When Saying You’re Sorry Isn’t Enough

Read Matthew 3

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
(Matthew 3:8)

Thoughts… If you are like me (hopefully you are not, but I suspect you are), you have had to practice repentance early and often. At this point in my life, you’d think I’d be pretty good at it!

Repentance is one of those double-edged swords in the Christian’s life. The fact that we need to repent reveals the unfortunate presence of ongoing sin in our life, yet at the same time it reveals the fortunate grace of a righteous God who has made it possible for us to repent of what should rightly bring down his punishment upon us.

Repentance, however, is a highly misunderstood concept in our day. I have a sense that many people feel sorry for their sins simply out of the pain of sin’s consequence or the fear of impending punishment. Now don’t get me wrong, pain and fear are good motivator—if they lead us to true repentance.

But true repentance is more than saying “sorry”, feeling guilty about failure, or fearing the wrath to come. Authentic Biblical repentance, the kind that produces fruit, as John said, requires understanding that we have offended a holy God by our attitude and our action, experiencing a corresponding godly sorrow, and taking action that leads to a 180 degree change in our sinful behavior.

I think Paul captured the essence of true repentance when he wrote,

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (II Corinthians 7:10-11)

Perhaps a good assignment for today’s reading would be to think about any recent “repentance” you have offered to God, and run it through the filter of Paul’s words. See if the confession of your sin can stand the test of true repentance.

If it can, congratulations—spiritual fruit will be the result. If it can’t—well, I think you know what to do.

Prayer… Dear Lord, I pray that you would give me the gift of true repentance. Cleanse me from all my sin, and strengthen me with the wisdom and courage needed to turn completely away from the attitudes and behaviors that led to it. And as I move forward in my walk with you today, keep me from evil and the regret of surrendering to it.

One More Thing… “If you have sinned, do not lie down without repentance; for the want of repentance after one has sinned makes the heart yet harder and harder.” —John Bunyan

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3 thoughts on “When Saying You’re Sorry Isn’t Enough

  1. When I read this chapter I see two very distinct images of John the Babtist; one who is fierce and the other who is humble. It is very interesting to how this righteous man dealt with the sin of the Pharisees and Saducees and at the same time didn't sin. He simply warned them,

    "8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.9And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

    This is a very sobering reality for any believer.

  2. I see parallels to the Daniel study with Beth Moore as I recognize the "Babylon" i live in condoning many of the thoughts and behaviors that I need to repent of – thoughts of self-righteousness…what I deserve out of life. It truly needs to be a daily prayer to shed the entitlement thoughts that are the root of so much sin-producing behavior. Whether its believing I deserve more respect, wealth, acknowledgement of effort or whatever, it definitely is how my head and heart get in the wrong place.

  3. That's really an accurate and profound observation for all believers: the world condones the very attitudes and behaviors the kingdom of God demands we repent of. We will never get any encouragement from our culture to jettison the desires of the flesh.