Change of Mind, Change of Me

In fifteen years serving teenagers and their families I have been asked questions that qualify for “doozy” status. Some questions, you expect, like a demand that God provide proof of Himself, that justice be qualified for what it means to me, or that suffering be explained in the same existence as a loving God. Sometimes you get obvious questions you still weren’t expecting, like curiosity about all of the species variance come from when the flood is told as a real story. What did it feel like to walk on water? What did it look like when the disciples kept reaching their hands in to the baskets and pulling out more bread?

One time, I was asked a question and I felt like I had the golden opportunity to answer on behalf of dudes everywhere. “A boy asked me out and I don’t like him like that. What do I do?” You can bet every eyelash on your face that part of my answer included “Don’t say, ‘Let’s just be friends.’ No one believes that garbage.”

I think the most important question I have ever been asked, though, in a decade and a half is the question, “How do I not sin?” It is important and it’s not even the right question. But the fact that it is a question and it will be asked is why it is so important to look at what the work of Jesus Christ actually does.


In Your justice and Your mercy
Heaven walked the broken road
Here to fight this sinner’s battle
Here to make my fall Your own [1]

Repentance is a real call. I heard a talk given a long time ago about it and I took its facets as gospel because I wanted them so much to be true. A few years later, the speaker went off the wrong end of the compassion overcorrection and took himself, and much of his following, into squishy relativity-soaked contrivances with no real stances on truth or submission to God’s reality. That’s a lot of words to say, dude went granola and I’m not naming him.

Point is that I realized before talking about this, I needed to research if this truth he taught was actually true.

I came across a ridiculously thorough explanation of repentance. It was not only thorough, but revolutionary. It looks at where the mind has gone wrong about repentance and how we can recapture the essence. The writer, Eli Brayley is a Canadian pastor serving in Utah. For his website, he writes an article about the Greek source for repentance, “metanoia.”

Metanoia, breaks down into “meta” to change, and “noia” the mind. Brayley contextualizes this by saying that it simply means changing your mind after a significant event. [2] “Meta” also includes an “afterwards” sort of flavor. The fascinating part of this then is that metanoia is not a static event. It requires input and then provides output. The input is some manner of truth, the output is a changed mind.

That is vastly different from “repentance” which is based on the Latin that created the concept of penance, corrective behavior to correct behavior.

So now, a competition between two wildly different methods of change. Change your insides because of what you are doing outside or change what you are doing outside because you are changing inside.

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Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder [3]

For the people who lived at the time, the call to change their minds because of a new truth would cause people to pause. It means there is a revolution coming to your mind that will cause you a new thought life and process. It was truly a revolution at the time because the leaders of the religious institutions had created a bottleneck to the access to God and His love. You had to go through them. You had to do your business with a priest if you wanted to even come close to anticipating reception of that love.

You had to come to the temple. You had to pay your money. If you were poor you could purchase a lesser offering. People in the temple took a cut at every transaction, including money changing. Men became rich from people’s desperate search for a love that forgives and restores.

And then a rabbi went bat-snot crazy in the temple and removed several dozen middle men.

“Metanoia!”


And I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
To throw my life forever
Into the triumph of the Son [4]

Of course, His thoughtful revolution on how to approach God was not the end-state of Jesus’s walk on His created rock flying through the space He made with a word. Jesus came to correct a problem that began with a single choice. That choice empowered a trillion sins suspended in time and regret, and He loved us too much to watch us unable to do the good thing.

He wanted metanoia.

He also strove to create metamorphosis.

Two changes: mind, and reality of definition.

We see this correlation in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

Mind change.

Mold change.

The word for “transformed” is metamorphosis, the same word we use to describe a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.


Let Your love be my companion
In the war against my pride
Long to break all vain obsession
Til You’re all that I desire [5]

The struggle, then, and question is “when have we arrived? When are we different?” The answer is that you are totally in charge of one part of the process. And the other, you have to wait.

The part for which you must take responsibility is submission of your mind to be changed. That’s easy. It just means listen, and if you hear truth, act like it’s true. That’s all submission requires. The change, though, the transformation is a process. Sometimes it works its way through. Sometimes it takes immediate effect.

I mean, if a dude becomes a Christian and he has had a really bad case of “grunt mouth,” Army speak for “use the seven deadly words of George Carlin the way a five year old uses catsup,” don’t be surprised that it takes the man a second to figure out how to not swear at every little thing. But the change that begins is a doubt inside when those words fly. Not so much because the word choices matter, but the heart behind them does, and that commitment to newness of heart and mind occasionally creates new speech patterns.

The metanoia creates fertile ground for metamorphosis.


And I know Your love won it all
You took the fall
To embrace my sorrows
I know you took the fight
You came and died
But the grave was borrowed
I know you stood again
So I can stand with a life to follow
In the light of Your name [6]

There is an interesting antonym available for metanoia. “Pronous” meaning “before-mind” can go to mean that the way your mind was before hearing new stuff is the same way your mind will be afterwards. Its kissing-cousin is “paranoia” which means your mind is next to itself.

Another way of looking at it is that your mind is spending too much time trying to be a passive observer of the environment of truth in which it operates. The paranoid mind acknowledges truth the same way that we acknowledge clouds beneath us when we ride a passenger airline.

Yes, I see it. So what? What am I going to do about that? It’s so far outside of my current experience.

We are created, not as static created beings, but as fascinating images of the living God who live in time with forward momentum and development. To exist within a perpetual stasis with no forward momentum is to deny our very reality. It doesn’t deny God as much as it denies the very construct we have to verify His reality.

There are times, though, when God gives us moments to be still. He gives us times when our forward momentum gets benched and we sit and observe. God shows us a spectrum of options, even sometimes a divergence of destiny, just to assure us that He has the market cornered on what is best for you.

In that chrysalis state, He assures us that we can be committed to change toward God’s order and God’s ways.

And then we emerge.

We really are butterflies.

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“How do I not sin?” Ultimately, it’s not the right question. But it’s where our pronoia begins before metanoia takes place.

“How do I live?” Now that’s a good question. We must be changed and transformed in our minds and through that transformation of mind (no not what we think, but how and why) in the power of the Gospel, we search out that very important question of God’s will. The how we live.

It’s important, though, that we do fight to obey. It’s important that we fight to follow the instructions given us. It is possible to become a butterfly and walk everywhere.

The problem is that it’s ridiculous.

A caterpillar has six legs. It also has prolegs, according to Dr Matan Shelomi, professor of etymology at UC Davis, things that are like legs, function like legs, but are ultimately not legs. [7] I’m not kidding about how amazing the analogy fits. Prolegs, like the pronoia, function to help suspend a creature in its incomplete form.

After the butterfly emerges, the prolegs are gone, but six legs still remain. It could walk everywhere it desired to go, but would waste its limited life in fear and endanger itself all the more.

When we are changed, we must participate in newness of life. We exit our mental chrysalis and enjoy flight. It is the form for which we are created and the adventure for which we are designed. We weren’t created to not sin. We were created to love God, love the life to which we are called on His behalf, and love the people into whose paths we fly.

Please, take a second and read Eli Braley’s article on metanoia here.


1. Eli Brayley, “The Great Meaning of Metanoia,” timothyministry.com, July 2012. Accessed September 23, 2018. http://www.timothyministry.com/2012/07/the-great-meaning-of-metanoia.html

2. Joel Houston, “Love is War” Zion, Hillsong Music Publishing, 2012. CCLI# 6428798

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Dr Matan Shalomi, “Insects: How many legs does a caterpillar have?” Quora.com. Internet sourced answers. Accessed September 23, 2018. https://www.quora.com/Insects-How-many-legs-does-a-caterpillar-have

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