What does genuine repentance look like? Is it merely a feeling of sorrow or something more?
Genesis 5 & 6:
It didn’t take long for sin to take its toll, did it? Chapter 6.5-6 says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
This is sometimes called “total depravity.” Even though sin doesn’t make us all as bad as we could be, it makes us all as bad as we need to be to deserve an eternity separated from Him.
God is still grieved over sin today. All too often we mistakenly believe that when we sin, we are only hurting ourselves, or, at worst, it’s just against another person. But sin is first and foremost against our Holy God!
Backing up to chapter 5 we see the genealogy of Adam. Satan had told Eve in the garden, “You will not surely die.” (Gen. 3.4) Yet as each generation is recounted, it is followed by the words, “… and he died.” One more proof that he is a liar.
Death means “separation from something.” Spiritual death (separation from God) took place instantly. And though physical death (separation of the spirit from the body) took longer, it also happened as a result of sin’s entrance into the world.
Verse 12, “… Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” This theme permeates all of Scripture.
Sowing & reaping
Here is the law of sowing and reaping in action. Those who sow violence and wickedness will ultimately reap the same.
The fruit of repentance
Verse 3.8 says, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” When we sin we are to repent and go to God and anyone else we have sinned against and seek forgiveness. When we do 1 John 1.9 says, “He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But genuine repentance involves a change in thinking and behavior, as well as, sorrow over what we have done. Change is the fruit of repentance.
Is there an area in your life where God has shown you that you need to change? Go to God and seek His forgiveness and help. Then humble yourself and seek forgiveness of any others you have sinned against. Then the real work begins.
It’s not enough to express sorrow and see the need to change. If that’s all we do, we run the risk of becoming the forgetful hearers James talked about:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (Jas. 1:22-25).
We can look into the mirror of Scripture and then go away and forget what manner of man or woman we are. We must keep looking daily into His law. We must renew our minds on an on-going basis. Then we must become doers of His Word. The scary part is that if we do not, James says we are deceived or deluded. We actually think we are ok and can even become very self-righteous about it! That’s what happened to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day.
Becoming a doer of the Word involves two things. In counseling we call it “the put-off put-on process” (Eph. 4.22-24). We must put-off the habits of the old man—our sinful nature. Then we must put-on new godly habits. Without both we will not truly change.
While we are to do our part to obey God, both by putting off the habits of the old man and by putting on the habits of the new man, we aren’t do so out of a legalistic attempt to earn God’s favor or get our tickets punched for heaven.
Instead, we must first come to Him as sinners in need of a Savior and accept His forgiveness. When we do, He gives us a new heart and begins to change us from the inside out. Our obedience should be a response to His love and grace. It’s the fruit of a changed life. And even then, can only be done in dependence on Him.
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