Perish or repent? What is repentance?

The Lord … is patient with us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 JUB

God wants us to “come to repentance.” Most people don’t understand what that means. No wonder. It’s seldom explained correctly. At its core, repentance is not a change of behavior. Yesterday I yelled at my wife. Today I stopped. I repented.

No.

Repentance is a change of perspective. It’s a new mindset. It results in a change of behavior, but behavior change without mindset change is not repentance. Repentance is a gift from God. (See 2 Timothy 2:23–26.)

Let me give you an example.

I always thought I was a patient, kind person, and I would treat my wife with kindness. But after I got married, I made a discovery: When my wife got sick, I got angry. I tried to pretend I wasn’t angry, but I was. After a while, my anger came to the surface. I started saying nasty things to her like, “Why are you making me do all your work? When are you gonna get better?”

Here she was in a very vulnerable position, and I was yelling at her. Can we agree that was not a good thing? Can we agree that it was a sin?

I was acting like a jerk. I was not being kind and loving to my wife.

I suppose I made some attempt to change my behavior. But I didn’t repent until…

I didn’t repent until I started looking at the problem I was trying to solve by getting angry at my wife. I looked at the lies I was believing that caused me to sin against my wife.

Here’s what I discovered: When I was growing up when my mom was sick, I didn’t feel safe. I picked up this message: When the woman in your life is sick you are not safe. And who wants to feel unsafe? Feeling unsafe makes me feel small, vulnerable, out of control. But feeling angry makes me feel big, powerful, in control. So I turned to anger. Anger was my solution. And that anger was also my sin.

A lie I was believing—a lie that wasn’t even clearly in focus for me—was controlling my life. That lie needed to be removed.

In John 8:32, Jesus promises that the truth will set us free. From the context, we understand that the truth will set us free from sin. So clearly I needed truth from Jesus. Anyway, I just asked Him what I needed to know. And He told me. I don’t remember exactly what He said or how He said it, but I walked away with a new understanding deep inside my soul: I wasn’t there any more, I wasn’t stuck in my childhood, I was safe, I was okay. The woman in my life could be sick, and I could still be okay.

In other words, I repented. My mindset changed. Jesus offered me His perspective.

What was the outcome? Changed behavior. When my wife got sick, I didn’t have this same over–the–top response. I was free to be more kind, more understanding, more compassionate.

This is an excerpt from my book, Am I going to heaven when I die?

Dwight

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