Friday, March 04, 2005

The fruits of repentance: Job 33:26-28

How can you tell if someone (or even yourself) has repented? As a parent, I have often wondered this in regard to my own children. As an elder in a local church, at times I have had to hold people accountable for their sins, to call them to repentance, and then watch over them to see if their repentance is genuine. So how can you tell if someone has repented? John told the Pharisees, when the came to be baptized by him, that they should first, "bear fruits in keeping with repentance." (Luke 3:8) In the following passage, Elihu paints a picture of someone who has repented and found forgiveness with God.
"Then he will pray to God, and He will accept him, that he may see His face with joy, and He may restore His righteousness to man. He will sing to men and say, 'I have sinned and perverted what is right, And it is not proper for me. He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, and my life shall see the light.' " (Job 33:26-28)
Elihu shows us two fruits of repentance. First, is confession. Confession means to speak the same as. In other words, to confess our sins not only means to reveal them, but also to agree with God about them. Confession means that we agree with God that our actions were sinful, that we have sinned and offended God. We can "confess" our deeds all day long, but if we fail to recognize our sin as sin, then we will never be changed in that area of our lives. The whole purpose of the law was that "sin would become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:14) We must acknowledge our sins and agree with God that they are sinful.

The second fruit of repentance is love for God. This love is expressed in joy and gratitude for the free gift of forgiveness we receive through Jesus Christ. Through this forgiveness we have a renewed appreciation for the work of the cross and the continued work of God in our lives. Jesus, speaking of the woman anointed his feet with perfume from the alabaster box, said, "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:47) The forgiveness of God that flows through our repentance causes a new love to spring up in our hearts unto God. The more we find forgiveness with God, the more we find that we love him. If there has not been any true repentance, and thus no forgiveness of sins, then our love for God will remain little.

While only God can know and judge the heart of a man (or woman), we are told that we will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16). If we cannot agree with God concerning the sinfulness of our sins, and if there is no burning love for God in our hearts, then perhaps we should examine ourselves to see if we have truly found repentance before God, or if our repentance is merely a counterfeit. "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)

David Robison

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