The Gospel and the Myth of Repentance

You have to come at the gospel from the truth, ‘There is nothing I can do.’

Yes, you were a sinner, you were drowned in sin. But nearly 2000 years ago God was born in human flesh. I know, it’s a long long time and maybe you wonder how two millennia ago there could have been anything relevant to you. But there was this. Jesus grew up. He lived as a man under sin. And then he died bearing all sin in his body. He took the whole sin problem on his shoulders and it crushed him–but it was finished.

And there’s nothing you can do. Want to rid yourself of sin against Father? Too bad: Jesus already rid the whole world of sin. You can’t get any more sinless. Want to make yourself acceptable before God? Too bad: Jesus already made you acceptable when he died and rose again from the grave three days later, representing you. That means that when he died it was just as if you died. When Father raised him to life, Father raised you to life. You are justified, as in ‘just-as-ifIed never sinned, because sin is no longer an issue.

And there is nothing you can do; almost 2000 years ago while he was dying on the cross Jesus suddenly knew that what he had come to accomplish had been accomplished, and he yelled out with a dying breath, ‘It is finished!’

Religion, and corporate church, think they have monopoly on finishing; they will teach you to repent your sins and beg for God’s forgiveness, and then tell you that you must work hard to be good enough to earn Father’s favor. Or they might say to show yourself worthy or deserving. But there is nothing you can do.

And while we’re on the subject of repentance

Repentance isn’t a Greek word, which means you won’t find it in the original language of the New Testament-side of the Bible, and you certainly won’t find it in the Old Testament-side. It’s a Latin word, which means somewhere down the line someone took a Greek word and a Hebrew word and a Latin word and decided that they all matched. But do you want to know what the words meant?

נָחַם (Strong’s H5162, pronounced na-cham): properly, to sigh, i.e. breathe strongly; by implication, to be sorry, i.e. (in a favorable sense) to pity, console or (reflexively) rue; or (unfavorably) to avenge (oneself):—comfort (self), ease (one’s self), repent(-er,-ing, self)

נָחַם is translated more often as ‘comforted’ in the Old Testament, than as ‘repented’, but actually as a primitive root it simply describes that emotive exhale that always says more than any words. Look it up on Blue Letter Bible.

μετανοέω (Strong’s G3340, pronounced me-tä-no-e’-ō): to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction):—repent.

And here’s a fun fact: when the Septuagint (the early Greek Bible) was translated from Hebrew, μετανοέω was used several times to translate נָחַם, but in the King James Bible μετανοέω is translated repent every time.

So what’s the problem with that? I wasn’t going to get into the etymology of the word but pictures tell more than I can say.

Repent and penance come from the same Latin root; in fact the only real difference between them is that repentance jumped into Old French before it became an –ance word. If you line up these etymologies, penance and repentance are actually the same word. And that shouldn’t surprise you if you look at how English has preserved their similarities. And here’s another interesting fact: the word penitentiary–as in, a prison–comes from that same Latin root paenitere.

So what’s the problem? Penance is not a Biblical concept. Here’s a Google definition:

  1. 1.

    voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.

     “he had done public penance for those hasty words”

    2.

     a Christian sacrament in which a member of the Church confesses sins to a priest and is given absolution.

Voluntary selfpunishment, confessing sins to a priest for absolution? Are you getting this? There’s nothing you can do! There’s nothing a priest can do for you. You can’t beat yourself up enough for God. Did you know that repentance could be a form of self-harm? I didn’t–until now. Does that sound Biblical? Does that sound like Father? Many people think so.

People deep in religion will tell you there’s no way you could actually know or prove this, or maybe that you have to have a seminary degree to really understand. Do you want to know how long it took me to put together this little word study? About 20 minutes. On my 4-inch cell phone screen. And it’s true whether you have a seminary degree or not. But it is people such as these who have twisted and modified entire translations to seize religious control and promote their man-made pseudo-covenant.

So what is real…repentance? I don’t even want to use that word anymore because it carries so much religious manipulation with it for me now. To distinguish, you have to keep in mind that sin is already dealt with – there is no sin issue between you and God anymore; the only thing he keeps tract of is Jesus crying out, ‘It is finished!’ and either Jesus took care of all your sins past present and future irregardless of repentance, or he didn’t really take care of any until you repent (and repent regularly)–as many of the religious teach. But we know that the religious concepts of repentance and penance are not actually in the Bible, so that simply can’t be true.

Here’s a picture: Jesus dies and Father raises him from the dead three days later. Jesus stays with his disciples for 40 days letting his living presence seep into them. Then he ascends into the sky–he’s just carried away–after telling them to wait in Jerusalem. They wait in Jerusalem, ten days later the Holy Spirit falls on them on Pentecost, Peter preaches to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover who are all astir because all these simple Galileans are praising God and all the people understand in their own native languages. Peter proclaims the death, resurrection and Lordship of Jesus Christ through King David’s prophecy and the people respond:

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  – Acts 2:37-39

Cut to the heart. Pricked deep. The Greek word for this is only used once in the Bible and it has a very literal physical and metaphorical definition which is reflected very well by the phrase ‘cut to the heart‘. This is a Holy-Spirit-level event that would definitely cause you to experience נָחַם–nacham–and make you want to μετανοέω–metänoe’ō.

And did you catch what Peter says about the promise of the outpouring of Holy Spirit? It is for everyone who is called by God. And guess what: it was Holy Spirit that brought those people to that heart-in-throat, mind-changing moment. Holy Spirit called them, and they responded.

There is nothing you can do–except, respond. Let your heart be pricked and your mind be changed by the good news: the Jesus who your sin crushed is alive and he is King!

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Better Is Possible

There’s a phrase I learned several years back in a seminar which (the seminar, that is) really stretched my boundaries (for a few weeks, anyway) and had quite a strong impact on my life. It made me stop and reevaluate my, well…values.

The phrase was, “If better is possible, is good good enough?”

Think about that for a minute.

From a Christian standpoint I immediately think about the son who ended up prodigal in a pigpen after squandering his inheritance. After becoming hungry enough to eat the slop given to the pigs this guy had an epiphany: “Hey, even being a servant in my father’s house is better than this…”

But the honest truth is, I can’t identify with that young man. I didn’t have a miraculous and life-changing turn-around testimony like I envied other Christians for. I didn’t get and squander what I believed was my rightful inheritance. The truth is, I identify with his older brother.

The brother. The brother stays home, he keeps working away on the farm. And one day that selfish, unworthy little brother of his comes home and Father throws a party. The older brother is angry because he doesn’t understand that both he and his brother always had their father’s favor, irregardless, and all this time he had not really known who his father was and what his relationship to Father meant. As someone once pointed out, he could’ve had more than just a goat if he’d only asked.

So what does this have to do with good and better, anyway?

I started there but I didn’t end there. I’ve dared to believe that my inheritance is more than I knew. I slowly left a bitter good for a gracious better. And I got the goat, too. Good just wasn’t good enough when I dared to think better was possible. And my forever-faithful Father didn’t let me down on his word.

But there are other brothers.

There are people out there who I know heard the same challenge for better. And they aren’t even interested in seeing what it’s all about.

I’ll be Frank for a minute (because what I’m going to say I may need an alternate identity to live down), I’ve heard what I believe described as, loosely put, doctrine of hell. By people who I have a very hard time believing know really what I believe because they’ve never talked to me. Maybe they’ve read some of my article titles and/or excerpts on facebook, but I can’t begin to guess where they have gotten their information if what they have taken away is that I am teaching a satanic, ungodly doctrine. Is there room for mistakes? Sure. I make mistakes, everybody does. But all that’s beside the point. The point is, better is possible, but so many older brothers out there are sulking outside the house because they’ve believed an exclusive doctrine all their lives that told them, ‘You don’t deserve that goat, you go back out and slave some more in the fields and then, maybe you’ll be on Dad’s good side. Or maybe if you believe hard enough, or faith strong enough.

Better is possible. Better is real. It isn’t something that will send you to hell if you believe it; it isn’t something that will get God mad at you. It’s grace, and love, and peace, and there’s always more. So do you want to hear about it?

Jesus Loves You

That’s the end.

And just the beginning.

There’s only one thing I want you to read in my blogs; Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you. You. Reading this right now. He loves you. Do you know how many people spend their lives searching desperately for a love like his? But few find it, and fewer keep it, because religion has adulterated it. Religion has put Jesus out on a street corner under the guise that if you just do good enough, perform well enough, measure up, and transform into a lifeless Bible-thumping zombie, then Jesus will accept you, never mind love you.

That’s not to say religion has any power over Jesus – he baffled the religious leaders of his own day at every encounter and the moment they thought they’d finally won was the moment his plan was put into full affect, resurrection life was given to man but even more than that the gulf separating us from Father was slammed shut, the inner veil torn top to bottom and Father grabbed on to you never to let go.

Religion doesn’t want you to know about that, or what it means for you–but I digress; this post is not about religion.

It’s about Father. Father loves you. Father loves you. Are you starting to understand? Have you ever felt loved by someone? Anyone? Can you recall, or feel right now, what love feels like? Father is love. Love’s source is Father. Father loves you and he’s never going to stop; it is a non-negotiable.

And as every aspect of the dark side of the Force emmanates from hate, so every good and perfect gift is sourced from love–His love. Did you see the sunrise this morning? His love. Have you felt a playful breeze on your face? His love. Have you known the deep intimate knowing of a best friend, or a lover? His love.

And it is immutable. He’s never going to change his mind about you, no matter what you do or how far you go or how much you may hate him, he loves you. When Jude wrote to the young church he said even Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil himself over Moses’ body, didn’t dare bring even one accusation against Satan but said, ‘The LORD rebuke you’ … could it be he didn’t dare because he knew Father loved even Lucifer yet in his irreversible state of rebellion against that very love? Father loved Lucifer, you can be certain of that.

Jesus loves you. Father loves you. For Father to stop loving you it would mean he would have to rebel against himself; God can’t do that. And so immutably [unchangeably] you have been drawn into the family of Father, Son, Spirit–Brother, Sister. Father loves you.

But of course you want to know why bad things still happen to good people. The worst thing happened to the very Son of God when he was brutally beaten, literally ripped to shreds and tacked up to slowly suffocate on a wooden cross–but actually it was the best thing that has happened in the history of the world and perhaps the eternal history of the Godhead family because it meant that you were brought home forever. 

Religion has no answer for that question. It first asks you if you have accepted Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Saviour, and then it asks if you have repented, without understanding what repentance really means. It may tell you that you just need to perform better or believe harder or devote yourself fully, because religion always leaves man’s effort at 99.9%–‘there must be something you haven’t done hard enough, well enough or often enough’–but the Gospel–the good news–declares man’s efforts are 0% or worse with no exceptions but that Jesus stepped in before the problem was even the problem and he declared to Father, ‘I have come to do your will … so that man can rest his efforts in my 100%’.

Father loves you. If bad things still happen it is because this world is a broken place and the sons of Adam have ceased to display the glory of God to nature and the earth groans exceeding to see the glory of Creator Father in his sons. But there’s one more thing to say; bad things could be the best things to happen to you because when you come to the end of yourself and you hit rock bottom that’s when you will see the full glory and strength and grace of the Rock who keeps you from drowning and lifts you up on wings like eagles–enter Jesus’ 100% when your weakness declares His strength.

And Father loves you. That is what is important because the more you experience his love for you the more you will see and interpret your life hidden within his love for you, the more you will experience this life of Father’s love and the less you will experience the life of this old body in a broken world–or the more the world will respond to the glory of the Father emanating out of you

Father loves you.