Herod was very, very sorry. Yet, he went ahead and murdered John the Baptist anyway. Sometimes, being really, really sorry is not enough. Sorrow is only godly sorrow if it leads us to repentance.
Being grieved that we have sinned is only useful if it fuels a decision to turn away from our wrongdoing and towards the Lord. This is the meaning of the word repentance. In Greek, “repentance” is metanoia, formed from meta, “change,” and noia, “think.” Repentance is a change of thinking, a shift in mindset. That which I used to embrace, I now reject. That which I used to pursue, I now turn my back on. My gaze set on Jesus, I am now running after His heart with all of mine.
John the Baptist’s passionate life message was, “…Bear fruits worthy of repentance!” (Matt. 3:8, NKJV). By this, he meant that repentance must produce the fruit of change in our lives, or else it is not really repentance. With fiery zeal, he trumpeted this prophetic call to everyone that would listen, both small and great. Holy Spirit aimed John’s words like a flaming arrow at the hearts of all kinds of people, from common folk, to Pharisees, and all the way up to governmental authorities.
The prophet had even taken it upon himself to personally urge King Herod to bear the fruits of repentance. He admonished him to leave behind the sin of adultery. Herod was fascinated by John and liked to listen to him. Obviously, though, he did not allow John’s message of repentance to get into the core of his heart. Tragically, he went to the grave without ever having moved past the “exceedingly sorry” stage.
When a besetting sin has been eating years of our life away like a canker worm, Holy Spirit patiently woos us. Consistently, daily, hourly, relentlessly, He lovingly convicts us of our disobedience. He calls us unto Himself and invites us to be free. It’s His beautiful kindness that leads us to turn our back on what once enslaved us. (Rom. 2:4).
The Bible tells us that repentance is actually a gift from God (Acts 5:31; 11:18). Truly, it is a precious gift. He empowers us to leave behind behavior patterns that have stolen vitality and true joy from us. He pours out to us abundant grace to walk into liberty and the newness of life.
Let’s yield to His wooing. Let’s not stall out on the “really, really sorry” stage. Let’s allow our grief over our stumblings to drive us into the waiting, merciful arms of our Savior. He is longing to set us free!
Up until now, have you perceived repentance as a gracious concept, or a harsh one? Flowing from the heart of a loving Savior, does it find new meaning?