Read: Matthew 3
“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (Matthew 3:8)
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, especially in our day. I have a sense that many people feel sorry for their sins simply out of the guilt that doing wrong naturally produces or the pain of sin’s consequence or even the fear of impending punishment. Now don’t get me wrong, guilt, pain and fear are good motivators—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 the Baptist preached, requires that we understand that our actions and attitudes have offended a holy God, that we experience a corresponding godly sorrow, and that we take 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 does, congratulations—spiritual fruit will be the result. If it doesn’t—well, I think you know what to do.
“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
What If God Took Over?
Have you been guilty of asking for forgiveness without truly repenting? Open your Bible to II Corinthians 7:1-11, absorb what it says, then take a few moments to talk with God about your sins. Then make sure what you offer God—true repentance—is followed by the fruits of repentance.