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Prove by the way you live…
“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
Matthew 3:8 NLT
Today I continue on the subject of repentance. In the previous devotional on Monday, I looked at the meaning of the word. Many people think it’s enough to just confess their sins to God and feel bad about them, and as I noted in Monday’s post, that’s remorse, not repentance. True repentance involves not only knowing that you’ve sinned and feeling human sorrow, but going the extra step as well — experiencing godly sorrow and changing your life to never commit that sin again.
Repentance is probably one of the hardest things for a Christian to achieve, and I have a hunch that it is one of the biggest roadblocks to evangelism. Imagine you’re conversing with a person who has been engaging in sexual immorality for many years. They know that they’ve hurt their spouse or family with their behavior, and they may have even compromised their health through their actions. They feel remorse, but they love their sin too much to give it up (repent).
This is just an example, but it’s the same with other sins. Humans have always had a tendency to elevate sin behaviors to idol worship, putting their sins ahead of God. It’s easy for someone to profess their faith, and it’s also quite simple to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But repenting and never committing a sin again is tough, and a stumbling block for many believers aiming for sanctification. For a non-believer, it’s even worse because they see that favorite idol of theirs being forced to take a back seat to what they may see as an “imaginary” God!
The following quote from BibleKeeper.com sums up repentance nicely:
The biblical definition of true repentance is a transformation in thinking that leads to a change in action. As Paul put it, “Don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2, WEB).”
In this way, repentance involves a shift in one’s own values and beliefs. Repentance is shown via taking steps that reflect one’s altered worldview.
Today’s verse from the Gospel of Matthew quotes John the Baptist, who is on the cusp between the Old and New Covenants. In the verse, John denounces a group of Pharisees and Sadducees (the Jewish religious elite) who have come to watch him both preach about the coming Messiah and invite the Jewish people to prepare the way for Jesus through repentance. Those who chose to make the change in their lives to turn back to God symbolized it through baptism in the Jordan River.
John saw these Jewish religious leaders and understood their self-righteous behavior all too well, so he warned them about the judgement they would receive and told them that repentance was the only way to avoid that judgement. Sadly, the actions that eventually resulted in the crucifixion of Christ showed that repentance was not forthcoming for many of the religious leaders.
How about you? Have you repented and changed your ways? For those sins you have repented of, you’ll find that any shame or remorse you felt is gone for good. That in itself should be motivation to repent!
Next time, I’ll take a look at an age-old question that doesn’t have a definite answer: is repentance necessary for salvation?
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for offering a choice between sin and repentance, between eternal life with You and an eternity of separation from You. Through my faith in Your Son Jesus Christ, may I follow the path of salvation, and may repentance provide the necessary sanctification to be assured of my future life praising You! AMEN.