- Genesis 1: 2-3
…And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
- Mark 1:4-11
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. … 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Another version that I read of Mark 1, verse 4 says:
“So, John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, calling for baptism and a change of heart that lead to forgiveness of sins.”
- Acts 19:1-7
And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them
Without the power of the Spirit, there is no light! And without repentance – in other words, “a change of heart”, there is no filling by the Spirit!
I want us to consider two definitions for repentance: first the definition provided by Marcus Borg: repentance is not how we understand the word now (repentance from sins), but rather a “return from exile”. To repent is to enter the kingdom of God: we die to the old way of being and we are “born again” into a new way of being. Matthew uses this same opening: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So once again, we have this message that our relationship with God is changing: God is near to us (not far away) and that we simply have to turn around and return from exile (separation). But this goes hand in hand with the idea of repentance from sins, if we look at it in the following sense.
Repentance is more than simply asking for forgiveness or confessing that we have done something wrong and saying sorry. I read this morning
Saying “I’m sorry” is something anyone can do. Sorry doesn’t require change, only an acknowledgement that you messed up. Sorry is a way out of a problem, not the beginning of a new path. …Simply saying “I’m sorry” allows that a problem exists, but does nothing to bring about a genuine change of heart.
The idea of metanoia, which has been translated as repentance, is one of admission to God of our deep sorrow for the pain and hurt caused by our actions and sins, and a resolve to change our way of being and life to act correctly in the future. It is adopting a new way of life, a new way of being.
A little bit like trying to lose weight and get fit, as many of us do at the beginning of every year: but the reality is that it isn’t enough to go on a diet. We need to change our lifestyle and adopt a new lifestyle that allows us to be healthy and fit. It is a complete changing of our ways: adopting new eating habits, adopting a new morning routine, perhaps starting each morning with warm lemon water. And the first weeks and months of this new way of life are a struggle: you feel like you are on a diet, rather than adopting a new lifestyle. But you also are aware that if you go back to your “normal habits” you will go back to that weight and that body that you were trying to improve.
David admits: He struggles with addiction. He is determined to beat his habit but gives in, feels bad, intends to make a change, but ends up slipping time and again. When he does, it deeply hurts his wife and children. He sees the pain in their faces and feels bad that he has hurt them. David is remorseful but not repentant.
Regret and remorse have consequences, but do not necessarily address the wrong-doing of those consequences. People get caught and can feel remorse because there are consequences to their actions. For example, you can speed down the highway, get caught and feel remorse. But you may not feel repentant over the speeding. You have remorse because you received a ticket. The ticket temporarily slows you down, but eventually you creep back up to that speeding level.
Repentance would be sticking to the speed limit, rather than speeding. Repentance for alcoholism is getting into rehab, and then once out changing the lifestyle he has so that he has more human connection and less need to give into the addiction. Repentance would be living a new way of life, in spite of his weakness and addiction.
The same is true spiritually for us. It is not enough for us to be sorry or feel guilty for our sins. This feeling of guilt or remorse achieves nothing for us! Being sorry or feeling remorse is not enough either. To repent is not simply an emotional act, but rather requires a change of moral purpose, and requires regret of the past and pursuit of a new direction.
2 Corinthians 7:10 explains this as follows:
For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly sorrow produces death.
The Message explains this a little better:
Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
It’s not enough to regret what you did. Repentance is about turning things around and living life a completely new way! Repentance is adopting a new way of thinking, it is a change of mind, transformation of your mind and thoughts, deciding to live your life with a new purpose. It is interesting that baptism is an immersion to complete saturation: it can just as well be immersion in a transformed mind and way of thinking, and not simply immersion in water. Water is simply symbolic of this immersion to change. The purpose of baptism by John was repentance: to bring about a change of mind, a change of way of being. The water baptism symbolizes a cleansing process, the letting go of the old way of being.
The fundamental idea with this repentance is not sorrow or remorse: it is change. But profound and deep change: not just a change superficially of our actions to follow the rules, but rather as Jesus taught us, a profound change of being. There’s a reason that Jesus spoke of forgiveness being not 7 times, but rather 7 times 70 (7X70) times (490) – because you need to be sorry and forgive yourself this many times in order to truly change your way of thinking and being regarding a certain situation or action. This repentance is the first step in the realization of Truth and knowing God. The Word (Jesus) dissolves, breaks up and washes away all thoughts of the material world. And it leaves us as spiritual beings that need and hunger to be connected with Spirit.
We all want light in our lives, we all know that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light. We all know that after the baptism of repentance, we make room for the baptism of Spirit. But are you willing to pay the cost for this power and light – filling of the Spirit?
What am I talking about? Why am I talking about paying the cost? Isn’t this a free gift? Yes, the indwelling Spirit of God is a gift: but throughout the Gospels, Jesus would say to the sick or the blind or the lepers that he healed: “Go and sin no more.” The healing that took place was a physical and spiritual healing: and this required a new way of life and being! And you: have you had this transformation? Are you working out your salvation with fear and trembling?
… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
And so, we are told as children of God to do everything without grumbling, murmuring, complaining, arguing, hesitation or disputing. (Philippians 2:14) Everything. What does this “everything” refer to? God’s will and God’s work for God’s good pleasure: because it is God who works in you to will and to work. THEN you will shine like stars, a bright light in this world, full of Spirit, and showing to all the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
Every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit, but every Christian does not heed the direction and instruction of the Spirit in their lives. Some Christians are still caught up listening to their material needs, their fears, their ego, their selfish ways. But those guided by the Spirit can rest in the assurance that God’s good will be done. Those who are spiritual “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), that is, they walk, or live their life, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God says in Genesis 1 – “Let there be light” – and Jesus says to us in Matthew 5: 14
You are the light of the world.
Not Jesus – YOU! A city on a hill cannot be hidden. And if the Spirit fills you, that light cannot be hidden! So – let your light, of a changed way of being, of thinking, of speaking, of acting be the beacon of light that draws others to God.