Key Verse: “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” Acts 26:20
For the next few days, we will consider the marks or fruit of true repentance. We have all met people who claim to be have repented of their actions but lack the fruits that demonstrate the reality of their repentance.
Fruit bearing is a vital aspect of our faith. Do you remember what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees while preaching about repentance? Matthew 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” John the Baptist was reminding them and us that repentance is not about simply saying sorry but that true repentance always has fruit. Paul echoes this teaching in Acts 26:20.
The first fruit of Genuine repentance we will consider today involves heartfelt sorrow. Repentance begins with sorrow of heart as we are confronted with the reality that we have fallen short of God’s standards. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 says, “yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
In 1583 the Heidelberg Catechism was published to answer the fundamental question of the Christian faith. Question 88 asks: In how many things does true repentance consist? Answer: In two things: the dying of the old man and the quickening of the new. Question 89 asks: What is the dying of the old man? Answer: Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.
This is why true repentance cannot ever be successful without turning to God. David cried out in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David knew that he could never change his actions and deeds if his heart were to remain the same. He understood that the natural man doesn’t hate sin, he loves it.
In repentance, we exchange a heartfelt love of sin for a heartfelt hatred of sin and we exchange a heartfelt hatred of God and his ways for a heartfelt love towards Him. We begin to lose the pleasure in the earthly things that we once desired and rather have overwhelming joy in serving, obeying, loving and knowing God.