Someone recently asked me if I preached repentance. I’m not sure why he asked this, but one thing I most definitely do is preach repentance! I’m all for it. Repentance is from the Greek word, μετάνοια (metanoia), which means to change your thinking, a reversal of the way you did things in the past. This is precisely what I preach. Let’s look at this foundational principle in Hebrews:
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (Heb.6:1 NASB)
We see from this verse that one of the foundations of the faith is “repentance from dead works.” Just what are these dead works? Most evangelical Christians know we can’t save ourselves; we’re saved by grace through faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, and that’s a good start.
The problem is, that’s not where our dead works end. Let me explain.
Many people get saved by grace through faith, but then are taught to live by religious performance, mixing the law with grace (See my post, “Why you can’t follow Jesus and the Law.”) In other words, they don’t continue the same way they received Christ (see Col.2:6-10). I submit to you that this is precisely why popular Christianity is so powerless and ineffective in our culture, although we seem to keep doing the same things and expecting different results. And you know what that is…. 🙂
In order to explain this, I need to unpack two things I’ve most profoundly repented from.
Repenting from living apart from Christ’s love
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, and this is what He says:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV*)
I know we say “amen” to this, but it doesn’t seem to be our practice. It seems to me we do a lot of Christian activities that aren’t birthed or empowered from remaining in the life-flow of Christ. It’s been said that the modern church can have excellent services just fine without Holy Spirit. That’s actually a very sad commentary to me. Here’s how the Passion translation says it:
5 “I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. (John 15:5 TPT*)
This obviously isn’t talking about salvation but our ongoing relationship with Christ. Everything we think important is fruitless if it’s not born out of our union in Christ. Again, I think this explains a lot about why our culture doesn’t see the Church as relevant. We’re no different than them, because true transformation only comes from participating in the divine nature (2 Pet.1:4), not our clever programs. The world He’s trying to reach through us already has clever programs.
Here’s what Jesus told us to do:
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9 NIV*)
I sincerely repent from doing or teaching anything that does not proceed from “remaining in” Christ’s love. I repent from thinking I can do anything apart from this heavenly space, and I confess that everything I need personally, or need to do in order to disciple others, is only found here. I repent because Jesus said anything else is fruitless, so I don’t want to waste my time.
Repenting from trying to fix myself
This second one is a little more misunderstood but it’s just as important. I repent from trying to fix myself, or teach that to anyone else, and surrender it all to Christ working in me. Graham Cooke has it right when he said, “God is not dealing with what’s wrong with you; He’s only dealing with what’s missing in your experience in Christ.”
God seems to think He killed the old you on the Cross, and He’s not counting your sins against you anymore. There’s no knowledge of your sin in heaven. As long as you continue working on your failings, you’re just spinning your wheels and missing the point. There’s so many passages I could give to prove this, but here are just a few:
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!….19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them…. (2 Cor.5:14-15, 17, 19 NIV*)
Then, Paul said this to us in this regard:
22 And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self-life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. 23 Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. 24 And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness. (Eph.4:22-24 TPT*)
This is very simple. Let go of our old self and “embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life.” It means we quit trying real hard to be a “good Christian.” We consider everything—all our failings and all our good things—as dead, because both the good and the bad, apart from our union with Christ, find their source from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Instead, we devote all our time letting Christ reveal Himself to us, teaching us and training our soul to live from this new life in Him. And we can only do that by abiding in Him (see my first point).
This may seem shocking to you, but God is not the least bit interested in dealing with your failings; He’s only interested in revealing your new nature in Christ.
This is true repentance. We must stop our grave-robbing—trying to dig up what God declares dead—and surrender it all to Christ so that He can make us in His image.
Beloved, God has no other plan for you and me. Any other path only leads to frustration, or worse, makes us self-willed hypocrites.
So, I joyfully quit! I’m done! Praise God! I won’t live one minute longer apart from continually remaining in Christ’s love. I repent from trying to fix myself and I gladly give that job to Christ, letting Him empower my life as He reveals Himself in me. I’m done trying to prop up a dead body, and I’m done trying to teach others to prop up theirs. By God’s grace, the only thing I will do and teach is the only thing God is working on—Christ in us the hope of glory!