But neither sorrow nor confession is repentance. Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “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.”
Godly sorrow leads to a whole series of important attitudes and actions. A longing to make things right.
Repentance is action that restores, renews, and reconciles. Repentance is a very relational term. When we repent, we are doing something different to restore a relationship that is broken.
So when John preached “Repent,” what were the people expected to do? They were expected to do the work of repentance, which means they were to turn away from any selfishness, any sinfulness. They were then to start following God’s ways. That would mean an active choosing to live a new kind of life. Repentance is not just a one-time choice. It is a pattern of choosing. It is perhaps a thousand choices. Or maybe a million. Over and over and over again, we choose to follow God’s way. We choose it in the small matters of life, and we choose it in the large ones. We choose to do the work of reconciling a broken relationship with people in our lives, with God.
John describes it like this in Matthew 3, verse 8, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” John is talking about a pattern of life. Fruit is what a tree produces. If you’ve been following this blog for the past year or so, it probably won’t surprise you what I’m going to write next. I’m going to ask you to think about the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, there are two lists. One list is the fruit of the sinful nature, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The other list is the Fruit of the Spirit. This list, Paul writes, includes a sampling of attitudes and actions that will be flowing from our lives if we are walking in step with the Holy Spirit. That’s just another way of saying what John said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” This is why I’ve been writing about the Fruit of the Spirit so frequently lately: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Want to know if you are living a repentant life? Look to see if those qualities flowing out of your life.
It seems to me that you will also be humble and forgiving. We’ll talk about that in the next post.