Real Repentance, Part I
Text: Luke 3:1-22 | Listen to Message
Repentance Bears Fruit
When caught red-handed in sin, anyone can say, “I’m sorry.” Anyone can feel guilty and even remorseful. Anyone can promise to change. But many – perhaps even most – will not actually repent.
The New Testament uses a compound word for repentance that literally means “to change your mind.” True repentance is the complete reorientation of your thoughts, attitudes, and desires, which ultimately drive your behaviors.
So how do you know if you’ve done that? And how do you know if you really meant it? John the Baptist answers in Luke 3:8, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” You want to know that your repentance is real, look for the fruit!
John goes on to list three specific behaviors that signal the genuineness of a person’s repentance: generosity, honesty, and contentment. It’s a simple fact that what you do with money and possessions is a clear indicator of your spiritual health (or lack thereof).
But let’s look at a more general illustration of the fruit of repentance for a moment. In Luke 3:4-6, John mentions mountains and valleys and crooked and rough places that need to be addressed if you’re going to be ready to meet Jesus. What’s he talking about?
Mountains: These are things you’ve lifted up and made supreme in your life. Maybe it’s your career, your reputation, your appearance, your fitness, your relaxation, your kids, or something else. Whatever it is, it’s an idol that obstructs your view (and enjoyment!) of Christ. Real repentance goes to work tearing this thing down and exalting Christ in its place.
Valleys: These are the deep, dark crevices where you hide the things you don’t want anyone else to know about you – things like lust, addiction, or anxiety. Real repentance backfills these crevices so nothing secret can lurk there any longer.
Crooked places: These are the things you’ve manipulated for your own benefit. Maybe you’ve twisted the truth. Maybe you’ve fudged on a time sheet or expense report. Real repentance is straightening these things out and speaking and walking in a manner that is honest and direct.
Rough places: These are the boulder fields of your life. And your boulders could be literally anything – anything that impedes your affection, devotion, and witness. Real repentance looks like shoving these barriers out of the way and clearing a smooth, level path for Jesus to walk in your life.
Make sure to check out Real Repentance, Part II, where we examine some common, cheap substitutes for real repentance!