There is a lot of talk depending on the situation on someone saying they are converting or are converts. Typically whoever wants to listen will listen for the emotional impact or tantalizing details if “the really bad sins” were lived out. There is then a social context of how glorious the testimony is then based on a hierarchy on the norms of culture. Then the repentance is boxed in. Instead it should be examined not as an isolated aspect but part of an integral whole for Christianity as seen below.
Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-2).
There is a lot to repentance that is missed in our minds if we do not see different contexts to it in the 1st Century AD. To turn from sin starts as emotional by consequence but it is part of a desire in the heart with grace as the trigger point and faith as a response to God’s word of grace. But the goosebumps do not have to be emphasized because they must come and go in the life of the Christian or the journey is only an automated process and without the beauty of full, free will. A healthy repentance comes before any other steps. Some of those steps may be limited in efficacy in the life of the believer depending on their spiritual disposition. Repentance in the ongoing believer would be key to maintaining that receptivity and was referred to in the early church as ex opere operantis.
Below are some other factors to consider on repentance.
1: Repentance means transformation for what is better and what you are designed for. We are designed by God in love and for love. Turning from sin is to turn from putting ones self first and look upward to love. I often like quoting this verse, “Perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18).
2: Repentance transforms us but does not change our inherent design. No one becomes a god through repentance. Our DNA stays the same like a caterpillar does when it becomes a butterfly. We are better informed in the word for repentance, metanoia, having related etymology to the word metamorphisis.
3: This next point is tricky. Sometimes the call of God is to stop leaning on things that prepared us and embrace God for all he is in the now. The audience for Hebrews were those whose experience was steeped in the beauty of the Old Testament and for a God ordained season included animal sacrifices. But the fulness of the gospel is to turn from a furry lamb to The Lamb which we see through the narrative of the cross of Christ in the gospels. For that sort of preparation to be over, those former works are now dead works. But in salvation we are to go on to good works. “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Paul also addressed a dividing line in salvation history saying, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). A converted people are touched by the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) but also points to him in words and deeds as fruit of true repentance to what matters.
True repentance restores us to the design of the original experience that Adam and Eve had before the spiritual death of sin put an end to that maintaining grace. What is the struggle of humanity without the encounter with Christ is a common striving to get back to what Adam and Eve lost and feeling often a paralyzing shame to yank one to not seeing the way out.
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
“I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have greatly sinned. In my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault. In what I have done and what I have failed to do.” These are words said in my church each Sunday. Historically not the first time to approach God my savior. But always treating each time like the first time is a good idea because we need to be honest, let God do the work allow God to “say the word and my soul will be healed”. This dynamic is only a breath away in words such as this. This is where the word of faith comes in.