On occasion we will run into a someone steeped in sin who is dissatisfied with our "no answer" and then he will proceed to bring questioning accusations of "any you say you're a Christian" while attempting to quote the Pastor scripture that talks about grace and love. Interestingly enough they never quote Jesus say "Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you." (John 5:14) Nor have they read (or remembered) what and how Jesus preached his first sermon, "Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent ([change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17
After Jesus hears the news that John the Baptist had been arrested and put in prison, He leaves Nazareth and goes to Capernaum by the sea. Matthew writes, "And leaving Nazareth, He [Jesus] went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the country of Zebulun and Naphtali— That what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be brought to pass:
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, in the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles [of the peoples who are not of Israel]—The people who sat (dwelt enveloped) in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those who sat in the land and shadow of death Light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent ([change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:12-17)
Jesus intentionally preached repentance before he preached or taught anything else. The scripture tells us that he preached this to those who sat (dwelt enveloped) in darkness and who were living in the land of the shadow of death. Jesus preached this to reveal a great Light to show us the way out of death's dark chambers. Jesus preached that change is conceived in our minds before it is birthed in our actions.
One of the key life skills classes that we teach is Switch on Your Brian by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Dr. Leaf teaches that scientific research reveals that "our minds tell our brains what to do. Our thoughts form substance (mental real estate)." Jesus was preaching that repentance must begin and continue in our thought life.
A perfect example is when Jesus told the man he had already healed at the pool of Bethesda to "Stop sinning or something worse would happen to you", Please note that this man was up and in the temple after he was healed when Jesus gave him this warning. After all the years of lying on his mat not being able to get to the pool when the angels stirred and his resentment toward others for not helping get in, this man appears to have developed some thought patterns that were not healed instantaneously with his physical healing. Now Jesus was holding this man accountable and responsible. The man was in the temple and the Scripture does not identify an outward actions that Jesus was addressing, therefore, Jesus obviously was addressing this man's thought life and attitude which by the way affects our physical health.
Dr. Caroline Leaf states in her book, Who Switched off My Brain? pdf new edition, "A thought may seem harmless, but if it becomes toxic, even just a thought can become physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous. Thoughts are measurable and occupy mental “real estate.” Thoughts are active; they grow and change. Thoughts influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make." (p. 13)
Jesus consistently spoke about the internal condition of man. "But I say to you that everyone who so much as looks at a woman with evil desire for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28 Proverbs 23:7 tells us that "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. . ." When we discount or take no heed of the truth that God's expresses his love through his call to repentance and discipline we will fail to repent, to be transformed. We mainly focus on how God proves His love for us (that while still we were yet sinners Christ died for us) and we neglect to fully comprehend how God loves us. Proverbs 13:24 "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them."
Romans 12:2 instructs us to, "Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]."
Understanding how God loves us and experiencing that love is vital to our repentance (change). The Holy Spirit often leads me to pray this, "Holy Spirit, help us to allow God to loves us as He desires to love us." Proverbs tells us that God disciplines those He loves. Discipline is administered to help facilitate change while punishment is reserved for those who refuse to change.
Repentance is more than just a behavioral change, it is thinking the way that Christ thinks; having the mindset (attitude of Christ Jesus) and it is loving how Christ loves. The behavioral changes are the fruit of thinking and loving and receiving God's perfect love.
For so many years, the men in our ministry have been thinking like the devil thinks. They have been deceived into thinking that lies are their protection. They believe that manipulation is their provider. They believe that Father God either could not possibly love them or that God is just like their earthly father or father figure that used/abused them. Their understanding of the Truth of God's love has been distorted and based on their definition of love influenced by the traumatic events of their lives and not recognizing the lies and workings of the devil in their lives.
The Ministry of Repentance is more than just giving instructions to stop sinning. It is untangling, undoing, destroying, loosening and dissolving the works of sin. The Bible tells us "[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done.] I John 3:8
The Bible defines repentance and repent as:
"Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it)" Acts 2:38
" . . .repentance [that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins] Matthew 3:11
"repent (change, turn about) Matthew 18:3
"Bear fruits that are deserving and consistent with [your] repentance [that is, conduct worthy of a heart changed, a heart abhorring sin]. . ." Luke 3:8
"repent (have a change of mind which issues in regret for past sins and in change of conduct for the better)" Mark 1:15
Philippians 1:6, And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.