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The Fruit of Repentance

Matthew 3:7-10
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father" I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (NIVUK)

John the Baptist's wilderness preaching-place was a popular destination. Many came because they longed for the Messiah to come, and wanted to be ready for Him. But many others were like religious tourists. They came to socialise, criticise or to offer their patronage, but had no intention of listening to the message or repenting of their sins. Some of the spiritual leaders came from Jerusalem, but John saw no evidence of repentance.

Those people were spiritually proud, believing that their heritage (being descended from Abraham) guaranteed their place in God's family. Not so, said John. People who love religion but hate repentance are as poisonous as deadly snakes; they are corrupt and easily corrupt others. Repentance is all about change. So John challenged them to show how they had changed; and to show a real personal concern to be ready for God's judgement.

Spiritual pride is a monster which consumes those who refuse to turn away from it. It also occurs in people with no faith (proud to be self-sufficient) as easily as in those who adhere to a creed. Although some would like to think that confession and baptism are mechanical religious rites which cleanse the soul, true repentance is expressed in a transformed lifestyle which makes baptism meaningful. Real reconciliation with God has an urgency, knowing the awesomeness of His wrath and passionate to be 'in the right' with Him. John’s warning, that those who are satisfied by fruitless repentance will be cut down and thrown into the fire, is still valid. All those who fear the Lord will repent – and that is the beginning of wisdom.

Sovereign Lord. I know that You are awesome in power and will not tolerate sin in Your presence. Forgive me for allowing sin to lurk in dark corners, corrupting myself and others around me. Forgive me my sins, and teach me how to culture a truly repentant heart as demonstrated by a transformed lifestyle. May I keep alert to the possibility of allowing religious pride to take hold in my life. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams