Read: Luke 3
When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (Luke 3:7-8, NLT)
One thing about John the Baptist—he was certainly no dispenser of cheap grace. Nor was he too concerned with being seeker sensitive. He was a preacher of repentance, and when people came looking for forgiveness of their sins, John forced them to show proof of their spiritual sincerity. Mr. Warm-and-Fuzzy, that John guy!
Actually, as tough as he was, John was doing people a huge favor. That’s because, no matter how you sliced it, the catalyst for reconciliation with God was authentic repentance. It still is! You cannot get right with God, be in a loving relationship with him, and live under his blessing without first having come to grips with your sinfulness through genuine, Biblical repentance. That’s why John made such a big deal about it.
Repentance is not simply an expression of regret over a wrong and a request to be forgiven for the offense, as many think. It is that, but it is more. Repentance is a change of direction that involves our heart (godly sorrow), our words (confession) and especially our behavior (righteous living). Repentance is not so much a noun, it is a verb—an action word, and the action it requires is three-fold:
First, in our understanding, it involves the knowledge of our sin that leads to a change of mind. Not a wishy-washy, double-mindedness, but a rational intellectual growth that our previous mindset was dead wrong and must be replaced by new and right thinking. In other words, the first step in true repentance involves rational awareness of wrongdoing and recognition that spiritual cleansing and behavioral change is required.
Second, true repentance involves our emotions. We must feel what our mind recognizes. We must feel the pain, disappointment and sorrow of offending God, and not just sorrow for getting caught. The fear of being exposed and the fear of punishment are motivations that only lead to inauthentic repentance—which is no repentance at all.
And third, true repentance involves appropriate action that springs from what our mind recognizes and what our heart feels. In fact, the word repentance—it is “metanoia” in the original Greek text of the New Testament—means a change of course; literally a 180-degree shift in our thinking and in our behavior. There is nothing like changed and consistent behavior to powerfully communicate authentic repentance before God.
Or, as John would says, when it comes to true repentance, the proof is in the pudding:
“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
What If God Took Over?
Re-read Luke 3:10-14. Several different groups of people came to John asking what they must do to demonstrate genuine repentance. What action step did John assign to each group? What action step do you need to take to demonstrate repentance before God? (Remember, you cannot earn your salvation, but you are certainly called to give effort to it!)