As the new year rolls around each year, we tend to stop and reflect upon all that has transpired in the past year. Then we look ahead and consider all that we would like to see different in the future. We feel bad about our past failures, sometimes even burdened down with guilt over them. So we resolve to change and do better in the new year. We make resolutions to lose weight, pay off the credit cards, get more organized or spend more time with family and friends. We are determined to stop drinking or smoking and swear that we are going to control our anger and treat those around us with more courtesy and respect. But despite all the tears we shed over our past behavior, despite all the resolutions we make, and despite all the new leaves we try to turn over, more often than not there is very little actual change that occurs in our lives.
For us to actuate true change what we really need is a good dose of “repentance.” I know it sounds like I’m getting all “religious” on you, but hold on a minute, for quite the opposite is true. My religious upbringing lead me to believe that repentance was about crying, moaning, and beating myself up over my faults and failures. While that may possibly happen as part of the repentance process, much remorse over our past failure can occur and yet not have one ounce of actual repentance take place. Just being sorry about something is not repentance and does not necessarily lead to change.
So if repentance isn’t about remorse, than what is true repentance? Repentance simply is “the changing of the mind, the changing of how we think“. True repentance happens in the mind, and not in the emotions. Wanting to change, knowing we need to change, or feeling remorse over our behavior will never bring us lasting change regardless of how many resolutions we may make. True change will only come when we repent-- that is change the way we now think, to a new way of thinking.
I use to be confused by the verse in scripture that says, “.. the Goodness of God leads us to repentance.” Romans 12:4 If repentance is being sorry for something, how could God’s goodness lead one to remorse? I now have come to understand repentance as the changing of the mind, thus truly seeing God's goodness, love, and grace will leads us to change the way we think about Him. In all situations, when our thinking is changed then our actions will be changed; when our actions are changed then our lives will be changed. Repentance works the same whether we are talking about spiritual things or physical things. We are changed spiritually when our minds are renewed from our way of thinking to God's way of thinking. Likewise, in the physical, the way we handle money will only truly change when our mind is renewed to desire freedom from debt more than we desire a new HD TV or whatever. If I think differently about food, it will change the way I eat. If I think differently about my wife and family, it will change the way I treat them. If I think differently about God, it will change how I interact with Him.
“And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Romans 12:2
So if you are thinking of a New Year's resolution this year, pray and seek God for the “renewing of your mind." With a new way of thinking new actions will just naturally follow.