A New Covenant Picture of Repentance

Two classic signs of covenant confusion are: (1) you interpret repentance as turning from sin and (2) you think repenting will get God to forgive you. As I have explained elsewhere, God does not need your permission or even your repentance to forgive you. He forgave you before you were born in accordance with the riches of His grace (Eph 1:7).

All well and good. But what about the other point? Shouldn’t we turn from sin when we come to Jesus? You would certainly think so judging by the popularity of this verse:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chr 7:14)

Thank God for the cross that changed everything! In the old covenant, God’s blessings were conditional on you humbling, praying, seeking, and turning. (Phew! What if you only did three of those things? Would you get three-quarter forgiveness?) But in the new covenant, God’s blessings are poured out on us on account of Jesus:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1:3)

Here’s a question to see if you have been paying attention. If we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ,” what blessings remain for us outside of Christ? None! Starting with salvation, every blessing comes to us by grace through faith. Every. Single. Blessing.

So with Jesus as our secure foundation, how do we define repentance? Since I have compared the old- and new covenant definitions in another post, I just want to give you a simple picture. Here it is…

In the new covenant, repentance literally means change your mind. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not something we initiate so much as it is a response to the good news. When Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news” (Mk 1:15), He was literally saying, “Change your unbelieving mind and believe the glad tidings of the kingdom which is at hand.” We don’t repent to manipulate God into bringing his kingdom down; we repent because His kingdom is already at hand. (The King has come!) We don’t repent to get forgiven; we repent because we are forgiven. (He remembers your sins no more!)

In the old covenant, repentance implied a turning from, as in “turn from sin.” But in the new, repentance means a turning to, as in “turn to God.” Here’s Paul:

First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Act 26:20)

Do you see why the new is better? Under the old, you could turn from sin to… more sin! For instance, if you managed to turn from some nasty habits, your religious flesh would soon get puffed up with pride. Just look at the Pharisees. I doubt anyone repented (i.e., turned from sin) as much as they did. But in the new, there is only one direction to turn, and that is towards God. And as we turn towards Him, we inevitably turn from sin. This is why we don’t find Paul praying like this: “I keep asking God to help you reprobates turn from your stinking sin”! No, Paul prayed that we would know Him better.

As we change our minds and come to walk in the revelation that Jesus is lovely and God is good and He thinks we’re special, we find that the things of this world grow strangely dim. We walk away from sin effortlessly because we are captivated by something, Someone, infinitely better.
___
Related posts:
- 3 reasons why I don’t preach repentance (“turn from sin”)
- 7 signs that you might be living under law
- 5 ways that Jesus revealed grace

Comments

  1. I can’t help but ask this, but what if a person has a dysfunctional mind? What if his brain cells aren’t working properly, or has an ill-disease or something, then we couldn’t walk in the revelation of God’s goodness and be captivated by Him.

    Just my thoughts on it…

    • Or what about a small child who is too young to think for himself? My view is that such as these belong to God. I know this flies in the face of those who say we’re born with a sin gene (so kids must go to hell if they’re unsaved), but consider the words of David when he lost his own infant son: “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam 12:23). David wasn’t planning on going to hell but heaven. He fully expected to meet his child there. I’m with David on this.

      • Steven Saxophone Reed says:

        But that’s not to say we can abuse Grace as I’ve seen in my former church? My exspirience has been people just think that they can live as they please. May be it is just my exspirience but as I’m shore you can understand it has left me wheary

      • We are born with a death gene, and young children do not believe it they have faith in life, Jesus is life.He is the only way.

    • “a person with a dysfunctional mind is blessed than those who are concious”

      – just me… my opinion.. arigato…

      grace and peace

  2. Thank you……..i love this!!!!!

  3. Presley says:

    Man this is so good I have to stop every minute just to soak it in

  4. This is great stuff! My husband and I have looked for people who share this view of repentance. We learned it from Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign. We listen and read a lot of Bill Johnson too. I’m so glad I found this blog—I’m astounded at your post topics….this is everything we talk about lately. – Tina in Virginia

  5. I’ve read several articles but I didn’t know exactly where to ask this so I’m asking here. I mean see that you can not add to the Lord’s work. I also see places in the New Testament with instructions such as avoiding sin (like flee fornication) or doing something like praying. I don’t think you’re saying just forget about all those things but my question is how do you respond to it when you read it? Is this a personal thing involving the Holy Spirit instead of a preacher preaching it which might be legalism?

    • I interpret the exhortations of the NT as life-giving instructions. Keeping them does not make me righteous – I am already righteous in Him. Neither do they make me holy – I am already holy in Christ. These things show me how to be who I already am, how to be holy and so on. They are incredibly wonderful pictures of our new life. But if I interpret them as standards to live up to, I scorn grace.

      It’s like being married. I could give you some tips on how to be a great husband based on my own outstanding example (cough!). If you follow these tips they won’t make you married if you are single; but if you are married they might enrich your married life. New covenant means behavior follows identity. The old covenant reverses the order.

  6. Belema Ephraim says:

    Its one good thing to Fear the LORD, and its bad to fear the devil. For if are in sin you are in bundage of the devil and he is your father and you would have somuch fear in your entire life even to an extent you would find it difficult to repent.

    Psalm 91:5, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”

    Let go of that little voice that tells your God has forsaken you. For the LORD is our refuge, and he would give his angels charge over thee.

    NOTE: GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN ME THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD. Repent today for time is too short to say “i would repent later” Give your life to christ while the offer still last, for there is no repentance in hell.

  7. Marissa S. Donatos says:

    in the New Covenant, we are no longer led by the Law but by the Spirit of God – the same Spirit who was in Jesus was able to fulfill what was required by the Law, that same Spirit, we received when we received Christ and His Finished Work. we are tranformed not by our might or willpower which represents human effort but by the Spirit of God who changes us from within deeply and gently. the works of the law may modify your behavior but only the Spirit of God can change your heart. thank God for His Grace in the person of His Son! now we can say “Hallelujah! What an easy and light yoke! we only have to follow His leading because He says “I will” in the New Covenant and not “Thou shall” as in the Old. What a Life we have in Jesus

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