“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Matthew 3:8

To the untrained eye there appear to be many types of “repentance.” Our memories of childhood serve to illustrate the varying shades of repentance in living color but when brought into the sunlight of the Word of God they are observed to be only mirages of the real thing.

Do you remember being caught doing something wrong to another child and being forced to apologize for your behavior? How about being sent to your room until supper and told to think about your actions? Did you ever get grounded for something and all you could think about was getting around the grounding?

Frankly, in the light of day these illustrations do not evidence the repentance God requires of every one of us. If your repentance amounts to sorrow for being caught and an attitude of “I’ll do what it takes to get back in someone’s good graces,” it amounts to something far less authentic than real repentance.

The word “repentance” in our verse is a compound of two words. The first parts means “after,” implying a change or alteration; the second part means “mind,” the seat of moral reflection. Repentance is a change or alteration of the mind and therefore an alteration of course. A related Greek word with a different prefix means to perceive beforehand and to change one’s purpose and so to change one’s course.

The change is always for the better in the Scriptures (as an amendment), such as repentance from wrongdoing. Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a direct change of action in a relationship. It is turning from one course of action to another. When the word is used in a context of repentance from sin, as it is almost exclusively in the New Testament, it is a change in mind away from sinful behavior to turn toward acts of righteousness, to turn away from sin and toward God, to turn from evil to good.

Our text teaches us that genuine repentance will have tangible evidences. This “fruit” is surely not a haphazard, claptrap pursuit. It is an intentional product of the work of God on the heart as evidenced in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to [have room for] repentance.” Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” The fruit of Scriptural instruction gaining traction in someone’s life will result in genuine repentance as stated in 2 Timothy 2:25–26, “…if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

The fruit of repentance results from the changed mind away from a course of action leading to sin, coupled with a new mind lending every effort in pursuit of a course of action pleasing to God. This mind will stop at nothing to fulfill the dictates of righteous behavior as detailed by the Bible. There is no cost too high to please God. Repentant fruit is made up of such fine delicacies as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

What is the state of your heart? Have you repented of your sin and trusted Christ for your salvation? Have you also repented of every treasured sin within your heart? Has repentance turned you away from a course displeasing to God and set your feet on the solid ground pursuing a course to produce fruits worthy of genuine repentance? Trust and obey.