Read Matthew 3:1-12
Complying with rules is one thing. Producing fruit is another. Fruit is a product of something, often a plant or tree. We have heard the fruit of the womb, meaning offspring.
We can think of the Fruit of the Spirit as what comes of living by the Spirit that is within us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
John the Baptizer noted the presence of the religious leaders, specifically noted are the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he called them out. You bunch of snakes!
Who gave you a heads up that the wrath of God is looming over you?
The Pharisees and Sadducees had not come to John to repent and be baptized. They wanted to see what was drawing people all the way out to the Jordan River. Surely the news of what John was doing had reached far beyond his limited place of ministry.
John knew who had come to see him. These were the upper crust of the religious society that prevailed over the Hebrew people. The Romans were their political masters, but these self-righteous men would use God’s rules to enslave his people far more than the requirements of the godless regime that governed them.
They were to have been the shepherds of Israel, but they did a terrible job of pastoring the people entrusted to them. What did they have to worry about? They were the top tier of the Sons of Abraham Club.
John boldly addressed these men who were used to getting the grand treatment, being given the best seats at events, and who otherwise considered their status more than their mission. He charged them to produce fruit worthy of repentance.
Not only do you need to repent, your actions should demonstrate that you have.
To repent is to turn away from and leave behind something. In this case, it is to turn away from a godless lifestyle and leave it all behind—not only the rules of the world to include rules of the world masquerading as religion, but the thinking and status afforded by playing by the rules of the world.
To repent was to be a part of a wholesale exchange—body, mind, soul, and spirit. Everything was left behind and exchanged for the ways of God.
This would have been a hard sell for the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the enforcers of the rules upon others. They wrote the administrative law if you will.
Do you know that our national legislature has written very little of our law? They write more than enough and make the verbiage and syntax confusing and voluminous, but it is the administrative agencies that draft and implement most of our law and regulations.
We don’t even get to vote for or against the people who write these laws. There’s something to think on in the week to come, just in case you are running short of things to contemplate this week.
It’s all done with good intentions, or so that was the original intent. Administrative law filled in the gaps in the law that was legislated.
So too the Pharisees and Sadducees filled in the gaps and noted exceptions and in so doing essentially embalmed the Law of God given through Moses. These men surely did not come to see John so they could repent. They came in self-interest.
We like it when the Pharisees and Sadducees get their comeuppance, but John’s command to them should hit us center mass as well. Produce fruit worthy of repentance.
Produce fruit, not commentary or armchair quarterbacking. Get on the playing field and do something productive. And that’s your dose of mixed metaphor for today.
Our lives should demonstrate that we follow the one true God. We don’t do things to receive acknowledgement from men but to please God.
Some will see that we do good and that we follow God. Later in his gospel, Matthew notes that this brings glory to God, but we are little concerned about what the world thinks about us.
We produce fruit in keeping with repentance and this pleases God. John was offering a baptism of repentance, but he said that this is just the beginning. One is coming after me who is much greater and more powerful than me and he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
So, what is fruit in keeping with repentance?
The first and foremost is receiving Jesus not only as our Savior but as Lord as well. Jesus is Lord! We outwardly signify his lordship with baptism.
It’s not Jesus and the Sooners or the Cowboys or our political party. Jesus is Lord. It’s not Jesus and this committee or that doctrine. Jesus is Lord. We have not really repented until we come to grips with this simple statement.
Repentance must not only include that which we turn away from but that which or whom we turn to and follow. Our first fruit of repentance is receiving Jesus as Lord.
Turning away from evil and seeking good is noble. It is a form of repentance. I will turn away from the bad and seek the good. It is noble but not sufficient. We must seek after the Lord.
Just trying to be a good person is not enough! That sounds critical of those seeking good. It might be but it’s honest. When we turn away from evil and seek good, we are still our own master. We are doing this because it’s how we see things. We are our own lord. We get to be the Pharisee.
We become susceptible to sitting on the sidelines and criticizing those who are following Jesus. The first fruit of our repentance must be to receive Jesus as our Lord.
Jesus is Lord!
Everything after that is our discipleship or the fullness of our salvation. The rest of our fruit will come out of our discipleship. That will include turning away from evil and seeking what is good.
It will include the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
It will include being the salt of the earth, that all may taste the goodness of God when they encounter us.
It will include being the light of the world, that people will see how we live and by such witness bring glory to God.
It will include embracing the ways of the Lord as our own. It will be putting his words into practice. It will be loving one another. It will be being known by our love.
But it all starts with repentance. We must be willing to give up the ways of this world—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Receiving the Lordship of Jesus is now a part of our identity. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, but now it’s our yoke and our burden.
Producing fruit worthy of repentance is first turning away from the world and seeking God through Christ. Then we live out our salvation in such a way as to bring glory to God.
Narrow is the way which we come to Christ but abundant are the ways in which we may live for him once he is Lord.
Here it is in Okiespeak: You can’t straddle the fence.
Repent, put God first by making Jesus Lord of your life, then produce fruit worthy of this fantastic relationship.
We will do good and it will be to God’s glory.
We will love one another and it will be to the glory of God.
We will be known by our love and put a smile on God’s face.
Let this be a bumper crop year in producing fruit worthy of repentance!