There are some words that I consider to be "churchy" words. They are words that religious people use that rarely come up in other settings: sanctification, atonement, grace, evangelism, gospel. Sometimes even Christians don't have a good grasp on what such words mean.

Repentance is one of those words. When we look at what God wants us to do as we enter His family, one of the key things is repentance. We have to repent of our sins. But if we're going to repent, we need to know what that is.

I used to think that repentance meant feeling bad about what we had done. While that's certainly a part of it, that's not all there is to repentance. Literally, "repent" means to turn around or change direction. It's the idea of walking in one direction, then turning 180 degrees and walking in the opposite direction. Repentance isn't merely about feeling bad; it's about change, a change of life. It is a change in our thinking that causes a change in behavior.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote to a group of new Christians and told them: "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). That's repentance. It's not just about turning away from something; we are also turning to something else. We leave behind one life to begin a new one. We quit going toward one goal and move toward a different one.

Paul wrote this to the church in Rome: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4). Repentance and baptism consistently go together in the Bible, for that very reason: in baptism, we bury our old selves and come out of the water with a new life. We are born again, made new. But what's the point of a new life if it's going to be exactly like the old life? Why go through a burial if we're going to let our old man keep living? The idea is that we come to Jesus in faith, leave behind our old life, burying it in water, and begin again with a fresh start. Only this time, instead of moving away from God, we live a life that brings us closer to God.

Repentance is a change of mind that brings about a change of life.
So even if it seems a bit churchy, repentance is a good word. It helps us understand what we need to do to come to God. We need to turn away from our old life and begin a new one, through faith in Jesus. If you haven't done that, if you haven't buried your old life in baptism to begin a new life in Christ, let me put you in contact with someone who can help you with that. Write me at or leave a comment on our blog at

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