From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 4:17).
Okay, what is repentance? Let’s start with a Greek lesson: “Metanoia” (repentance) literally means: to change your thinking. “Meta,” in this case, means after, connoting a change or reversal. “Noia” comes from “nous” and refers to the mind. As metamorphosis means to change one’s form, metanoia means to change one’s thinking, which in turn shapes a new way of living.
When Jesus told a story about a prodigal son who turned his life around, He described the son’s repentance by saying, “He came to his senses.” (Luke 15:17).
- So, if anorexia has made you thin as a rail and yet you still “think” you are fat (a common self-delusion), then among other things you need metanoia.
- If you are a heavy drinker or smoker and you “think” you are unalterably programmed as such (impossible to stop), Jesus’ solution is to repent.
- If you were born a male with male body parts but “think” you are a woman, repent! Seeking help is crucial but worthless if you bypass metanoia.
- If you “think” you are in love with someone else’s spouse, repent.
- If you “think” you are homosexual, repent!
Do you roll your eyes at such “simplistic” thinking? Well, they rolled their eyes at Jesus too, and worse. But He understood the meaning of metanoia and the transforming power from God that comes with it, regardless of how long it takes. Jesus’ challenge to repent is a call to come to the end of yourself and turn yourself (head, heart, body and soul) over to God.
Popular psychology often does an end run around repentance and collects its fees by convincing people that self-delusion is “honest.” When Bruce Jenner declared he has always been a woman, he was widely described by our culture’s sheep-herders as finally being “honest about who he is.” Yet few say he should give his gold metal back because the gender requirement in 1976 now disqualifies him. Sadly, self-delusion is popular.
Our culture believes in a popular god who is powerless to transform sinners who get stuck in the sort of “complex” thinking that keeps them stuck in their sin. I call it “stinkin’ thinkin’. The heart that refuses to repent always dominates the mind to harness it for making high-minded excuses for that refusal. Jesus knew better. He calls us to repent and trust God for forgiveness and transformation. This is the only way to unshackle the mind for free thinking and godly living.
Listen to the prophet Isaiah:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20).
It takes a lot of neck-stiffening mental energy to learn how to call evil good and good evil. That sort of unspiritual mental activity is what Jesus wants 100% repudiated and reversed, which explains His unrelenting focus on metanoia.