“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.
But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Last time I wrote about the simple message that John the Baptist preached; a message of repentance and the confession of sin.It is the same message we preach today.The urgency of our preaching should reflect the times that we live in as Jesus is soon to return to call us home and to execute judgment on the earth.
We have a shorter window than any generation before us to His return and we need to get back to the simple message “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” All too often we have a habit of making tough what God made simple.
Today we will look at repentance and what it truly is both in the short term and the long term in the life of a Christian. To understand this growth let us set the standard with the life of a new born baby and his or her subsequent maturity. Most of us have seen or have held new born babies, they are cute but for the most part they are helpless, we do not expect anything of them at all.
It is our job as the parents and the guardians to feed them, clothe them, protect them and teach them. But it is not long before a new born baby shows signs of growth; they begin to smile, grip your finger, they soon can hold their heads up, then roll over, then sit up, then at around 9-10 months they start to pull themselves up, they can stand and then walk around about a year old.
But at age two they can speak with you, maybe feed themselves, follow instructions and they begin to get taller and weigh more and on and on we go. These are generalized advancements, some children are faster others slower, but all healthy children have these developmental stages and these are the gauges that a doctor will use to determine the health of a child.
If these developments did not happen we would be severely concerned and ask our doctors what is wrong with the child.We would never stop looking for answers as to why this child is not developing properly.Loving parents are excited at these progresses; we are thrilled when our kids are developing skills and abilities.This is kind of how John the Baptist addresses these Pharisees that came to observe him in the wilderness; he wanted to see if their “religion” had changed them in any way for the better.
Fruit of Your Repentance: Verse 8
Does your inner-change flow to your outer lifestyle?What are the evidences of your repentance?These are honest questions that we need to ask ourselves. Has our relationship we claim to have with the Lord Jesus changed us?Is the fruit of our repentance visible? In the passage John the Baptist asks this of the religious leaders who had come out to see him.
These men where well versed in the Holy Scriptures, they would have known most of if not all of the Law by heart and they would have followed it to the literal letter. Yet the Pharisees and the other religious leaders were men who were first and foremost full of pride, take a look at Luke 18: 10-12:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortionist, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”
Pride was their downfall, they did not understand there sinful state and their total depravity before a Holy God. In addition their pride the Pharisees were not nice people, they hated just about everyone who was not like them and they eventually had firsthand responsibility in the execution of Jesus.
In John 5: 39 Jesus warned the Pharisees and scribes that for all their research of the scriptures they had missed the point, the whole OT scriptures from the Moses to the Prophets was about Him. But their spiritual blindness and/or immaturity made it impossible for them to find Jesus as they read. The Pharisees behaved as if God owed them for being in His kingdom; as if somehow God’s kingdom would be diminished without them.
John the Baptist called these men out and he is still calling us out today. Our pride is a wedge between God and us. How we treat people is a great indicator of our change in Christ. Jesus taught us how to live as redeemed people in Matthew 22: 35-40:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Do you love the Lord like we see in the verses above?If you do then the second part of the teaching will be a natural outflow of the first, if you love God you will in turn love your neighbor.
One cannot love God and hate your fellow man that was made in the image of God. But these Pharisees had hard hearts; they had no compassion for weakness or sickness. The biggest problem they had was that they knew about God, but did not know God.
Let us examine for a few minutes the fruit that John was looking for, in the conclusion of the scene in the Temple that we see in Luke 18, Jesus explains what true repentance looks like in the person of a publican Luke 18:13-14:
“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humblest himself shall be exalted.”
This is a fruit of repentance that John was looking for.If we recall the earlier verses there were many who came and confessed their sins and were baptized.But these Pharisees could not accept that they were sinners and so their pride separated them from God.
What about you?
Do you have honest fruit to show for your repentance?Are you full of pride?Do you have any love for your fellow man, even your enemies?This is the kind of fruit that is called for in the idea of true repentance.As with the child that grows, we should see a growing sense of humility the more you grow in Christ and this should be coupled with a growing love for your fellow man that compels us the ask about their future with Christ.
Religion Cannot Help You, Only Jesus Can: Verses 9-10
These men and many like them even today think that their religious heritage or upbringing will offer them some kind of ‘in’ with God when the time comes to be judged. The Pharisees thought that because they were children of Abraham that they had some special favor with the Lord. This was quickly dispelled by John the Baptist. God could simply raise up more children from the stones they were standing on, verse 9. Religion is a one way path to Hell, Jesus talked about this during His ministry. Take a look at Matthew 7: 13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
People get to hell from all kinds of religions and ideas. Even people in true conservative churches may end up in Hell simply because they went to church as a habit and not out of a true relationship with the Lord.
True Christianity is NOT a religion, it is a relationship between you/me and the Lord God via the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Jesus came and paid for our sins, He was and is the perfect, sinless, spotless Son of God; God in the flesh. He came and willingly, in fact we are told that He joyfully went to the cross for us: Hebrews 12:2:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus did not die to bring you religion, He died to change your nature, your inner man and to completely give you a new birth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, eternal life.Have you come into a relationship with God through Jesus?Is He in the process of transforming you via His Holy Spirit living in you (Romans 12: 1-2)?
If there is not transformation, no fruit of the Spirit of God in you then you are in a religion, not a relationship. Look we are sinners, some of us are sinners saved by the wonderful grace of God. We still have some of that old nature but there must be some progress somewhere.Our own children must show some degree of development, walking, talking, feeding themselves, bathing themselves and on and on. BUT there has to be some kind of growth.
What about you?How is God changing you? Sometimes you can’t see it so you can have someone to be accountable to and someone who can encourage you when God does make changes.Let us have fruit for our repentance.
Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
Mississauga, ON Canada