In my reading of Matthew 3 this weekend I thought it was interesting in how repenting reminded me of being in a relationship. The verse that stuck out to me was Matthew 3:2. John the Immerser (Baptist) proclaimed a message in the wilderness of Judaea, saying, “Repent, for the reign of the heavens has come near!” (The Scriptures 1998+)
SIDE NOTE: Let me say that sometimes things can jump out at you when you read a different version than you are use to reading. I started reading The Scriptures 1998+ version this year and have found it to be a very good version. END SIDE NOTE
When John came on the scene he began his message with “repent.” In traditional Christianity it means to tell God you’re sorry, say a prayer, and then join a church to learn more about God. However, every church is not created equal. Some focus on healing, or money, or what sins everyone is doing. Some churches have a new disciple class that may or may not focus on God himself and what he wants, but most focus on what their particular church wants. This is why we have so many people struggling to walk in the ways of Elohim (God).
Let me illustrate the concept for you. You cheat on your woman and get caught. You aren’t sorry because you don’t want to lose her because you feel you can talk your way into making her stay. However, what you are really sorry about is getting caught. It doesn’t occur to you that you are hurting the woman you are suppose to love or the fact that she no longer trusts you. What you are really sorry about is getting caught so you resolve to be more careful in the future. In which case you go right back to the person you were cheating with, thus running the risk of getting caught again, but at the moment that doesn’t matter because it feels so good with this other person. (This goes for women too because they cheat also.)
This is how most people repent. They hear a message about sin, feel guilty at getting “caught” and decide to repent. However, they continue to hang with the same people or do the same things and soon they find themselves struggling to be faithful to Elohim. After all, he will understand because he is so merciful and full of grace. They rarely hear about the second part of repenting, which is to turn toward Elohim, to learn what he likes and dislikes, what his rules are, what is kingdom is like, or what it means to love him.
Repent, Elohim Style
In Hebraic thought repent means to turn from your sins and turn toward Elohim (God). It’s more than just saying you’re sorry for wrong doing. It’s more than struggling to be right. It involves turning your back to sin and focusing your attention on Elohim, facing him and obeying what he says to do.
Here’s another illustration. Now what if you decided to end your affair (maybe after talking to a friend or maybe after remembering what it used to be like with your mate) and confess what you have done. You know you run the risk of losing your woman, but you also know you were wrong and the last thing you really want is to lose her. You made a choice to do what you did. No one made it for you. You realize that no matter what was going on in your relationship, you could have chosen a better way to handle it. Cheating didn’t have to happen. You are truly sorry and will do whatever it takes to mend the relationship. If it means never speaking to that other woman again so be it. If it means being home right after work ended so be it. If it means talking more with her and listening more so be it. Whatever it takes to let her know you made a mistake and really want your relationship to work. You turn your attention back towards her and not towards someone else. You establish rules to govern your relationship to ward off potential problems. For example, if this happens, then you should do this so that there is no repeat of what happened before.
This is true repentance. This is what YHVH is looking for. He wants you to realize that he has always been here waiting on you to come back to him. You see, he made a covenant with Adam and Eve to redeem mankind. He reaffirmed that covenant with Noah when he allowed humanity to continue. He definitely established that covenant with Abraham through his son, Isaac. He firmly established the way back to him through his son, Yeshua the Messiah. By accepting what Yeshua has done for you and asking for forgiveness of your sins, and turning from your sins, you have done part one of repentance.
Now the Father wants you to turn your attention towards him. He wants you to find out what he wants from you, what he likes, how his ways are different from others, how you can be an example for him and more.
Study for Yourself
The main way you can do that is to study the scriptures for yourself. It’s okay to belong to a church/assembly of believers, but you still have to know the scriptures for yourself. We are to do the same thing Paul tells Timothy to do. “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to Elohim, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 The Scriptures 1998+) Why? Because when you stand before the Creator of the heavens and earth, you will stand alone. Your momma, pastor, friend, or favorite cousin will not be there to help you out.
Another reason to know the scripture for yourself is to be able to recognize when your leader is no longer following the Messiah. Paul says, “Follow me as I follow the Messiah.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 paraphrase) You are only supposed to follow leadership when leadership is following Yeshua. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything your leader says. It means if your leader is committing sin and you know it then you should find someone else to follow.
The whole point is to make sure you are pleasing YHVH first. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Yeshua said his sheep follow him and no one else. So today, I shout with Paul,
Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
Teach us to walk according to your will and your ways, to learn to please you first before pleasing man, to rightly divide the word of truth and live a life you can be pleased with.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.