In our last Heart to Heart we acknowledged that we all still deal with some “pharisee” between our ears.  We can all become susceptible to the feeling that because of what we know or what we think we know we are just a little better than someone else.  Of course the Lord has to be just a little more pleased with those that have finally gotten everything right … doesn’t He?  Well, the short answer is no!  His pleasure with us is based totally and completely on Jesus and what He did … not to mention that none of us see truth crystal clear for all that it is.  And that is because we don’t completely see Jesus for all that He is.  Simply put, we are all still growing and learning and seeing an ever-unfolding revelation and realization of our Lord.

Sounds like we all are ripe and ready for repentance.  That in fact is the remedy for the “pharisee” that seeks to reside between my ears – that mindset that neglects grace and opts for trying to do it my way.  In Mark 1:15 Jesus said …

“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”  [NASB]

“This is a moment of fulfillment; the manifestation of God’s purpose is breaking through.  Change your attitude about yourself and about God.  Believe the good news.”  [Ben Campbell Johnson]

I’ve heard this verse preached and taught in the past by some who explained the word repent to mean a focused effort on our part to change our behavior and actions and simply try to act better.  You know, … your are a child of God, so … “act like one.”  In these terms repentance is all about changing what we do, it becomes just about conduct.  When Jesus spoke these words the law was already in place and it already demanded a change of conduct, but no one was able to keep it – no one could follow the rules and behave correctly.  No matter how hard we try, if we think repentance is our concerted effort to change our own behavior we will fail every time!

So what is repentance?  The word repentance is the word metanoia and it means a change of mind. Jesus didn’t come just to tell us to try harder, but so that we could repent (change our mind) and trust him.  The reality of Jesus’ sacrifice and the grace of God changed how we would have a relationship with God.  We are born again on the basis of faith and not works.  So when we mix grace with works we frustrate our experience of life in Christ.  It’s not that the conduct of our lives is irrelevant, but it’s not changed through effort, but through Christ’s life in us.  It’s all about Jesus!

Anything that takes my focus and trust away from Jesus will rob my experience of life in Him.  We can have misconceptions and misunderstandings about law as well as grace.  The “pharisees of law” demand that everyone meets their standard by changing their own behaviour through their own efforts and determination … it’s self-righteousness.  But I can act like a “pharisee of grace” when I fall subject to thinking grace is all about me … my grace … my liberty … my freedom.  We are absolutely recipients and beneficiaries of grace, but grace like everything else is ALL ABOUT JESUS!  Grace is not a permission slip for our flesh, but an empowerment of the Spirit for Jesus to give and to live His life through us.

So whenever we demand that anyone must act like we say or believe like we say we have made it all about us.  The Spirit wants to gently take that misconception and burden away and set our focus solely on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  True repentance takes our minds off of ourselves and sets it on Jesus … you see, Jesus is not renewing His mind, He is renewing mine.  Then we will realize it’s not our job to “fix” ourselves or anyone else – it’s our privilege to simply encourage, “behold the lamb.”  Look to, trust in, and rest in Jesus!  Works and law are us trying to get a grip on God, but grace is yielding to God’s grip on us through redemption … may we always repent and believe the gospel!

In grace,