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!

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.

Be a Lover

Something recently triggered a shift in the way I view God; I’ve always known the common imagery–“Father”, “Bridegroom”, “Comforter”, et cetera–titles that put God on an intimate level in all his persons, but it was all head-knowledge. But I read something in an article from Steve McVey and I can’t remember the exact wording but it was to this affect: the Bible isn’t a guidebook; it is a deeply intimate love letter–to me (and you).

I grew up under that notion–that the Bible was an instruction manual for getting through life. The problem with that view is that it just isn’t a very good instruction manual for my life (e.g.: ‘Judas hung himself’–‘go and do likewise’ is a common ‘Bible joke’). And when you begin to view God as a Lover to the core, the Bible looks less and less like a study guide, and more and more like a lovestory.

And I think, Church, that this is where you go off, because you’re having an identity crisis because you don’t understand God’s identity as a lover. Love–not rule and correction–ought to be your first response. And don’t give me that old excuse that discipline is love; it may be true, but you don’t know how to discipline. When I feel the most filled with the love of Jesus all I want to do is go out and spread that experience, not tell people how wrong they are. Truth can condemn, or Truth can set captives free.

And I think, Church, that this is why you leave, because you’re having an identity crisis with your split-personality-church-bodies that can’t catch your visions because they don’t have your fresh perspective (and may think your fresh perspective is sin); it’s frustrating I know, but you were called to follow Christ, not Christians. You can’t disown being the Church – it’s still who you are.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve come to the question: who is God if not an intimate lover? If that isn’t your view of him, what is there left for him to be that remotely meets your intimate needs (let alone the rest of the broken world)? I never realized how bleak my world was (even with ‘God’) without a Lover King, till now.

And there’s another thing, you know; I never connected Father, Spirit and Jesus like this before. I’ve always in my mind put a chasm between them to say ‘Well this is Father’s characteristic,’ or ‘This is Jesus’ characteristic,’ or ‘This is what the Spirit does,’ but to realize that each of them have their intimate titles–Abba, Daddy; Bridegroom, Lover; Comforter, Inhabitor–God in all through all a lover, a Father, a Bridegroom, a Comforter–a hugger, a carresser. When you hear, “This is my son (or daughter) with whom I am well pleased,” the Father loves you. When you hear “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away with me,” the Bridegroom, Jesus, the Romancer loves you. When you hear, “Peace, be still,” and feel the warmth of his heart, Holy Spirit loves you.

So, how do you experience God? There is no wrong answer to that, because your experience is still real whether it is a completely acurate experience or not. So, how do you experience him? Who is he to you? Does the God that you see meet the needs that you have according to his glorious riches? Is his character true across all his persons? Does he love you with an everlasting love? Read the Song of Solomon and tell me God doesn’t have an intimate sense of love and romance. Because I’ll tell you something (and this is another gem Leif Hetland teaches about), there has been a reformation to bring the loveletter back to the people; there has been a reformation to bring Holy Spirit experience back to the people, and those were good reformations. But there is another reformation coming–I believe it is already here–to bring the Father’s heart back to the children, and Grace and Truth back to the bride.

Jesus, I long to know true love, deeper than the love found on earth. Take me into the King’s chamber; cause my love to mature.

Let me know the kisses of your mouth; let me feel your warm embrace. Let me smell the fragrance of your touch; let me see your lovely face. Take me away with you – even so Lord come. I love you Lord; I love you more than life.

My heart, my flesh yearn for You, Lord; to love You is all I can do. You have become my sole passion; cause my love to be true

True Love, David Ruis

What would it look like to experience Jesus’ love–the love of God–so radically? What does it look like? Can you imagine? Or does it seem too sacrilegious or irreverent to you? Even I feel a little out on the deep end–but O how deep the Father’s love for us, that we would be called Sons.

So here’s my challenge: view God as a lover, Father son and Spirit. View the Bible as a love letter to you. Find out what that love letter has to say to you. (How would that change your perspective on things?) And then? Love like no other, because there is no other love like Father’s in you.

Tears (Encounters I)

Crimson tears were all she cried. They fell to stain the dirty carpet of her room. It was all she could do to forget–or was she simply fighting the comfort of feeling? Her brother was dead. Her sister also; she died in her arms–the poor fragile thing. She had tried to stop them but in the end the only gain had been more scars, and blood which was not her own. And then they had raped her there in her sister’s blood. Her father was beating her mother when he wasn’t drunk, and beating her when he was. Her mother blamed her, continually reminding her that she had ruined this family and caused the death of her siblings–nobody would even say ‘murder’. But she couldn’t leave, and that’s what no one understood; she just couldn’t.

I don’t want to die–

I want to feel alive.

Her eyes were dry and she wept all the more, the dirty-yellow streetlamp outside the window casting an ugly yellow glow onto the floor in front of her. Oh for just one touch of the cold moon. But there was nothing left now. She didn’t want to die; she wanted to be alive. She had lived this way for as long as she could remember, sometimes living at home, sometimes on the streets, sometimes with her uncle who had taken her innocence and damaged it almost as often as her own father had. She pressed the blade a little further and though she winced a little, the pain never lasted long. She was desperate; she needed to feel.

I don’t care anymore–

No one even knows my name.

It was getting late–even for her. Sleep rested heavily on her tortured eyelids and threatened her waking conscious. But she wouldn’t sleep, not now. She needed to wrap the fresh inflictions she had opened; the blood had already begun to dry. she would do no more tonight, but had it ever felt good–relieving–fulfilling. Relief existed only in each cut. It didn’t take long to wrap her arms. She ran her fingers over the thin bandages and the scars of various ages. She didn’t care who saw anymore; no one even knew her name.

Lauren–

Show me your scars.

“April.” She started, hurriedly pulling the loose sleeves of her hoodie–a form of apparel Webster’s still hadn’t given the proper assertion to–down over the bandages and the scars. “Lovely April…” She was sitting in the middle of the floor facing the door, yet the speaker was behind her. She didn’t turn around.

“But no one knows my name?” It was a question to herself and she only thought it, but the calm male voice from behind answered all the same.

“I know your name,” he whispered, seemingly almost from within her head. Still she did not turn around, but subconsciously was glad for her hair which covered the scars across the back of her neck. “Lauren April Mason… Show me your scars.”

I can’t let you see–

Then let me show you mine.

She turned around finally, slowly at first. Young–somewhere in his mid-thirties, she guessed–he was kneeling but a few feet behind her, dressed simply in a light plaid long-sleeved button-up t-shirt, and weathered blue jeans. His skin was rough but his eyes were kind and something else–love? She had never seen eyes like that. “Show me your scars,” he repeated himself.

“I can’t let you see,” she replied, pulling her sleeves down further. That look in his eyes, it went right through her, but she couldn’t wear her scars in front of the one who knew her name.

“Then let me show you my scars.”

By my wounds, Lauren–

Not your own.

Till now she hadn’t taken notice of his hands, but now he moved them toward her, gesturing, and she couldn’t help but be a little curious. There in the center of each palm was a deep piercing which may have gone even completely through his hands. And then she looked up to his face and saw now–though she had not before–the marks on his brow and the scars where the flesh had been torn away. And now he took her hand in his much larger and she felt the scar in his palm. And he brought her hand gently to his side and she felt the ancient wound there. He rested his hand on her shoulder.

“You’re alive by my wounds Lauren… not your own.”

You know my name?

I created you.

“Who are you? How do you know my name?” she inquired, unable to take her eyes off the scar in his hand. “You don’t know me directly, but I’ve known you all my life–and it’s been a while,” He smiled warmly, and she thought she caught a comical twinkle in his eye.

“That doesn’t even make sense–you’ve got to be like thirty years older than me,” She thought he must be crazy.

“Not to you, but it’s true all the same,” And she knew it was. “I know all about you Lauren. I know your name because I created you.”

I’ve seen everything you’ve done–

Now let me see your scars.

She shrugged his hand off her shoulder. She’d heard things like this before growing up in Sunday school, but now she wasn’t sure what to think.

“Where have you been when I needed you? Where were you when my sister was dead in my arms and they came after me while I was still soaked in her blood? When I’m on the street? Where are you when Uncle and my–my father are…” he brought his finger to her lips in a gesture of silence,

“Whether you believe it or not Lauren, I’ve always been with you. I’ve seen every moment of your life from the time you were conceived to now. I’ve seen all the things that have inspired those wounds. I’ve seen everything you’ve done. But you live in a broken world, and you don’t see me as I want you to see me. But I came to give you an opportunity to see me as I would have you see me always–and forever! Now… let me see your scars,” he replied tenderly. She turned around again to face the opposite wall. She wanted to–maybe–but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be that weak.

I just want to hold you…

I just want to be held!

“Lauren… let me heal your wounds. I mean only the best for you,” she glanced back at his face; his eyes were entreating–pleading with her to break—and she wouldn’t. How could she? Her only comfort, her only measure of being alive–of living–was the pain and the blood, and yet she was ashamed to stand before her creator with these selfish mutilations. How could she open them up? She couldn’t. “Stop fighting it Lauren. You are accepted the way you are–I accept you… I just want to hold you!”

“I just want to be held!” her will broke and she turned around. Tears like tiny crystals welled up in her eyes though she tried with a last standing effort to keep them back.

“Let them go Lauren, they are your healing.”

I’m not just your creator–

You’re my Father.

She fell on his neck; she couldn’t help but. He embraced her, his huge arms encompassing her; she had never felt so safe. She clung to his neck and wept on his shoulder. It came hard at first; she wanted to fight it, to stop these tears, but the more that the warmth from his heart radiated into her, the less control she had.

“It’s alright, let it all come out,” his voice was even softer now in her ear, and the tears only came harder and more freely.

“Please don’t leave me,” she choked, the tears finally slowing a little.

“I will never leave nor forsake you, Lauren, my promise hasn’t changed even in two thousand years,” he soothed, “be still now.” Her sobs slowed and she raised her head to meet his eyes with hers. “I’m not just your creator, Lauren…”

“You’re my Father,” she declared quietly and then, “Okay… I’m ready.”

What about your scars?

Forever.

She slowly pulled back both sleeves of her hoodie to reveal the bandages and the scars. He stroked her black hair back from her face gently, revealing the countless marks of abuse.

“The men in your life have hurt you; your spine was out of place and would have caused you much pain because of what they did to you. It is better now,” and she had felt the vertebrae coming together into their correct places once again. Lovely Lauren. “Your healing begins,” he said, “Your scars will heal–”

“What about your scars?” she cut him off

“My scars will never heal; they will remain forever, to remind you of my love for you–I do love you, Lauren.” Forever? That meant forever loved. Forever.

You’re beautiful–

Don’t be ashamed any more.

He touched her arm, felt her scars. She wanted to pull it back, hide her shame within her sleeves. He laid his other hand on her shoulder,

“Stop fighting it. I accept you, Lauren. I accept you with your scars, new and old, self-inflicted and those given you by others. I made you. I never wanted this to happen to you, but I have a new body waiting for you without spot or blemish; the body I purposed you for.” The tears began to seep from the corners of her eyes again, and he wrapped his huge, strong arms around her again. “You are safe. You are free. You are beautiful–don’t be ashamed anymore.” She wept with full abandon, no desire left to control it. This was healing; this was life.

Don’t leave me alone!

I never have.

She knew it. With him she felt it could be true; she could be beautiful, if not for these scars… but perhaps it was like he had said about his own. Perhaps the scars were only a reminder of what she had overcome; the healing that she had only begun. She could almost feel the shame melting away within her, and she was free. Completely free!

“It’s time for me to go. You are beautiful Lauren, my love makes you so. Remember that,” he said, lifting her head and stroking back the hair again from her small face. She looked into his eyes. Love emanated from those eyes.

“Please don’t leave me alone,” she pleaded. He smiled.

“I never have Lauren, not once.”

He was gone, and she only now noticed how much brighter the room had been while he was there. I never have Lauren, not once. Could it be true? And then, yes… She knew it was, just as she had known every word he had spoken was true. And she could almost hear his voice now,

“I’m always here with you Lauren,”

Always