“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19-20 NKJV).
A key difference between the cultural world of the Bible and much of our modern world is that we tend to think and express ourselves in abstract ways today. We often place more importance upon our inner psychology, defining thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a far more abstract manner. The world of the Bible expresses itself in a more concrete form.
We tend treat repentance as something psychological. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. We may acknowledge that we should not continue in the behaviors that we previously did, but the shift is mostly inward. The Bible looks at repentance differently. Repentance is not something you feel; it’s something you do.
When Paul stood in front of Agrippa, he spoke about his ministry to Jews and Gentiles. His message: Turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. It’s active, not inward. Now, one might argue that external action begins inside the psyche of a person. And that can be true.
But the Bible does not define repentance as a feeling; rather, repentance actively turns to God and performs deeds worthy of repentance. For the biblical mind, the manifestation of repentance, true repentance, appears in our actions, usually our actions towards others.
When we read Paul’s statement, “do works befitting repentance,” we should ask, what exactly are those? We find a similar phrase on the lips of John the Baptist in Luke 3. John outlines that the fruits that befit repentance manifest themselves in our obedience to God, especially in how we care for others, particularly the poor: “He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same” (Luke 3:11 HCSB).
We run the risk in our modern world of turning repentance into something purely inward, private, between God and us. Yet, according to the Bible, if we want to repent, we must act, turn to God in obedience, and perform deeds worthy of repentance.
Repentance is not something we do once and then are completely done. Jesus challenged His followers to repent on a daily basis. Repentance is a lifestyle and a posture of humility toward God, recognizing that the fruit of our repentance is usually directed toward others.
Father, we turn to You today. We humbly submit ourselves to Your will today. Today, we will actively seek to perform deeds worthy of our repentance. Amen.