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Biff got angry at Mable. He said he repented. Next week Biff got angry at Mable again. But last week he said that he repented. Did he repent (change)? Some say “no” because he’s doing the same thing again. What does the word “repent” mean?
Repentance means to change; it is a 180-degree switchback from previous thoughts and behaviors. So when you say “repent,” it connotes that you have changed. The real question is, have you changed in the sense that you will never do it again or does repentance have multiple meanings? When considering this question, you must factor in three vital keys.
Our Adamic ontology (state of being) is angry—among other sins problems like fear, shame, and unbelief. These temptations and struggles will not change in the ultimate, eradication sense until you meet Jesus. Let me explain with our Anger Spectrum infographic.
Some folks believe they can “repent” of anger and it will not recur again. We cannot repent of all our sinful anger temptations and manifestations any more than we can get rid of all our fear or struggles with trusting the Lord (unbelief). Metaphorically speaking, it’s vital to remember that our salvation is laid down “on top of” our Adamic natures, and it does not remove our Adamic natures.
It is our “in-Christ nature” that gives us the power to exercise self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) over our anger, but it does not change us entirely from being “angry” people until God transforms us by providing a new (non-Adam) body.
What many folks don’t realize is that there is always this low-level “anger” in all our hearts—though our anger manifestations may be different from each other. And it will always be in our Adamic selves to varying degrees. But God has given grace that empowers us to keep on repenting (Romans 7:13-25).
Key Idea – These issues of anger and fear—with their temptations—will be with us all our lives, though we can mortify them episodically by repenting when they happen and then keep on working out repentance throughout our lives. We will always be “feet of clay” people. Meaning, the ultimate victory over our recurring problems will come with a new body.
When I choose sinful anger toward Lucia, I must start working out repentance, which is illustrated by the following sequential elements to repentance:
What I have described to you is how to “repent” in the moment of recurring sin patterns, which I’m calling “episodic repentance.” I’m not saying that I have changed in such a way that I will never become angry again. I wish I would not choose anger in the future, but I know better (James 4:1-3).
Repentance does mean that I have changed and will never do that “sin” again. With recurring sin patterns, it’s critical to understand that the word repentance operates in an episodic way, but not in the ultimate sense of that word. Minimally, you can clean up (repent) your current messes as you work to do it less and less (repenting) in the future.
Ultimate repentance is genuine change to where you never go back to that sin again, e.g., porn, adultery, abuse, some forms of anger, bad decisions, (fill in the blank).
There are two critical reasons this discussion is important:
Some sins will go away while others will be with you all of your life. I realize this concept is subjective and each individual needs customized care. The primary things to consider are whether you are changing—which progressive sanctification affords (Philippians 2:12-13), and if your faith in God is growing incrementally. If you are doing these two things—changing and trusting—you will be sinning less while trusting God more for those sins that remain.
Sin-Reduction: Baked-in, Adamic fear should have less control over your life, which will happen in proportion to you working out your salvation. If your fear, anger, or shame are not mitigating in your walk with the Lord, there is something wrong with your relationship with God.
God’s Permission: You must consider how the Lord does not grant repentance for some issues (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) because it is through your ongoing weakness (temptations) that God’s power manifests in your life (2 Corinthians 4:7).
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26
The most vital key is understanding the nuance in the word repentance because if a person does not, they will have a hard time changing at the episodic moment or ultimately.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).