Read: Matthew 3
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think 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 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.” (Matthew 3:8-10)
John the Baptist, or John B. as I like to call him, is firm and direct with his audience of Pharisees and Sadducees. They are “religious” people who have come to hear a “spiritual” person and the message they get is this:
“It is not enough to say you’re sorry, you need to show you are sorry.”
This is the same message James gave in his epistle: Faith without works is not real faith; practice what you preach; don’t just talk about it, go and do it.
John B. told his religious auditors that their whole identity was in question: it was not enough to claim a genetic heritage as Israelites, in Abraham. Genes aren’t enough to connect a person into a true relationship with the true and living God. Being a Jew was not enough to save them then, just as it is not enough to save anyone now.
John B. uses fiery imagery to get across the point that the unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees were risking their lives when they refused to “prepare the way for the Lord” (3:3) in their own hearts by repenting of their sins. Repentance from sin is necessary because until we despise our sin, we will never welcome our Saviour.
Unless I hate my sin, I won’t really love my Saviour.
LORD God Almighty,
Please help me to hate my sin.
Show me how utterly despicable my sin is in your sight, so I may despise it as you do.
O LORD, I am scared as I pray this prayer. What might you make me suffer so I begin to hate my sin? What have I been clinging to that I will have to give up?
I know I’m forgiven: thank you for forgiving me by Christ’s sacrifice.
I know I’m justified: thank you for justifying me by Christ’s blood.
I know I am saved: thank you for saving me by Christ’s death.
I also know I am not yet fully sanctified: thank you for your promise to complete the work you have begun in me by your Spirit’s presence and counsel.
LORD, make me love righteousness. Help me think about noble, admirable, praiseworthy and excellent things. Keep me from evil; deliver me from temptation. Help me to flee from the devil and run to you. Make me fruitful in repentance.
Thank you for raising me up, a mere stone that you have transformed into a child of Abraham.