Friday, August 01, 2008


All my life I've grown up with the idea that the word "repentance" is defined as "a change of lifestyle from one of sin to one of Godliness". In recent years I seem to have subconsciously abandoned that definition for one that means "a change of mind, leading to a change in lifestyle".

Over the past few months I've had some discussions about when a person is qualified to become a Christian; I have taken the stance that one needs to make a decision to turn away from sin, but that doesn't mean the person must become sinless ("mature") prior to his conversion; the other person in the discussion has taken the stance that if a thief wanted to become a Christian, would it be adequate if that thief just cut down his thievery to 50% so he could be converted, planning to cut it down to only 10% over the next few weeks/months/years, until he finally stops stealing?

The other person makes a good point, but I still maintain that the point fails when considering human nature; his view insists that a person addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs must get "clean" before he can develop a relationship with Yahshua Christ. Even the apostle Paul complained about how he was constantly sinning, even though he didn't want to sin (Rom 7:7ff).

Yet in all these months of discussion, I'm not sure it ever entered my head to see how the word "repentance" should be defined.

Looking through several resources on the Internet, I find that there are several words that are translated "repentance", and they each have slightly different meanings. The word I'm most interested in here is the one used in Acts 2:38 -- "repent and be immersed" and in similar passages. According to one dictionary:
2. Repent--"to Change the Mind":

The word metanoeo, expresses the true New Testament idea of the spiritual change implied in a sinner's return to God. The term signifies "to have another mind," to change the opinion or purpose with regard to sin. It is equivalent to the Old Testament word "turn." Thus, it is employed by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles (Mt 3:2; Mk 1:15; Acts 2:38). (emphasis added)
Concerning the "Old Testament word 'turn'" as mentioned above, the same dictionary says:
2. To Repent--"to Turn" or "Return":

The term shubh, is most generally employed to express the Scriptural idea of genuine repentance. It is used extensively by the prophets, and makes prominent the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. It implies a conscious, moral separation, and a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter into fellowship with God. It is employed extensively with reference to man's turning away from sin to righteousness (Dt 4:30; Neh 1:9; Ps 7:12; Jer 3:14). (emphasis added)
What I find interesting is that this repentance is a repentance of mindset, which leads to a change in lifestyle, but it is not the actual change in lifestyle.

Granted, I may be looking for evidence to bolster my own position (which is something human nature makes us prone to do), but it seems to me that the evidence here is that in the conversion process, repentance is not a matter of first "getting right" before becoming a Christian; rather, it's a matter of deciding to get right.

As such, I think a drug addict should go through the conversion to God, realizing he's still likely to return to the sin with which he's familiar, but dedicated to overcoming that sin.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it just doesn't seem that God expects us to become perfect before He'll adopt us.

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