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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Grafted In [Ephesians Part I]

For “whatever reason” I’ve been reading in Ephesians the last couple days, thinking about what it means for me to live “in” Jesus, and more deeply, wondering if I would really say I do. Actually, that has been my question for a long time now: “am I really doing this?” To which the resounding answer in my core is “No way.”

I’ll come back to that.

I’m looking at the first three chapters as a whole, starting with the redemption story that never gets old though Paul could tell it a hundred times to bring a new gem to the surface with each retelling. He takes two chapters to remind the Ephesians how Jesus saved them and it’s all just too wonderful not to read all at once and over and over. If it made any sense I would copy those whole two chapters down, but you can read them for yourself and spend all the time you like reveling in the wonder of God’s goodness.

But alright, here’s just a smidgen of what I’m talking about:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. [!]

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.[!]11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.[!] -Ephesians 1:3-12

Don’t get weird on me, but I just want to go through that all and insert an exclamation mark on the end of every sentence, because Holy Gracious Redeeming Loving Father God! It just can’t get any better (but it does).

I want to close in on chapter three where Paul calls Gentile salvation a mystery – for of course; until Jesus’ arrival, the Jews were the only people chosen by God and yet, He had a plan for the rest of the nations all along:

The Mystery Revealed

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

Purpose of the Mystery

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship[a] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;[b] 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. – Ephesians 3:3-13

Everyone that had been in the outer circle, now grafted into the body of Christ, dwelling jointly in Abundant, Eternal Life. And the result?

Appreciation of the Mystery

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[c]15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21

I’ve gotta stop right here and tell you, this isn’t going where I thought it would, because I keep finding more every time I go back.

Jesus, through his love sacrifice, delivered on the Promise he made with Abraham and forever gave himself an inheritance to the Jews, and grafted the Gentiles into that Promise. And this is what Paul desires, when grace and salvation and righteousness have been realized, ‘guys, now that your faith is solid, and you get love, here’s what I want for you:’ and I just love the way the Old King James puts it:

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19

‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.’

Now that you dwell in Christ, I pray that Christ dwells in you.

Now that Jesus knows you fully, I pray that you would know Jesus fully.

Oh, And P.S…

Welcome to the family!

Jesus, I choose to live rooted in you; thank-you so much for this immeasurable gift. I live so often with you so far from my mind, I think, because I have no measure for what you offer. Give me a new revelation of the breadth, the length, the depth and the height of your love for me daily – or should I say, help me to notice these revelations you’ve already set in motion for me!

Heed the Yeast

While scrolling through the Bible app on my phone during church today I came across a number of passages that blew me right out of the water (and I thought I knew it all, aready?). One passage in particular totally affirmed what I’ve been struggling with these months, which has been initially doubt. Not doubting God but doubting myself and the decisions and choices I’ve made in the last 6-8 months that have brought me here, out of the religiousBecause I have to be honest; I’ve been taking opposition, and while the feeling of knowing truth is so powerful, this stuff has been wearing on me.

Anyway, I was skimming through 2 Timothy 3 and verse 5 leaped off the page at me, so I just had to go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out what was going on here:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 

– 2 Timothy 3:1-5 [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that? Paul is warning Timothy (and all of us young men) about perilous times and perilous people: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …” this description sounds like it came right out of his list of the fruits of the flesh over in Galatians 5; this is heavy stuff.

But do you know what kind of people he’s talking about? It isn’t the world, it’s the religious! It is the religious. He says in verse five, “[they have] a form of godliness…” Is it a reputation? A name? A claim to a church pew? These people probably appear quite godly.

Just let that sink in a little. And what is the danger?

For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

– 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Making captives out of the gullible to lust, loading them down with sins, always chasing knowledge but never able to grasp the real substance of the knowledge of the truth. Doesn’t that sound like the religious? It sounds a lot like some of those I’ve seen and heard speaking from behind the pulpit. And I think these two verses are key, because this is what the religious is full of–church is full of this! Everyone looking for the next new piece of wisdom as though their salvation and their usefulness to the kingdom depends on how much they can learn. To the religious of his day Jesus said something to the affect of “You search the scriptures because you think knowing them will save you, but you miss completely that they’re all about me!” (John 5:39, my paraphrase). Always hearing, never understanding. Loading sin after sin onto their fellow captives, because what else can you do with a system based off works and sin-consciousness?

I think back on my recent encounters, some with peers, others with older, more respected leader figures; I’m thinking about how perfectly my experiences and the feelings I’ve gotten from some individuals fit Paul’s description perfectly. I’m thinking about the people who had reputations in my eyes as great leaders on solid foundations.

Having a form of godliness.

This sort creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins.

“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” Jesus warned his disciples (Matthew 16:6) The infectious beliefs of those who believe no righteousness exists out of your perfect observance of the Law, and those who believe there is no resurrection life. Righteousness at the cost of death and no resurrection hope. And you can hear an awful lot of teaching and preaching in church today about what you must do to meet the requirements for salvation, in various forms and flavors. Having a form of godliness.

“Perilous times and perilous men will come,” warns Paul, “But it’s okay; you’ll know them by their fruit. They appear godly, but they bring devastation. Turn away from them!”

Turn away from them.

Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

– 2 Timothy 3:8-9

Are you in a dead movement? Faith in the finished work of Jesus will always promote progress. Jannes and Jambres were among the people that left Egypt; Moses delivered them. A form of godliness. What more can I say? Paul gives us the answer to remain steadfast in a time when false Christians and the religious will encroach us with doubt:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. [And here comes the one-two punch:] 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:10-17

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus! Amen! How do you keep from faltering in the face of those who would question, deride and shame you for the truth of the gospel? Continue in what you know, know who you learned it from, and be confident in the Scripture where your 100-percent-faith-based salvation is found! I’m not going to stop believing in the finished work of Christ, I know I learned this gospel straight from God, and I know that I’m not only on a solid scriptural foundation, but I’m on the foundation of Christ himself! And I’ll tell you something, not only have I found confidence in the gospel by Scripture, but I’ve been able to respond to the naysayers with the truth straight out of the book itself; what better feeling than to know that you know that your foundation is Christ the Solid Rock, and all other ground is sinking sand.

As I began with, this passage just totally blew me out of the water, affirmed my whole understanding and put such a peace-enabling reassurance over me–I know I’m on the right track, I don’t need to be intimidated or put off by anyone regardless of who they are or what their reputation or standing is, and the danger in the religious culture is real, and it’s alive and well.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I’ll end off with this: I’ve thought for a long time that I had to be learned to be able to carry any authority in the Christian culture. Now I realize, Christianity shouldn’t even be defined in a culture. All the so-called Christian Culture is, I think, is modernized religion. So I don’t need to be educated to be completely equipped, I just need to allow the Word of God to be alive in me–that’s all you need in order to be able to stand up to religious bullies–I don’t need to be learned, I just need to be listening to the voice of Jesus in me.