Luke 3:8 “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

     Don’t count on your parents or grandparents to get you right with God.   John Wesley says; ” . . . trust not in your being members of the visible Church, or in any external privileges whatsoever: for God now requires a change of heart; and that without delay”.  By magical thinking we hope to change ‘guilt by association’ into ‘saved by association’ as we sit piously in our pews.  It doesn’t work that way.

     The key is repentance.  Just what is repentance?  A quick answer is; ‘feeling sorry for what you have done’.  However you can ‘feel sorry’ for different reasons.  You can feel sorry that you got caught and have to suffer the consequences.  You can feel sorry that your actions have hurt someone.  You can feel sorry that you were not able to do more harm.  You can feel sorry that what you did made you look bad.  Which ‘sorrow’ is involved with repentance?  Which ‘sorrow’ looks beyond your self?

     The Apostle Paul writes; “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorrowful, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For ye were made sorrowful in a godly manner, . . .”  (2 Cor 12:9)  Godly sorrow leads to repentance.   We can rule out the sorrow of logical consequences and not getting full revenge.   In this day of emotional illiteracy we have a hard time sorting out our feelings and connecting them to their underlying attitudes.  When we work out the root of our emotional states it becomes clear that many feelings arise out of self-centeredness.

     Godly sorrow and selfish sorrow both have results – both bear a kind of fruit.  Paul lays it out clearly; “For godly sorrow is not to be repented of, but worketh repentance unto salvation; but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor 7:10)  The fruit of godly sorrow is life and the fruit of worldly sorrow (sorrow based on self-centeredness) is death.  The fruit of worldly sorrow is  often death by stagnation.  Worldly sorrow for self brings at best no change in a person and often locks the ‘victim’ into a ‘more of the same’ life cycle.

     True change arises out of a deep seated upheaval of self.  For the Christian it is called a ‘renewing of the mind;  “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  (Romans 12:2)  What opens up a person to this kind of inner process?  Paul answers this question;  “. . . when ye sorrowed in a godly manner: what earnest concern it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what requital!” (2 Cor 7:11)   The outward change of a person’s heart is visible for all to see.  It is expressed in concern for others, a desire to be right with your neighbour, a reverent fear of God and a burning desire to serve Him.

     John the Baptist knew that just going through the motions of baptism relying on outward forms and privilege wouldn’t make a person right with God.  John the Baptist looked for the fruit.  No repentance, no fruit of repentance, no spiritual change, no life.  Being sorry isn’t enough.  You have to be sorry enough to change to open your heart up to His transformation.  Every Christian must walk out repentance.  And this walk is a humbling walk.  Repentance demands that we drop any pretence of self righteousness.  Repentance demands an open acknowledgement of what we have done and what we are like.  Jesus nailed the Pharisees for their unrepentant attitudes; “Even so, ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  (Matthew 23:28)

     The fruit of your heart does show. A repentant heart speaks loud and clear of its need for Jesus and the joy of its salvation.  An unrepentant heart speaks of its own goodness and superiority over others.  Jesus said; “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”  (Luke 6:45)  

     Repent and rejoice always.  Praise the Lord!