Root to Fruit: A Model for Repentance

I used to believe that the more guilty I felt, the greater my repentance and the more sincere my change. But I have learned that is not how repentance works and it’s certainly not how we experience spiritual growth.

Spiritual transformation happens when we embrace repentance as a way of life. This means identifying the deep lies that drive our sinful behaviour. But that’s only half the repentance journey. For full repentance, we must turn not only from something (the lies we believe) but turn to something (the good news truth of Jesus). As explained in part one of this series, visualizing a tree is a good way to understand biblical repentance.

For more on “Fruit to Root,” watch this video from Vertical Small Groups.

Repentance is replacing our lies with the truth of the Gospel (the root). This changes our thinking (the trunk), which transforms our behaviour (the fruit).   

In my first post I mentioned believing the lie that my friends’ attention would give me value and happiness. That is the lie I turned from. But what does it look like for me to go have my roots planted in the Gospel, rather than a lie?

The Root

With the root now representing the truth of the Gospel, I need to ask: “Who is Jesus to me?” “What part of the Gospel do I need to re-believe? ”What did Jesus do for me to make my fear baseless?” 

The Trunk

The trunk represents my new thoughts in light of the truth. “Who am I now because of Jesus?” “What does God think of me because of Jesus?” 

The Fruit

The fruit is the outcome of the Spirit applying the salve of the Gospel on my heart. “What am I feeling now?” “What are my thoughts toward God? Toward others?” “What is God asking me to do as a result of what He did for me?”

Let’s see it in action. 

I am reminded that the God of the cosmos chose me (me!) before the foundation of the world to know Him. Knowing God is possible because Jesus was willing to be forsaken by all—including God—so I could become His friend. And not only a friend, but His child! 

How can I help but be overwhelmed by what Jesus did for me, by the Father’s love in initiating it, and by the Spirit’s presence which unites me to Jesus. What more attention do I need if the God of the cosmos chose me and knows me? 

The result is a freedom from others’ approval and a desire to have all attention directed to the amazingness of who Jesus is and what He does for us.  

Two caveats 

First, for the fruit to root–root to fruit exercise to be helpful, we need to grasp the good news of Jesus as revealed in the Bible. This is why reading scripture and comprehending basic theology is so important. You can’t believe the truth if you don’t know the truth.

Second, the fruit of Gospel truth grows in the soil of belief; the sinful fruit of our lies grows in the soil of unbelief. This is why one of my go-to prayers is that of the dad with the sick boy, “I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Feeling bad for what you have done will not help you grow spiritually; repentance as a way of life will. As we approach Easter, dig deeper into the soil of your heart and turn from crippling lies to the life-giving truth of the Gospel.


From Lies to Truth : Part one of the Repentance Series

Lament: How expressing sorrow can move us toward joy

Let’s Talk About Sin (part two of the “How to Create a Good-News Environment” series)

Searching the Deep: Three characteristics of real repentance


Bill McCaskell is the National Director for One Hope Canada.

One Hope Canada

Sharing the love of Jesus with children and youth through Bible camps, community ministries, digital ministry, and training resources.