From the first moment Jesus appeared on the scene His message was, “Repent, for the
Kingdom of God is at hand.” Being that following Jesus is marked by repentance, I don’t think much of mainstream Christianity is following Jesus. Notice, I didn’t say they’re headed to hell or they don’t have affectionate feelings about Jesus. But I don’t think they’re actually following Him. Here’s why. Repentance means “to change one’s mind.” Now this is taught in mainstream Christianity as changing one’s mind from unbelief in Jesus to belief in Jesus and then locking down the doctrines of their particular denomination and sealing those beliefs in concrete so as to never be swayed again. And then the only time repentance is applied to a believer’s life is when he or she sins. This has earned Christians the reputation of being narrow minded, something many believers wear proudly like a merit badge.
The problem is this mentality (that I embraced for years) completely misses the point. Repentance is not a onetime deal, unless you’re so arrogant to believe your thoughts are THAT similar to God’s thoughts and your ways are THAT similar to His ways. Rather, repentance is a lifestyle for a follower of Jesus. We live in a state of constant change. Sure, our core belief that Jesus is Lord never changes, BUT, if we truly believe that then we are going to find His Spirit constantly challenging our perspectives, beliefs, and attitudes in all areas of our lives. A follower of Jesus is going to find his/her views of God, church, the scriptures, money, politics, and his fellow man constantly being challenged and changed. But I’m not talking about something somebody goes out and grunts out in his/her own strength. “I need to change my mind! GRRRRRRRR! There, I changed my mind!” Rather, it is a restful work of the Spirit that occurs over our lifetimes as our hearts and minds are open to Him.
Don’t be mistaken, we do hit some points of real wrestling with God when He begins to challenge some of our core beliefs that aren’t in line with Him. We have to remember, He is the rock, not us. He is the one who doesn’t change, not us. He is the one who is unmovable, not us. Far too many Christians seem to think those attributes are to apply to them. Nope. We’re to cling to Him as the storms of change are upon us because He is the ONLY one who is stable and will keep us secure even while we are being changed.
I used to have tremendous respect for those Christians who had been following God for 60 plus years and still believed the way they did when they were 13 years old. They still read their Bible the same way, voted the same way, fellowshipped the same way, and viewed their fellow man the same way. Wow! It must be wonderful to have been so much like Jesus your entire life! Are you His twin? Now, I’m troubled by these people. That is a life void of repentance. That is a life crowned with stubbornness and lived unto one’s self. If transformation isn’t occurring then life in Christ isn’t occurring. This isn’t a scathing judgement against Christians, rather I’m simply pointing out the obvious. If you don’t see a tree flexing then there is no wind. If you don’t see a life shifting then there is no active work of the Spirit taking place. Transformation is one of the key marks of following Christ. Too many Christians think it’s a onetime thing that took place when they converted to Christianity. Then they spend the rest of their lives building walls around their beliefs so as not to be moved. That’s not following God, that’s human insecurity and the mark of one who is his own god. We grow from relational trust to relational trust (faith to faith). I’d hate to break it to you, but the Spirit of God goes around tearing down our walls, not building them up. Jesus Himself displayed this when He died on the cross and tore down all walls. If you are going to follow Jesus then you better get used to change.