Repentance: Our Response to the Judgments of the Lord

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  (Isaiah 55:8)

Whenever the Lord invites His people into a new thing, He calls them to repentance. Old natural ways must give way to new eternal ways so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:4)

Repentance was the central message of John the Baptist’s ministry. It was also the opening line to both Jesus and the apostle’s public ministries:

Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand. (Matthew 3:2) 

From that time, Jesus began to declare, “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Then Peter said, “Repent each one of you, and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 2:38) 

This same appeal heralds the end of this age. The return of the Lord Who will rule the nations in love and righteousness is at hand.

Here’s the trouble. Neither the world nor much of the Church is ready for the way Jesus will run things. We are still gravely invested in sin, bias, subjugation, hostility, unforgiveness, self-justification and autonomy. We turn our eyes from the oppressed, we wink at gross sin, make excuses for operating outside of the Sermon on the Mount, coddle bitterness, idolatry, and malice. Our hearts are still invested in the dominion of the flesh. Like the disciples in Luke 9, we may thrill to the mountaintop glory of Jesus, but back home, we’re still arguing for our superiority and filled with fire to destroy our enemies. Though we may gaze at Jesus with sincere love and desire, our habits and social structures can still be so out of sync with His heart. So much of us remains filled with core-level mistrust of His ways.

This is why Jesus’ first coming aroused hot rage and opposition within the systems of His day. Beloved, His second coming will evoke no less. The kingdoms of this earth are about to become the Kingdom of the Lord. He has been Anointed by the Father to reign (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 11:15). Our world, animated by the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19) now shakes with the awareness that the Son’s return spells an end to our corrupt and unrighteous paradigms. In the shaking, the residents of the earth are confronted with a choice between the two. Will we choose to divest ourselves of the tyranny of the old order and ally ourselves with God’s approaching government? The religious term for this divestment strategy is called repentance.

The Bible primarily uses four words for repentance – two from Greek and two from Hebrew. 

METANOEOW

METANOEOW is the Greek word the New Testament most frequently uses for repentance. It literally means to renew our mind. 

I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind METANOEOW, that you may prove what is good and acceptable and the perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1-2)

The call to repentance is an invitation to discover new ways of thinking about life and the inferior ways of sin. But primarily, it is an invitation to think new thoughts about God and the perfection of His ability to lead.

Romans 14:23 tells us that the root of all sin is unbelief in God. For whatever is not from faith (in God) is sin. It stands to reason then, that a transformed understanding of Who God is will uproot the weeds of sin in our lives. Then, armed with increased confidence in Who God is, we can entrust ourselves to Him and His ways all the more.

METANOEOW repentance calls us to look deeply into the truth about Who God is. He is a God of holiness, wisdom, and might. He is also filled with compassion. He’s slow to anger and rich in lovingkindness and mercy. He is the God Who is an extravagant rewarder of those who seek Him. He is filled with joy. He is love itself. All of His ways are just and filled with grace. He is meek and fierce, humble and zealous, intimate and all-encompassing, vast and personal, kind and terrifying. All of these qualities about God are the stimulants for our repentance. As we think new thoughts about God, we discover how wise and good it is for us to trust Him and obey Him.

Beloved, in the next age, we will forever be learning new things about God. Our minds will forever continue to be transformed. We will live in an eternal dynamic of METANOEOW. All of our hearts have room for more glad-hearted agreement and yieldedness to The Perfect One. METANOEOW is the way we tell the Holy Spirit, “We’re eager to give ourselves now and forever to being fully pleasing(Colossians 1:10) to our Savior and our King.” 

One of the most confounding realities about how the Church navigated the pressures of 2020 was the degree to which we did not METANOEOW new information about ourselves and the Lord’s character. Instead, much of the Church exhibited just the opposite. When our world pressured us with plague, racial insensitivity, and political threat we took refuge in the bunkers of suspicion, accusation, and self-justification. We had ready-made space to nourish ourselves on new realities about God and new levels of our need for God. Instead, we used the months to gorge ourselves on endless stories of how evil, dark, and sinister our world was in the hope that we could prove how wise, anointed, and wronged we were. Armed with endless conspiracies, we set out to defend ourselves and murder each other rather than stand naked before the Lord in humility. The conversations the Father longed to have with us face to Face, we had with others on Facebook. He was inviting us to fathom new dimensions of His willingness and ability to save, defend, deliver and provide. And far too often, we gave ourselves to developing novel, deprecating thoughts about our neighbors.

Fortifying our disputations is most certainly not the transformation the Lord had in mind for us in this season. But it is now a fundamental part of the compounded thinking from which we need to be untangled. The Church in America urgently needs the Godly application of the repentance of METANOEOW  that comes from having given ourselves to beholding the Lord and inquiring in His temple (Psalm 27:4).

HUPOSTREPHO

HUPOSTREPHOis the second word the New Testament uses to describe the act of repentance. It means to turn around in the opposite direction. HUPOSTREPHO is a plea to reverse the course of our attitudes, our ways, and our behaviors.

In every turning there is a turning from and a turning to. HUPOSTREPHO bids us to turn from our ways of sin and to the righteous ways of the Lord.

For He will turn HUPOSTREPHO many in Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:16) 

Unfortunately, messages calling for repentance nearly always put all the emphasis on turning away from sin. And we must turn away from sin. But, if the enemy can keep us focused on what we’re leaving: the loss of self, nationalism, racial justification, sexual indulgence and pride we will not avail ourselves of the holy strength that comes from gazing at the One to Whom we’re turning.

The fact of the matter is there is so much more of God to repent into than sin to repent from. Unrighteousness is a mud puddle compared to the ocean of God’s pleasures; mystery, beauty, power, transcendence, unconditional love, unity, wisdom. The enemy has nothing to offer us that compares to the height of exhilaration the Lord has for us in these Godly dynamics. When we HUPOSTREPHO we’re leaving the vastly inferior promise of sin and turning to the exceedingly abundant blessings of the Lord. The two cannot be compared. 

When John the baptizer cried, “Repent,” he was calling humanity into the Kingdom, no less than he was calling us away from unrighteousness. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2). It is standing right before you! Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29 and 36).His messages were exhortations into the depths of One Who was coming. He must increase, and I must decrease (John 3:30). He was saying, set your eyes on the One mightier than I  Who is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).

Consider. What revelation of the Messiah burned in John’s bosom? What of His immense splendor had he seen? What heavenly glories did he encounter in his years of beholding Him face to Face? What did He know of the God Who melts mountains like wax (Psalm 97:5)? What stories could he tell about the One from Whom heaven and earth flees (Revelation 20:11)? What had the God Who has Genesis 1 on His resume shown him in the wilderness?

I guarantee you; John was far far more fascinated with the inexpressible wonders of the One Who was coming than the piddly issues of unrighteousness that were being moved out of His way (Isaiah 40:4). The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. (Isaiah 40:5) This is the magnificent invitation of HUPOSTREPHO. 

I’m convinced that should the Church adopt this full proclamation of repentance, the colossal glory, and majesty of Jesus would quickly swamp the thin, one-dimensional arguments of the humanists and socialists in our land. And rather than tussling with the adversaries of the gospel in the quagmires of human thinking, we’d see the Holy Spirit baptizing them into the eternal waters of our King’s holy love.

SHUBV 

This is the most frequently used Hebrew word for repentance. From the root it means to burn your house down and leave with Me. SHUBV is making a radical life-correction, abandoning an old way of living, to do life God’s way, with God Himself.
Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.” (Ezekiel 14:6)

It’s the Lord’s kindness (Romans 2:4) to expose the poverty of our ways. His call to SHUBV repentance is an invitation for us to leave our rickety self-constructed self-governance and be enlisted into the soundness of His leadership.

Through the cataclysmic events of 2020, it’s become apparent that the Holy Spirit is confronting every believer, every fellowship, community, and confederation in America with this question: “How willing are you to have Me? Do you see that through plagues and race-riots and political treachery I am helping you to ‘burn your insufficient house down’ so that you may live in My superior mansion? Do you understand that I am dismantling your meager perception and human-powered reasoning in order to bring you into My eternal frame of mind? As I am bringing My government to this world I want you with Me, thinking My thoughts, enjoying My emotions, agreeing with My judgments and thriving in My wisdom.”

The season of 2020 has been all about the King “burning down our old normals” so that He may bring us into the order of His new, dawning normal. Some of the corrections we need to make will be less costly than others. On the other hand, some will require severe reorientation if we want to respond faithfully to the Lord. Jesus was thinking about His immoderate remedy in the Sermon on the Mount when He was addressing several of the seven issues on our list. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29)

Will we spurn His diagnosis and oppose this treatment? Or though it be drastic, will we amputate death so He may fit us with life? This is the question that confronts us in SHUBV repentance. And it will only be adequately answered as we seek the Face the One Who is worth burning our house down for.

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple… Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 & 33)

This is the claim that God has on the lives of those He has redeemed. It’s a mark of our “laissez-faire”, “manifest destiny” culture that we would think Christianity is an invitation to anything less radical. The Lord is returning to a planet that is alien to His ways. And He is calling His people to come out from the midst of them.

I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord… I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)

The Greek word for Church itself is ECCLESIA. It means “the called out ones”. To burn our houses down and follow Him has always been the charge of His Church.

NACHAM

There is one final word used in the Old Testament for repentance. It is the word NACHAM. It is only translated once as the word repentance, butit is quite frequently coupled with SHUBV repentance. The word that NACHAM is most often translated into is the word “comfort”.

NACHAM is the comfort that the Lord invites His people into in His opening proclamation in Isaiah 40:1. Comfort NACHAM, NACHAM My people! And tell her that her hostility to My ways is now finished.

Isaiah is saying, ”There is One Who is coming Who will cause you to have the strength to walk in My ways of life and righteousness. Take comfort in this truth! Repent and remove the obstacles from His way, so that your restless and wandering souls may find comfort in the care of His perfect leadership.”

NACHAM is the Lord’s “end-zone” for everyone engaged in the ongoing Kingdom activity of repentance. NACHAM maintains that we will experience more comfort in doing things Jesus’ way than in doing things our way.

Many in the family of God never experience the deep comfort and blessings of God in their lives for one simple reason: they refuse to acknowledge the depth of their bankrupt need for God. (This goes for whole nations, denominations, and church cultures too.) They refuse to give themselves to the thorough, Biblical application of repentance.

When we respond to God’s judgments with repentance, we are telling Him, “I trust You. I choose You and Your worldview to reign in my life. Not me and mine.” This is the solace of all who know they cannot control their own world. In our weak, impaired, and unfinished state, we need the leadership of a willing and compassionate God. And under His Lordship, we experience a growing comfort in understanding that He is not only willing and compassionate, but He is omnipotent in His ability to bring the human heart and the human race into the place of blessed strength, satisfaction, and peace.

It is also vital that we not neglect the other side to NACHAM. Should we fail to repent and turn to the Lord for comfort, He assures us we will ultimately not find it anywhere else. This was the message of the prophet NACHAM (Recognize the word?) to the people of Ninevah. And it stands as a foreboding word to our own prosperous and prideful culture:
Because you have acted like a wanton prostitute… I am against you, declares the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I will strip off your clothes! I will show your nakedness to the nations and your shame to the kingdoms… I will treat you with contempt; I will make you a public spectacle. Everyone who sees you will turn away from you in disgust; they will say, ‘Nineveh has been devastated! Who will lament for her?’ There will be no one to comfort you!… Your shepherds are sleeping… Your officers are slumbering! Your people are scattered like sheep on the mountains, and there is no one to regather them. Your destruction is like an incurable wound; your demise is like a fatal injury. All who hear what has happened to you will clap their hands for joy.” (Naham 3:4-7, 18-19)

REPENTANCE IS A CORPORATE RESPONSE

Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.(Isaiah 40:3-4)

Isaiah 40 is heaven’s grand invocation to repentance. But the call isn’t a single trumpet blast. It’s a sustained concert. When the Lord appeals to His people to repent, He isn’t calling us to a one-time act. He’s calling us to live in a spirit of repentance. This is a big distinction that bears explanation.

The civil rights movement wasn’t a 30-minute prayer. It was years of addressing the inequity of what our culture had become and carried out in an ongoing spirit of honesty, humility, and contrition. Here’s a statement that’s worthy of much consideration. The degree to which the Church is out-of-kilter with Jesus’ Kingdom is even greater than our dis-alignment with societal justice. The call to repentance is a call to a new, humble, self-crucifying, life-altering paradigm until justice (the right order of the King) runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24) into all aspects of life.

If we are to manifest the fulness of the repentance the Lord is calling us into we must establish New Testament communities that major on repentance, contextualize repentance, train us in repentance, celebrate it, and won’t run from it. In short, the people of God must learn to live repentance. 

When the Lord said to David, seek My Face, (Psalm 27:8) He was calling him to something more than an isolated event. He was inviting him to invest in a lifestyle that would also create a cultural vehicle where others could encounter the presence of God.

The vehicle that David invested in was the “temple of the Lord” ultimately built by his son, Solomon. On the day the temple was dedicated, this is how the Lord met His people:

When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)

The Lord was saying, “Now you have entered into My paradigm. This is how I want you to meet with Me. I will bless you, and walk among you as you gather in this place.” Once it was established, the temple shaped every aspect of the way Israel related to God. It was the “new wineskin” (Mark 2:22) for the people of God.

Here’s how David and Solomon’s story relates to our story. The Lord isn’t calling us to seek His Face for a remedy until the trouble passes by. He’s calling us to seek His Face as the foundational experience of how we relate to Him. He’s changing the understanding and expression of Christianity so that encountering the tangible, dialoguing presence of the Lord becomes the Church’s essential normal.

The repentance that’s in the Lord’s heart is not an eccentric experience that churns in a few religious zealots. It’s a whole new way of relating to Him that requires reestablishing our corporate way of life. It’s putting public prayer and repentance ahead of everything else in the Church. It’s what the Church does when it gathers for Sunday worship, women’s groups, social-service activities, board meetings, conferences, etc. And ultimately, it’s the lifestyle the Church invites new believers into – now until He returns. 

The truth be told, the Church needs to repent of our emaciated idea of repentance. We aren’t familiar with the vision of repentance that’s in the Lord’s heart right now. It’s an exceedingly foreign pattern of doing things. Repentance was revolutionary to the Jews in the Lord’s first coming, when the Kingdom of God was ordained to exist under the agency of the governments and social structures of the world. How much more extreme will repentance be when it leads to the total rending of the old and the inauguration of His tangible reign on the earth?

The repentance that’s in the Holy Spirit’s heart in this hour is a rich, fascinating fanfare that invites all of creation into alignment with His flawless majesty! O Beloved, how deep could be our repentance!?

Come, and let us repent before the Lord… that we may live in His sight. Let us know; let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth. (Hosea 5:1,2,3)

Holy Spirit, give the Church in America a repentance that our Bridegroom King is worthy of.

THE CHALLENGE TO REPENTANCE AND PRAYER

Allow me to be candid here. If we experienced the calamities of COVID and are spending no more time in prayer, we must not be deluded; our souls are in danger. We are not preparing ourselves for the increase of trouble that lies ahead. We are not availing ourselves of the strength the Lord urgently wants to give us. Our minds and our hearts will be buffeted by the storm of accusations, conspiracies, and sensationalism that will increasingly fill the world. In this hour of compounding confusion and tribulation, all who decline to enter into the primary paradigm of humble prayer will see neither our world nor our God right nor respond to Him and His judgments as they need.

Beloved, there are pivotal issues that the Lord wants to see bloom within His Son’s Bride. The way we do this is through repentance. Don’t shrink back from this proposition. Yes, it willentail work. But the Lord is faithful to give us much grace for this “new normal”. He knows we’ve never experienced the unique pressures of an hour like this. Our God is passionately committed to bringing all who Seek His Face into the unfathomable generosity of His blessing. He is so zealous for our good!

It’s the people who cultivate the expectation of the Lord’s presence who will receive the Lord’s dispensation of authority. The next season of the Church’s life willbe filled with His compassionate, supernatural, healing presence. He will affect the miraculous reconciliation of families, races, and churches. Millions will be delivered, saved, and added to our number. But this Kingdom reality will only break in upon us as humble, united, intimate, God-seeking, corporate prayer becomes our cultural norm.

Who will partner with the Lamb of Revelation 5 as He opens the scrolls of judgment over the nations? Who will meet Him on His terms as He brings His reign to earth?

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)

__________

This is an excerpt from our book “Seek My Face: A Guide to Praying Through the Judgments of the Lord” (2021). If you would like a copy of this book write us at xaris4u@yahoo.com for a free PDF manuscript version, or you may purchase a copy at AMAZON: tinyurl.com/SeekMyFaceTheBook .

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