The Discipline of Repentance

Consider the terms “discipline” and “repentance.” Neither is part of a “fun package” from Disney. Both concepts remain fundamentals of kingdom discipling and personal transformation.


The term speaks to behavior based upon strength of will. The Greek word derives from the process of character and behavior development associated with growth and maturity of children. “Training that produces maturity through a process.” The word, “paideia,” includes concepts of instruction, training, chastisement, and nurture, and assumes that hardship, pain, tests, and strength of will to overcome derive from a leadership relationship with children or disciples.

To better understand “discipline,” we begin with God’s designed roles of leadership, each assigned a mode of discipline specific to the responsibilities of that leadership. Parents discipline. Discipling leaders discipline. Father disciplines true children. Scripture disciplines to produce right behavior in the process of teaching, reproving, correcting, and disciplining: “All writing of Scripture profits, teaching, reproof, correction, and discipline in righteousness, so God’s man may mature, completely equipped to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Bible makes it clear that discipline carries difficulty, pain, stretching experiences of hardship and exertion that is uncomfortable and undesirable at the moment, that produces strength of will to endure, continue, finished, and mature. Without it, a person remains unprepared for the difficulties that would hamper or limit their full realization of personal destiny and complete obedience to God’s expectations and assignments.

The Bible never assumes or presumes that receiving spiritual power, gifts, calling, or grace automatically produces character and maturity in and of themselves. The Bible continues the expectations of the Creator’s designs for family, kingdom, and culture in terms of leadership, but the basis for God’s design in discipline always speaks back to His original design and destiny for the individual. That is, the goal of discipline remains focused upon maturing the person God created so they can be the person to do what He called them to do.

Some of the discipline applies directly from leader to that person. Some of the discipline comes directly from Father or as part of a Providential pathway of preparation involving the leaders Father assigns to a person’s life. When Father is disciplining, kingdom leaders strengthen the person to endure, to continue in the process without giving up or quitting.

No discipline feels good during the process—it’s painful! Having finished the process, people rest in a harvest right behavior, or the strength of will to function properly, for those who are trained in this way. So strengthen tired hands and weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Work that peaceable fruit into your relationships, living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. [Hebrews 12:11-14]

The entire chapter speaks to a condition of life, the mundane of reality, the daily grind of maturity. That is, the Bible reveals who God is and how He does stuff so we recognize His involvement in our lives. We learn to interpret our experiences of hardship as part of the Providential pathway toward our maturity, a pathway God Himself lays before our feet in order to prepare us to be the person He created us to be so we can do what He has called us to do.

The chapter also makes clear that no discipline or the refusal to endure the discipline opens the door to an orphan spirit. Only people without fathering leaders lives without discipline.

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. [Hebrews 12:7, 8]

Make sure that no one is profane like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. He couldn’t recognize any opportunity for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. [Verses 16, 17]

“Make sure” is a charge to leaders, to the Ecclesia, to confront and respond to people suffering because they refused discipline and chose to live out what an undisciplined life produces. We cannot allow that to be a norm or influence that troubles many through bitterness. The norm is a disciplined life of repentance. The sense of the “no opportunity for repentance” speaks back to his choice to treat his destiny with disdain, to live without a proper response to discipline as a “profane” person.

That is, Esau lived without holiness, without peace, because he chose to reject and resist the process of discipline that would prepare him. He lived with an orphan spirit because he refused the discipline of the Father, in other words. The writer of this Scripture continues to speak to the process of finishing the race, receiving the discipline to finish, walking in the norms of kingdom in which the leaders of the kingdom bring people into maturity.

We are told to set the norms of the kingdom so that Esau’s have no influence to distract us from pursuing wholeheartedly the purposes of God.


The term carries us to foundations of kingdom life. Hebrews tells us that repentance is foundational. John the Baptist and Jesus both preached radical life change as a preparation for kingdom living. Repentance is basis, a norm of spiritual life, because repentance means, “I change to be changed.”

The word itself speaks to change of perception, viewpoint, mindset, and thinking with a sense of changing a way of thinking in order to embrace a new basis for faith and lifestyle. Jesus says, “Repent and believe the Gospel since the kingdom is here.” [See Mark 1:15.] That is, “I change so that I can be changed.”

The sense of penance that was erroneously introduced into the word “repent” comes from poor translation and attributing some meaning from Latin that fits the course and religious mode of religion. No such meaning comes from the Greek or the mouth of John or Jesus, and certainly doesn’t make sense in the context of the use of the word. Jesus doesn’t say, “Feel really sorry and do penance since the kingdom is here.” Jesus says, “Repent and believe” because repentance moves the will toward the Gospel so that grace can flow into a person’s life!

Repent and believe fits the process of change through Divine grace, grace being the spiritual capacity to be and do what faith embraces. Confession brings forgiveness. Repent brings transformation. That is why John says, “Produce the fruit of repentance.” Repentance means changed behavior outside because of changed heart on the inside. Simply put, you won’t believe if you refuse to change your mind. Changing your mind about something moves you toward a strength of will to believe. To live it out what you believe without a change of heart is impossible. Human strength fizzles without the power of the Cross.

That is, Jesus did at the Cross what we could never do on our own, and the Cross has power – the power of God according to the Bible – to provide us with the power of personal transformation.

So, repentance is a spiritual set up for the grace and power of the Cross. I change to be changed.

Repentance means “after mind.” The sense of the word speaks to what comes after the mind changes not a sense of regret about what happened before. Fit that thought into Paul’s discussion in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

The Lord’s servant must not strive but be kind with everyone, capable at teaching, and be patient with difficult people. Meekly discipline those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God may provide them repentance and they will recognize the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

Repentance provides a turning of the mind to produce, after that change, a whole new opportunity for personal transformation not available without repentance.

Again, note Paul’s discussion with the Ecclesia at Corinth:

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so we did not harm you in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.

The discipline of repentance arrived through Paul’s words to the Ecclesia, a fathering rebuke and instruction, painful but necessary, charged with the potential of turning God’s people toward lasting change!

A Repentance Lifestyle

Building a kingdom lifestyle upon a foundation of discipline and repentance appropriates the power, process, and preparation each of us needs to be the person God created and do what God has called us to do. Such a lifestyle appropriates leadership from God directly and from those assigned as leaders in our lives.

Father’s discipline may not be clear to us, depending upon our level of maturity and understanding of the Bible and experience in how God does stuff. Leaders often help us interpret our experiences lest we fail to properly apply grace to them as a means of personal growth and maturity. Without leaders, we may run from Father’s process, fail to finish the race, or rebel like Esau and seek momentary pleasure or comfort instead of pain and endurance required to grow up.

For me, repentance sounds so powerful, I want it to be my number one fun thing to do, my hobby and pastime, my best friend and comrade, the basis upon which my strength of will and passion appropriate Divine grace and power to become the person God creates and calls me to be.

Paul says, “I am what I am by God’s grace.” Repentance reaches toward revelation of who I am by God’s grace, sets me up for power, grace, and maturity. I want that!


Dr. Don

Dr. Don

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