In Mark 1:4 we read the John baptised for the repentance of sins. Then in Mark 1:15 we read Jesus saying: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” both of these use the same Greek word for ‘repent’ the word ‘metanoia.’
When I think of the word repent I automatically think of repentance for sins and of asking God to forgive me of my sins. The word ‘repent’ has become so associated with sins that it has become difficult to understand it in any other way. That is indeed the way John uses the word, but not the way Jesus uses it!
The Greek word ‘metanoia’ means to change ones mind or purpose and it’s implications for us are far wider than only our response to sin (although that is an important implication). Jesus is saying at the start of his ministry, the Kingdom of God is close, so close you can touch it, and in order to touch it you need a change of the way you think (a change of mind), and then you need believe, to give yourselves totally to this new way of thinking so that it shows in the way you behave.
Paul says something similar to the church in Rome: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Over our lives our minds have become used to thinking in certain ways. ‘Ruts,’ or habits of the way we think have been created by the way we have been brought up and the experiences of our lives. Those thought patters now control how we think, respond and look at the world. We need to repent, to have a change of the way we think, and we need God to help us do that.
It may be in how we see ourselves, or in our relationships with others. It may be in how we relate to our money and possessions or perhaps how we view our work or retirement. It may be in how we see our role in the life of the church, or, dare I say it, what we expect from the vicar! But all of us need God’s help to change the bad habits in our thinking.
I heard a preacher say many years ago that the greatest problem for Christians is the one that exists between our two ears – the problem of our minds. I think he was right.