Produce Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

By Pastor Teck Uy

It is not uncommon to see people repenting of their sins. They confess their sins and are remorseful. However, true repentance goes beyond the verbal confession of sins and the appearance of being sorry or remorseful. John the Baptist rebuked those who were not truly repentant saying, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Anyone who has repented of his sins must show it in the manner that he lives his life. Even the apostle Paul emphasized this when he said, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).

But how can we produce fruit in keeping with repentance? By trying to answer this off the top of our head, it might seem difficult. However, John the Baptist provided practical ways to three groups of people by which they can produce fruit in keeping with repentance. To the first group of people, the crowd, he said, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11). In saying this, he emphasized that a repentant heart should do good to others and manifest it by being kind and generous. It should be able to reverse the attitude of an unrepentant heart which is full of greed and covetousness.

To the second group of people, the tax collectors, he said, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to” (Luke 3:13). The corruption of tax collectors was widespread and they were known to collect more than what was due so that they could keep the excess amount for themselves. They took advantage of their position and oppressed the helpless taxpayers. They needed to manifest their repentance by desisting from this wicked practice and be just and fair. And to the last group of people, the soldiers, he said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14). Just like the tax collectors, the soldiers took advantage of their position to enrich themselves. They fabricated stories and used these to extort money from their victims. While they were known to be underpaid employees, John the Baptist’s exhortation was for them to be content. Their repentance should be seen by their simple living, giving their best and humble service to the people and not to lord it over them.

The above practical ways of producing fruit in keeping with repentance should serve as a model for us. We do not need to do extraordinary actions to show that we have repented. We only need to make right the wrongs that we are doing. Repentance is to intentionally change course. It is not knowing what to do but doing what we know. The apostle James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:22-24). When we say that we have repented and yet we keep doing the very same things that we used to do, there is no genuine repentance. It was just a lip service that we offered to God.

There are many reasons why some do not want to repent, but the most prominent of the reasons are submission and admission. On submission, sinners are naturally rebels and they refuse to submit to authorities. While they call Jesus their Lord, they do not obey his commands on repentance. If indeed they are followers, then Jesus has this question for them, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). It must be noted that repentance is the first message that both Jesus and John the Baptist preached when they started their public ministries. It is an important message that we all need to heed. As for admission, sinners do not admit their sins. They tend to cover up their sins or take it in stride. They are like Judas who tried to deny his intention to betray Jesus. When Jesus told his disciples that one of them will betray him, Judas was quick to say, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” But Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you” (Matt. 26:25). In spite of this rebuke, Judas refused to admit his plan to betray Jesus and carried it out. He later admitted his sin but it was too late.

When Jesus said that one of them will betray him, he did so in a way that every one of his disciples was given the opportunity to search his hearts. Today, let us search our hearts also and see if we are guilty of betraying Jesus by the way we live our lives. We betray him if we are still living in our old sinful ways. We also betray him when we know his commands and yet we refuse to obey. Just as John the Baptist had said, Let us produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Yes, let us repent and turn away from our sinful ways. Hallelujah!