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Fruitful Repentance

As soon as we give up our pursuit for ourselves, our hearts will become ready for repentance.

True repentance, on the other hand, is eager to confess, and a repentant heart is grateful when its sins are found out. Real conviction has a much more difficult time registering in someone’s heart after he is caught than it does before he is caught.

What About“—People under this false sense of conviction want to know when they will be off probation, when their ministry can resume, and exactly what is expected of them during their restoration period. They want to get beyond the inconvenience of their sins’ consequences. They come wanting to negotiate a temporary contract which will limit their disadvantages while they are undergoing rehabilitation. Their sentences often begin with, “I suppose I’ll have to …” or “What about this—is this part of what I have to give up, too?”

True repentance, by contrast, is so consumed with the awful fact of what it already knows (the sin committed), that it cares to know nothing except the wonderful fact of Jesus’ sacrifice. True repentance sits selflessly silenced and humbled by God’s love, without trying to pin down an exact program or timing for restoration to ministry.

Learned Lots“—You hear this mostly in people’s testimonies of how they walked away from the Lord, lived in rebellion, enjoyed the pleasures of sin, then were finally restored back to God. Their conviction grows philosophical, and they try to convince themselves and others that they “learned a lot while away from God.” Through some glib reading of Romans 8:28, they try to minimize the loss that sin causes in their lives by marveling at how God can use even their sins for His purposes.

Admitting we have been wrong and welcoming the Lord to straighten out our thinking is a lot better than trying to pretend that we are just fine the way we are!

Conversely, true repentance sees no glory, no good, no advantage gained through sin. A truly repentant heart knows that, compared to all we might have learned while walking with the Lord in obedience, we learn nothing of eternal value, nor do we produce any lasting fruit, while walking away from the Lord in rebellion. Obedience is always better than sacrifice.

What Prevents Repentance?

Isaiah 6:10-11 sheds further light on what real repentance is and why it seems so elusive for some people. God says a peculiar thing when He says,

Render the hearts of this people insensitive (fat), their ears dull (heavy), and their eyes dim (besmeared), lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and return and be healed. This passage makes it sound almost as if God will be forced to forgive them if they repent. He seems to have no choice in the matter. When people have sensitized hearts, sensitized ears, and sensitized eyes, God forgives them. God will always remain true to His Word. If the lack of any one of these qualities hinders repentance, what can we learn about our spiritual eyes, ears, and hearts that will help us repent eagerly and openly?

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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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