Friday, January 8, 2010

Bear Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8)

The voice crying out in the wilderness spoke these words: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” But who did he speak them to and why? John cared about the souls of men because he preached the message of repentance, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” These words of John the Baptist are a great reminder to us that repentance breeds fruit. Here in Matthew 3, John has been baptizing those from Jerusalem, Judea and the region of Jordan in the river Jordan, confessing their sins (5-6). At the start of verse 7 we read the word “But” indicating the scene is about to change. The message of the gospel (confession and repentance) does not change but now John is going to address the religious leaders who have recently arrived on the scene.

Remember John came crying out: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (3) then reminding us that Christ “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (11). Christ is the One who changes lives by his Spirit but sadly these religious leaders were trusting in their heritage and religious deeds. When these religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, walk on the scene, John greets them with, “You brood of vipers” (7)! Why? John knew these religious leaders were trusting in the wrong things for salvation. “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’” (9). As far as being justified before God their status as Abraham’s children did not matter. We know from Genesis that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (15:6). Salvation comes through trusting in Christ's finished work on the cross.

Fruit in keeping with repentance is not saving fruit but rather confirms the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. These religious leaders (and many times all of us) thought their religious deeds would make them right in the sight of God. But only when we stop trusting in our good deeds to save us and start trusting in Christ will we produce good fruit. If we do not repent of our sins and trust in Christ the Bible is clear that “the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (10). Good trees are produced by God’s grace. Any other tree is one chopped down and thrown into the unquenchable fire (12).

May I warn you from the words of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Confess your sins and turn to Jesus for salvation. If you are trusting in your good works for your salvation you are a bad tree that will never produce one bit of good fruit unless you turn to Jesus. If you are a person who cares nothing about Jesus Christ may I share with you the good news that he came to die on a cross for sinners like you and me. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! This is good news. True repentance will produces good fruit. It is guaranteed because God has left us his Spirit as our helper and guide to produce those fruits to the glory of God. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). That is the same message of John the Baptist: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Grace upon grace,

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