Have you ever been in conversation with an “industry expert” who utters words, abbreviations, and phrases you’ve never heard? I remember when I first began to research investments: P/E ratio? Beta? Volatility? Selling short? ROE? It was almost enough to make me hang it up.
But I stuck with it, and while I’m no financial expert, I'm basically up to speed on the smart-sounding lingo.
Sometimes I think churches create a similar barrier; a language barrier between the religious and the not-so-religious.
Pick up a piece of Christian literature and you’ll find concepts like: saved, seeker, second coming, Greek texts, gospel, glorify, iniquity, the tribulation period and a host of other Christian-only jargon. I wouldn’t be surprised if some first-time churchgoers felt like I did learning about the financial world: this must not be for me!
But if you give it some time and attention, you can overcome the barrier. In fact, it won’t be long before you start to understand that such words are among the most important you could ever understand.
One key word that many people don’t grasp (in fact, most Christians don’t even define it correctly on their first try) is the word “repentance.” To “repent” simply means to “turn around.” It means that I recognize my need to change, I do a “180,” and I start walking in the other direction. In the Bible, this word is applied to the wrong choices people make, the sins they commit. God commands that we “repent” from sin and turn toward Him.
I like how Billy Graham defines the word. He breaks repentance down into three parts: the knowledge of sin, the emotional sorrow for it, and a decision for forsake the sin in order to obey God. He also cites a misunderstanding of repentance as the reason many religious people are hypocrites. “They may talk the language of the Christian and many of them can quote a fair amount of Scripture, but they have never really experienced true repentance…There is not one verse of Scripture that indicates you can be a Christian and live any kind of a life you want to.”
So, I suppose for all those who say they won’t attend church because of “the hypocrites who are there”, well, strike that excuse. Hypocrites are people who haven’t repented, and, therefore, are probably not real Christians. And if that is the case, I suppose church is exactly where they need to be!
Repentance is both a one-time decision and an every day choice. The first time we decide to follow God’s plan instead of our own; when we first decide to start obeying God, that’s when we “repent.” But as we go through life, inevitably we will learn more about what God wants from us and have to continue in our “repentance” (turning away from things we discover to be wrong, embracing things we discover to be right).
The Bible doesn’t present repentance as an “option” (as if we can just do it when we feel ready), but instead speaks of it as a command. “Now God commands all people everywhere to repent, for he has set on day on which he will judge the world with justice.” (Acts 17:30) In other place, the Apostle Paul summarized his message this way: “I preached that they should repent, and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
I hope you don’t let a “language barrier” stand between you and a relationship with God. The word “repent” matters very much, as do a host of other Bible words that are not widely understood.
I’ll leave you with a few concepts that deserve some research, some words and phrases worth discovering: the great commandment, the great commission, justification, the grace of God, the 10/40 window, sanctification, and fellowship. At least - you'll boost your word power. At most - you'll learn something important about God and His purpose for you.