What Is Repentance and Why Is It Important?

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“Repent, and be saved!” “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”

Jesus called for it (Matthew 4:17). His forerunner, John the Baptist, called for it (Matthew 3:1-2).

The notion of repentance is one we hear about a lot in the Christian faith. But what is repentance? Is it just about feeling badly for the things we’ve done wrong, or is there more to it?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines repentance as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life.” Beyond changing one’s mind and feeling regret over past actions, it’s a decisive step to turn from sin and change our behavior.

In fact, the Common English Bible translation has John the Baptist urging people to “change your hearts and lives” instead of merely “repent”—why they mean the same, perhaps the writers felt “change your hearts and lives” put more of the burden of reform upon a person.

For indeed, when we decide to follow Christ, we must reform. So much about our lives changes. We put aside the old way to embrace the new. We shrug off worldly values and lift. Up Kingdom values.

Joh the Baptist was a wild guy—a wilderness man in every sense of the word. The Gospel of Matthew tells us he wore clothes made of camel’s hair belted at the waist in leather, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He prompted a crowd of ogling onlookers and enthusiasts alike, and many must have become enraged at his harsh prophecies. After all, he didn’t mince words when the religious experts, the Pharisees and Sadducees, came to be baptized.

“He said to them, ‘You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire’” (Matthew 3:7-10 CEB)

“Put your money where your mouth is,” John’s essentially saying. You say you’ve repented? Show us!

We show we’ve repented, truly changed our hearts and our lives, when we produce good fruit. Our actions bring positive results in alignment with God’s kingdom. Our words reflect His love.

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus warns His disciples, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

If you’re producing good fruit, it’s a good indication of your repentance and your love for God.

Are you producing good fruit?

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