Evidence of Repentance
This morning, I read the message John the Baptist preached when he was baptizing people in the Jordan River. It was quite a fiery sermon, and he wasn’t shy in pointing out people’s sins. No wonder he was arrested by Herod later on. The statements John the Baptist made regarding repentance are very relevant for us as followers of Christ. He said:
Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham (Luke 3:8).
After our salvation, we still need to repent. Though we were cleansed from all our sin and saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we still need to repent each time we act contrary to the will of our Heavenly Father.
As Christians, we live in a fallen world, and the devil tries to trick us into sin every chance he gets. However, our greatest challenge is to be transformed into the image of Christ in every area of our lives. In order for this to take place, our mind must be renewed by the Word of God.
For such a long time, our thinking was wrong and led us to wrong actions and habits. Once we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit shows us, one area at a time, where we need to change. This is a process that takes our willingness to leave our old ways and adopt Christ’s ways. We will still fail at times—and when we do, God expects us to repent and receive cleansing. The Apostle John explains how this works: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
What is insincere or unbiblical repentance?
When we ask forgiveness because we made a mess of things and we want God to rescue us from the consequences.
When someone confronts us with our unbiblical conduct and we admit our wrong but at the same time defend our old habits.
When we make excuses with our repentance such as, “This is normal behavior in my culture,” “I was brought up in this way,” “It is due to the temperament I was born with,” “Everybody in my family acts like this,” or “The hurtful experiences in my life made me this way.”
When we confess our wrong actions to God but have no intentions of changing them.
When our mouth admits our un-Christlike behavior, but our heart doesn’t see the ugliness of our sin.
What do people rely on when they don’t change their old ways? In John the Baptist’s time, the religious Jews relied on being descendants of Abraham for their salvation and eternal security. They believed that this fact automatically included them in God’s covenant with Israel. Therefore, their repentance was often insincere, and nothing changed in their lives as a result. John the Baptist had a message for those Israelites: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Luke 3:8).
In our time, many born-again Christians rely on the love, mercy and grace of our Lord and the fact that indeed they are already saved and going to heaven. Thus they take their remaining un-Christlike behavior lightly. Their repentance is often insincere, and nothing changes in their lives as a result.
But such an attitude is not without severe consequences for ourselves and for the kingdom of God: By clinging to our old ways, we will not grow in many areas of our Christian life, and our usefulness to God becomes very limited. This will result in not fulfilling God’s plan for our lives and consequently missing out on many of the rewards God wants to give to us in heaven. Most of all, we will not be able to represent the Lord Jesus in this world in the way we should. This will bring dishonor to God’s name and the Church. It will cause people to mock Christ and His Church and will also give them an excuse for rejecting Jesus and the Word of God.
What is true repentance?
We see our un-Christlike attitudes, habits, behavior and actions in the light of God. We recognize and are deeply convicted by how ugly, offensive and sinful they really are.
We confess them as sin to the Lord and to others, and we make no excuses for ourselves.
We ask sincerely for God’s forgiveness, and we receive His cleansing by faith.
We turn from our sinful habits and behavior with all our hearts, and we desire never to go back.
We renew our mind with what God’s Word says, and with the help and power of the Holy Spirit, we replace our old behavior with what we see modeled by Christ.
What is the visible evidence of true repentance?
John the Baptist gives the answer: “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). It’s the new fruit we produce that will grab people’s attention and point them to Jesus. They will recognize our new Christlike attitude and behavior and understand that our old ways are gone.
What are the “old ways” you need to sincerely repent of and replace with Christ’s life? Is it gossip, envy, laziness, complaining, criticizing others, dishonesty, disobedience, immorality, unforgiveness, selfishness, lack of submission, rebellion, greed, backbiting or pretense? Perhaps your “old ways” are not on this list, but you know what they are.
Today, make a decision to truly repent and remove these un-Christlike ways, and put on the life that is in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul wrote:
Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and... put on the Lord Jesus Christ... . In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self... and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Romans 13:12, 14; Ephesians 4:22, 24).
My dear sister, let us desire to become all that God has planned for us to become in Jesus.
With love and prayers,