J. Edwin Orr, a professor of Church history has described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century. As people sought to be filled with the Spirit, they did all they could to confess their wrong-doing and to make restitution. But it unexpectedly created serious problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the years workers had stolen all kinds of things, from wheelbarrows to hammers. However, as people sought to be right with God they started to return what they had taken, with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property. There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards put up signs that read, "If you have been led by God To return what you have stolen, Please know that the management Forgives you and wishes you to keep what you have taken."
What this story illustrates is called "restitution". Restitution is a spiritual principle that means you makes things right that you have done wrong because you have now been made right.
So, the question becomes, “How do I know when someone has repented?” John the Baptist (or John the Wesleyan as I prefer to call him) gives some great insights on that very question! There would be some great value in hearing what he has to say. Turn in your Bibles to Luke 3:7-14
“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:7-14
TRUE REPENTANCE IS PROVEN BY TRUE REFORM! THAT IS CALLED “RESTITUTION” AND IT IS THE POWERFUL AND CREDIBLE PROOF THAT CHANGE HAS HAPPENED.
One powerful picture of what restitution looks like in found in the story of Jesus' encounter with a tax-collector named Zacchaeus. Here's the story:
"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:1-10
In the Roman Empire a tax collector was usually chosen from among the people in that local area and he was given authority to assess and collect taxes from his our countrymen. The Romans gave him an amount that they wanted to receive from each citizen and he could charge however much above that amount as he felt he could get away with. Because of this, these tax collectors were despised by their fellow citizens.
After years of collecting taxes from his countrymen, the tax collector learned how much he could get away with charging. So he literally had a license to steal!
Zacchaeus had a strong desire to meet Jesus and spend some time learning about Him and from Him. Little did he know how much Jesus desired to be with him! After they met and he listened to Jesus teach he repented and evidenced an amazing conversion. So changed was he that he made a commitment to Jesus to give one-half of all He had to the poor and pay back 400% of any money he had stolen. This was a significant financial hit for Zach, but he was willing to do it because he wasnted Jesus so bad!
RESTITUTION IS THE HOPE ASSOCIATED WITH CHANGE! RESTITUTION IS THE PROOF OF REPENTANCE!
RESTITUTION IS MAKING THINGS RIGHT BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN MADE RIGHT!
Let me ask you, "Have you truly repented of your sins?" "Have you experienced a deep fundamental spiritual transformation? Are you giving evidence by a changed life? Are you making things right that you did wrong prior to your supernatural transformation?