The Joshua Code
By O.S. Hawkins
The Forgotten Word in Our Christian Vocabulary
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” -Matthew 4:17
“Repent” This call from the lips of our Lord is not offered as anoption but as a command. And that command gives rise totwo important questions: What is repentance? and Where is repentance?
What is repentance? First, note what it is not. Repentance is not remorse. It is not simply being sorry for our sin. The rich young ruler went away “sorrowful,” but he didn’t repent (Luke 18:23). Repentance is not regret, or merely wishing that the deed had not happened. Pontius Pilate, who betrayed the Lord, washed his hands in regret over his turning Christ over to the crowds (Matthew 27:24). Repentance is not resolve. It is not like a New Year’s resolution where we resolve to take on a new set of moral standards. And repentance is not reform—it’s not just turning over a new leaf. Judas Iscariot reformed. He took the thirty pieces of silver, the payment for his betrayal of Jesus, and flung them down the corridors of the temple. Judas reformed, but he did not repent (Matthew 27:3).
Repentance comes from a Greek word that literally means “to change one’s mind.” It is a change of mind that affects a change of will and, in turn, brings about a change of action. This process is beautifully illustrated in the old and often repeated story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 After finding himself broke and broken, in the company of a bunch of hogs in a pig pen, the son “came to himself” (Luke 15:17). This change of mind brought about a change of volition, a change of will. In the next verse he exclaimed, “I will arise and go to my father.” Once he had changed his mind and changed his will, his actions were sure to change as well. Thus, in verse 20 we read, “And he arose and came to his father.”
Repentance is a change of mind. That is it. And how do we know if we have truly come to a change of mind? Our volition will be changed as well, and our changed actions will follow.
Where is repentance? That is, where is repentance in salvation? Does repentance precede faith? Or does faith come before repentance? Repentance and faith are both gifts of God’s grace. They are different sides of the same coin. Charles Spurgeon, author of the classic devotional Morning and Evening, says they are “Siamese twins . . . vitally joined together.” Repentance and faith are inseparable. Repentance alone will not get you to heaven, but you cannot get there without it. Jesus’ personal mandate commands it: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
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