Presented October 25, 2009        

Luke 3:8

 Before Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist began preparing the way by preaching.  His message was, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2)  That message was amplified when the Jewish leaders and other came to hear him in the wilderness.  Luke 3 records some of his message.  Among the things he said we find, obviously speaking to some of the corrupt leaders (and perhaps others as well) “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.”  (Luke 3:7-8) This was followed by some examples of what repentance means.  To the people in general he said to share with the less fortunate what you have (3:11), to tax collectors he said to be honest and fair (3:13) and to soldiers he said to not treat others harshly and to be content with their wages (3:14).   

From this example we learn what repentance is actually about – DOING what is right.  Repentance is a subject we ALL need to think about.  Under both the Old Law and the New Law we find repentance is essential to salvation.  Jesus said in Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  Acts 17:30-31 notes that God commands “all men everywhere to repent…”.   You can also reference the churches in Revelation 2 & 3 with problems.  They were each told to repent to make things right.  It would truly be sad to stand before God in judgment having not repented of our sins.  So with that in mind, let us notice some things the Bible says about this subject.

 I.                    What is Repentance?

a.        Defined - Thayer defines the Greek word as, “to change one’s mind.”  It is actually a compound Greek word (metanoéo) “denoting change of place or condition” and “to exercise the mind, think, comprehend.”  (Word Study Dictionary, Zodhiates) In other words, repentance is MORE than simply quitting something you were doing or doing something you were not doing – it is the MINDSET that leads to that change.
 TRUE repentance will NEVER take place until we FIRST make up our minds to permanently change whatever wrong conduct we have engaged in.  If the determination of mind is NOT there neither is the repentance!

b.       What it is NOT  -

                                                   i.      Simply saying “I’m sorry”.  There are many who think that saying, “I am sorry” is a “get out of jail free” card.  That is not true.  TRUE repentance involves sorrow, but there is also a realization of and acceptance of the consequences of one’s sins. 
Consider the child who uses the “I’m sorry” excuse every time he gets caught taking a cookie.  He is not sincere, but has figured out that saying “I’m sorry” will garner sympathy (or so he hopes).  But we know that only works so long. 
BTW, ever wonder why some states have a “3 strikes law”?  After awhile, people begin to doubt the apologies because actions speak louder than words.

                                                  ii.      Repeated apologies – related to saying I’m sorry, I think of those who keep committing the same sin(s) over and over.  Every time they sin they say, “I repent”.  But then they turn around and do the same thing at the next opportunity they have.
Another example of this is the one who knows something is wrong and reasons, “I will do it just this one more time.”
If one lives his life this way he must realize that he is not TRULY CONVERTED!  He doesn’t want to stop sinning. 

                                                iii.      Godly sorrow” - In fact, 2 Corinthians 7:10 says that even “godly sorrow” is not repentance.  In stead it leads to repentance. 
What is godly sorrow? It is genuine sorrow for the wrong you have done toward God.   This is different than the above sorrow in that it is going to produce good fruit.

                                                iv.      Regretting what you have done – there are many reasons why people regret evil conduct.  Some regret the consequences of their actions (i.e. the addict who has lost his family, job, reputation, etc, but he can’t stop because of the power of the addiction).  Others regret that they got caught (i.e. the thief who wishes he had committed his crime in a different way).  Others regret what have to do (i.e. Herod regretted having to put John to death and having made a rash promise to the daughter of Herodias – Matt. 14:6-9).  But others would truly take back their conduct if they could.  The latter is involved in TRUE repentance.

                                                  v.      Being convicted of your sins – Throughout scripture there are many examples of people convicted of sin in their life.  Some repented but others did not. 
Consider the example of Felix who trembled as Paul reasoned with him about righteousness, self-control and judgment (Acts 24:25).  But he sent Paul away and there is no evidence he ever repented.
After Jesus responded concerning the adulterous woman brought to Him to be stoned by saying, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:9 records, “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.”

                                                vi.      Confessing your sins – How many times did Pharaoh tell Moses, “I have sinned” and then as soon as Moses left, he hardened his heart again? (Cf. Ex. 9: 27, 10:16, etc.)
A hardened thief can admit to his crimes and not regret them.  Sometimes confession leads to a lighter sentence (but not repentance).
You need to confess your sins to be forgiven, but that is NOT repentance.

                                               vii.      Conditional confession – The more I think about it, I am convinced there is a word that should NOT accompany TRUE repentance – “BUT”.  What this usually means is that one is acknowledging sin in their own lives BUT it is not their fault.  There is always someone else to blame.  The reason I say this is not true repentance is because it draws attention away from what I have done wrong!  It is seeking to justify why one sinned in some way. 
Such attitudes are driven by ego and selfishness. 
An example of this is found in 1 Samuel 15 where King Saul was commanded to destroy the Amalekites. He kinda sort of obeyed the command, AT LEAST in his own eyes (he destroyed all except the king and the good animals).  Samuel AND GOD thought different.  Vs. 10-11 describe the Lord’s reaction.  So Samuel confronts King Saul.  Saul begins making excuses – “the animals are to sacrifice” (supposedly a noble gesture), (vs. 15); “But the people took the plunder…” (vs. 20-21).  Notice Samuel’s response in vs. 22-23, God demands obedience OVER sacrifices and such.   NOTICE what He thinks of rebellion and stubbornness.  NEXT notice vs. 24, “Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, BECAUSE I FEARED THE PEOPLE and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.”   We KNOW this was not true repentance because of the way King Saul acts after this.  It was not just about King Saul’s actions, it was his ATTITUDE!
Next week we are going to examine some examples of TRUE repentance and you will see this developed more clearly.  You will NOTICE that true repentance doesn’t “pass the buck.”

                                             viii.      Simply stopping what you were doing this time – there are many who will stop doing something they know is wrong because of some circumstance.  Some will behave one way when certain people are around and another way when they are not around (or around different people). 
For example: As a sports official I am around some worldly people who do and say ungodly things.  Many of them know I am a preacher and as a result of that, when I am around they change their language.  That is not repentance in any form.
If you stop doing something sinful NOW but intend to pick it up again in the future you have NOT repented!

II.                Fruit worthy of repentance –

a.        Consider the above list of things repentance is NOT.  While these things are not repentance, TRUE repentance WILL be demonstrated by possessing many of them (godly sorrow, confession of sins, regret, stopping the sinful conduct, etc.).  True repentance CANNOT exist without a genuine change of mind (heart).

b.       Above that, Fruit worthy of repentance means that you will do everything you can within your power to make things right.  It is EVIDENCE that you really have repented.
An example of one NOT demonstrating “fruit worthy of repentance” – a convicted drug addict who has been ordered to complete a drug intervention program.  He goes to the meetings and “jumps through all the hoops”.  When he completes the program it seems that he is one the right track, but not long after he returns to his old ways.  He did not truly repent!

c.        Acts 3:19 says, “Repent and be converted.”   This really helps us understand repentance.  It leads to CONVERSION.  That means you are truly changed!  We shall see this as we examine some examples of repentance in scripture.

d.       2 Corinthians 7:8-12 – This verse strongly illustrates what it means to repent.  Consider the background.  2 Corinthians written to address the response of Paul’s rebuke in the first letter concerning a fornicating relationship (1 Cor. 5:1-8).  As a result of this letter at least 2 things happened: 1) His critics increased their condemnation and 2) the sinner repented and now they are instructed to receive him back (2 Cor. 2:3-11).  In our text (2 Cor. 7), Paul expands upon their

                                                   i.       What diligence – this means to put forth great effort.  It means to leave no stone unturned in trying to make things right.

                                                  ii.      What clearing of yourselves – it means doing everything you can to make yourself right with God and those you have sinned against.  Understand that if you have sinned you have to make it right with God!  We know what He demands!

                                                iii.      What indignation – how much do we hate sin?  If you have been guilty of sin are you disgusted in yourself because of it?  (Applies to all sin as well)

                                                iv.      What fear – a realization of what you face if you DON’T get it taken care of.  Are you willing to spend eternity in hell because you refuse to repent?

                                                  v.      What vehement desire – this is the craving to be right and do all you can to make it right.

                                                vi.      What zeal – the intense burning effort you put into making things right.

                                               vii.      What vindication – like the clearing of yourselves it is doing everything to make it right, and to PROVE that you are a changed person. 

                                             viii.      In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”

                                                ix.      NOTICE vs. 12.  Paul explains WHY he wrote these things.  It wasn’t just about how to repent but because he wanted them to know how much he cared and how important their relationship to one another was, and ESPECIALLY their relationship to God.


And thus we can see an introduction to what TRUE repentance is all about.  Next Sunday I want to continue to study this subject by looking at some examples of true repentance as well as what the results of repentance ought to be, including how we need to respond when one repents.

Let it be understood that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.  Know that whether you are an alien sinner (having never obeyed the gospel) or an out of duty child of God you need to repent.  If that is your condition, please see to it today while you still have opportunity.