We were exploring the implications of Romans 15:4 and I asked the question, “What is learning?” One of the young women in my Bible class gave this answer: “Learning is change.” It was simply profound.
Several years ago I was listening to an online lecture while doing some painting. The speaker (Jody Apple) gave the most profound summary of the purpose of the Bible I have heard to this day:
“Here’s where you are; here’s where you need to be. Change.”
Would you be surprised to know that when Jesus began his ministry, the first word out of his mouth was “change” (Matthew 4:17)? Actually, that’s not the specific English word, but that’s certainly the meaning of it.
In Greek, it means, “to change one’s mind for better” (Thayer). The verb “repent” in this text is imperative – a command, and it is in the present tense, which generally indicates continuous action.
“(You) keep on changing your mind for the better, because the kingdom is at hand.”
Or, “If you desire to be a citizen of this kingdom, you need to adopt a state of continual change.”
V.P. Black once said of the first Beatitude (Matthew 5:4): “The door to the kingdom is very low, and only those that kneel may enter.” In other words: change.
Jesus also said, “Take my yoke and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29), and the sister phrase, “take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). In a word: change.
To make cultural application, there are those who would like to re-brand Christianity as the gospel of total acceptance. This is misconstrued.
What the gospel of Christ really says is, “I’ll accept you in spite of what you’ve done, but if you expect to have a continual relationship with God going forward, you’re going to have to change.”
Paul rejoiced, not that the Corinthians kept on practicing adultery, fornication and homosexuality, but that, although they had practiced some of these, it was now in the past: “…and such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). They changed.
Also he wrote, “Be not conformed to this wolrd, but be ye transformed [“to change into another form” Thayer]” (Romans 12:2a, the Greek word here comes into English as metamorphosis).
Jesus told the adulterous woman, “Go thy way, and sin no more” (John 8:11). In other words: change.
And the change never stops: “Yet though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed [lit. “renovated”] day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Truly, the gospel can receive anyone, but only those willing to change can receive the gospel.