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Repentance Expressed in Action

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John’s sermon

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. … The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Luke 3:7-14 NIV

Luke’s first sermon in his gospel is from John the Baptist. John’s thesis is “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!”

Do you notice the fruit that John outlines as evidence of repentance? It is not what we typically think of when we hear the word “fruit in a sermon.” My mind typically goes right to Galatians 5 —

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

A critical element in repentance

John focuses on the relationships of man to man, the idea that Jesus emphasizes, loving each other as Christ has loved us. The critical element of this fruit is the opposite of greed – it is generosity —

  • Share your belongings, your food, with those in need.
  • Be honest in your financial dealings.
  • Be content with your pay.

Repentance is not an abstract concept; it expresses itself in action — a change of heart, attitude, and action!

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. 

2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NIV

True repentance

True repentance makes us earnest in our desire to follow God. It accentuates our indignation towards sin. And creates a longing and concern for righteousness, justice, and faithful living in us.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

James 2:18 NIV

John teaches that being “children of Abraham” isn’t enough; it is not enough to grow up in a church-going family or express belief in God. James shares a similar message, believing that God exists is not enough! Our relationship with God (vertical relationship) must affect how we treat others (horizontal relationship). When we say we are sorry, it should make a difference in how we treat others. True repentance is expressed in doing good to others, holding our belongings lightly, being generous.


Almighty God, long-suffering and of great goodness:
I confess to you
I confess with my whole heart
my neglect and forgetfulness of your commandments,
my wrongdoing, thinking, and speaking;
the hurts I have done to others,
and the good I have left undone.
O God, forgive me, for I have sinned against you;
and raise me to newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In my repentance, soften my heart towards my brothers and sisters,
Teach me to love generously and without hesitation.
Change my heart, O God, and make me like You. Amen.

Previous posts about repentance

Ash Wednesday
Contemplating Confession
Joy in Forgiveness
Repentance: Turning From –> Turning To

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