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Fruitful Repentance

True Repentance

Without a deliberate action of turning to that ‘something right,’ we will again find ourselves led to a direct confrontation with that ‘something wrong.’

When faced with my gross sins of selfishness and laziness (or with numerous other consuming failures in my past and present), I had vague fears that the reason I never stopped my sinning was because I had never truly repented. How can we know if we are repenting or just trying to fool God and ourselves? The Bible even answers that old question very pointedly.

It is vital for our own spiritual well being to discern true repentance. But is is also essential for us as we become involved in other people’s lives and are given the opportunity to counsel them. We will meet people who claim to have tried to live according to God’s ways, and yet things in their lives have not changed. It seems to them that God’s ways do not work. It is at this point that we are tempted—in our desire to be compassionate, to make excuses for God, as if He had failed them or lied to them. So what are some of the traits of true repentance?

Spiritual Growth

According to Acts 26:18, true repentance will always lead to increased spiritual inheritance. We will inherit more of what God has in mind for us—more understanding of His ways, more resilience against sin, etc. People who never seem to make any progress in the way of the Lord—people who get saved and move on a bit only to get stuck in an eternal limbo—are usually people who do not make it a regular practice to repent. Repentance will always bear the fruit of increased spiritual growth and inheritance. If we want more of the way of the Lord in our lives, we will want to repent more and more.

Most sin is the consequence of us getting for ourselves what we think we want, need or deserve.

Repenting of and turning from our sin will ultimately reveal other sins which have been blocking our growth. As I began repenting of my laziness, I discovered other patterns of selfishness in my life which were offshoots of what I had previously thought was only an isolated, particular shortcoming in my character. Exchanging more of our old lives and submitting them to the “conversion table” of the Kingdom makes us more accustomed to perceive things spiritually and, thereby, better able to comprehend the riches of God’s inheritance bequeathed to us. Thus, real repentance points us to previously hidden sins that we will want to get rid of in our lives, and repentance then leads us to new truths we will want to see operating in our lives.

Trust

Since God is not ‘delivering the goods’ we crave, we put our trust in ourselves and our own resources.

Another indication of true repentance is demonstrated by our choice to put our complete trust in God’s way. Mark 1:15 says, “Repent, and put your trust in the good news.” We have not fully repented unless we are willing to embrace the Lord’s way and trust that His way will work. If we admit to doing something wrong but at the same time continue to take things into our own hands in an attempt to secure ourselves, we are only repenting half-way.

Here is how partial repentance speaks: “O.K., God. I’ll stop doing that; I will not do that which You have just convicted me about. But I do not really trust that Your way—the way You say I should do things—will get everything that I need. So I’ll carry on with my contingency plan just in case You do not come through for me.”

Our hearts are truly repentant only when we so cling to the Lord that we become inclined to the belief that He really is our only hope.

Most sin is the consequence of us getting for ourselves what we think we want, need or deserve. For me, it was relaxation and rest. Since God is not “delivering the goods” we crave, we put our trust in ourselves and our own resources. Only when we come to trust the Lord to give us each day what we need can sin be effectively exchanged for righteousness through faith and repentance. Repentance says, “Yes, Lord. I’ll do it Your way. I’ll trust that You are going to come through for me.”

Thus, our hearts are truly repentant only when we so cling to the Lord that we become inclined to the belief that He really is our only hope. As long as we leave room for other options, other alternatives—including giving up on God—then we have not repented. Repentance is not something we try for a while to see if it works. In repentance, we give up our right to have other options.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2005

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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