-forming and reshaping. And much of this reshaping is not about wrongdoing but about wrong thinking. He is reshaping our image of Him and ourselves in Him. He is giving us His heart. Paul told Timothy that this repentance, or reformation, is a gift that God gives us (2 Tim.2:25). And that gift is found in the indwelling Holy Spirit. God doesn’t withhold this gift either–giving to one and not to another. He gives it to whoever will open their heart to Him and let Him do whatever He wants to do. Blessings.

      • You are so right about the wrong thinking. So much of my outward behaviour change came about by God touching my deep hurts, challenging my thinking and renewing it to His truth.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m convinced that what you are talking about is just as much what discipleship is all about as our traditional view of learning the Bible and other outward activity. Actually, this is what Jesus meant in John 8:31-32. He wants to walk in the middle of our deepest darkness and reveal Himself (His revealed Word abides in us) and this transforms us from the inside-out. And to the degree we partner with Him in the process we become free.

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